Saturday, June 28, 2008

I've started laying in the Ultratouch insulation batts between the floor joists:

This stuff is super easy to work with. It is essentially recycled denim (i.e. cotton fibers), so there is no real need to wear gloves or a mask like you'd have to do when dealing with fiberglass batts. This stuff tears easily if needed, and this allowed me to quickly fill in the spaces between all of the floor joists.

After laying the insulation down, I started screwing down the 1/2" plywood "subfloor". Technically, I don't really need this layer of plywood, but the plywood layer accomplishes two key things:

1) It will help tie the joists together even more (acting as a dimensionally stable rigid sheathing layer in two dimensions)
2) It helps raise the floor slightly, which is important because both the door and the loft ladder /stairs I made this winter assume a slightly higher floor than the goat floor alone will achieve.

I still have a lot of work to do on the floor system. One full day of work should finish it off.

I still have to decide on a vapor barrier material between the subfloor and the goat floor. Most information I can find seems to indicate that I should use 15 pound roofing felt. A few recommend 6mil polyethylene. Roofing felt would be easier to work with, but I wonder about that asphalt smell and related gases.

After all the insulation and entire subfloor is laid, the to-do list is:

1) Level the tops of the loft joist timbers with a hand plane (these pine loft joist timbers warped somewhat and the loft floor joists are not all straight. I need to create a level surface on the top of those joist timbers to put the "loft ceiling", which will be finished tongue-and-grooved cedar placed orthogonal to the loft joists. The fir flooring will sit on top of the cedar loft ceiling.

2) Finish applying penetrating oil to some timbers that didn't get oiled last year.

3) Start the exterior frame.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Yay! I actually got up to the cabin site and started work again. The ground was a bit wet still, but the trusty jeep made it (with a little help from the winch).

The first thing I did was remove all of the stickered rough-cut dimensional lumber that I stored in the cabin all winter. I took that back to the workshop to rip into rough-cut 2x4s for the exterior frame. I might have just enough rough-cut wood that I can avoid buying any 2x4s for the exterior frame!

A little aside: so much of this project has involved moving wood around. Moving it from one pile to another. Sorting timbers and lumber. Hauling it here and there. It always takes so much time. I never would have guessed the building something like this involved so much banal wood moving. This little project would make a good study in embodied energy.

I removed the 1/2" plywood temporary floor, exposing the 2x8 joists, and letting a nice breeze and a little light in from under the cabin:

Here is a closeup of my "hybrid" joist system: a mortise/tenon + metal joist hanger. I think it worked out well.

As seen below, I started screwing my 2x2 rough-cut furring strips to the bottom of every joist. This goes relatively quickly:

I laid my OSB panels on top of the furring strips and screwed them down. As with many parts of this project, I pre-cut the OSB strips in my workshop based on my SketchUp CAD drawings. The panels fit like a glove, yet the extra-wide strips give me some room for error if I need it.

I got about halfway done before my battery-powered drill/screwdriver died:

I am going to fill any cracks between panels and joists with an expanding insulating foam to help keep out drafts and bugs. Then, I will lay the UltraTouch insulation batts down between the joists. I will cover this with a 1/2" plywood "subfloor", vapor barrier, and then my gorgeous goat floor!

So, as much as I enjoy opening up a green tree and dealing with freshly milled green wood, I love old wood at least as much.

Both the cabin siding and flooring will be made from old wood. Its always fun to see what one can coax out of old wood.

Below are three 1x12 Douglas fir board-and-batten siding boards that were salvaged from a historic granary in nearby Potlatch, Idaho. From what I was told, the granary was built in the 1920s. I bought 700 board ft. of the siding from Larry Duff's TimberWorks wood salvage business. This might not be quite enough, but he has more. :-)

Most/all of the boards have residual red barn paint on them. The leftmost board was covered in boiled linseed oil. The rightmost board was covered in Landark's exterior penetrating oil finish. The middle board was left alone. The oil really brings out a gorgeous, dark purple color. This will no doubt fade, but the oil should help preserve the wood. This old, dry, rough-cut wood was amazingly thirsty. I think it might be prohibitively expensive to use Landark on the whole think, so straight linseed or maybe some inexpensive deck oil might work.

