The 57 acres that comprise Cedar Ridge Farm are located in the beautiful rolling hills of South Central Kentucky. My wife, our four children, and I are on a homesteading adventure as we work toward increased self-sufficiency. We grow much of our own food and enjoy being in touch with the agrarian roots of our lives.

One of the major projects we have undertaken is the building of our own home. The house we're building has three major distinguishing features: 1. we're building it without incurring any debt; 2. it is a timber frame structure; and 3. the exterior walls will be plastered straw bales. We live debt and mortgage free, and building our house with that approach makes perfect sense. Large timbers in a home possess a beauty and project a sense of strength, stability, and warmth that we want in our home. Straw bale walls provide insulation and make ecological sense. This blog is a record of our home-building project.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


Work continues on the frame. I completed two replacement girts yesterday. If the weather stays nice, I should be able to fit up the back wall of the frame today. That will leave only a few more girts to test fit before beginning to build the bents. I would like to begin putting the first bent together by the weekend.

After completing the rafters in June, I spent a few days working on the braces. They are all the same size and cut from 4"x6" oak. I've bought 4x6 cants in various lengths from Woodstock Mills in Scottsville, KY. Last week a purchased 20 more 12-footers from Cub Run Hardwoods. I'm using these for the floor joists and roof purlins.

For the braces we used some 10-footers I had. This length allowed us to get three out of each cant. Again, I'm saying we because Mark the Intern was helping. We set up a procedure that worked pretty well for us. The tools we used were a 12" miter saw, a 7.25" circular saw, and a chisel.

The first step in the process was to cut the 10' 4x6s into the right lengths for the braces (for our purposes this was 38-5/8") on the miter saw. Then, mark the ends in order to cut the 45 degree angles. It was important to make sure the measurements were correct for this part of the process. We were striving to be as precise as possible.

After the blanks for the braces were cut, we measured them for the tenon location on the ends. All of the braces are fully housed 1/2" on the frame. This means that in addition to the 4" long and 2" wide tenon on the ends, the entire 4"x6" end of the brace is recessed into the timbers of the frame.

With the lines for the tenons marked, the circular saw was set for the required depth (1.75") to remove wood and leave a 2" tenon. The braces are nominally 4"x6". In actuality, they are 3.75" thick and 5.75" to 6.25" wide. Then, I made a series of cuts about 1/4" apart across the brace past the line. After that, removing the necessary wood with a chisel was relatively easy, leaving a brace of the correct dimensions when measured from shoulder to shoulder, end to end, and tenon thickness.

We set up our process with Mark the Intern cutting the blanks and marking the tenons. He was fastidious about measuring and cutting correctly. He stacked the blanks as he completed them while I worked on cutting the tenons. We completed 38 braces in about three days working only part of those days on them (there are still plenty of other things going on around here). Working with these 4x6s gave me cause to think about how to cut the floor joist and purlin dovetail tenons. I'll write about that later.


Bron said...

Looking at the photos on your blog reminds me when we were at this stage. Good luck with the rest of your project.
I'll put a link from my blog to yours and add you to my favourites so I can come back and check your progress.

F t K said...

Wow. I like the methodical process you used. It is really nice to take the time to setup and do things RIGHT .... ONCE. Instead of repeat headaches.
And, it was nice to see the word "Fastidious" used!