Post and beam auger

I picked up a post and beam auger with a 2″ bit from a retiring shop teacher who had it sitting on his desk for 20 years.  I had to drive an hour to get it but the low price and not having to pay shipping justified the car ride.  It’s not a familiar type such as a Millers Falls model and in fact I’m not sure what brand it is.  If anybody knows the manufacturer or can tell me anything about it from the pictures I would appreciate a quick comment or email to clue me in.  Some of the mortises I’ll be cutting will be 2″ wide so this contraption should speed that along.  I’d really like to find a 1-1/2″ bit to drill the rest of the mortises so I’ll have to keep my eye out for one of those.

 

Cost estimate

I recently submitted a building permit application for a 12′ x 16′ timber frame outbuilding, and after a little back-and-forth over email with the county land use specialist while my application is under review, I was asked to come up with a cost estimate which the county needs to help track development.  Since I will be milling all the timbers and lumber myself, the estimate is significantly higher because it’s based on retail prices for specialty milling.  I came up with an itemized list of materials needed for construction and looked up average prices in my area.  For a little context, the building will be finished using the wrap-and-strap method with pine siding for the interior and exterior, yellow birch (or similar available hardwood) flooring, and metal roofing.  The building will sit on concrete piers and have 6-8 windows, a standard door, and possibly a sliding door.  Some important dimensions are 744 sq ft of wall space, 192 sq ft of floor space (plus an extra 80 sq ft for loft), 360 sq ft of roof space, and 1812.5 bf (board feet) of timbers.  The materials list:

Variable width pine @ $3.00/bf  –  $5540

Timbers (expanded list below) @ $6.00/bf  –  $10,875

Flooring @ $5.00/bf  –  $1,360

Roofing  –  $1,800

2×4 framing materials  –  $1,000

Sliding door  –  $500

Exterior door  –  $300

Windows  –  $1,800

Insulation  –  $1150

Plywood  –  $80

Concrete, rebar, and forms –  $95

TOTAL  –  $24,500

To calculate labor, I used the standard ratio of %30 labor cost to %70 materials cost for residential construction and came up with $10,500.  The grand total amount for the complete rough estimate of the finished building would be $35,000 and that is close to the assessed value I would expect for an insurance appraisal.  It seems like a lot for an outbuilding but I have to keep a few things in mind.  First, my out-of-pocket costs will be much lower, probably closer to $6,500.  Second, the building will last decades longer than a conventional stick frame structure.  Finally, the structure is fully weather-proof and ready to accept plumbing, heating, and electrical upgrades so it’s really much more than a lowly outbuilding.  For anyone interested in a more detailed breakdown of the timber materials, I have added a list below:

Sills 8×8  2-12′, 2-16′ (56′)

Tie beams and plates 7×8  3-12′, 2-18′ (72′)

Posts 7×7  6-12′ (72′)

Joists 5×7  5-12′ (60′)

Loft joists 5×6  5-10′ (50′)

Rafters 5×5  18-10′ (180′)

Wall girts and door posts 4×5  7-8′, 1-12′ (68′)

Collars and braces 3×5  9-10′ (90′)

Also hardwood pins:  12-1″dia and 75-3/4″dia; and wedges:  6-12″ x 6/4″ x 11/4″

Hand-forged framing chisel

Picked up an old hand-forged 1-1/2″ framing chisel.  Actually, I don’t really know how old it is.  There are remnants of a maker’s mark stamped in the steel but I can’t determine too much other than it was a recessed rectangle shape.  There is also a crudely scratched “H+X” in the blade but it’s off-center and I suspect it was an identifier for a previous owner rather than something left by the smith.  I had to spend about an hour lapping the steel flat just to see what kind of integrity the blade had.  There are a couple of hairline cracks here and there but nothing near the bevel edge or around the socket.  Someone was probably hammering it without a handle because the socket has plenty of fresh dings but it’s not malformed enough to prevent a new handle from seating properly.  Overall, I’m pretty happy with it and I needed a big mortise chisel like this for timber framing so now I can cross it off my list.  I might want a 2″ chisel down the road as well but then I’d need to get a 2″ auger bit, too, probably.