The goat barn flooring cleans up nicely, and I am very, very happy with it.

Below, the old, grayed, unhandled barn flooring is shown on the right. On the left, is a board after one pass through the thickness planer and a bit of coarse (120-grit) belt sanding. The middle two boards were planed, belt sanded (120 grit), covered in Landark oil, and then waxed and buffed with Bioshield hardwax.

Below. To oil or not to oil? Verdict: oil!

Below: A dramatic difference.

Finally, an up-close image of the final flooring. I purposely used a moderately coarse sanding. I like the look of coarsely sanded wood in a cabin like this. Most of the other wood (timbers, interior pine wall planks, etc) are also coarsely sanded. It saves time, but mainly I prefer the smooth but slightly "distressed" look of coarsely sanded wood on a cabin like this.

Fun stuff. I think this floor and siding combination are going to rock. Its going to look very rustic on the exterior, like an old barn. The red, dark color of the rustic fir flooring will accentuate the light pine posts, ceiling, and interior wall planks. The cabin is going to be all-wood, but that doesn't mean that it won't be colorful!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My LT15 mill has a new home! The Wilder family of Moscow, who are owners of The Natural Abode here in downtown Moscow, graciously offered me a place to keep and operate the mill.

The spot is perfect in many ways. Close to town, accessible, and mill itself actually sits on a large concrete pad which once served as the foundation for some kind of outbuilding. This makes moving and leveling the mill easier, and I don't have to worry that the mill will slowly sink into the soft Palouse loess.

I used the same technique to move the mill around as before: large casters attached to boards which are bolted to the mill bed sections. However, I seriously beefed up the wood (two 2x10s per side) as well as the casters (larger and stronger).

If I am careful about how I load and unload the mill from my trailer, this caster system should work well for a long time.

Here is my system: I mount the trailer to the front of my Jeep. I have an 8,000 lbs Warn winch mounted there. Make sure that the heavy mill power head is furthest away from the Jeep and winch the mill bed section without the power head onto the trailer until about half of the mill is on the trailer and half is off. Then, roll the power head along the bed sections onto the trailer, thus avoiding putting a lot of weight on the trailer gate. When the power head rolls up the bed section onto the trailer, and all of the mill weight is now on the trailer, its easy to winch or just push the rest of the mill onto the trailer. Detach the Jeep from the trailer and re-attach at the rear hitch and drive away. Voila!

I think Woodmizer should make a caster-like system like mine and sell it as an accessory for their LT10 and LT15 models. It makes transporting these mills pretty simple. A 1,000 lbs hand winch could be used instead of an electric winch.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Goat Barn Flooring! Yes, I said "Goat Barn".

I paid a visit to a local building supply salvage yard looking for old barn siding for my cabin, and instead found the wood floor for my cabin. Its absolutely perfect! I bought 400 square feet of the stuff immediately.

2x4 Douglas Fir tongue-and-groove blind-nailed flooring which came from an old goat barn from the nearby campus of Washington State University!!! Most pieces came in 16' lengths, with some smaller pieces here and there. This goat barn was old, but this wood is in excellent shape. It needs to be sanded and maybe even passed through the thickness planer once or twice, but its gorgeous. There is still straw and hay and even dung compacted in the grooves. I love it! Talk about wood with an interesting story (and patina)!

Here is my trailer, loaded to the brim with two 400 square feet of the flooring:

The thickness of the flooring is great, because it means that I can kill two birds with one stone: Subfloor + finished flooring in one package. This wood is old, back when 2x4 was closer to a true 2"x4" than it is today. This stuff is about 1 5/8 thick and 3 3/4 inches wide.

