Up on the roof!

Trip Start Nov 27, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Monday, February 21, 2011

Let's try our hands at restoring a 17th century barn, using traditional materials and methods. Sarah has been working on repairing the barn for the last three years. We were told that we would be helping with the adobe floor which to us sounded like more mud work. We are interested of course in these techniques but we do seem to have spent a lot of time mud shovelling and mud stamping in the last year (amazing the number of hosts who have spadework available). So when the plans changed slightly, we were rather delighted to be making green oak shingles and sweet chestnut batons for the roof.

A shingle, or a shake, is like a wooden roof tile. In this case they are split from a round of wood to make a lovely flat tile that can be nailed to the batons overlapping the two below. Or that's the theory. First take a sizeable chunk of oak, free from knots and twists and here's the first problem. Wood like this comes from a managed forest, managed for a couple of hundred years to produce exactly this wood with specific overhead canopy to force the tree and side branches removed each year. Fair to say that there isn't much of that in Britain, let alone in the neighbouring area of Orchard Barn where Sarah was getting the wood from! So the woodman provided the best of the firewood and "we" churned out shingles, splitting, cleaving, squaring, cleaning, and shaving using sledgehammer, froe, axe and drawknife. They started making them last July. The roof needs around 16,000 of them. A professional with lovely wood can produce about 200 per day. This non-professional can make a dozen or so! Either way, it's a huge number of hours to make the lot. Then of course they have to be fixed by hand onto the batons. Fortunately, the roof will last about 80 years. 

On the last day, we went along to a workshop day, "making a greener home" about solar power, compost loos and the sorts. I (Alex) ended up doing a little presentation on the project and getting involved with the day.  This is where I learnt that a shingle roof on a local church had lasted only a few years as woodpeckers had moved in and destroyed it! I hope that isn't the norm and if it does happen to my few dozen shingles, I hope the birds stop to admire the beautiful handiwork and time that went into making them!

Have a look at the photos! More photos here: http://www.orchardbarn.org.uk/
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Linda Edwards on

You look pretty cold. Laura sorry I missed your birthday, anyway best wishes to you and Alex
Love Linda

Julie Webb Reeman on

That looks like absolutely wonderful work and I bet it's fab to live in too! I want one for a workshop!

Sarah on

FAB photos. Great to work with you both, and I certainly hope the woodpeckers don't move in!

Liz Cormell on

What a lovely way to live! I'm still really jealous especially when you're getting to work on some lovely old buildings!

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