Two Months Later

I hadn’t realised how neglectful I had been of this blog and an update is more than due! It’s been 2 months, to the day, since I started work at my new job and the weeks have flown by, even so, some progress has been made since my last report. The painting of the walls and ceiling was finished by mid-August but it was only last weekend that Dad and I installed the flooring. A pretty speedy task that made a considerable visual difference!

Admittedly, I am feeling a little tired at the moment so I have pinched some of my recent instagram posts, however I hope that my next update, (which should feature the installation of my kitchen counters), will be ‘original content.’

I think you should be able to see these posts without an instagram account, though let me know if you have any issue!


Endings and Beginings

All’s been quiet on my blog for a while now but I am back to report some big news! Yes! All going well, by the end of this month, it will be time, (once again), to move my Tiny House! However, this time, it is headed to its new home, rather than another work site. There will still be some tasks to complete like painting, laying the flooring, purchasing and installing a stove and countertop, not to mention the finishing of the cabinetry, but all of this will be completed from my new location! (And really, one can ask, is a home ever truly finished?) Most of this progress has been captured on Instagram, but for those who are happier blogging than scrolling, this post is for you!

In terms of getting to this stage, the last couple of months of work on the Tiny House have been, for the most part, enjoyable! The walls are entirely clad and trimmed, the lights are installed, and I have moved in all of the fixtures that I have built along the way, (some which have long been collecting dust). These still need a lick of paint or a wipe of stain, but it’s been brilliant to finally see the space come together. As the interior filled in, I felt the space shrinking, (inevitable when an empty space becomes a bathroom, kitchen, living room and bedroom), but now I am deeply happy with the space, in fact, I love it.

Over the years, I have spent a lot of time cursing the decision to undertake this project, and you can’t help but wonder whether it was money and time sensibly spent, but I’m beginning to feel the reward of perseverance. The house may no longer resemble what I first set out to build, both in terms of appearance and the way of life it represents, but it perfectly suits who I am now, at the age of 27, (almost 28!), and I look forward to seeing it continue its evolution in its new location.

The last few weeks here will see me working on the shelving and drawers for the cabinets and then I shall be packing all my belongings and materials inside the space for the big move! I must say, I will really miss being here on the farm, but it is due time to shake things up and try new things. Equally exciting and daunting!

Room, or rather, Home with a View

Not a progress post but one of sheer appreciation! After spending Autumn and Winter under cover in its own slightly bigger shed, this little house is seeing the light of day! After a week, it is still a thrill to see the skylights back in pride of place and to have the afternoon light stream into the house! I can stay in here right up until dinner, (we eat early), and I can STILL SEE!  Not that I am complaining about the old situation, it allowed me to work in my own space without getting in the way! But now that there is sunshine to enjoy, the move has seen me spending a lot afternoons in here. That’s right, I am currently lazing on my couch tapping away this very post. (The chair is far more comfortable than it looks!)

It’s not just the sun that I am delighting in, over the weekend we welcomed two days of heavy rain and I have to say it was charming to be able to work in my little house with the rain drumming steadily overhead, the windows blurred with rain drops. Just like something out of my very own daydreams. I have new neighbours, the ever-agreeable chooks, and occasional visitors! A mistaken Honey Eater sped through the front door and out the neighbouring window just yesterday. I have even found myself eye to eye with three Guinea Fowl through the bathroom window as they perched on the timber railing of the hen yard. The view may not cut it on Escape to the Country, but when I am sitting on my lone chair looking out the windows, all I see is blue sky or the generous branches of gum trees. From one window I can even spy on my favourite squad of lambs.

I have tidied up and given the house a much-needed sweep! I’ve banned myself from wearing gumboots in the house. What’s more, I now have my work bench on wheels, which is the perfect set up for working on smaller bits and pieces, or even as an unplanned but convenient desk. It just makes it all much more likely- a small step from building to living! Even if that is being slightly optimistic.

