Monday, July 30, 2012

Making a very large hole in a wall

borrowed tractor to remove spoil
Necessarily slow, the barn renovation continues.  This is building à la ancienne, like they used to when these buildings were originally constructed and I’m often having to teach myself how to do what I’m doing, turning to historical reference books and the Internet to help.  That plus generally working alone and smallholding duties getting in the way, you can see why this project lacks any hint of vitesse.

going ...
Having hacked away at the old oak beams that used to hold up the upper floor, discovering good heartwood that got planed into shape at friend Jim’s workshop I was ready to fabricate a new door opening.

going ...
I now needed a big hole.  Chopping into a massive cob (earth) wall is satisfyingly easy (especially with a super Milwaukee medium breaker but I rather wanted the tons of earth that comprise the upper wall to stay where they are as I cut away the wall beneath.  Neighbour Serge, talented builder by trade, came round to advise me on how I could support everything using beams and Acrow props and reinforcing an upstairs opening.  So far, everything is staying where it should!

gone !
Because the entire double carré en bois would be too heavy to manoeuvre, I assembled the inner and outer frame, then, with Jim’s help again, carried these into position and joined them together with traverses.  Knocking tenons into mortices with a rubber mallet is very satisfying, even more so, knocking oak pegs into holes, locking it together.  
Friend and professional carpenter Henri had made the tapered pegs and I drilled a tapered hole (16mm, changing to a 14mm bit halfway through).  Each peg is smeared with grease (I used Vaseline) and then knocked in with a wooden mallet.  I’ve cut them off with about an inch spare and when the wall is once more complete and the door hung, I’ll give all the pegs another tap and then cut them off much closer.

A very useful resource if you're doing similar renovations on old Breton properties is the association Tiez Breiz