Odds, Ends, and Leftovers

Well there’s not much left for us to finish up with on the house- just a smattering of trim around a few doors and at the edges of the floor in the kitchen.  At the end of such a long project, it was a relief to be able to gather together the leftovers of our supplies and find as many uses as possible without spending any more money.  We got shelves in place, towel racks done, cupboard doors on, drawers inserted, light covers constructed, a built in closet installed, the table finished, and the shower up and running.  The materials that we had left over to use were mostly yellow cedar in various dimensions and red cedar 3inch tongue and groove boards.

yellow cedar plank to become a table

The yellow cedar came our way when we connected with someone on Salt Spring who reclaims high quality wood and sells it by dimension to window and door makers in the city.  He drove by our place one day and offered us a large amount of yellow cedar for a really great price if we bought his whole pile.  Colin estimated that what he had would do our own windows and doors and have a bit left over, but the pile lasted through all the trim work and the edging for the kitchen drawers and cupboards.

legs from left over timber frame fir

We also had 2×12 pieces that became the table, which had legs made from left over fir from the knee braces of the timber frame.  Yellow cedar cutoffs became the phone table.  We had a similar story with a whole lift of tongue and groove red cedar.  After the main use of covering the ceiling and the inside walls, we used it for the facings of the drawers and cupboards and for trim in some places.  Bulk buying can really provide a lot of benefits!  The house really took on a much more unified look than Colin and I originally anticipated.  Towel racks utilized yellow cedar cut offs and the leftover bamboo poles that we used to frame either side of the straw bale walls for extra support.  We tiled the kitchen counter with a combination of tiles that were from a huge donated pile.  We found three types of tiles that matched in colour and in size, and after laying them out to fit, we had not a single tile left of each kind- so careful cuts with the tile cutter were imperative.  We found a sink from the recycling depot here on the island.  The bathroom sink also came from a renovation, as well as the taps.

handmade light covers

My mom made light shades with a split cedar frame wrapped in handmade paper.  I wish I could say we made the paper, but we didn’t.  It was a very affordable purchase from an art store.  January was the cheapest month of building by far and we were just in time for my mom to move in and for Colin and I to head to California for a week.  Slowly the tools are being replaced by daily use things, like clothes and art supplies and books, and Colin is focusing back on his business.  I remember once when Taeven asked me what I would be doing if I wasn’t building a house.  At the time I was on the top of a ladder pushing insulation into the ceiling- a less than enjoyable job.  It took me awhile to answer- and I was amazed at what I had possibly forgotten about myself, or rather, that house building had become my primary interest- but then I remembered gardening, spinning, weaving, writing, felting, going hiking, trips to the beach, home school projects, friends over for dinner, music…

Plans are in the works however for the next half.

bench seat with drawers

the shower

The Timber Frame

The support structure of the house is a traditional wood jointed timber frame.  This post and beam style of framing easily suits the in-fill strawbale walls and lends it’s simplistic beauty to the interior of the house.  Colin worked with Garrett McLeod, a Pender woodworker and friend to design the structure of the frame to fit the shape of the house that Colin designed.  Instead of the traditional barn shape with a peaked roof that appears in most timber frame designs, we wanted a single level design with more of a japanese tori style configuration, allowing for the gentle curve of the living roof in the front and the shed style roof of the back half.

The Douglas Fir beams for the frame came from Gary Bruce, a wood timber salvager from Vancouver Island.  He delivered our order on his flat bed truck right into the temporary tent of the work zone.  We used 6×6 posts and 6×8 beams, with the main center beam being a beefy 8×8.  The engineer we called on to approve the structure determined that we wouldn’t need to use any knee braces with these sizes, but we threw in a few corner ones anyways.

Garrett and Colin worked on shaping the joints from the end of August, 2008, until they began putting up the first posts in the beginning of October.  The skill and efficiency that Garrett brought to our project was highly admirable and appreciated.  He had just finished a timber frame course at The Island School of Building Arts, on Gabriola Island,  www.logandtimberschool.com/.  Colin used his own skills from the  joinery that he uses in his woodworking business as much as possible, although the mortise and tenon cuts were of a much larger scale!  The whole frame went up in 6 weeks, using only a hand-crank frame that Garrett built to hoist the horizontal beams into place and so keeping with a completely engine-free process.  We did use Colin’s pick-up trunk attached to a block and tackle to lift the north wall bent all in one go with a few helpful neighbors, just like an old fashioned barn raising.  We love the beauty and strength that the timber frame has given to our house.  With the bales wrapped completely on the outside, the timbers are completely revealed against the walls on the inside of the house.  The beautiful honey colours of the fir were enhanced and sealed with a natural wood finish called Land Ark, which contains beeswax, tong oil, linseed oil, citrus extract, and pine rosin.  Land Ark is made with only natural, non-altered ingredients from sustainable resources, without chemical processing, bleaching, or harmful additives.  We have also used it on the door and window trims, the baseboards, and the ceiling boards.  It actually feels great to get on my skin, and I love the smell of it as I have done much of the staining.

The art of timber framing has a long and wide spread history of building, and we are very proud to have been able to utilize such a naturally complete system of support using the simplicity of the integrity of the wood itself in the fantastic configurations of joinery.  Timber framing is another way of demonstrating that beauty and art can be a deeply integrated way of construction.  To honour  the trees’ offering to provide their wood for our shelter (even though it was reused), we gave our gratitude in a traditional ritual of nailing a young sapling to the finished frame.

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