Monday, 26 August 2013


Here it is, the almost finished window:

It may not look like much but putting holes in stone walls is hard

Lintel in 300 year old oak recycled from the upstairs fireplace

And the facade with all the windows in place (-) Libby's balcony; a project for next summer.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

The end of the summer - catchup

Well its been a great summer, but blogging has has taken a bit of a hit, so here is a bit of a catchup of the events of the last few weeks / months....

In no particular order:

Libby's bedroom: now finished but as it was a week or two ago..

The new attic

Holding it all up

Kitchen toys

Solid oak with a beech top, all hand made by yours truly (except the beech top which I bought as a piece of worktop counter).

The working kitchen

Raw materials

To finished product

Window seat complete with cupboard, all in brown oak.

For information: Brown oak as sold by the saw mill up the road is exactly the same species and grade as French white oak. The only difference is the soil in which it grows. The soil gives it the dark brown streaks. Practically though its about one hundred euros a cubic metre cheaper than white oak and so as far as I'm concerned that makes it "rustic chic".


And finally, making the window for the bathroom. Originally this was on the list for the builders to do but was one of the things we dropped on the grounds of cost (or rather the cost was fine and reasonable, we just didn't have the cash). Nine years on I've finally got a "round to-it". The window itself is now actually finished now but as its dark outside and I don't as yet  have pictures; its going to have to wait till the next post to see the lintel and window installed

Well, that's just a taste of what I've been doing!

On one last slightly (that means VERY) boring note. The granite lintel I had was a bit too long and so needed a bit of cutting. This may sound easy and the principal is simple; Score all the way round with an angle grinder, then hammer evenly along the line with a cold chisel until it splits. If the lintel is 10" square as this is, it's a big old piece of granite and will take some hammering. Added to this when I cut this it was 36 deg and full sun on the back of the house. I knew it was hot when my safety glasses filled up with water (sweat) and I had to empty them so I could see again. But eventually it did split, and right down the line: Result

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Shaker Style

Nearly finished

Overview of the Kitchen units. To recap: the carcasses are all standard stuff but the doors and face frames are handmade using reclaimed oak. A lot of work, but I think worthwhile.

See the chicken hiding 

I've made the edge of the worktops an oak strip so it can take a few knocks

And on the other counters

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

More Door

Get it!

Interestingly or not, having worked out the spacing for the hinges they all appear to be imperial.
Maybe the hinges were designed in America? Although these here are about 20 years old, donated by my sister from when they had their kitchen done when their house was built. The hinges themselves are made in Austria. I suspect if you buy them now they are all made in China! Still that's progress. Considering they have sat in a bag in their attic for 20 years they look like new. Thanks Sis.

Because I've fitted face frames to the cupboards, you need to space the hinges off the carcass. I'm sure you can get special hinges for the job, but when I last looked in a certain well known UK diy store they had the same hinges, but with a plastic spacer. I don't have the spacer so a block of wood will do just fine.

Now I've worked out all the spacing the rest should be an "easy gig"

Monday, 20 May 2013

Kitchen progress

Well I may not have posted but I have been busy. The kitchen fitting is underway but I have to say I have cheated a little in that I have used commercial kitchen carcasses. To make up for this I've been making the doors and drawer fronts and just to make it extra difficult I've hand turned all the knobs for the doors and drawers.

Door and drawers are all oak. I've gone with a contrast for the doors, using reclaimed old oak (150 years +) for the door center panels

For the back and side fascia panels I've used a combination of oak and MDF; routed to look like paneling. Now I know I could have used solid wood for the paneling, but pine is going to warp and twist and oak is overkill for something I'm going to paint anyway, so as it is I'm comfortable with using MDF (just this once).

So I've done one row of units, next is more of the same, to do the corner L on the other side of the room.

Hey we even have a modern fridge now, wonders will never cease!

Sunday, 28 April 2013

A day out - The Chateau Carrouges

One of the great pleasures of living in Normandie is having places like this on your doorstep

Started in the 14th century as a fortified castle and then added to up to the 17th century. 

Surrounded by a fantastic moat

And with a fab courtyard

Kitchens to die for

And somewhere to entertain


and look out over the gardens

Even a quiet place to read

Unusually constructed from brick. This staircase was restored in the 1960's

A great place to spend and afternoon. If your ever in France look it up. 

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Spring Tiles

At last I can get some tiles down in the kitchen

Underfloor Heating all plumbed in

Boiler installed

The sun is out and Julia has even cut the grass

Friday, 22 March 2013

March Snow

Taken in the fading light at about 6pm (hence the grey cast to the pictures) here is a little taste of the recent snowfall hear in northern France.

Shed and garden covered. The garden had about 25cm of snow while the lane had drifts of about a metre deep. Bizarrely only a few days earlier the weather was so nice Julia had been digging over the potager.

The car went from a coupe to a hatch

and the chickens really didn't know what to make of it all

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Don't try this at home kids

Well phase one of the chimney capping off didn't go quite as planned; in that every time it rained and the wind was blowing from the north, rain came down the chimney. I originally got up to the chimney by cutting a hole in the barn roof and poking ladders up from there. Having repaired the roof this was now not an option. So a different and I suspect unconventional approach was called for. Inspired by the Gibson flying V guitar (not really) I constructed a V base for one of my ladders so it would sit on the ridge of the roof. This is a bolted oak construction re-enforced with steel box section screwed to the oak and clamped to the ladder with exhaust clamps. It truly is a Heath Robinson construction but having jumped up and down on it for a while I determined it would be safe, if a little unconventional. Next the issue of getting up to the barn roof. Last time I did this my neighbour lent me his long ladders, but since he had another use for them I had to construct staging with my alu scaffolding to make my ladders reach. Anyway it was all roped and screwed and wedged so as safe as I could make it. Have a look:

You can see the scaffolding and ladder construct

This really is how steep the roof is!

The chimney capping in place, hopefully with a good run off this time

A view of chez Alison from the roof


Low angle ridge shot

And another

My able assistant without whom this would have been a whole lot more difficult

Doesn't the shed look small

The garden

And getting arty

Finally the chimney covered in layers of the stuff you put on plants to stop them freezing while the mortar goes off.

I should say at this point I did use a frost inhibitor when I mixed the mortar and used cement not lime to try and get the quickest set time given the time of year. Tomorrow I will go inspect the damage.

P.S. As a note: As I get vertigo and generally hate heights of any description this is not something I would do out of choice. I did go as far as getting a man to come and quote for the job. He took one look at the chimney and never came back with a quote! So needs must. I have to say each time you go up it does get a little easier as long as you don't look down!!! The other thing in this case which makes it doubly scary is that I've made my own ladder support to sit on the ridge of the barn. You have to be really really sure it's safe because you're life does depend on it. It's one of those "shit or bust" kind of scenarios!

P.P.S Looking back, in the UK, I would never have even entertained going up on the roof let alone the chimney. I guess after 3 years in France a bit of the "Frontier Mentality" has worn off on me..