Friday, April 13, 2012

Apprentice to the apprentice

It's pretty hard to describe the feeling and emotions going on in our house at the mo, being as we are 2 days out from the workshop. It's crazy levels of all hands on deck.

Pearly's writing shopping lists and menu plans and making sure kids are happy and fed and at least partially clothed!I'm pretending that I don't actually work full time, and utilising every second of my lunch-break to pick up second-hand building materials obtained on freecycle, and finalising and confirming orders and deliveries over email so my boss doesn't hear me on the phone. Louisa's trying to get snippets of work done in between looking after kiddies and cooking delicious dinners. And Morag, well, Morag's kind of making it all happen, receiving orders of sand and gravel at the land, chasing window-framing timber all around town and, tonight, teaching me how to make window bucks and frames. Morag's immense helping-ness is actually kind of freaking me out, because I'm looking at everything she's doing for us, and I'm thinking that if she wasn't here I'd be doing it by myself, and that thought is, quite frankly, terrifying.

The window bucks are the rough frames that are inserted into the strawbale walls as they're put up, and then the proper window frames are fixed into these. The window bucks are made from treated pine, and are then covered in render, so you don't see them. Yes, I know treated pine isn't at all great, and doesn't really fulfil our non-toxic ambitions, but you know what? Sometimes you just have to make a pragmatic compromise, and a small amount of treated pine timber used for framing up our windows is one of our compromises. Especially at this stage in the game, with the beginning of the workshop looming and a list a mile long still needing to be attended to, I'm pretty cool with using ye olde treated pine. It's so soft to drill!
So last night and tonight were spent measuring and cutting (with big, fancy tools like mitre saws!) and drilling and screwing together our window bucks. It was pretty exciting, after we got over a few false starts involving incorrect measurements and me cutting on the wrong side of the line. Morag is an excellent instructor, and was very patient and encouraging with me, even when I clearly did not have any clue what I was doing. Yet another reminder that, as much as I fantasise about actually living in the middle of nowhere and actually building my own house all by myself, a house built under those circumstances would probably be pretty crap.

It was interesting for me to observe the way that I, the untrained seamstress, differed from Morag, the carpentry apprentice, in my approach to measuring the timber sizes. In the same way as I built the chicken house at our old place in Sydney,
my inclination is to always measure things as if I'm going to stitch them together. Morag quickly showed me that this was not an approach to take with carpentry, especially when it's going into a building that has to be, well, kind of square. I was familiar with the disastrousness of not-square buildings from reading A Place of My Own by Michael Pollan, so was keen to avoid anything of the sort in our own little house. I took Morag's lead and measured to the millimetre. Thing is, when you're using big cutting machines with blade a mill thick, you wanna make sure you cut on the right side of the bloody line! learned that lesson a couple of times... pretty sure I'm good with it now.

In addition to the fancy electric tools we also made use of other quality tools like ugg boots (in lieu of clamps) and iphones (in lieu of a calculator or skills in mental arithmetic).
The windows and doors to be encased by these newly-made bucks are many and varied, originating from side-of-the-road council clean-ups (federation era bay window re-made into double casements and a gorgeous set of solid French doors), gifts from friends (wonderful art deco leadlight) and one of my mumma's trips to the op-shop (unusual and gorgeous tiny leadlight). The photo below shows some of our completed bucks, braced diagonally to keep them square, and some of the stripped federation side-of-the-road windows, which Morag and I picked up about 2 years ago.
There have been many hours spent stripping the paint off these mongrels, a task I would shudder to attempt without the aid of my trusty Bahco paint scraper. This was recommended to me by my boss, who is an almost bottomless font of knowledge of all things building-related, and very keen on drawing diagrams to accompany his advice, much to my amusement and appreciation. He told me that this tool, because of it's awesome ergonomics and efficiency "makes scraping fun. Almost". Quite the caveat, but true nonetheless.
Now that they're almost stripped, I'm quite pleased, and think it was definitely worth the work, though a couple of them need some repairs given that the million layers of paint were apparently the only thing holding them together. No worries though. I soon made friends with Builder's Bog, and will be fixing the windows as soon as the frames are done and time allows (cue guffaws of laughter here).

But seriously. We're now at the stage where we can actually say that, this time next week we'll be able to stand inside our little strawbale home and look out those windows, after having spent a week building it with some of our nearest and dearest, and a few new friends as well. I can't imagine what that will feel like, but I guess we're soon going to find out!

For those of you who are interested in what we're spending on this adventure, additional framing timber for the windows has set us back $350, and the sand (for rendering) and gravel (to fill the bottom plate) was $400.

1 comment:

  1. I am reading this and just thinking to myself that Morag is so amazing. Such an amazing friend and lucky she is handy! It's looking good girls. Good luck next week. Everything always works out in the end and if it hasn't work out, than it is not yet the end. LOVE XOXOXOX