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Single storey downsizing


Single Storey Oak Framed Annexe in Bishops Castle

Chris and Wendy were stepping back from running their busy campsite at Bishops Castle and commissioned a simple, single storey oak framed annexe from us in the Spring of 2017. We helped them prepare planning drawings and then designed a 3 bay structure with a low ridge height, the oak frame fully visible internally to be sheathed with an insulated softwood envelope.

We began to manufacture the frame at the beginning of August and 3 weeks later were ready to go to site for the raising.

Rob Dawson timberframe

Rob working on the frame in the workshop

Oak Frame building

Rob Dawson oak frame

Chris and Wendy had prepared the base, and erected the perimeter scaffolding and we were able to crack on with the raising in no time at all.

Oak framed building Castle Ring

Frame raising day

Castle Ring Oak Frame

Oak frame home

oak frame timber

Timber framed house

Castle Ring Oak Frame

Oak frame Shropshire

Closely space purlins to support insulated agricultural roofing panels

Castle Ring Oak Frame

Castle Ring Oak Frame

topping out ceremony oak frame timber frame

Edeline topping out with an oak branch

Unbelievably, by the end of October, Chris and Wendy were able to move in! Who said self-builds always take longer than you think? The key for these whizzer clients was knowing exactly what they wanted, and having the right tradespeople lined up to keep the build schedule on track, and on budget.

I popped in last week to see the results and was more than impressed with their spacious, quirky and comfortable home.

Roofing panels and waney edged douglas fir weather boarding

Timber frame home

Funky lead corner detail

Open plan living oak frame house

Open plan living

open plan living timber frame house

Oak framed house

Oak frame house

Colourful and creative use of space – blackboards for doors! Also notice the industrial electrical ducting

Oak framed houseoak frame house

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Lancashire Hot Pot – a new oak framed home


Janet and Peter met us at the NEC Homebuilding and Renovating show in 2015 with the vague notion of incorporating an oak frame into a budding self-build project.

Nearly 2 years down the road, we finally delivered their oak framed house from our workshop to Leyland in Lancashire last week, and spent 2 days erecting the fruits of our labour.

By way of introductory context, Janet and Peter are an extraordinarily intrepid couple who (amongst myriad other things), find the time to be practically self-sufficient, have been running a wood turning business for 40 years, and can build narrow boats from scratch to sell on – they have just completed their 4th! All these activities may need to be set aside for a while, as they get to grips with their new project: no doubt they will be launching into as many aspects of the self-build as is humanly possible!

Loaded up at Castle Ring

We travelled up to Leyland on the Monday night and were greeted on Tuesday morning by the clear dry and still weather we had been praying for. We forgot to ask for a bit of warmth and so obviously it was punishingly cold…..but you can’t have everything.

Once the crane was rigged and positioned, we spent a good hour sorting the packs of wood: sod’s law…..everything you need is always at the bottom of the stack, and were ready to start erecting the frame by 10am.

The house comprises 7 crossframes, so we start at one end and keep going until we run out of components at the other. Post, beam, post, rail, post, wallplate, beam, post, rail, wallplate – and of course, not forgetting the braces. Concentrating on one timber at a time can be meditative and helps to prevent worrying about whether you are on schedule or not, and before you know it, there’s a big structure taking shape.

Castle Ring Oak frame

Dropping in a wallplate

Timber frame house

Jake and Sylvan inserting podgers to temporarily hold the frame together

Oak Frame house

Working along the frame

Castle Ring Oak Frame

Mexican standoff

Castle Ring Oak frame

Meeting of beam, post and brace

Castle Ring Oak Frame

Down tools, lunchtime Day 1.

Another of Janet and Peter’s skills was hospitality and we were treated to epic homemade catering fests. Day 1 featured hot dogs, jacket potatoes, baked beans and cheese (perfect for a cold winter’s day) Day 2 was possibly even better – Lancashire hot pot (what else?) all washed down with homemade cake and lashings of hot tea. On Tuesday evening, Rob, Jake and Sylvan were treated to a Lancashire Fondue (?) with various home brewed beverages – cider, strawberry wine and blackcurrant gin!

Castle Ring Oak Frame

Hot Pot – Jake, Sylvan and Shawn the crane driver tucking in.

By the end of Day 1, the main structure was up, and the trusses in place.

