Saturday, 30 January 2010

More Floor

Well its progressing slowly. The other carrier beam is in on the other side of the fireplace and I have to now fill in with solives in front. All the same sort of stuff but seeing as it was a nice sunny day I took some more pictures.

This one gives you some idea of the work involved.

When its finished this will be the children's bedroom. Although they are already enjoying climbing on the temporary floor (closely supervised).

Frankie making her quality control inspection!

As a bit of a diversion, I been making a new jewellery bench for Julia. It's not finished yet but here are the legs in the process of being morticed in for the stretchers. These were hewn out of a 250 x 250 beam I had spare with the chain saw, so a fair bit of work involved just getting 4 square ish usable bits of timber. The bench should be completed tomorrow so I'll post a proper picture then.

P.S. The marking gauge I made during my first year of woodwork (would the be 1st year or 3rd?) at Leek High with Mr Procter and Bobby Beech. It's made from beech wood with a brass face and screw all turned by hand and finished off during my lunch hour. Been one of the most useful things I ever made!

P.P.S Hi to Barbara and Owen in Bristol, hope you have a long attention span Its likely to take a little while!

Bon courage!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Good old fashioned housing joints

A little more progress. I've morticed in the solives into the carrier beam. OK I confess I intended to sit the solives on top of the beam, but put the beam in too high; oops. Still its probably a better job in the end, just took a little longer. Still as my old dad used to say; The "art" of being a craftsman is not, not making mistakes, its getting out of them once you've made them! Well I'm not a craftsman yet but I am learning each day, and that's good. More mortices to come on the other side of the chimney, to make it all match! Its just a good job I had a handy stationary morticer sitting in the barn.

So that make the Fox stationary morticer the "cool tool of the day"

Oh yes managed to get real live post including parcels in France through our new regulation Post box. How cool is that. Instead of spending all your life going to the Post office to pick up a parcel because it wont fit your letter box, you have a box and the Postie has a key; fantastic. My parcel was a shiny new jumper from my favourite on line shop at the moment. Trust me if you want a 100% British wool jumper at reasonable prices delivered anywhere in Europe in a matter of a few days go to WoolOvers or "Woo-Lovers" as we like to call it. So forget you iphones and wide screen LED TV's give me a nice warm jumper any time! I went for the fisherman crew shown below (still waiting for the boat and the girl to be delivered though...must go down to the post office...)!

Bye for now

Sunday, 24 January 2010


The beam has now been hoisted up into place and levelled up with a few shims of slate. I used my 1 ton chain winch suspended off a ladder used as an A frame. Nice and controlled and no danger of any nasty accidents, as slipping with a big piece of oak is not funny!

Here is the beam in place and ready to fit the solives

And yes it is level (if your really sad you can click on the picture to get a close up of the bubble for proof)

Just to remind me what year it is I added a little detail to the beam (it was a excuse to use some really sharp chisels).

I got the beam in place just in time to go over to a depot vente with Andy to help him collect some reclaimed oak windows. While there I had a quick look round and it's staggering what you can buy in these places. Everything but everything you could imagine, most it has to be said i wouldn't give house space to. Still I've promised Julia not to buy anything until we have somewhere to put it!

Back in time to cook some tea and skype to my brother Nick and his wife Jenny. It is an amazing thing to be able to sit in a farmhouse deep in rural France and have a video call to your brother in Derby, all over a free piece of technology. Before moving to France I never used skype, always preferring to pick up the phone instead, but I'm really a convert. In-fact I think I've seen more of both my brother and sister than I did when I lived just down the road. And it does make a huge difference being able to talk face to face; without it it would seem a lot more remote (and as my wife will attest, I do like a good old chat with the bro).

What will they think of next!

Friday, 22 January 2010

More first floor antics

Yesterday I finished of the first run of solives and blow me if it isn't lovely and level. This now gives me a level to work across to the wall and install one of the carrier beams to support the floor between the chimney and the front wall. As usual this is never straight forward and low a behold on one side where I needed to make a socket for the beam there was the end of an old beam and on the other two great big stones in the side of the chimney breast! Ho-hum! Anyway my good friend Alan will be pleased to know that the reciprocating saw he lent me about 10 years ago was just the tool for cutting out the end of the Oak beam. in fact without it I'm not sure how I would have cut the socket! So a big thanks to Alan. The other side was just a case of cutting through the stones with the angle grinder and smashing a hole big enough. Built up the holes to just below the right height and lined with slate so i can shim with more slate to level up the beam in place. As for the beam I'm using 200 x 100 green oak and just for good measure I've hand cut a bevel into the bottom edge. I always think that its those little touches that make the difference!