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I went ahead and fashioned a hickory handle to fit in the socket and put a steel hoop at the butt.  I think the hoop will settle down a little more, the butt should mushroom out over it and everything should stay in place securely.  I must now get to work on a chunkier wooden mallet to drive this monster chisel.  I’ll also have to finish the handle with the pine tar, boiled linseed oil, and turpentine varnish I talked about in a previous post.  I have some other things that could use a coat as well but I’m probably going to wait until the weather is warmer to mix it up.  Turpentine is not my favorite thing to use indoors.

Resources for inspiration

I’ve been thinking I ought to dedicate a post to some of the various books, blogs, and other media I’ve come across that have inspired me.  I think every one of us has an innate yearning to build a cabin in the wilderness with all that entails:  a sense of self-sufficiency and pride of accomplishment, to commune with nature and our primitive impulses, or just simply fulfilling a basic survival need to construct a shelter from the elements.  Building a cabin in the woods, in a way, is the root of human ambition.  This impulse for the most modest of conquests has been described in literature through the ages with some of my favorite and well-known examples being Thoreau’s Walden, Hamsun’s Growth of the Soil, and Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac.  I remember seeing an enthralling documentary on PBS, Alone in the Wilderness, about Dick Proenneke who hand built a log cabin in Alaska where he lived for 30 years when I was younger and finding it just as inspiring when I revisited it on youtube a number of years later.  In that same vain, a number of bloggers I’ve been following have left me with a similar sense of awe and provided me with some degree of confidence that I could also pursue this dream.  Lou Ureneck’s From the Ground Up blog on the New York Times’ website details the account of the author building a cabin in Maine;  Philosophy professor Mark van Roojen’s website about building a timber frame cabin in Wyoming’s Sierra Madre; and joiner Peter Follansbee’s blog about working green wood with hand tools have been some of my favorites.  These are just a few examples of some of the great blogs out there that have made my dream of building a cabin with my own hands seem so tangible.  There are also some great video series available for free online that I watch religiously including Paul Sellers’ Woodworking Masterclasses, Wranglerstar’s Modern Homesteading, and Roy Underhill’s The Woodwright’s Shop on PBS.  If you’re reading this and dreaming of building your own cabin, I highly recommend checking out some of these other sites.  And if you have suggestions for other great sites, drop a link in the comment section so we can all keep pushing the dream forward.

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The Aurora Borealis viewed from Saganaga Lake in Minnesota/Ontario.

Open-source 3D drafting software

While browsing through some of the resources on the website of the Timber Framer’s Guild (an essential stop for anyone seriously considering a DIY timber frame project:  http://www.tfguild.org/), I found some references to timber frame plug-ins for Sketchup, an open-source 3D drafting platform offered free from the company, Trimble (http://www.sketchup.com/).  Having used Trimble GIS equipment as an ecological researcher, I began running through the possibilities of mapping the complicated terrain at my building sites in my mind.  I thought it would be a useful exercise for planning layouts for the cabins in terms of views, window and door positions, access to the water, drainage, etc., but I was blown away by how much more I could do with this software and it was all free!  Not only was I able to teach myself the CAD software in an hour or so just watching the free instructional videos online, but the software has add-ons specifically designed for timber framers to formulate and layout joints, generate building material lists, and much more that I’ve yet to try.  After I spent some time messing around with different frame concepts, I started adding roofing materials, SIPs, foundation elements, staircases, furniture and appliances, and all sorts of other items offered in their user-generated warehouse.  I tend to be an adherent to the old-school methods of doing just about anything, but it was certainly easier and less time-consuming to manipulate design features within this software rather than erasing pencil marks and redrawing.  Not to mention all of the measurement calculations for drafting to scale were no longer necessary.  I’m attaching one of the frame designs I completed below.

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It seems that for a DIY person like me, I could mock up a timber frame design myself and submit the design to an engineer for tweaking and approval, and save myself some billable hours avoiding all the professional drafting work.  And as long as I’m on the topic of engineers, I should mention that the Timber Framer’s Guild is a great resource to find engineers specializing in timber frames to help with your designs.