Friday, May 12, 2006

Preparing to cap the tower!

In order to prepare for our "last stand," we had to place 8 posts, 8 top plates, and 16 braces on the third floor of the house (and make them fit!). Finishing the braces and lining everything up took about a week. At the beginning of the week, I broke down and bought some plywood to deck the 3rd floor of the tower. Until this point, our frame had not a square inch of plywood nailed to it, but I gave in to safety concerns. We had a lot of work to do on the third floor, and it was going to be no fun working without a conventional subfloor. Putting the plywood down turned out to be a very good move, as it allowed us to set up roller-scaffolding 30 feet in the air and work comfortably. (The picture show 8 of the posts and 4 of the 8 top plates in place - looking somewhat like stonehenge!)

Four pairs of the braces are bookmatched "curly beech." That's right - I found a beech tree that had lumpy bark - and when I got around to cutting it on the saw mill, I discovered that the wood had a curly sheen - like you sometimes see in maple. Unfortunately this beech log had rotted considerably since the ice storm, and I was only able to cut 4 of the 8 pairs of braces that I needed for the top floor of the tower. Desperate for something that would match the color and uniqueness of the curly beech braces, I went back to my log pile and found a big gnarly old maple that I had decided was too disfigured to make a sound timber for the frame. I dumped it on the sawmill with the backhoe and started cutting into it. What a pleasant surprise...

It turned out that even thought he maple log had decayed somewhat on the ends, it was full of curly (or fiddleback) figure and some nice spalting too, and there would be enough sound wood in this log to make 4 more bookmatched pairs of braces to match the curly beech braces. I have no idea what the commercial value of this log might have been, and I'm not going to worry about it, since it would have rotted if I hadn't pulled it out of the woods after the ice storm. I saved a lot of offcuts (scrap) that was created when we cut the braces on the sawmill. Maybe someday I can have a fiddle-back banjo made from these pieces.

Speaking of fiddle-back, aligning the braces took _a_lot_ of fiddling. In fact, when we were done, two of the brace pairs had large gaps that we'll have to go back and shim later for aesthetic reasons. Ultimately, we got the 8 corners of the octagon that was formed by the top plates to line up within 1/4" of the measurements of the rafter feet of the tower top (already built, waiting in the barn). The measurements were a little "big," so we're confident the tower top will drop into place - then we can try to close the gaps with ratchet straps.


Anonymous Heirloom Timber Framing said...

Beautiful braces! And what a score to have the spalting.

March 14, 2012 at 3:50 AM  

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