We had been looking forward to “topping out” the frame for a long time, but when the day finally came – October 23rd – we hardly had the time (or energy) to pause for celebration. At 3:30 pm, a small hemlock graced the rafter peak in full sunshine, in thanks to the forest for providing the material for this shelter.
Before achieving that moment, we’d put in long, exhausting sessions cutting and installing the final frame members that form the building’s rafters. The rafters are made up of twelve sets of three pieces each – a pair that join at the peak and the long section that slopes down to the back of the building. The rafters were cut from 4x6 timber with a pegged half-lap joint at the peak, a stepped section to fit the rafter seat at the top plate, and a two-foot tail to extend the roof past the edge of the building.
We spent a total of 26 hours to cut the rafters in a very efficient process that took full advantage of the many years that Marion and I have worked together. If I had taken to shaping those 36 timbers on my own I’d have been knee deep in snow before they were complete.
When it was time to install the rafters we had to clear snow from the loft floor. In the photo above, Marion works to clear the ice from the rafter seats in the top plates.
The rafters spanning the loft were assembled in place. On a larger building, however, these would have been assembled on the ground, then hoisted into position.
Once the half-lapped joints at the peak had been clamped, drilled, and pegged, I marked the rafters above the seats for the pegs that would hold them in place.
Holes were drilled ten inches deep, through each rafter and into the top plate.
Each connection received one oak peg, driven snuggly into the joint.
The photo above shows the pegged joints at the peak.
With the rafters in place over the loft, the building begins to show its final form.
Another lap joint forms the intersection of the gable rafter and the 14-foot timber that slopes to the rear of the building. Above, a gable rafter can be seen housed in its seat before the final rafter section is laid in place.
With the last rafter pegged, our frame is complete. We topped out on a glorious late October afternoon with blue skies and temperatures in the 50’s. When the moment finally arrived, I rushed to find a small hemlock and affix it to the peak before the sun dipped below the ridge.
We took several shots of our completed frame. To get the images, I positioned the camera atop a step-ladder, pressed the self-timer button, then raced for the building. After each sprint I wished for an option to set the timer interval at something longer than the 10 seconds I was allowed to get myself in position, gasp, compose, then smile. (Marion’s smile came easily as she enjoyed the many outtakes that were spared from this publication.)