Summer Kitchen Renovation Part16: The Chimney

With the stove complete and the chimney positioned, I was finally able to make the roof penetration for the chimney and complete the roof!

The first thing to do was to figure out the shape of the hole. This video answered that question:

So with a template in hand … I drilled through the center point we marked on the inside surface of the roof and went up and placed the template:

Marked it out with chalk:

… and with a stuttering jigsaw (that decided for the first time in almost a decade to malfunction) I was able to cut the hole and saw the chimney base looking up at me:

I placed one segment in place to see how things aligned (the real test):

… and it was situated nicely in the hole (though I hoped it would have reached higher … but I am no longer surprised by gaps between specifications and real-world fittings). So I added the second segment … and the chimney went through the roof:

A first fitting of the flashing went well but indicated that another row of shingles needed to come underneath the flashing:

… but from there on it was relatively smooth work. There was bit of figuring-out when the shingles met the flashing … it was a good idea to keep the hole-template … it was useful twice more in marking shingles for cutting:

The day before Iulia and I loaded a lot of shingles up onto the roof (knowing that Iulia would be away) … so I was able to relax into undisturbed flow of shingle installation:

I finished most of the surface that same day. The next day I brought up some more pieces and completed the surface:

Cut, tested and completed installing the ridge pieces:

… and all of a sudden it was done … the roof was complete! That came with a feeling of both relief and emptiness.

This was followed by some slightly disheartening days during which we tried firing the stove and got poor-to-mixed results. With every tweak we made it became more clear to me that the internal channels of the stove were drafting well but the chimney was not … and as a result choking the stove.

Until the last firing … during which I made a fire in the upper chamber, just under the chimey exit (I did this through the cleanout that gives access to the upper chamber). I let that fire build and burn until the chimney was warm to the touch and smoke was regularly flowing ou the chimney … and THEN started a fire … and, to my relief, it burned wonderfully, cleanly, with no smoke inside and very little exhaust through the chimney:

I underestimated the role that the damper plays as a bypass inside the masonry stove. Though we’ll see how this all works when the stove dries and the structure around it is complete.

We are expecting delivery of another chimney segment to extend the chimney height well past the roof ridge … and we have a rain&wind protection hat that goes on top … but that is proving difficult to install.

We still haven’t baked a bread in it … maybe in a few days 🙂

I feel like my understanding of fire, drafts and chimneys has been refined. I have a more subtle appreciation for the “active” engine that drives rocket stoves (regular or batch) in comparison to a slightly more “passive” burning like this in the masonry stove.

… and this year feels complete and done! We may still be able to do some work related to the summer kitchen, but this will probably be small peripheral things … mostly preparing for flowing well into work again next spring.

So this update is likely the last for this year … until next spring 🙂

Construction Construction Links Woodworking

Summer Kitchen Renovation Part15: The Stove

From the beginning of this project, Iulia and I have had differences of opinion about a stove. You can say that the stove and these differences of opinion it represents is at the heart of this project. Because of those differences of opinion, the stove is late to the party. As a result, its placing and design were constricted by earlier choices.

The stove was NOT really a priority right now. Its chimney was. I wanted to complete the roof. The decking and water proofing layer were already in place. The chimney is a roof penetration and requires a hole! I preferred to make the hole before before putting on the shingles and then having to cut into them. And the chimney is deeply related to the stove. So … stove!

This stove is a departure from the rocket stoves I’ve been building since the beginning of my journey here at Bhudeva. The main driver for this change is that rocket stoves require attention. In our winter a rocket stove requires numerous feedings in order to keep a space comfortable for a day. 2-3 feedings are required on mild winter days, 4-5 on cold days. This implies a relationship with the stove. Iulia wanted out of this relationship.

One alternative was a batch rocket. I’ve been following batch rockets for a few years and have NOT been inclined to experiment with them. They seem to elevate the level of complexity of construction compared to a “regular rocket” … and I was not inclined to take this on.

I also encountered this article comparing rocket stoves to masonry heaters. It captured my attention but I did not explore beyond an initial reading because I did not have any plans to build a stove. As the summer kitchen renovation morphed from a conversation to a reality I started looking into it. The article led me to this “Russian Rocket” design and I’d casually spent time with it trying to understand its design. However, because of the above mentioned “differences of opinion,” I did not dig too deep … because it was not clear that I was going to design and build a stove.

