Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Shingled Cabin Extension

I'm just finishing off working on this extension to a small cabin home near me.

It is a very small extension but adds a substantial amount to the little cabin and the extra windows also make the place a lot lighter. It is clad in cleft Oak shingles (shakes) that I made in the woods I manage.



Sunday, 25 June 2017

Elkstone Church Compost Toilet

Recently I was privileged to work on a monumental compost toilet with master timber framer Jim Symon. This toilet was commissioned for the grounds of a Norman church in Elkstone. Many churches are without toilet facilities, and as installing mains services to an Ancient building surrounded by graves is both impractical and inappropriate, compost toilets are a great option. In fact, in my opinion, compost toilets are generally the superior option. Using water that has been made fit for drinking, to transport this potentially useful resource away for arduous treatment, is an illogical activity. I stumbled upon some advice given to farmers by the Board of Agriculture in 1804, which encouraged them to build houses for their workers, because, "a ready supply of labourers is not the only advantage a farmer may reap from cottages. He will have, at an easy rate, all the manure they can make....". I think both the building of rural housing for workers and the use of human manure for fertiliser are pieces of advice that we'd do well to heed today. 

Jim Symon's compost toilet creation is a wonderful example of how a loo can be a beautiful feature that fits well into its surroundings. The frame, cladding, flooring and rafters are all local Oak, with sawn local Cedar shingles. 

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Compost Toilets

The last month has been dominated by compost toilet builds. Two of them I have designed and built myself using timber from our sawmill and the third was largely the creation of Jim Symon, an excellent timber framer. This latter one was build using Oak and was in the grounds of a Norman church. I currently have no pictures of this one and will endeavour to return and snap some.

This toilet is a twin vault system, so it has two wooden chambers, each with a separate lid. Only one of these gets used at a time and when the chamber is full, the lid gets screwed down and it is left to compost for two years. Meanwhile the second chamber is being used.

Urine goes straight into the chamber with the faeces where it is absorbed and composted by added plenty of dry, carbon rich matter, in this case this is coarse sawdust.

The structural timbers, cladding and steps are Larch from our sawmill. The floorboards and exterior of the door are reclaimed Larch tongue and groove. The interior of the door is our own flamed Beech, laid diagonally and the toilet seat is spalted Sycamore that I milled 3 years ago.

The steps were based on an Oak staircase that I saw in an old building at the Weald and Downland museum. The door handle with suffolk latch and bolt are hand carved from Elm and Ash.

The second toilet uses Larch throughout except for the seat which was from a large Ash tree that I milled after it fell during a landslide. This toilet uses wheely bins as it is for a glamping site which will produce an unknown amount of waste and therefore as many bins as necessary can be used. There is a urine separator which diverts it into a separate chamber.

Chestnut Timber Frame Summer House Revisited

Some more photos from the Sweet Chestnut timber frame summer house we built last year.

Hewn Sweet Chestnut timbers on sling brace truss

Hewn sling brace truss

Roundwood Roundhouse Roofing Revisited

I've been going through some pictures on my camera that I never uploaded onto my computer and found some further photos of the roundwood roundhouse we built 2 summers ago.

Ash rafters and noggins

Roundwood hipped roof

Lath installation

Roundwood king post truss and hip rafters

Hessian between laths and sheepswool insulation

Sawn rafters on top

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Pickup Truck Camper Shell work in progress

In between my current run of building a plethora of compost toilets I am working on building myself a camper canopy for my pickup truck. This is a bit more of a conventional carpentry project than my usual fair, in that I'm using glue and screws to join it all together and cladding it externally in thin marine ply to keep the weight down.

The main frame is made from 2"x2" Larch that I milled a while ago and stacked to season and the roof ribs are cut from 1" thick Ash.

I struggled with the idea that the whole thing would be clad in soulless, bought in plywood, considering that I co-own a sawmill and mill up lots of beautiful homegrown timber. So (with some slight worries about weight) I have decided to clad it internally with some incredible spalted Beech boards that I had milled to 8mm thick for another project.

I am hoping that the canopy will be removable with 4 people when all the cladding and insulation is installed, but we shall see....

Membrane on, ready for insulation

Cleaning up the spalted Beech cladding

The current plan is to roof it with Aluminium sheet and to try my hand at some traditional style sign writing on the plywood sides.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Chestnut Timber Frame Summer House

This is a summer house that I built last year with my partners in crime and sawmill co-owners Red and Charlie.

All the timber came from the woods that Red and Charlie manage and was either milled using our sawmill or was shaped with hand tools. All structural timbers, cladding and shingles are Sweet Chestnut and the rest is Larch. The back two frames are sawn king-post trusses with Oak pegs and the front frame is a hewn sling brace truss with Yew pegs. The timbers on this frame were shaped using axes and tidied up with a travisher. The shingles are made by radially cleaving (splitting) a 16 inch long log into segments close to the finished dimensions. We then use a drawknife to flatten the shingle and put a chamfer on the lower edge. I think this roof needed about 1800 shingles.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Carved Tree Plaques

I have been making tree name plaques for a primary school. They will be attached to the named trees with springs and should help the children to learn the different tree species and their leaves.

They are made from Oak with carved and painted lettering and a textured travished finish on the surface. There are some real Beech leaves in the upper right of the photo to give an idea of scale.
These would make a lovely house sign for tree related house name.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Green Wood Furniture

I have been busy this month experimenting with range of furniture designs - playing around with contrasting colours, faceted legs and spindles and by creating more contemporary styles using traditional techniques. These pieces are all made in my outdoor workshop in the woods using hand tools. 

The ancient techniques of green woodworking still have a lot of advantages over modern methods. I can walk into the woods, fell a tree and five minutes later be turning it into a piece of furniture. It doesn't require the capital outlay of buying in seasoned timber, nor of buying machinery or paying for electric. By using hand tools to cleave (split) and shave the wood down to its finished form, I am guaranteeing that the grain is followed and that the strength and natural curves are maintained. No metal fixings are used. Instead the furniture is held together with oak pins and wedges and by exploiting the shrinkage of the green wood onto dry tenons. Furniture made in this way should last generations. 

Two of the items below are for sale, and I have other furniture in stock.
Email p.ditchfield(at)yahoo.com to enquire.

Elm seat, Cherry legs and Ash stretchers FOR SALE £250

Elm seat, spalted Beech comb, Ash legs and splindles FOR SALE £390

Elm seat, Ash comb, legs and splindles