The flooring was blind-nailed through the tongue in each board at about a 12" spacing. Therefore, there are no nail holes on the tops of the flooring. The picture below shows boards from both the top (no visible nail holes) and bottom (visible nail holes).


A pass on the planer and the belt sander for each board and a treatment of oil or wax, and this will be one gorgeous douglas fir floor! Some pieces will need to be culled, but this wood is in surprisingly good shape.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The time has come to build out the floor and stick frame the exterior.

The weather in the Pacific Northwest has been cold and rainy. Its still too muddy for me to comfortably drive the jeep + trailer up to the cabin site. It may actually be July until I can get materials up there! . This shortens my time window for building somewhat. It just started raining again, as I type this. Unbelievable. Discouraging.

Floor System:

Currently, the cabin floor system is comprised of massive 9x9 sill plates, with 11' dimensional 2x8 douglas fir joists spaced on 16" centers. These joists are connected to the sill plates with a combination of classic mortice/tenon joinery as well as contemporary metal joist hangers. I need to insulate the floor between the joists. The plan is to infill between the joists by laying furring strips along the lower, inside portion of the joists and then placing sheets of plywood down as a lower cover/support for insulating batts. The plywood will be secured to the furring strips, probably with small screws or nails. I'll staple 1/4" hardware cloth along the plywood bottoms to keep out critters.

Below are the 2x2 (extra large) "furring strips" that will connect to the floor joists and support the OSB sheets that hold the insulation batts: About half of these 2x2s are pine and were recycled from an old stage set for a local community play. The other half were ripped on my table saw from either rough cut 2x stock that Jon milled for me or from 2x8s which I recycled from my mother-in-law's old garage extension. I didn't buy any 2x2s.

For insulation, I am using 5 1/2" thick Ultratouch batts, which are made, essentially, from recycled blue jeans and other cotton fibers. I'll get a respectable ~R-20. I'm hoping to use this insulation for the walls as well, but our local distributor has run out and does not plan to carry it anymore.

A square sample of the Ultratouch batts:

The current plans then are to place thickness-planed 2x8's on diagonal as a subfloor over the joists. Then a vapor barrier. And then douglas fir flooring. Or, I might save money and time and lay a 1/2" thick plywood subfloor with planed and joined dimensional lumber as a a poor-man's hardwood floor. And maybe add a different hardwood flooring later, if I decide I need to.

Exterior Frame:

The exterior frame is a non load-bearing frame which only really provides space for insulation and windows. This frame will be conventionally framed from 2x4s. The first step is to heavily bolt 4x4s around the bottom edge of the cabin, into the 9x9 sill plates. This provides a shelf on which the rest of the frame will rest. I will either use large lag bolts or very long carriage bolts, spaced 24" apart.

The 2x4 framing members will be oriented vertically to take advantage of the horizontal placement of girts, tie beams and top plates. I'll use some combination of straps, toe-nailing, and brackets to attach the 2x4 frame to the timber frame through the 3/4" thick pine planks covering the cabin. While the exterior stick frame will be secured to the interior timber frame, everything will ultimately be resting on the 4x4 ledge at the bottom in order to prevent eventual frame sagging.

The windows will have a pair of framed 2x12 headers. The headers are conventiently located opposite tie beams and collar ties, so I can ultimately nail these all the way through to the timber frame for extra stability.

I'll infill the vertical frame with 31/2" x 23" insulation batts (hopefully use Ultratouch again).

I will then nail/screw on horizontal 1x4 furring strips to the exterior frame, placed on 24" centers. The final layer of vertical board-and-batten siding will screw primarily into these 1x4 horizontal members. The 3/4" space provided by the 1x4s will also add a little more air space. I'll staple 30lbs felt paper outside the furring planks and then cover with vertical cedar board-and-batten siding.

Man, I have a *huge* amount of work to do. And I plan to defend my Ph.D dissertation in September. I wish it would stop raining.