If you look through the socket for the beam the wall is black on the other side. That's because its the inside of the chimney! Well it'll give me plenty of room to slide the new beam in and i can leave the ends of the beam nice and long.

So if the mortar ever goes off in this cold weather I can install the beam. While I had a bit of mortar mixed I thought I would tidy up round the bit a wall between ground floor and first floor window. Closer inspection however showed that the supporting Oak lintel needs replacing, so i'll have to take that bit a wall down and rebuild it. Bummer! Oh well probably only take me half an hour.

Any job you have to do always feels easier if you tell yourself it will only take "half an hour" even if you blatently know it won't!!!!

Tell yourself "How hard can it be!"

For Alison, Cool tool of the day is: Stihl MS260 50cc Tronçonneuse


Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Starting the first floor

So far this week I've spent Monday and Tuesday wire brushing down the oak beams ready for the solives. This is one filthy job. First off I chiselled off the loose rotten wood and then finished off by wire brushing and then brushing all the dust off. This leaves the beams solid and ready to nail up the mounting strips for the solives. The only tricky bit is than because the beams are no-longer square you have to try and bend the mounting strips to match the shape of the beam. After this its just a case of finding the high spot and working out from there. The good thing is that is you make a bit of a cock-up (like nailing the first mounting strip 20mm too low) you can just shim it up and carry on. To some extent it actually looks more authentic if its a bit uneven. I went round to Alison's to crib from the ceiling in her house and not one solive is spaced the same as the next, it's all over the shop (and looks all the better for it). With this in mind I decided not to get too precious about it and just get on with it.

For good measure where the old beams are rounded off I'm mortising the solives in so they're not just sitting on the mounting strip.

I've learnt one or two things today.

1, Oak is hard, after 300 years its like concrete.
2, When nailing into Oak use a big enough hammer.
3, Once you have nailed something to an Oak beam using a 6" nail, Don't try and get it out again (measure twice, nail once).
4, Wear gloves, oak turns your hands black.

Lastly, I love my Makita mitre saw, You should be issued with one free with every French house.

à bientôt

Friday, 8 January 2010

Lazy Friday's

I abandoned trying to get the solives home in the trailer. Having tried to lift one or two of the pieces of wood it soon became apparent that some sort of truck would be in order. Fortunately a phonecall to an "Ami" by the owner of the saw mill saw the delivery scheduled for Monday. By that time hopefully the snow will have gone and the road up to the house all together more navigable than today. I on the other hand drove the Doblo straight into a bank side at the T junction at the top of the road. Still the crease in the bumper makes it look all the more "French". So renovation on hold we went for a walk around Tinchebray? Even the ruined mill down by the river looks pretty in the snow.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Step One: Put in the upstairs

As you can see the downstairs of our house is full of all our stuff. This causes a few working issues. Then some bright spark suggested putting the first floor in and then we can move all the stuff upstairs leaving the downstairs free for working! Obvious really. So this week I've ordered the solives for the first floor. Looking at our friends house in Clairfougere 10cm x 10cm oak seem the order of the day. Each beam is about 2 metres long spanning between the major timbers at about 400mm centres. To start with I've ordered the first consignment of 32, since its going to take about 3 times this quantity, I thought I would order in batches and then there will be less to store while I fit them. I'll need to allow for shrinkage so I'm going to joint where possible. For the floor I'm going to use good quality pine boards from the builder Julian DuPont. I did look at oak board from the saw mill but they were wet through and only 14mm thick. My conclusion with the saw mill is that its great for green timber at around €500 m3, but for where you need dry timber you can forget it.

The Sisters Sledge

The Girls have never been sledging before, but thankfully the French have opted out of global warming using their EU veto. So its been snowing, quite a lot and about -6deg at night. Currently the only way in or out of the village is if you walk, how cool is that! I think its safe to say they are having fun in Normandy.

Obviously its good to have a handy pack horse!

Monday, 4 January 2010

Happy New Year

We arrived on the 2nd of Jan in the middle of a snow storm.
Alison our neighbour has very kindly let us stay in one of her lovely Gites. That gives me three months to get the house habitable! Today we went to the local school and enrolled the children, they start tomorrow. Both Frankie and Libby are really nervous, but then they will be, not only a new school but also a new language to learn in. we'll take them for the first week or two, after that there is a free school bus. they do Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday from 8:30 till 11:30 and then 1:30 till 5:30. So they get all day Wednesday off! yipee.

Also arranged car insurance and measured up for the joists (solives) So a visit to the saw mill is in order. If I get the first floor in place then it will give me somewhere to put all the stuff (of which there is a lot) so i can work on the ground floor.