Day 2 was equally generous, and we enjoyed the same clear skies and frosty morning. By mid-morning we had installed the purlins, ridges and wind braces. The single storey “extension” was in place by lunchtime and then all that remained was to drop in the joists for the gallery/walkway, peg up and take some photos in the fading light.

Oak framed house

Flying in the purlins

Castle Ring Oak Frame

Castle Ring Oak frame

Castle Ring Oak frame

Oak frame extension

Single storey bedroom extension

Castle Ring Oak frame

Joisted gallery and walkway

Castle Ring Oak Frame

We were sorry to say goodbye and left bearing gifts and fond memories.
Thanks Janet and Peter for a great raising.

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Come and build your own oak frame!‏


A few months ago you may remember we travelled down to Essex to add a complicated oak framed extension to an existing cottage for clients Richard and Abby. The raising day had been inked in, cranes, lorries and hotels booked, only for some stormy weather (the remains of a Caribbean hurricane apparently) to scuttle in accross the Atlantic.

There was to be no escape or shelter from the wind, especially as the cottage was on the site of an old windmill, and sure enough we had no choice but to postpone everything until hurricane Mabel (can’t remember what she was called but that will have to do) had blown over. Putting up an oak frame is hard enough without the added excitement of hanging onto wildly swinging timbers 30 feet up in the air.

Everything went smoothly, as I hope you can see from the photos, and Richard (who works in construction) and friendly neighbour Jerry mucked in wholeheartedly with the raising. Indeed, one of the highlights of the trip was the sight of Richard “adjusting” an existing dormer window to make room for the new oak frame with a………… chainsaw!

A few weeks earlier we had been able to witness at first hand Richard’s enthusiastic approach and more refined carpentry skills. At Richard’s request, he came and spent a day with us in the workshop getting to know his frame and actually making some of it! Along with sweeping up sawdust and making the tea, we had him scribing and chiseling out joist pockets for the floor layout.

 

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Drilling Holes


One of the countless ways we manage to turn timber into sawdust or shavings is by drilling holes in it. These are so that different timbers can be joined together using offset oak pegs (a process called “drawboring” – see this previous blog on the subject). Most of the holes we drill are either 25mm (1 inch) or 19mm (3/4 inch) depending on the size of peg required for the forces within the joint, for example whether it is in compression or under tension. All when and good so far ………the tricky bit is being able to drill the hole vertically, through a piece of oak that might be a foot deep. If, using a long auger bit, you get the angle wrong to start with, there is no way to correct it, and it might emerge half way towards the next parish. Not good. That is why all timber framers display a “concentrating” “serious” face when drilling…

welsh oak frame Castle Ring

Castle Ring Oak Frame oak framed house

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A Timber Frame Raising (Part 1)


Some of you may remember a house oak frame we put up last summer in Durham from a blog I wrote. Well, recently clients Phil and Kay took a break from project managing the build and sent a stack of photos that they’d collated over the day and a half that it took us to erect the oak frame. I thought it might be a nice idea to revisit the raising and to walk you through some of the typical steps involved. So here goes….

groundwork footings for timber frame Prior to the oak and the crew turning up, the site groundworks have been prepared to tight tolerances to receive the frame, and the scaffolding readied. It goes without saying that the frame and footings must match perfectly. Everything looks good, the site is well organised, and it’s not raining. In fact the forecast is brilliant for the next few days.

 

Timber frame transport We arrive on site in the evening after a mammoth road trip at the same time as the articulated lorry delivering the frame with just enough light left to unload the 15 tons of oak and barely any time left to worry about whether we have left anything back in Wales.

 

Timber frame transport Having got the lorry as close as possible, the next hurdle is to see if we can actually get the packs of oak onto site, hedges and trees notwithstanding. Bit of a squeeze but we made it .

 

Oak timber frame assemble There are over 300 pieces of oak for this frame all of which are unique and non interchangeable, so sorting them out is not only essential, it makes the whole process run much more smoothly. The traditional chisel marks that were applied in the workshop aren’t just for show, they help us to find the right timbers and to orientate them the right way .

 

Self build timber frame The next morning we’re all on site and raring to go after surviving the night in a dodgy b and b (Tripadvisor has a lot to answer for!) The crane turns up and there’s no turning back. It’s great to get the first piece of oak in place, finally, after months of planning, and months of carpentry .

