Back in 2012 when we arrived on the land in January with nothing but a tent and a wood stove we were desperate for some kind of shelter. The four of us spend many evenings huddled round the stove under clear skies freezing! The first job we undertook was to construct the kitchen. I had a simple plan of a wooden structure with a tin roof. The tools we had were basic, a bow saw a tape measure, a spirit level, a hammer, drill and a bill hook. We didn’t really use the spirit level! The structure was very basic and as it was the first attempt at anything like this the learning curve was steep. We built the side frames flat on the ground and then ‘raised’ it and nailed it all together. This was not the best idea. Actually it proved very difficult, slightly dangerous and resulted in a pretty flimsy structure. But you live and learn, and flimsy though it may have been it lasted for three years and served very well. I think it would have lasted a fair bit longer if is hadn’t been invaded last summer by a bunch of little bees who bored holes everywhere. Each morning last summer I was greeted by little piles of sawdust all over the kitchen, and in the afternoon when the sun was coming in the front of the kitchen I could watch as puffs of sawdust were ejected from all those little holes. So a decision was made. Build a new kitchen!
This is the 5th wooden structure I have built now and I am getting better each time. The learning curve is levelling out and I have learnt many lessons. The biggest lesson so far is STRIP! If you leave the bark on you are asking for trouble. It provides great cover for all those little buggers who want to eat your structure. Upon dismantling the old kitchen and cutting it up for fire wood the posts which were not stripped were a lot more infested than those which were.
You can see in this photo how many tunnels there are and each is about half the thickness of my little finger. There is a lot of wood missing!
By far though the biggest difference in building the first kitchen and the new one is tools. Now I have lots of tools. Good quality sharp tools. While it is certainly possible to do things with the bare minimum, which we proved when building the first kitchen, if you have good tools the end result will be better. It also saves a lot of time and energy which shouldn’t be underestimated. Frustration is often the leading cause of cock-ups in my experience.
So, how did I go about building the new one? Well, first I enlisted the help of Jeppe. A good friend who has the sniff of a perfectionist about him. A good thing to have about. Possibly the best tool in the box, but I’m not sure how readily available they are….
To begin I cut the trees which would become the upright posts. They are sweet chestnut which were cut in winter and stripped immediately. If you strip them straight after felling them you will find it so much easier. Chestnut is a helpful tree. Whether you want it to become logs, or posts or spoons or whatever, it always seems willing to oblige. Getting the bark off a chestnut log is very calming. Anyway, the stripped logs will shrink as they dry but I didn’t have a pile of them laying around seasoning for a year. The posts were treated liberally with a couple of coats of fence and shed preservative.
We dug holes about 60cm deep where each upright would be. The trick when working with irregular posts is to get the top where you want it, the bottom is less important. So we made braces to hold the posts in position and working from one corner which was decided to be out datum, we measured and levelled the top of each post so it would be in the correct position. Then we filled the holes with concrete.
Next we used milled 5cm by 10cm timber (pine) to make a rail running around the top of the posts. We cut notches in the posts so the rail would be firmly supported. The two tall posts in the centre at each end will eventually support the ridge of the roof. Where the rail ran past these posts we also notched these posts. The rail was then glued and screwed into place. You can see in the photo above that the rail had to be made by joining two lengths of timber. In order to do this we cut a simple scarf joint and used threaded bar and glue to secure it. This joint turned out to be incredibly strong even though it is a very simple joint to cut.
Next we cut braces for each post. These were notched to fit the rail and to fit the post. It is quite tricky to match the curves of the posts but we managed to get them quite close. Then they were either bolted through with threaded bar, or screwed with the biggest coach screws possible. This created a very stiff structure. Until this point we left all of the braces in place since adding the concrete. At this point though some of those could be removed in order to make moving around easier.
Next we installed the ridge beam which was made from two pieces of 5cm by 10cm pine joined in the same way as the rail was. Then the rafters were measured and notched to sit on the rail. They also had notches cut in them for the battens to sit in later. Where they met the ridge the angle was measured so they butt up against the beam. They were the screwed with big screws at the ridge and the rail. Then a cross beam was bolted to them about half way along their length. This stops the roof from spreading. Weight from the roof actually pushes the rafter into the ridge beam.
The final part of the roof structure is to add the battens which are used to fasten the roofing sheets to. These were made from 5cm by 5cm pine. Then the zinc sheets were screwed to them. We also included two clear fibre glass sheets on the back side of the roof. This side faces north so it doesn’t let direct sunlight in but it does mean that the finished kitchen feels really airy.
In the end I decided to extend the roof off the back of the kitchen to give me some covered space where the solar batteries can live along with the washing machine, gas bottles etc. The walls were clad with thin pine.
So there you have it. The new kitchen…. nearly finished….