Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Now that I've got a good handle on which windows I'm going to restore and actually use in the cabin, I took some exact measurements of the window dimensions from the existing windows. This allows me to play around with window placement on the cabin walls.

The Northwest face, opposite the side with the loft, will have three large windows. This will provide some excellent views of the mountains, woods, and sunsets. This will also be the side of the cabin that gets the brunt of the wind and rain. I'll have to put shutters, storm windows or something on these windows.

The Southwest side (the side with the door) will have a large picture window which will bring in a good deal of sun.

Here is a view of the cabin in X-Ray mode, which allows one to see all of the windows and frame simultaneously and get a better sense for how these windows will open up the overall space.

Below is an interior view of the window placements as one faces the loft space. I suspect that the cabin will feel very open with these windows in this configuration.

Lastly, here is a view to the Northwest from atop the loft, looking downward. Again: windows, openness, and scenic views to the mountain in the Northwest. This is all the effect that I am pushing for.

I'd like to put the woodstove in one of these western corners. That way, I can keep an eye on it from atop the loft as well...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Its window restoration time!

A few years ago, we remodeled our house and I saved all of our old windows (circa 1940). They are mostly double-hung, all-wood, single-paned windows. All of the windows have exterior white paint on them. Many have interior white paint, and some are simply stained a dark brown on the interior.

Most of the windows are in excellent shape, while some have some rot to deal with.

Unfortunately, I know nothing about restoring windows, dealing with paint removal, glazing, etc. I am officially way over my head.

However, I did pick up a copy of Working Windows by Terry Meany to keep me company during this process.

Below is my sacrificial "test" sash. I tested various methods for scraping paint, removing caulk, putty, and nails. In the process I broke a pane, scratched another one, wreaked havoc on the wood frame, and generally created a big mess.

In addition, the windows almost certainly have a layer or two of lead paint/primer to deal with.

Ideally, I would remove every last paint molecule, refinish the interior and exterior wood surfaces, and treat the frame, probably with some kind of exterior polyurethane. The underlying wood is largely in great shape...it would be nice to show that off.

However, after spending an hour poking at these windows and considering my options, I think I am stuck with paint, at least on the exterior.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The door is finally finished!

I applied two coats of Landark interior finishing oil onto the inside surface of the door. I really laid it on thick and let it soak in. I ordered some Landark exterior oil which contains a mildewicide and UV protection foo. I'll apply that to the exterior surface ASAP.

I'll probably apply a couple more treatments of oil before I eventually hang the door.

Just let it sit and soak in for an hour or two and then wipe off excess! Simple.

I like the look of the oak plugs. Below is a picture of where the fir brace is let into the tamarack ledge. The oak pugs show up dark, especially with oil.

The oil just brings out the natural wood color and grain in a dramatic way. I love the stuff. And, it smells like oranges!

I also just ordered another matching strap brace from Horton-Brasses.

The door is heavy, and I can barely maneuver it around by myself. Having a third hinge will help distribute weight and keep the door from sagging. The pintles will be screwed into an Engelmann Spruce door post, which is a very soft and easily deformed wood. Adding a third brace will relieve weight strain on that post as well.

I've got to pick out a handle, latch, and locking mechanism for the door.


Then, its on to restoring some old windows...

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Cabin Door, Part II.

The handmade cabin door is coming along. I've got all the battens tongue-and-grooved and cut to length. I built a little router jig and cut a v-groove between each batten. The edges of everything have a nice 45 degree chamfer. I bolted strips of cedar on the top and bottom with long stainless-steel, counter-sunk lag screws. I plugged the counter sink holes with 3/4" hardwood plugs.

I've got one ledge bolted-in, and I cut a shallow mortice for the diagonal brace. One brace is also cut and bolted and counter-sunk and plugged in a similar way.

The three ledges are all Tamarack, as is one of the battens. Everything else is Douglas Fir.

I'd say the door is about 3/4 finished. I'll get last ledge and brace installed this week, make sure the exterior face has flush edges (so the door can close effectively), and then really soak oil into the whole thing. While I was going to use Spar Urethane on the exterior, Peter convinced me to use oil.

The time has come to mill some elm. Not for my cabin, but for some yet-unknown future project.

Here in Moscow, the elm trees in parks and neighborhoods are, unfortunately, dying from Dutch Elm Disease.

