Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Quick Mend

If you are like me, you go through a box of leather work gloves a year.  I despise throwing away a pair of gloves that has only one or two fingers worn through.  But I love reusing things that I didn't throw out.  I also love something I picked up at a fabric store for some forgotten reason some years back: Liquid Stitch.  Near as I can tell, it's water based air curing liquid latex.  It works terrifically well and has no order.  It's also waterproof and washable once dry.

Tonight, after the kids were in bed, I sat down with a pair of sharp scissors, one sacrificial glove that was the worst of the lot, and started cutting patches of leather to mend the other gloves that were worn but in still usable shape.

My apologies for the poor photo.  The new LED lighting in the basement is fine for reading but not great for taking pictures.  From the one glove at the bottom (missing three fingers now) I patched the five above by cutting off fingers, removing stitching and then shaping ready-fit patch work.  All you need to do is then run a bead of glue around the underside perimeter of the patch (the rough side of the leather) and press it into place.  It dries fully in 24 hours and sets up in seconds to a holding tack.

I guess it was roughly 12 minutes of effort and it saved me $30 or so in replacement gloves. The glove on the far right has been done like this before with some old shoe leather.  It's the heavy insulated glove I use for tending the wood stove.  It sees the most use of the lot and when it's worn, a quick burn is your first warning.  Better to patch that one up sooner I think.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Combination Greenhouse and Woodshed

While I didn't know it when I unearthed the sandstone and limestone on my property last year, the find would set me on a long term project that is just now coming to a close: building a long needed woodshed, and long desired greenhouse.  My budget and materials, and suitable sites, were not such that I could afford to build both of these structures, so I settled on a hybrid approach.

It's a cold day today, has been all week with the exception of Sunday which got up to 50 F and was the day I finished the roof.  The only work that remains is mounting the last tenwindows.  As I am fortunate enough to be on vacation, and I'm done shivering outside for the day, I thought it was high time I write up this project which I have been photographically documenting in some detail along the way.  Grab a cup of coffee, this will be a bit of a long read.

Starting with the stone quarry, and realizing that I had what I needed to make a flat building site for a shed on our predominantly sloped lot, I built the stone boat, documented and demonstrated in earlier posts.  Then with a pile stone and a load of gravel, I built the stone retaining wall that would provide the erosion control needed to keep the gravel pad for the the shed in place.  Both of those projects occupied most of my spring and summer along with other minor projects that I just didn't have time to write up, most of them just repairs and upgrades on past projects, like the court-yard and picnic table.

This brings us to the planning stages for the shed.  I modeled the building in 3D to make sure I had a good materials list and dreamed that I might afford to side it.  We'll see.  The approach pictured would add $300 to the project (which thus far has run near $800 for materials).

The idea was for a transparent roof on the South face, and a solid roof on the North.  Firewood would fill the structure in the winter, slowly yielding space to set up seedlings and starts in late February. The overall process has been instructive and fun to see it come together, so let's start with the foundation.

Beginning with the retaining wall, the gravel pad needed leveling and cleaning up on the high side (farthest from the camera).

On top of this goes the 6" x 6" x 12' pressure treated beams, shown above to the left, to make a floating base upon which the shed will be erected.  The beams were lap-jointed with a circular saw and screwed together with 4, 5" deck screws at each corner.

Note that the point of view is now almost 180 degrees from the picture above of just the retaining wall.  Most of the remaining photos are from this vantage point or near to it, which better aligns with the point of view in the design concept rendering (first photo).  The gravel need a lot of tamping and leveling to get this structure square and plumb.  It was a lot harder than I expected it to be, but in the end the base was rock steady, plumb and true.  (as a side note, keep an eye on the background vegetation for an indicator of the time over which this project lingered).

The next step was to begin erecting the corner posts and their supports.  Getting these plumb and square was critical as the entire structure would follow the corner posts, from the beams to the supports to the skin and of course the roof.

The posts are glued and screwed laminates of two 2" x 6", one being 8' tall and the other, nearest the inside, 7' - 6 1/2" to allow a pocket for the beams to set upon, which once all four corners were up were the next part of the structure to put up.  This was the first instance where a ladder was needed and doing this alone was a bit tricky.

It was here that I found out just how plumb and square my posts were.  Overall, I was at the top off 1/2" in each direction at the SE corner.  I never figured out exactly why but attributed it to one of the posts being a little warped due to the fact that they were all but one from salvage and those on the South side were not as firmly anchored as those on the North.  Here too, notice the knee braces on the rear two posts.   That's the side that won't have windows, so the bracing won't be in the way.  The front required different bracing strategies and ultimately did not firm up until the plywood skin was applied but included horizontal corner bracing (seen in the last photo below) and small corner braces glued and nailed top and bottom.