When, late in the process, it became clear that I was going to build a stove, I studied it in depth. My experiences with rockets helped … but there was some new stuff I had to learn. After careful study of the stove in the article, I felt confident enough to take this effort on.

This stove, if all goes well:

  1. Is fed a large batch of wood that burns all at once.
  2. If designed and built well it should, like a rocket, burn cleanly so that little-to-no emissions remain.
  3. It uses a combination of channels through which the hot gasses can pass, and chambers in which the hot gasses can stay and stratify. The exists from the chambers are always at the bottom, so that only the cooler gasses can exit.
  4. As a result, most of the heat from the intense fire is stored in the large mass of the stove (all those bricks) and is slowly radiated into the space.
  5. It also has a “black oven.” This is like a pizza oven. The fire burns into the oven chamber, charging it with heat. Then, after the fire goes out, the oven chamber can be used for hours for cooking and baking (without a fire burning!).
  6. Unlike a rocket-mass-heater, it does NOT have an instant heating effect on the space. It provides a slow and constant radiated warmth. Depending on the thermal performance of the structure and Iulia’s climate preferences, it may be enough to feed this stove once a day.

The first thing to figure out was placement. After much deliberation and unfolding, we arrived at a location that we had not considered at all at the beginning. We were “blind” to this location because it required taking down one of the internal walls.

However, to do that, I first had to make space for all the soil that would come out of this wall so that, as with the rest of the cob, we could reuse it. So it was time for the old original door frame to finally come down:

Now, with that space available, I could take down the wall segment. In this picture half of it is down:

and here it isn’t:

… and its soil moved to where the door was, alongside all the remaining cob we are reusing:

By now I had a sense of scale of the stove-to-be. It was time to figure out its exact inner layout and footprint. Time to lay out some bricks and see what is possible:

… until I settled on to this core layout:

Now we had a foot-print and I could work on two tracks. I spent numerous evenings designing the ~30 internal layers of the stove so that we could determine roughly how many bricks (regular and fire-bricks) we would need … so Iulia could inquire about that.

Meanwhile I continued digging lower down to compensate for the height difference of the spaces the wall separated … and I made preparations for a concrete footing (sitting partially on the thin concrete floor that was unwittingly put in when I originally moved here):

… and then pouring the concrete:

Iulia found some recycled bricks … and we took delivery of 1000 pieces:

I decided to place insulation both underneath the stove and between it and the external wall behind it to reduce conductive heat loss.

We repaired (took down excess materials and filled gaps) where the old wall met the external wall … and then it was time to reconnect with brick-laying. Starting with a base layer:

… and first layers:

My past experiences cutting bricks with an angle grinder were successful but very unpleasant and messy … so much so that I avoided cutting bricks unless I really had to. This project was going to have more brick cutting than I ever did before. I practiced and got better at cutting with hand tools … and decided to (finally!) invest in a shop-vacuum … which made the work MUCH more accessible and MUCH less messy:

Meanwhile, we were searching for the metal parts that this stove requires … and most of them arrived just in time to allow the work to keep moving forward. The first was this metal grate that is embedded in the floor of the fire chamber. I cut it into three pieces, two of which went into the stove:

While waiting for the grate to arrive I continued to build up the outer skin:

… and then I could fit the grate pieces into the fire-chamber floor:

… and I could set the floor in mortar and build up the inner fire chamber:

Way back when we started this project we took apart a baking oven (that made this place in its original form a “summer kitchen”). The floor of that oven was made of large flat fire-bricks and though we could not get them out whole, we were able to salvage large parts. Now we had an opportunity to reuse them in capping the fire-chamber. We were able to assemble two layers to bridge the top of the fire-chamber made up mostly of recycled parts that were cut and fit together. Here they are dry-fit:

… and here they are in place with mortar:

We already had the fire-chamber door, but we were waiting for a ceramic band that goes around it in order to install it. The came late … but when it finally arrived it was possible to install the door:

… and to close up around it:

… now the top of the fire-chamber became the floor of the built-in bake oven … and, together with the outer skin going up around it, the oven chamber started to form:

… and finally … we could do a fitting of the bake-oven door:

… and then the oven needed a top … and we didn’t have any more nice large fire-brick slabs … so it was time for some bridging:

… and then with mortar:

… and the remaining spaces were filled out:

… and we got to work on the arch over the oven door … with an improvised attempt at carving shaping a brick fragment:

… and then closing that layer … and doing a mockup of the layout of the upper chamber … with a final location for the chimney (which is what I was really after this whole time!!!):

… and this felt like the beginning of the end … I could now count down 8, relatively simple, layers of bricks.

