Barn: Part 7

At the end of our October 26th barn-raising day we had nearly a third of the first floor structure in place. That was the section of the deck that we simply could not accomplish between the two of us and we are extremely grateful for all the friends who trekked from far-away corners of the state to lend a helping hand.

The remainder of the work on the deck assembly was entirely up to Marion and I, along with our always willing and very capable friend, John [Deere]. In the photo above, we had to fit John with platform shoes in order to extend his reach. Our green companion securely held the forebay side timbers in place as I adjusted and aligned the tusk tenons on the floor joists (photo below).

Once the fit of the joinery was assured, the beam was drawn tight to the corresponding tenons on the floor joists using another essential tool in the timber framer’s kit – a mechanical winch known as a come-along (photo below).

By the end of the day on October 27th we had nearly completed the forebay section. Due to the way in which the joinery had to come together, it was necessary that the forebay section be fully assembled on blocks holding it 3 1/2-inches above the foundation and piers (below).

The next challenge was to lower that entire section into place atop the posts/piers and the forebay foundation wall. We accomplished that with a pair of bottle jacks and posts, lowering the frame one side at a time in 1-inch increments while guiding it onto the braces and posts at the corners. With the exception of one incident of dropped braces at a corner, the lowering went according to plan.

Before we could continue with the remaining deck frame we had to complete the insulation and earthen banking of the root cellar. We’d had our neighbor deliver 7 yards of fill (a dump-truck load) to the top of the orchard drive. Early on the morning of October 30th, I moved the fill to the foundation, one tractor loader bucket at a time. That was the easy part, though. Once I’d dumped it inside the foundation walls Marion and I hand-shoveled it into place around the root cellar. We then laid 2-inch rigid foam insulation on the sloped banks and topped it off with more fill to keep it in place.

We knew that our weather window was limited. The first snows of winter were in the offing, but we took a weekend break to attend a class at the Northwoods Stewardship Center. There, we would learn to make black ash pack baskets, but that’s a story for another day.

On November 5th we resumed the work on the deck frame. In the photo above, Marion stands between floor joists on what will become the barn’s drive bay. The mortises for the floor joists are visible in the beams, along with a scarf joint that would couple the remaining span. There are several joints that come together in the vicinity of that post which required some fine-tuning during assembly to bring it all into tightly fitting 90-degree and 45-degree angles.

The remaining pieces of the deck were relatively simple to put in place, although, at 400 pounds apiece, the sill timbers continued to take a toll on our backs. In the photo above, many of the various tools involved can be seen in the foreground.

Marion had spotted a knot in the shape of a bird on one of the sills. Before hiding it from view (after nailing sub-flooring to the deck), I snapped a picture to remind us of some of the detail that lies beneath (below).

In the photo below, the joinery surrounding the drive bay post is visible.  Supported by an 8″x8″ post, an 8”x8” girder is tied to another 8”x8” member. The mortise on top will locate a post that will extend up two stories in the main barn frame. The mortise facing the camera will house one of the floor joists connecting with the northwest wall of the barn.

The photo below shows the last of the sill’s scarf joints coming together with the ash wedges hammered in place prior to cutting them flush with the sides of the timber.

We’d like to embed something in the frame as a form of time capsule element. Often, builders would place a coin dated with the year the structure was built. Hopefully we’ll not forget to carry on the tradition when we raise the frame’s upper sections. For the deck, Marion simply wrote our names and the year built on the final corner tenon to be assembled.

The corner was then pegged (below) and our work was nearly done for the day. All that remained was the fitting of seven floor joists.

In the photo below, I drive the final joist into its pocket.

We had much more work to do in the coming week, but a much-earned celebration was at hand. Sitting atop the barn floor frame, I popped the cork on a bottle of champagne, letting it fall for posterity’s sake inside the soon to be capped foundation.

Fittingly, we poured our drinks into handmade wooden glasses that had been turned by our friend Jayson as a wedding gift earlier that fall.

We wouldn’t rest for long. After taking some time to catch up on our paid work we’d be back soon to lay the sub-flooring and close in the deck for before the middle of November.