Like the posts, the beams are glued and screwed 2 x 6's with lap joints created at each end.  The beams were shorter on the South and North by 3" so that the three members; post and two adjacent beams, all lapped together where each beam has bearing on the post, sharing part of the ledge created by the shorter member of each post (the one facing inward).  The whole affair is screwed together with 3" screws in abundance.

Once the basic box frame was in place, I began putting up the support columns that would help carry the weight of the beams and their loads.  Most of these were salvaged from a large pallet and have been used in part on my work table project as well.

Being that these were raw pine, not kiln dried, they had some twist to them after a year on my garage floor.  Using a piece of 2 x 6 as a lever screwed to the side of the posts, and a tie-down strap, I was able to twist the offending posts straight, tighten the strap, and then screw them into the beam at the top, having first screwed them down to the base.  

The North and East sides were fairly straight forward to frame up.  It got more difficult when it came time to start framing up the West, door side, and South facing wall which would hold 9 windows by itself.

The window sills are simply 2 x 4's.  The door is our old front door which had become warped and wouldn't stay shut tightly, but is fine for this application.  The door frame came from a friend's house which had had some remodeling done.  You'll also notice a few details in this picture, like the blocking between the corner posts and window frames: one of my many attempts to improve the rigidity along the South wall.

Fall has just about swept through the background, taking many leaves with it by this stage.  This part of the framing was fairly tedious and took a good couple of weeks of free evenings to complete.  The majority of things are still being screwed together, very few nails except where the posts contact the pressure treated bases, in which case galvanized nails were used.  Had I to do this side over again, I would have turned the framing for the windows sideways from what I did which uses predominantly vertical studs with screwed in horizontal sills.  Making the sills continuous would have offered I think better structural rigidity and more firm window seats.

The next step was to get the roof started.  From here on out I spent an uncomfortable amount of time with the ladders.  Getting the ridge up was the first step and required working out how I would do the ridge posts.  I settled on laminating several pieces of 2 x 6 that would provide good solid anchor points for internal wind bracing, external ridge rafters, external knee braces, and the ridge beam itself which would sit into the pocket at the top and extend 12" beyond to begin setting up the 1 foot overhang.  

Getting the ridge up by myself was a challenge, but should have been easier than it was due to the idea that the pockets would allow the beam to "slide" through.  However, I cut the pockets with a jig saw and they were not exactly as large as needed, so I spent a comic half hour atop a step ladder with a rasp, grinding away at the pocket joint to make it bigger after I had it all screwed in place.  It was here that my discomfort with heights began pushing its limits.  But, through much trembling and care, I gradually gained confidence atop the ladders and eventually got the roof done too.

With the ridge up, it was time to start putting the rafters on.  This is where I felt like the project really began taking shape and began encouraging me to press on.

No, the building isn't falling over, my crappy cell phone camera is a bit slow and caused the image distortion when I wasn't perfectly steady.  To put up the rafters, I created the first one strictly by measurements with a 23 degree bevel on the top end and a bird mouth 12 inches from the other end at the same angle and used it as a template for the others.  Driving nails became easier than driving screws at this point, but once these were all set, I followed up with 5 " screws to make sure they were not going anywhere.

With the rafters up, the next order of business was to start skinning with pressure treated 1/2" plywood.  Part of this was necessary to make the structure stiff enough to support me working on the roof further.

Putting up the skin was fairly easy.  I did however find right off that purlins would be needed to make sure I had a continuous nailing surface.  That's the horizontal light colored pine strips you can see through the window along the back wall.  All of the exterior plywood was fastened with 1 1/2" galvanized nails.  I used a total of 8 full sheets of 4' x 8' x 1/2" PT plywood for this.

This photo is a good representation of "math is hard".  The gable ends could have been cut from one sheet with almost no waste, but for my crap calculations first time through.  I wound up with two very long triangular pieces of scrap on the West gable, but I had it down pat by the time I did the East gable.  Getting the overhangs laddered out also was a tiny bit of a math fail, but they worked out fine.  I had made my rafters 8' long in total, which meant my North and South overhangs actually came out to 14" overall, while the East and West are 13" overall, but will anyone but you and I be able to tell?

Also shown above, the purlins for the roof are up on the South face and the strand board is ready to go up on the North side.  The purlins were really a life saver throughout the project when it came to putting up the roof materials.  Since I had an abundance, I used the 1 1/2" galvanized nails to secure them.