I started with another “floor plan” for the upper chamber and laid a 1st layer of bricks which established the structure:

… and then needed to prepare the cleanout door, it came as it set together with the fire door intended to be a door on the ash-pit, but we decided to repurpose it. I fastened it by drilling some holes and created some anchors using some good ol’fashion romanian “wire” work:

… and with that in place, we could continue moving up … until we could finally do a a first test-placement of the chimney:

… and then it was time to start capping the upper chamber:

… at this point we said goodbye to these spaces where warm air would be held, its warmth would transfer to the mass of the stove until it would be cool enough to drop to the bottom of the chamber where it would find the chimney exit.

… and at this point we got a little too excited and decided to do a test burn:

… it went partially well and partially less well … and I was a little concerned about the less well part … even though I had a feeling our experiment was premature and that the results were not indicative of the performance of the stove. We got very good flames:

… but also very good, but undesirable, smoke:

drafting = the way air and gasses flow through the stove is both simple and subtly complex! Eventually I realized that the biggest mistake was the absence of a high-enough chimney which directly affects the draft … which is critical in a masonry stove (compared to typical fire places or metal boxes with fires inside them). Indeed when I added another chimney segment things greatly improved … and when the entire chimney is installed … well … I’ll let you know how that goes 🙂

… and we moved on … completed the stove … this is me working in a tight spot to get the last bricks in:

and did a couple more test firings … still with mixed results … which worried me a bit … but only a bit because there was still some unfinished business which would affect the stove performance. Here you can see the completed stove already partially blackened from smoke from dirty burns (in an ideal clean burn there is no smoke at all since all the fuel burns either in the primary or secondary chamber):

With the chimney in place, we went up to see how it would connect to the upper part of the chimney. My working assumption was that we would just barely make the connection to the top section was wrong … we were too close. The chimney in the stove needed to move a bit. Fortunately, there was some room for “play” in its location and after a bit of dismantling (luckily much less then we imagined would be needed) we managed to shift the chimney and close the stove back up again:

We installed the bottom section of the chimney … and after some test iterations were able to install a frame extension to which the upper section would be attached.

The upper section is double-walled stainless steel with insulation. It starts with a base and a T-joint. We got it roughly located and held in place with clamps:

… and after some fiddling to get it vertically plumbed (so that the chimney would exit properly between two roof rafters … we got it installed … and Iulia is in this picture to give a sense of how big this thing is (we were surprised when all the parts were delivered … on a pallette! … they looked comfortably sized on the website!):

… and this is where we arrived today … and this is exactly where I wanted to be … ready to make a hole in the roof, install the rest of the chimney and integrate it properly into the finished roof surface.

The first bricks were laid on September 25th … so this adventure took a month!

note to self: the mortar (even taking into account the slightly too-thick mortar joints I made) … so much mortar. I counted almost 8 wheel barrows (~85 liter) of sand and 6 wheel barrows (~70 liters) of clay soil … which is … and I still find this hard to believe … just over a metric-cube (1100 liters) of material. When the materials are mixed together into a mortar they lose approximately 50% of their volume … but still … LOADS of mortar went into this.

and … to be continued 🙂


Summer Kitchen Renovation Part14: Electricity, Roof … and Water!

We have arrived at a kind of convergence of interdependencies & the end of the working season:

  • To continue working on filling the walls we needed to get some electricity preparations done.
  • A late decision to put in a masonry stove got entagled with the roof (since a chimney is required and penetrates the roof.

Electricity & Walls

I deliberated whether to put in electric cables directly into the walls or in pipes that would provide access for re-wiring in the future. This needed resolution in order to continue building up the walls.

Initially, I wanted to put in just a peripheral pipe for the main lines. There were two places wires were going to go through thick walls and three places where they were going to cross from the first floor to the second. These transitions were easy to handle now but would be very difficult to tend to in the future without pipes.

After doing that we decided to put in secondary, thinner pipes, to all outlets and switches. This is the busiest box we have:

… and then, as planned, Iulia went ahead and experimented with a straw-rich cob mix (inteded to both reduce structural load and increase insulation) … we explored different ways of mixing … and arrived at a very nice material:

She was able to do some placing of the material … including a worker who came for one day then disappeared:

but her elbow was still healing … and she was pushing … and after almost injuring herself again … we decided to stop with this work for this season. It became clear that we were not going to the walls closed for winter … and so we stopped thi work. It is also getting colder, less pleasant to work with earth, and it is now risky to continue to work with earthen materials that may be subjected to freeze-thaw cycles.