 

Timber frame raising Getting the frame started is not easy for a couple of reasons. Firstly, where do you start? It’s important to position the first crossframe posts correctly as they will dictate where the rest of the frame ends up. Moving 15 tons of oak at the end of the job, even a few mill is not ideal. Secondly, it takes a while for the frame to start to be self supporting – and until it is, timbers need to be temporarily secured to the scaffolding.

 

Self build oak frame Things are starting to take shape now. 2 crossframes are in place, and we are in the process of connecting the 3rd crossframe jowl post to a girding rail making sure we don’t forget to insert the braces in the process. Adding them at the end is not an option! You’ll notice that we temporarily “peg” the joints with metal framing pins until we’re confident everything is in the right place.

 

Self build oak timber frame Signalling to the crane driver is crucial for fine movements.

 

Self build timber frame Phil the client (that’s him in red) is keen to get involved in the raising and it doesn’t take him long to start bossing us around – well it is his frame.

 

Castle Ring Oak Frame Not a lot to say about this one is there? By lunchtime we’ve got all the crossframes up ready for the wallplates so time to kick back for a few minutes. Kay and Phil have a laid on a tasty and wholesome spread from the confines of their onsite caravan. And yes, that is a hot tub.   Read part 2 of our blog (coming soon!) to see whether we end up in the hot tub…

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Timber frame videos


A selection of our recent timber frame videos – from frame raising to the Castle Ring Oak Frame team in action in the workshop.

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Shaping a Jowl Post


One of the first jobs on any new frame is to shape the jowl posts.

This is where the top of the main posts are flared at the point of intersection with the wallplate and the tie beam to the create the “English Tying Joint”, an ingenious medieval joint that holds the truss onto the main frame and stops the posts bending outwards under roof loads. All a little bit technical I know but the point is to use the natural curved grain of the timber which forms at the bottom of the growing tree and to stand the post on it’s head.

We used to cut the jowl with a chainsaw but now use a snazzy portable bandsaw, following the grain for maximum strength, creating a wonderful distinctive sweep.

Jowl Post

 

Jowl Post

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In defence of green oak


People often ask why it is that we make oak frames out of freshly sawn green oak with a high moisture content rather than using more stable dry oak.

Well, having laboured hard this week over a small glazed gable frame made from bone dry oak, I’m feeling well placed (and motivated) to answer.

BECAUSE IT’S EASIER!

Green oak will bend to your will, cleave along the grain, respond compliantly to a reasonable sharp chisel or saw, and pretty much do what you ask it to do. Air dried oak on the other hand will sap your strength, blunt all your tools in a heartbeat, mess with your mind and leave you weeping on the workshop floor in a dusty heap.

Here’s the fruit (dried?) of my labour:-

Oak Frame Gable by Castle Ring Oak Frame

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Wood and Steel‏


Wood is such a deeply tactile and pleasing material to work with, full of interesting features, anomalies and imperfections. Unusual grain patterns, colours, knots and twists that all trace the timber back to a living and growing tree.

Contrast the sawn surface of green oak with the clean, phentermine med sharp, smooth and surgical lines of stainless steel makes for a magical combination. These oak and stainless steel trusses were designed by local structural engineer Donald McIntyre as part of a new build on the Isle of Wight, and fabricated here at Castle Ring. http://www.donaldmcintyredesign.com

Donald McIntyre and Castle Ring Oak Frame steel timber frameDonald McIntyre and Castle Ring Oak Frame steel trussesDonald McIntyre and Castle Ring OakCastle Ring Oak FrameWood and Steel timber frame
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The Lightning Scarf‏


When purlins meet on the principal rafter, the timber framer needs to find a suitable joint that strikes the right balance – take too much out of either structural member and the roof might fail. No pressure there then….

The lightning scarf can be a good choice if the purlins are trenced down onto the principal rafters. It’s a classic scarf – a means of joining one timber to another along their length, and of course it’s also an opportunity not to be missed to show off with a bit of snazzy carpentry.

Scarf timber frame Castle Ring Oak Frame

Here are a shoal (collective term?) of lightning scarfed purlins waiting for assembly in the workshop, and one joint temporarily pinned with podgers.

Castle Ring Oak Frame Workshop

 

Purlins timber frame Castle Ring Oak Frame

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