Getting the roof on was a lot harder than I expected. This is the part of the project I pretty much put little to no planning thought into.  The 4' x 8' sheets of strand board were far too heavy for me to get up onto the roof on my own.  I tried and failed.  So I wound up ripping them lengthwise into 2' x 8' sections which were much more manageable.

Here he is, the intrepid carpenter, far too pleased with himself for having figured out how to reduce the weight of the roof boards, which happens to be the only picture I have of that part of the roof in progress.

Once I had all of the strand board on both sides of the roof, I started putting on the polycarbonate on the South side.  This required pre-drilling the holes and it almost didn't go well but for the choice to use 1" x 3" pine purlins rather than 1" x 2".  The extra width gave me some fudge room for the drilled holes to line up with the purlins and provide a place to put a screw with washer and prevent a leak.

You may notice here that winter has previewed with snow visible here and there. The change in weather conditions began to limit the number of days and hours available to work on the shed and it seems like so long ago that I finished putting the polycarbonate up, which I think was back at Thanksgiving.  I almost forgot to note that the facia has been finished off here with 1" x 6" pressure treated pine all the way around the overhang and white aluminum drip edges were installed all around as well.

With that done, I started putting some of the windows in because I discovered that the Ondura asphalt sheet I had chosen for the roof required a temperature above 35 F to work with to prevent cracking.  Not too many days at this time of year offer those temperatures, but with patience and some carefully chosen time away from work on nicer days, I was able to finish that up this past weekend.

You can see here that I have three windows in so far.  Just 10 to go.  The windows go together with a 4" sill made from the same pressure treated plywood that adorns the exterior, some shims, and 3/4" x 1/2" clear pine trim to case them in.  The second tier of windows on the South side, and the bottom most on the East and West will each have a single chest hinge to allow them to tilt in from the top 3" for ventilation when needed.  The playset in the foreground will be coming down in the spring and re-built as a bigger better fort further down the hill in the tree line, which I expect will be the subject of a future lengthy posting.

Before we leave off though, I was confounded by how to finish the roof off on the North side.  Getting anywhere with the 4' x 69" sheets of asphalt was a challenge.  A ladder alone would not do the job, so I wound up creating and assembling a scaffolding that hung off the North wall and provided a platform to work from as well as something to step onto and off of for getting on and off the roof.

The scaffold consisted of two 2 x 4s anchored to the support posts and end post with 5 " screws, and a gusset of sorts made of one 2 x 4 cut in two, one piece which was beveled at both ends.  A third 2 x 4 was then fastened to the outside as a leg to provide more support, and an angle bracket was employed to ensure this whole thing would not pull away from the structure with a 200 lbs. idiot standing no it.

Whenever I would begin work, I would secure my 20' aluminum ladder to the shelf, also made of 1/2" PT plywood, with two long bungies wrapped around the shelf and hooked to the ladder.  This made getting up and down a much more sure-footed experience.

With that in place, I still had the puzzle of getting far enough up the steep slope to position sheets and drive nails.  I used a mix of a custom ladder and nailed in 2 x 4's to 'stand' upon.  But the ladder I made was designed to hook over the roof.  How to finish out the ridge?

The answer was to move the aluminum ladder to directly below where I wanted the wooden roof ladder to be, then invert it so that the hook end was against the aluminum ladder, where I tied it off with my trusty tie-down strap, and then was able to climb up to put the last three pieces of the roof in place.

The roof ladder, by the way, is simply 1" square rungs pinned in with 3" screws from either side, topped with heavy duty angle brackets at the top that form a U to hook over the top edge of the strand board and the purlin.   I quite literally praised God and said "thank you Jesus" when I was done with this part of the roof.  I definitely did not care for being up there.  However, now that I have no more reason to go up on the roof, I find that I do miss the excitement of surviving doing so.

The shed isn't done yet, there's still a lot of details to take care of, but it's done enough to call the project log a wrap for now.  I might feature some of the things that will go into it yet later.  One thing I did today was just put in some solar powered landscape lights to provide nighttime illumination for late-night wood-getting runs.  The kit included 3 spot lights and a solar panel and battery base, so I affixed them all to the rafters with simple pipe straps.

I'll dress the cables more neatly when they aren't so rigid from the cold with wire staples to get them out of the way and tidy up the appearance.

That's it for now.  I hope you've enjoyed seeing it come together.  It has certainly been the biggest project I've ever undertaken.  It has been immensely gratifying and educational for me and I feel like I'm ready to tackle bigger, more complex projects now.  We'll see what the estimate from the builder is for the addition on the house.  Maybe I'll want to try that myself?  nah.  Not enough time!