In the midst of all this, we finally got connected to the main water supply. After months of waiting for approval from the water company (after years of waiting for a water pipe to be installed), the installer arrived with a water counter from the water company … and we could make the final connection. I dug down to our existing water pipe:

I had plans to make a connection in such a way that if necessary we could go back to pump water … but there wasn’t enough space left for my plans … so I installed the pressure reducer … which went smoothly enough:

Then, despite a feeling of inhibition, I cut into the existing water pipe that we put in 9 years ago:

… and then started a shitty and difficult work session that ended with us connected to water mains. I hate work that requires brute force and cannot be resolved in a thoughtful way!


During all this time I was already immersed in building the late-addition masonry stove … that will come in a separate post.

However as things started to converge … parts arrived, the stove arose, the chimney system was figured out and ordered … I decided to get to work on the first half of the roof … the one that would not require a hole for the chimney.

We setup a pully system with which Iulia could send up to me small batches of shingles:

From there I was able to load the shingles onto the roof:

The shingles are covered with very small stones and when they are moved around they shed some of those stones. That added an undesirable slippy quality to the 30-degree roof slope and so I used the broom to sweep between batches.

I then carried the shingles to the other side of the roof where I needed them:

There was a learning curve (still on it) of how to lay them properly. I made a few mistakes that had a negative aesthetic effect, but did not compromise the water-shedding functionality of the roof … which over 3 days was completed:

… and I said goodbye to this half of the roof … becase unless I am missing something … I am actually done with it!

Next up … massive stove project!


Summer Kitchen Renovation Part13: Dear Ash Tree (aka 2nd half of roof)

The next step was an un-news-worthy disassembling, moving, and reassembling of the scaffolding. However this time the scaffolding was a tight fit because of some obstacles, including an ash tree. We’ve been aware of this ash tree from back when we took down the old roof and started walking and working on the walls. We knew some cutting would be required, but since we couldn’t reach it, we didn’t dwell on it.

Now, while assembling the scaffolding in and around the ash tree I could both reach and look the challenge in the eye. I did not like what I saw. This is the tree coming up from the ground:

This is a major branch growing towards the house:

… and passing directly between the rafters:

… and this was a large, tall and wide branch:

… and I looked at it … and I said to Iulia that I don’t want to take this task on. I asked her to try to find someone from the village who is experienced with a chainsaw in tight/high places to simply make this challenge disappear.

and … no such luck … so … it was … yet again … up to me. I got into the safety gear, added Iulia’s bike helmet to the outfit and took a deep breath.

Iulia was VERY emotional … in tears. I was up in the scaffolding holding a chainsaw … in my mind … talking to the tree explaining what I was about to do … asking for understanding and, if possible, cooperation.

I started moving very slowly … and in the spirit of graduality, I started with a smaller branch that also needed to come down. I got comfortable with the chainsaw and cutting to avoid getting the saw caught by the weight of the branch … and it went OK.

Then it was off to the main event. I started cutting through the large branch until I could feel it start to move. I stopped and let it take its course … it started to lay down on the roof. I assumed that it would go that way and hoped the roof would hold up. I repeated this, cutting and letting it settle a few times … until … the cut went all the way through and the brach pulled away from me as it settled onto the roof:

I then stopped and considered my options. I came up with a strategy of cutting off the parts close to me (near the edge of the rafters) … allowing it to move and settle again … and repeated that … until I could nudge it. And we ended up gradually moving/rolling towards the edge of the building while cutting off more and more pieces and branches as they became accessible to me … until:

… it lay on the ground … and the rafter tails were all exposed and accessible and tree-less:

… and that was the end of that day … the house, myself and the tree could continue to co-exist peacefully:

Anchoring the safety cord turned out to be tricky. We had to find an anchor point that would not apply pressure to the already installed rain gutter on the 1st side. We had to go way across the yard, utilizing the full length of the cord:

… and the next day began a (mostly) repeat of the roof decking process … this time with a tool belt which made a world of difference!