Oh, and it is always reassuring to see it keeping weather-tight!

Building my Exterior Door

Though I endeavoured this year to post weekly, it is typically only once I have come out of a rather sullen mood, that I find the desire to tap into a bit of reflective writing. I am sure this is no individual quirk. It only makes sense if you consider the tortured artist. And though I would never go so far to claim my writings as equally glorious, significant or moving as the works of the masters, it is typically when I produce my best work. Well, perhaps not. But something gets written, so surely I get bonus points for that. Truth be told, when I am smashing goals, or conquering dovetails, I simply am having too much fun to sit down and think. (Not that I have EVER ‘conquered’ a dovetail, and ‘fun’ may be pushing it.)

Having opened this post in such a fashion, I too would suspect that we are about to dig deep into the who, why and how of yesterday’s foul mood but despair not, this is not a pity post, but rather, a celebration of a very fruitful last fortnight! In fact, the only reason I think I fell into a black mood yesterday was that I was simply fatigued from all the success. (Such a sweet, modest gal.) A window was glazed and the couch was sanded and stained, but today I am going to focus on my tolerably decent exterior door! So my dear readers, please find below a blow by blow, minute by minute recounting of how I built, and nearly finished my first door ever.

1. Routing the Remaining Accoya

My router jig- not sure how I achieved such flattering mood lighting.

IMPORTANT: The most critical aspect when thicknessing timber with a router is to set up a flat surface. Reason being is that if your workbench is not straight, then the wood you sit on top of it won’t be either. I faced this problem on my second batch of timber. I only have access to a pretty dodgy, beat up table which I set up on a concrete floor that is cracked and consequently far from flat. I can get around this by propping up the table legs with thin squares of cardboard until the table is square along each edge. I then use steel rails to create a flat surface to run my router jig along. [This jig is based on the ones you see on Google Images if you search ‘thicknessing router jig’.] Now, this would all work fine if you had a decent table, however, what I failed to take note of is that the table surface dips in the centre, out to one of the edges. Therefore when I sat the timber on this surface, it wasn’t square with the jig, so the timber cut on a slight angle, one side thicker than the other. I ended up sandwiching a piece of ply between two steel lengths, as shown below. This worked so much better and was a lot less time consuming to set up.

I had one length of timber with a dramatic bow, (which is likely why it was the last neglected piece left at the timber yard.) I attempted to straighten the piece with hot water, towels and weight but regrettably it didn’t work in the slighest. By cutting this piece into smaller pieces of the door, I could router it down without losing too much timber.

I fixed down small offcuts at each end of the smaller pieces to keep the lengths in place whilst routering.

2. Cut timber to size

As mentioned in my previous post, this design in based on the Fouch Families Exterior Door. I ended up reducing the width of my door to 720mm, as this ensured it wouldn’t interfere with the Murphy bed. Here are the key pieces of the door cut to size roughly to size. Well obviously except those top pieces..

3. Cutting the Dado’s with the Table Saw

The design of the door is captured in the below illustration- the pink represents dados, the yellow, the tenons. In theory each piece fits into each other so I decided that the table saw would be my best bet at accuracy. (I used coloured chalk to mark each piece to ensure I wouldn’t mix them up- VERY IMPORTANT.)

The thickness of the door is 35mm and the dado’s should be approximatley one third of this thickness. For my door I set the blade to leave 12mm for the shoulders, and 11mm for the mortises. I cut the 12mm shoulders of each piece first, then dialled the fence in to cut out the excess. For the short edges, I used my mortise and tenon jig to support the longer pieces (ie; middle rail).

Mortise and Tenon jig that I used for the windows.
You may notice that the dado’s don’t extend the entire length of the stiles. This is for the glass pane. To avoid cutting this section I marked it out on the timber, and made a mark on the table saw at the start of the blade. When the two marks met up, I would stop the saw. This left incomplete chanels but they were easy enough to chisel out. We then fed the timber in from the top end and repeated the process.