Last July, the city felled massive. beautiful elm trees from the city park as a stop-gap strategy to save the remaining uninfected trees. We arranged with the city to take some logs. We had to rent a forklift to move the massive logs around, as the largest log probably weighed in at around 5,000 lbs. The forklift could barely manage! We hauled the logs to a friend's farm outside of town.

Our goal with this elm is to mill it into 2"-4" thick slabs and let the slabs season for awhile. The slabs will be fantastic for cutting hardwood braces or even for making fine furniture.

We borrowed a large Sperber chainsaw mill from Nils Peterson, and set to work. In order to get a straight and level first cut, we strapped a ladder to the logs with NRS straps. Subsequent passes with the mill just sat on the flat surface of the previous cut.

Little did we know, it turns out that back in the dry summer, we dropped these logs right in the middle of a seasonal spring runoff "creek". What a mucky mess! It was actually somewhat comical, as our feet sank into the wet muck as we worked. It will be good to get this wood out of the water ASAP.

The elm is beautiful, especially right after milling. The dark heartwood and the grain patterns make it worthwhile!

We brought the elm slabs back to my workshop. They will sit and start drying. The rule of thumb is 1/2" per year for hardwoods, so it will be awhile before these slabs are stable enough for furniture, but they will probably be ready for cutting braces within the year.

There is a lot more elm milling to go in the coming weeks. Its hard, slow, work. Yet, I am sure we will be able to do some fantastic things with the gorgeous elm in the future. Imagine the fantastic (and strong!) knee braces you could carve from these slabs...

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Time to seriously tackle the cabin door.

I looked through the rough-cut lumber that I had milled alongside my timbers, and I found some great pieces of Douglas Fir and Tamarack. I will use this hand-harvested lumber for the battens in the door. I ran each batten through the thickness planer and got them down to a consistent thickness of just under 1.5 inches. This is going to be one thick and heavy door!

The next step was to add tongue-and-groove joinery to the variable-width battens. With a little home-made fence on my new router table and a 1/2" router bit, I was in business:

I planed a piece of 1x4 pine down to 0.5" thickness and used it as a guide to set the router bit height on the table. Below, you can see the piece of pine placed temporarily inside of the groove of one of the battens. Snug fit!

Below, you can see a number of joined T&G battens. Only two more to go!

Humidity in the workshop is hovering around 70%. By contrast, the summer humidity around here can be extremely low. I am trying to be mindful of this as the door width will definiately expand and contract with changes in humidity.

Humidity is high enough in the workshop that I am worried that my wrought-iron strap hinges and pintles might start rusting. Below, you can see that I applied a coat of linseed oil to the iron to protect it from rust.

Stay tuned for more. On the door.

My cabin rocks!

This last week, I've been harvesting rocks. The idea is to make a small, dry-laid non-structural skirt at the base of the cabin with stones that I collect myself.

This region of Northwestern Idaho and Eastern Washington is known as the Palouse. It has some unique characteristics, including its geology. The Palouse is comprised of a bunch of silt dunes which were created after the Great Missoula Floods. These dunes are nutrient-rich rolling hills which are amazingly productive for wheat and dry peas. And since they are dunes, there are virtually no rocks, stones, or even pebbles mixed into the topsoil!

At lower elevations, volcanic basalt rock sits below the topsoil. At higher elevations, you can find granite outcroppings which were not covered by basalt. The cabin site is surrounded by granite outcroppings. In fact, the cabin foundation piers were poured directly onto a massive granite outcropping.

Where roads or rivers have cut through the topsoil, one can find exposed basalt or granite. I've been collecting stones here and there (mostly basalt). I've been gathering ones that have fallen onto or near the road after rain and snow. These are not only convenient, but nobody cares that I haul these away. I also didn't have to dig or excavate these "windfall" stones.

Considering the size and weight of some of these boulders, its going to be a slow, long-term process to collect enough and haul them up to the cabin site!! The plan is to take a few everytime I go up there with other materials (lumber, etc.) Eventually I will build up enough to be meaningful.

I'll mound the rocks loosely under the sill plates of the cabin. While the stones will be non-structural, I think it will have a nice aesthetic effect. Currently, the cabin seems to just float there on round piers. It will look great once it appears to be sitting on large, heavy stones.

There will be other benefits of this stone skirting. It will keep larger animals from dwelling under the cabin. It will also act as a wind barrier, and help prevent the wind from rapidly sapping heat through the floor on cold and windy winter nights.