Iulia was able to arrange tools and process in a way that allowed her to provide me again with ground support (cutting and raising planks for me to install) with her arm in a cast:

… and I was working my way up the roof until I reached the ridge from the other side:

… and closed that too:

… and the rain gutter:

… and then the waterproofing layer came on … and flashing:

… and I really wanted to finish the roof by putting on the roofing shingles …. BUT … we arrived at a planned/unplanned detour … more on that next time!


Summer Kitchen Renovation Part12: Roof Decking

After the scaffolding was up I could approach the fascia boards. I had to get used to being up on the scaffolding and moving around with the safety gear, between parts of the scaffolding and the mulberry tree branches (I trimmed some that were too much in the way and felt unsafe to me … but tried to keep trimming to a minimum).

With Iulia injured I had to come up with a way to hold in place and screw in the fascia boards. It was time for a jig, and it was named Iulia2. It held up one end of the board while I tended to the other end:

The fascia board was made up of three parts (two shorter pieces in the end and a longer one in the middle). After the fascia board I went to the side with extended (high) scaffolding and started putting on decking … I could not get very far because of limited reach:

So I stacked up some boards at the high scaffolding end … where I had more reach:

I tested and found I was “comfortable” sitting on the roof where there were three boards … so I laid out more boards ahead of me … and gradually moved along, dragging my seated ass along the roof screwing down the decking.

Iulia was still trying and able to provide “ground service” by cutting boards to length and handing them over for me to install.

… and eventually a decked roof started to appear:

… at this moment I realized I was watching the sunset standing taller than the ridge beam that, not long ago, seemed high up:

Around this time Iulia went to a doctor and found out her elbow was fractured … so she was out of the game. I, slowly, continued on … measuring up on the roof, going down to cut, raising boards, going up, installing them, measuring again … and found a good rhythm

At this point, I was getting on and off the roof with increasing frequency and even at the highest point of scaffolding getting on required too big a step (a small climb).

I also anticipated that soon, when it came time to put in the rain gutter, I would not be able to “climb” and that I would need to be able to step on the roof. So it was jig time again:

… and Napolean was born … an improvised two step stool that gave me another 60-70cm of height. It turned out heavier than I expected … and I had to figure out a way to get it up to the highest scaffolding. I carried up to the 2nd level … from there I placed a board across to the scaffolding next to the high scaffolding … and pushed it across … this felt simultaneously ingenious and ridiculous:

The name Napoleon came intuitively … but when I stepped on it and from it onto the roof for the first time I understood why. I imagined that the little guy needed something like this to get on his horse. My horse was a roof 🙂

Then I crossed over to the scaffolding, pulled it across, lifted it up to its final destination, screwed it down … and … stepped onto the roof:

… and got back to work:

Doing this work I came to appreciate tool belts … but didn’t have one yet (though did end up getting one in the coming weeks). Instead, I created this small holder-jig that I moved around with me:

… and, sooner then I thought, the last board was sticking out waiting to be installed:

… and the first half of decking was done:

Then installing the rain gutter … finding a level reference line:

… and then tilting in the direction I wanted the water to flow … installing hanger along the tilted line:

… putting in the first gutter segment … and pouring in some water that flowed nicely out:

Despite my best efforts, when the gutter was installed completely there was still a small pooling area that held about a liter of water … but overall it turned out OK.

The last step was to install the water-proofing layer:

Then it was time to move to the other side … where another adventure was to be met before the other half of the roof could be installed.

Construction Wood Framing

Summer Kitchen Renovation Part11: Scaffolding

We left off last time with a framed roof and our sights were now on the roof itself. Before going there we decided to lightly frame in the two sidewalls (to give the structure a bit more rigidity).

So we started with yet another evening charring preparing the next pieces we needed. I am amazed how any task, no matter how simple (such as charring wood) can be refined … a quality of mastery can be evoked from it. There are soooo many small details that we’ve encountered and figured out to do charring well (and I am confident that more refinement is still possible).

And the next day some cutting, assembling and a bit more torch-charring (surfaces are exposed after cutting … and the window frame was in storage awaiting installation):

and pretty soon we had one window framed in (still missing a header … to come at a later time):

We were unclear about the positioning of the other window … so we set up its base:

and then alternated between different positions and each of us holding it in place while the other went to look from different angles:

Then it was time for the next “main event” – construction of the scaffolding along one side of the structure. In anticipation of this I prepared a fairly clear image of the tasks that required scaffolding. Iulia stumbled, and in stopping her fall fractured her elbow … greatly limiting her mobility.