4. Cutting the Tenons

Lucky for me, Dad has been on Long Service Leave, so he could help me out with the cutting of the more awkward lengths. (He has his own blog, which has nothing to do with Tiny Houses, unless you mean of the scale 1:72.)

5. Test Fit

The test fit was pretty successful, but I admit there was a fair amount of hand fitting involved. I made the mistake of cutting the tenon cheeks 2mm too long and a tad fat, so spent too much time trimming these down with hand saw and plane. It is one thing to be on the safe side, but really it pays to have confidence in your measurements and cut to the right size. Though not pictured here, the door is now pretty much ready for glue up, but I will keep that for another post. All in all, I have so far truly enjoyed building this door. It has been incredibly satisfying and I am really rather proud. I would love to have the chance to build another at some point. Now that I have done it once, I know just how much better the next one would be!

Slamming Doors

I would be lying if I denied that there are days when I consider every single choice I have ever made to be AWFUL. A HUGE MISTAKE. ONE BIG FAT DISASTER. THE WORST DECISION OF MY LIFE.

Of course, this is a perfectly reasonable response. Your life too would get you down if you chose to take time out from work to build a little house of your own. One where every window and every cupboard has been designed to meet your precise taste and need. Horrific!

So, I can tend to be a little over dramatic. Nevertheless, it is true that I regularly inflate into a panicked, overblown cartoon of complete anxiety when it comes to this build.

Let me provide you with an example: Last week I began thicknessing the Accoya I acquired for my exterior door. All was going well, I successfully set up a flat surface and routered the timber without drama, making a few minor mistakes but nothing diabolical. I needed to trim the width of the wood to create a reference face, (a straight edge that I could use against the fence of my table saw). Easy! I would just run along one side with a circular saw. I drew my marking lines, clamped down a fence and began to saw. That is, for about 4 seconds. The saw cut out, and though the motor was running, the blade was refusing to budge.

I should mention that this is a pretty old electric saw, it’s my Dad’s, and though it USUALLY works fine, there is no denying that it has seen better days. Clearly, it had finally had enough. But that didn’t make sense! When I tried again, it would work but again only up until that very same point. Frustrated, I spent the next fifteen minutes trying to find the problem. I double checked if the saw was clashing with the table legs.  I triple checked if something was blocking the blade.  I re-clamped the piece in several positions and spent a whole lot of time glaring at it. By this time I was ropable and stormed inside, declaring to my sister that I was indeed a failure! An idiot! Questioning aggressively why anyone in their right mind would choose to BUILD a door rather than BUY one?! Demanding why anyone on Earth would build a HOUSE, rather than buy one!

When I returned to the shed, only slightly appeased, I recklessly decided to give it a go on the table saw. Unsurprisingly it didn’t go well. The timber was rough sawn, so not especially straight, and therefore when I used it against the fence, it just cut to the same bends. I charged back inside to lament to my darling sister some more.

We ended up finding an old plane desperately in need of some love, and I huffed about having to sharpen the thing. However, by the time it was sharp I was finally beginning to feel encouraged. I haven’t had a significant amount of practice sharpening tools and don’t feel overly comfortable with the task, but I successfully honed a nice sharp blade without much difficulty or mess, (water stones). My faith in my ability somewhat boosted; I began to plane my straight edge.

It took some time, but I had marked out a straight line and was managing to get a close cut. I used my spirit level as reference, rocking it back and forth until it was flush and finally ended up with a pretty decent edge. Not as perfect as I would have achieved with the saw, (or a jointer for that matter), but close! I could confidently use this as my new reference face to cut the plank down to size.

Several hours from when I started, I was finally cradling a piece of my door! One of the lower panels. It was beautiful and my insides warmed with pride. Oh but that’s right, One. I had another to cut before the day was done. Encouraged by my success, I tentatively broached the circular saw once more. As I picked it up, I noticed that the bolt which held the blade in place was loose. Hmmm. I tightened the bolt. Yes, that indeed fixed it. A few minutes later I had a nice neat cut and was ready to cut the second edge on the table saw.

