Peter our client, has spent a couple of years nursing this project through from an idea to reality and we’ve spent six weeks in the workshop building the frame — so maybe it’s only natural that we’re all experiencing a cocktail of anticipation, and excitement mixed with the odd collywobble. Will it all go together? Will it fit? Will we end up with a mysterious left over piece of wood? Will it rain? Will we get sun stroke (you never know)? Will the crane turn up?
The big day arrives and so does the crane, and it looks as if we’re in luck as there’s a gentle breeze and the weather looks set fair. What a relief as raising frames in the rain can be dangerous and demoralising — not to mention wet.
I contemplate starting the day with a calming meditation practice for the raising team, but remember that we are supposed to be ‘builders’. The thought of the four of us sitting in the lotus position with our high vis jackets and hard hats is too disturbing, so I revert to default mode and start barking orders at people instead.
Before the crane arrives we have all 80 braces identified from their chisel marks and spread out loosely in their intended positions. We unload all the raising kit: mallets, metal framing pins (podgers), pegs, ratchet straps, trestles, acro props etc. The crane is on time and before we know it the first jowl post is being hoisted into the clear blue sky and lowered vertically into position. It’s important to work methodically and safely and to follow a planned raising sequence, for example scarfed wallplates can only be laid in one direction, and some joints need to be pegged as we progress. Getting over excited and ahead of ourselves would be catastrophic.
Posts, beams, girding rails and wallplates are all in place by lunchtime and the whole structure is starting to firm up. Our initial anxieties have eased and the whole team are working at a steady rhythm. After a quick break – where we are plied with ridiculous quantities of various delicious cakes – we carry on vertically upwards, putting together the interrupted tie beam trusses and trestles on the ground, then lifting them into place. By 4.30pm all the trusses are up and we can pack Russell the crane driver off for the day, take a moment to contemplate what we have achieved and what is left to do tomorrow, and head home for some kip.
We’re all drained and fatigued after the exertions of yesterday, but turning up and being confronted by the impressive structure is exhilarating and restores our get up and go. We’re now up to the roof and work our way along, spreading the trusses and inserting the purlins and wind braces. It’s dangerous and technical so we slow everything down as much as we can. The purlins are all in and we can see the finishing line, which is reached when we drop the final ridge beam on at 3pm.
The day isn’t over though as there is the small matter of banging in the 1000 oak pegs to hold the frame together. You might find it hard to believe but it’s a surprisingly enjoyable part of the process as the tensions of the past couple of days evaporate.
By early evening the last peg is driven in and all that’s left is to load up our gear, take some photos in the fading light and reflect on an exhausting but satisfying raising.
Next week: Peter gives us the client’s view of the process
About the author:
Rob Dawson built a stunning oak frame home in 2009 for less than £100,000. He is now the owner and founder of Castle Ring Oak Frame.