I could write an entire post on why we decided to make our own scaffolding … but don’t really have space for that. Suffice to say, that was our initial preference, but after some inquiry, we decided not to go down that path.

We started at the beginning, setting up the first scaffolding. This was installed at the low end of the structure (the ground slopes along the long sides). I needed to see if this would be enough to get me where I needed to go.

This was more involved than anticipated: the ground was too uneven for leveling and so some digging was required to create a flat enough surface. But ultimately it came up and looked promising. I could reach the rafter tails and over the edge of the roof … but not much more. We had another scaffolding in a similar size and another smaller “family edition” one … that was really designed for a “pro” installation stacking on top of one of the higher ones. But as I looked at this I realized that even those two (can be seen standing against the wall on the right side of the picture) would not be enough. I needed access to the entire length of rafters from side to side.

Again, we made some inquiries about improvised solutions … and went back to the workshop to make another large scaffolding … it took one work day and was ready to go (by now we had a tried-and-true production process for scaffolding):

We then went to the other end … where yet another first challenge awaited us … stacking of the small scaffolding on top of the large scaffolding … which would allow me to stand with my feet 4 meters off the ground. First the base scaffolding:

Then add a cat … that effortlessly climbed up the diagonals as if to mock my efforts to reach these heights:

Then, despite the cat, install the extension connectors (I am skipping a ton of small challenges … such as fastening bolts from the outside while working entangled with the branched of the tree which we pruned as little as possible … you know … so we could be good neighbors):

… then raising up the parts (not enough hands to both do and take pictures) of the “family edition” scaffolding and assembling them on top … and … well:

The next day we installed the middle scaffolding … and I had a “jungle jim” to work on:

The middle scaffolding was installed close enough to one side so it was possible to walk from one to the other:

… and from that we added a plank that allowed me to work and travel to the other end (where the tall scaffolding awaited me):

In the end, most of this work is so I can screw in some boards together (a very simple task) … but getting there … that is a challenging journey. This is a good example of yet another deep pattern we encounter over and over again … preparation is a large part of any task. It is so tempting to think of the actual work I want to get done as “the work” … but many times the peripheral work takes up much more then the “actual work”

In this case it was possible to start working on this:

… but more on that in the next post …

I am behind on posting because I’ve been really focused on getting a water-shedding roof onto the structure (not quite there yet … but almost there!). This brings us to about two weeks ago (end of August).

Construction Wood Framing

Summer Kitchen Renovation Part10: Going Out on Two limbs (aka: Roof Framing)

This segment of the story starts with an innocent-looking picture – a first test assembly of the homemade scaffolding … it felt sturdy but did not feel good for testing given the uneven ground next to the workshop:

Assuming the scaffolding was going to work … the next challenge was to get a ridge-beam (“technical” terms are a bit inevitable here … I will keep it simple and the pictures will hopefully provide clarity) set at the correct height and precisely aligned in the middle of the space. We built two posts to support the ridge beam and the original plan was to let them stand on the ground floor, load them up with the ridge beam and lift them up … here is that plan in action just before the “lift them up” part:

… the “lift them up” plan was never going to work … so .. plan B … we erected the two poles in place:

… and it was time to disassemble the scaffolding, bring up the parts and assemble it where we needed it … here it is right up against one of the poles with Iulia making a first climb up:

… and for some perspective on where this is going:

… and the next day … it was time to actually go up:

… and we didn’t come here for sight-seeing (though the seeing was VERY good) … we came here to build a roof … and after MUCH fiddling (measuring, cutting, fitting, adjusting, head-scratching …):

… we got a pair of rafters in place:

… and the next day we woke up fresh and a bit wiser… and greeted by this view … which reminded us that we were able to actualy get rafters up and installed:

… and we got two more pairs on:

… and then a forth:

we were really getting the hang of it … and getting somewhat “comfortable” on the scaffolding … and then we reached the edge of the building … I was anticipating this and NOT looking forward to it … but there it was … inevitably. The next pair was right at the edge and the pair after that is an overhang that extends beyond the building. How do we reach out?

We considered different ways to approach this … and in the morning before heading out to actually meet this challenge I came up with the “diving board” … it took a few iterations … but there it is:

… and Iulia testing it by taking it for a ride:

… and looking from the ground up at the naked part of the ridge beam waiting patiently for some face-to-face time with us:

… and there is scaffolding … ready to jump ship into the shark-infested waters:

… and you may ask yourself (we sure did!): how DID the scaffolding get there?