I suppose the moral of this story is listen to your sister- she suggested there might be something not quite right with the blade when it first cut out. Wouldn’t it have been nice if I had listened?

If Every Day was Monday + Weekly Update

I remember reading once that Victoria Beckham loves Mondays ‘because you have a whole week ahead of you’ and I have to say I agree whole-heartedly. Monday is the day when you start fresh, the upcoming week stretching before you like a neatly paved road to success.  The possibility of checking off every item on that to-do list is not only possible but easy. The day thrums with a sense of purpose and organisation.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are pretty great too. You’re continuing to smash off all those tasks so you’re feeling pretty pleased with yourself. Plus, you’ve still got time up your sleeve.

But Friday? In one breath, Friday happily sings out that tomorrow is the weekend, and in the next, turns to you with cold indifference to remind you that there are several empty check boxes staring up at you from your diary, each little blank face radiating crumbled disappointment.

Of course, I am likely being a tad dramatic about this, but after all, today is FRIDAY. Seriously, where on earth did this week go because I am pretty sure it should only be Wednesday. But gone it has and therefore I suppose I should quit my grumbling and get to stamping out the weekly update.

16th – 22nd February:

This week I watched another two Fouch Family videos, one where Nick builds a door jamb, and the other the door’s threshold/sill. These were immensely helpful and I have now added both of these to the door design.

I also came to the conclusion that a slightly narrower door would be better in our situation. You see, when the Murphy bed folds down, the end corner lands smack bang in the middle(ish) of the door way. As you can imagine, this is not really ideal. We did know this was going to occur to a certain degree but with a 820mm door it’s worse than I anticipated. By reducing the door to 720mm this issue is almost completely eradicated. It also means a little less timber to buy and a little less weight, so a winner all round.

In regards to timber I think I have decided to use Accoya. True, it turns out to be a little cheaper than Western Red Cedar, but it is somewhat heavier, so not a clear-cut solution.  That said, I just don’t feel the Cedar will hold up as well to the inevitable day-to-day trauma a door must endure, hence the leaning towards Accoya.

With the door design and timber pretty much decided, Thursday was predominately spent producing a cut list. This task always takes me far too long, I spend so much time fiddling around with the numbers to try to keep my total lengths under 3 metres (this way I can fit it in the car), whilst trying to find the most efficient solution. You may notice that some of the material lengths seem a bit excessive. Apparently it’s recommended to have a decent amount of excess as it allows you to achieve good straight pieces for the door. I’m heeding the advice in this case because I haven’t made a door before and figure it’s no huge drama if I have left overs, I am sure I will find use for them.

Screen Shot 2019-02-22 at 3.04.49 pm

And that is all I felt like I achieved!
I did mess around on Sketch Up a fair bit, trying to clean up a couple of models I had. Turns out my understanding of ‘Layers’ was completely incorrect- not an uncommon mistake I am assured.

Upcoming Week POA:
  1. Confirm and purchase some test pieces of the materials we are using to clad the house. This is simply so we can develop a feel and understanding of them before throwing them on the frame.
  2. I need to design a jig for my router so I can plane down the timber for the door, I therefore anticipate that I will be watching a few more YouTube videos. Hopefully I can get onto that this weekend so I can buy the materials and build it on Monday.
  3. I then plan to test this out on some blackwood offcuts I have, and if all goes well, purchase the timber per mentioned cut list. (I don’t think I will collect the timber for the jamb and threshold at the same time because storage is very limited in our family shed, but we shall see.)
  4. Non door realated but important all the same, I need to finalise the window sill design and order timber for that. The sooner the better because Western Red Cedar is a Special Order for us, and can take two weeks to turn up.

Scan 4
Please ignore that very hideous door in the left hand corner.