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.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Flashback: Beginning the Joints

Shortly after transporting all of the beams home from the saw mill, I began the joinery. Mortise and tenon joints weren't new to me, but cutting such on timbers this size (12 to 16 feet long 8"x8" oak) was new. I began with a simple shouldered tenon on one of the beams. I also planed this timber before cutting the joint. I did not continue to do this on subsequent timbers. My routine developed over time in which planing was the last step. Also, because of the time involved, I planed each timber only on the faces that would be visible in the completed house, and I only planed for smoothness without removing all of the saw marks. This saved time and leaves some of the rustic feel of rough-cut timbers. Initially, my planing was done with a hand plane. I then purchased a cheap electric planer to use. On a large number of the timbers, I preferred the hand plane over the electric planer.

As I progressed on the first beam, I decided to cut a brace in order to test the brace mortises. I designed fully shouldered braces throughout the frame. They are all identical two foot (horizontally and vertically from the intersection of the post and beam) braces cut from 4"x6" oak.

My design also included four scarf joints for the tie beams. Each scarfed beam has a 14' leg and a 12' leg. I was slightly intimidated by cutting the scarf joint, so I decided to tackle it early on. I don't remember how much time I spent on the four sets, but I was pleased with how they came out in terms of fit and overall dimensions on the tie beams.

That's my younger son sitting on the beam "helping" me. I began working on the beams outside near where I had them stacked, as can be seen in the photos. I later cleared out my garage in order to work on them inside. It was much nicer being out of the hot sun in the summer and the cold in the winter. Even though I cleaned out the space to work in, it still accumulates a lot of stuff and mess, not all associated with timber framing.

Flashback: The Timbers

By the end of 2004, we had finalized our house plans enough that I could calculate the timbers needed and their sizes. When I began to realize the number and sizes of timbers needed, I decided that cutting and milling Eastern Red Cedar logs off of my own property wasn't the way to go. I didn't want to use all or almost all of my large cedar trees, and some of them are growing in areas that I would have difficulty skidding them out of with the equipment I have (a 1966 IH 424 Utility and about 40 feet of chains).

So, I called some local saw mills and found one, Cub Run Hardwoods in Cub Run, Kentucky, that would saw the timbers I needed out of oak. I ordered the timbers I needed in January 2005 and began hauling them home in February. It took several trips with my 16' trailer to get all of them here. Green oak is heavy!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Quick Update

Okay, it's been a while since I've posted anything on my blog. I could give excuses, but what would be the point. Spring is a time for gardening and making hay for winter feeding of the animals. I've also been working on the frame. I am just a few days from beginning the full frame fit-up. That means that I have almost all of the joints completed. Yay! It's taken a while.

I will be adding some posts that will bring everything up to speed soon. I have some more background info that I want to include. Hopefully, we'll have some pictures of the frame raising within the next two months. I guess I have to raise the frame for that to happen! God willing, it'll be raised within the next two months!