… and we brought out all the latching straps … and latched it nice and tight:

… and there it was:

At this point I said to Iulia … being jokingly serious, that I think we will not be posting these images until we finish this phase of work AND live to tell about it (=without sustaining injuries or hospitalizations). I did not want my parents to see this (they are following closely!) and worrying. Iulia laughed AND seriously agreed! So … spoiler … you are seeing these images because the story ends well!

… and once again Iulia went up for a first look:

The next day Iulia borrowed some climbing gear (which she fortunately knew how to use) … and while we were over-hanging-out we were also securely strapped:

… and the thing started to really look like a roof:

Half of the roof was done … we pulled the scaffolding back away from the edge … took away the temporary supporting posts … and there it was:

… and we ran out of charred wood. The stack of charred wood that seemed abundant … was consumed until grass was again revealed. So we set out on a late evening charring session to renew the charred stack … so we could carry on with the other half of the roof:

… the charring, amongst other things, burns through some of the resin in the recently cut wood … here is a resin-rich section continuing to burn away from the fire:

We now faced yet another new challenge … attaching a second ridge beam to the first. The space was also getting more crowded … we needed to be able to both place and move the scaffolding with the posts re-installed in their new places … and to do that we had to place one of the posts in the scaffolding:

… and get the 2nd ridge beam up and connected:

… and we were getting good at “raftering” and another four pairs went up with more ease:

… and we arrived at the other end of the building … and we needed to bring the “diving board” over to this end … but we were not quite done with it on the 1st end.

The diving board gave us access to the top part of the overhanging rafters … not to the lower “tail” part … that was overhanging along the two sides. So we split the “diving board” into two … and … I didn’t have to spend much time there … but I did have to spend some time there … and it was actually easier than working up on the scaffolding. Every time we did this we had a set routine and Iulia was handing me things as I needed them, allowing me to stay focused and steady.

During some rainy days we built more scaffolding in the workshop … another large one (like the one in the pictures above), a smaller one (pictures coming up) … and the experimental stool (my first attempt at compound angles) that snuck into the last two pictures … so we had three scales of “high” to work with.

… and the roof started looking real!

… and we moved the “diving board” to the other side …. and got to work on the last two pairs:

… and we were now as good as we were going to get at “raftering” … so they went up easiest … and the diving board came down (and probably retired … taken apart and maybe some its pieces reused … most of it was made from reused materials):

… and we got one of the collar ties in place (the horizontal section that makes a pair of rafters look like an A):

… we had to take down the large scaffolding because it was getting in the way of installing the collar ties. So the next day we completed, brought up and assembled the smaller “home edition” scaffolding:

… and after some experimentation came up with a repeatable technique. Iulia was up on the scaffolding aligning and leveling each piece while I moved around from the side to side with the stool to lock it in place:

These elements will be visible in the space so they went through more treatment before being put up. Like the other pieces, they were charred. But then they were brushed clean (with a metal brush), sanded, cleaned with a wet rag, and oiled (linseed oil). Here you can see the difference between a raw untreated charred surface (some of the raw char has been washed off by rains) and a treated, cleaned, oiled surface:

… and then … after an intense two weeks … the last piece was put in place:

… and a simple and beautiful pattern and rhythm came into being:

… and onto the next challenge … converting this roof framing into an actual roof!

Construction Wood Framing

Summer Kitchen Renovation Part9: Going Up

After charring, brushing and light sanding it was time to oil the beams:

Then … getting them up in the roof. Fortunately, they were now lighter then they were when we received them green … making them slightly more manageable! We were able to hoist one side of the beam up to one side of the wall … and then with a strap drag the other end up … and then together getting up on opposite walls … move them into place:

… and slowly but surely … the beams were up … and the structure started to feel contained again:

Meanwhile, in the background (and the shaded workshop), the first scaffolding structure was coming together:

Then … well … it was time to start framing the side walls. For this we had to spend some time considering the position of the two windows (one in each wall). This took some time, standing on the walls, looking at views, light, directions, relationship to the surrounding … some simple mockups on paper.

We started building one segment … it was fairly large and was a bit of a struggle getting up on the wall (for just the two of us):

Initially, this caused some anxiety. We were stretching our limits … of experience, physical strength and scale … this is the largest thing I’ve ever taken on … and high up! Walking along the walls became trickier when the beams went up … now with a wall segment up … it required planning and attention!

The next segment was (in some ways) easier because it was smaller.

… and in this one we tried incorporating some recycled wood … here Iulia is charring some pieces for that experiment.

We decided to do the second wall in three smaller segments instead of a large and a small segment. This is the last segment assembled on the ground:

… and then up on the wall:

… and … two walls up!

… then framing in the two window frames:

… and finally … getting into place 4 beams that will support the roof … these stick out ~85cm beyond both ends of the structure to create generous overhangs:

We already have in place (waiting to be loaded with a beam and lifted into position) two temporary poles to support the ridge-beam … until it will be held in place by the roof framing … so … we just need to complete the first scaffolding unit … and it is time to build a roof!

Construction Wood Framing

Summer Kitchen Renovation Part8: Bond Beam & Sill Plate

With formwork in place we put in rebar and then had to wait for the weather to clear up and for a delivery of stones (for the concrete mix) for a concrete pouring day.

While waiting for the weather I completed work in the workshop on the window frames. Here are two large frames awaiting assembly:

The joinery work has really paid off … the frames assemble reliably and with great precision (square!):

Two frames assembled … these were given priority because we will need them soon for framing … having them ready will allow us to simulate their placement in the wall to get the best view:

Then, concrete day arrived. We tried hiring two workers .. but only one, Mirela – the shepherd’s wife. Iulia and I got an early start to get started, mix a first batch and see what it’s like to get it in place. The first segment went smoothly … though we did adjust the mix (5 shovels stones, 7 shovels sand + ~7 liters of water):

Then Mirela joined us and we started to find a rhythm. I was on the mixer, Iulia on the walls and Mirela moving material up to Iulia.

… and we were moving at a good place starting to go around the structure:

The 1st wider segment made the progress feel slower … but when we got past that we could see the end. This is what it looked like when we took a short break just before the last session:

… and after 30 batches (~1.7 cubic meters) … we had a bond beam poured:

Tarps went back on … and a couple days later … the forms came off:

… and then it was time for a wooden frame (I believe this is called a sill plate in wood framing) anchored to the concrete, on top of which we will frame the 2nd level:

Iulia is waiting for me to finish drilling wholes in the concrete for another segment of wood:

… which brought us back to the charred beams … here is Iulia cleaning off the loose char … preparing them for cleaning and oiling … while I was doing some more charring

… we are about to start (rapidly) ingesting the pile of lumber into a 2nd floor and a roof.


Summer Kitchen Renovation Part7: Preparing for going UP!

The hole in the wall window (we left off with last time) healed fairly quickly:

Once we put in a properly dimensions and straight frame in we learned how un-straight the wall is. As a result the frame sticks out and will require some “integration work” … to be dealt with in the future.

With that done we have set our sights on going up to the second floor. After “shaving” the top of the structure flat(ish) we had some placed that required mending and filling in with cob:

The water level is a simple, beautitul but somewhat cumbersome tool to use … we got pretty close to level.

We continued to have a rainy season and we’ve gotten pretty good at covering the walls with tarps. The pigeons also seem to appreciate our efforts:

While the cob-on-top-of-the-walls was setting and in between rains I experimented with wood charring over an open fire. I usually use a gas torch for this, but we have LOTS of wood to char … and we have leftover scrap wood. After some fiddling around I came up with a system that works pretty well, makes for good paced work and creates a good char (deeper than what I would typically do with the torch):

It felt nice re-cycling the “waste wood” we’d just torn down into fuel for preparing the new wood … which will hopefully protect it and give it a longer life!

Then it was time to build the formwork into which we will be pouring a concrete bond beam. We used a combination of new (and charred) beams, boards, and re-used materials. We started with a peripheral frame:

… and then moved on to constructing two internal frames:

… and according to the water level one corner (the one in the foreground of the image above) is 1.4cm higher than the other 3 corners … and we decided that was close enough for us.

The formwork also provided us with a clear reference for the cob walls. Gaps in height were clear and easy to tend to … so it was another round of cob-on-top-of-the-walls to level and seal all around the formwork.

Meanwhile, I’ve also been spending a few full days in the workshop preparing the window frames for the second floor … so that the framing, when we come to it, will flow well. The thicknesser has been working overtime … and the dogs love it 🙂

We’ve put in some rebar … and if all goes well … tomorrow will be concrete day. We are hiring help for tomorrow … aiming for two people … unclear if both will show up. Concrete needs to be poured in one continuous effort … so tomorrow will be an early start … and hopefully pleasant work … with correct effort!