' the Woodlouse: August 2012


Sunday, 26 August 2012

Bale Frenzy Part 2: Hairy Bungalow

Here's the second half of the primary bale-work photos, now from several weeks ago.  I'm still trying to catch up with this blog and get it up-to-date.  I'll try and finish that this week.  In real-time: the extension now has complete roof-structure (looks amazing!) and I'm learning basic timber-framing to build the structure that will hold up the conservatory/back-porch roof and form its window openings.  I'm trying to do it properly, jointed timbers and dowel pegs rather than walloping it together with nails or screws.

By the way, in all the blog posts, if you click on a photo it should open a slideshow with full-size images, although the captions aren't displayed then (if anybody knows a way to make it show the captions in slideshow mode, please tell me).

Coralie and Sam checking the bale walls are straight and vertical

Using the Persuader to correct any bales that aren't in line

The inside of the wall plate (timber structure on top of the bales walls, that the roof is attached to) is insulated with sheepswool insulation.  Long hazel pins are driven through the plate to pin it and the bale walls together

Over on the bungalow wrap, the angle grinder with wood-carving blade is used to cut a groove for the hazel poles (part of H-clip used to clamp bales to existing wall - see Bale Frenzy Part 1 for more on these)

First few rows of wrap bales, against clay-plaster to level the wall.

Truckers' straps, ready for compression of the new bale walls

These run over the wall-plate and under the base-plate, securely hooked together

Coralie directs from above

Notches were made in the base-plate before it was fitted to allow the straps to be passed through, folded around a baling needle.  There's a channel between the inside and outside of the baseplate formed from flattened drinks cartons with the ends cut off, secured to the timber with gaffa-tape.  The smooth inner surface of these coupled with the strength of the card allows the straps to glide through and be easily removed afterwards.  Apparently before this innovation the straps frequently became trapped after compression as the LECA aggragate in the baseplate was squashed onto the straps forming a vice-like grip.

Packing strap and buckle is used to provide a permanent tie between wall-plate and base-plate and maintain the compression

To compress the walls, the ratchet straps are tightened in sequence until the required (and even) amount of compression is achieved.  This is checked by using a site-level and a tape to check how far the top of the wall-plate has dropped during compression.

Finished bale walls! (well, apart from render, and windows, and...)

After the compression the walls are incredible strong.  There's less air in there, and the whole thing becomes tight and rigid.  It also starts to have a satisfying hollow "thump" sound when thumped.

Linda and Kuba fitting bespoke small-bales under the front window

The bottle jacks and steel-plate compress the penultimate row of bales down.  Bale-height bits of wood are then used as temporary props at each end to hold the plate down while the last bale is slotted in.  This keeps the wrap compressed, dense and strong.

The steel brackets holding on the window boxes are covered in clay plaster to regulate moisture and reduce condensation within the bale walls.

The angle grinder sucked in lots of straw while squaring bales and cutting notches.

After a clean-out, now fitted with patent Straw-Ingress Prevention Device (the wrist of an old pair of work gloves) over the air-intake

Compression to fit last bales under the eaves

On the gable wall, two timber wall-plates allow for compression of the bales here

First of the insanely large, over-specified glulam beams for the hips of the extension roof is bodily hefted around and into place.  No machines available for this one!

Perhaps Kuba is trapped beneath?

And another one... It took a while to work out where to cut these and what angles etc.  I was very impressed by Mike and Tim's calculations as both beams slotted in perfectly first time.

Up the gable

Hip beams in place

Slim timbers holding the steel-plate and compression on the gable, after bottle-jacks removed, before bale slotted in and plate removed.

Hairy bungalow

And the rain returns... At this point I re-organised the tool room and cleaned the rest of the bungalow which was in a bit of a state by the time volunteer weeks were over.

At the gable, the bales need to be compressed sideways as well as down, to ensure that they are fitted tightly against the underside of the slope of the roof (using a scissor-jack because bottle-jacks won't work sideways).  I was doing this bit on my own, involving much head-butting of bales, precarious balancing of timbers and the like.  The worst moment was shortly before this photo was taken: holding the scissor-jack and wood in one hand and attempting to wind the jack with the other.  They pinged out sending the timber flying inches past my head, I ducked just in time to avoid the falling steel plate, stumbled backwards and narrowly eascaped tripping backwards off the temporary scaffold.  I resumed operations with increased caution...

Primary bale-work complete!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Bale frenzy - part 1: The extension rises

Here are the first half of photos of the bale building weeks with the wonderful team of volunteers.  Probably I could be more selective, but despite appearances this is already a paired-down selection.  An awful lot happened very quickly and I want to show all the stages.  I've been busy since most of volunteers went home finishing the wrap at the gable end (this got complicated on my own, I had to use my head to hold up bales and push them in while my hands balanced jar-jacks and bits of wood - this probably makes no sense but hopefully the photos will explain, though maybe in part 2).  I'm also trying to make sure all the openings that will take windows and doors are ready to be measured by the window company on Tuesday; in some cases this just means fitting timbers around them, in the case of the conservatory it means trying to bring it into existence...

More on those once I've got this blog up-to-date - for now here's Bales part1.

James Herriot manoeuvre.  Kuba stuffing loose straw twisted together into any spaces between bales

Joe modelling a hazel staple, used to bind the corners together on each course

Staple hammered home

A notch cut in the window posts at the height the window sill will be (ideally, a height divisible by bale depth: eg, one bale high)

Coralie using the window sill (fitted into the notches) to compress the bale underneath by hammering in folding wedges.

The wedges are then cut flush with the post

Coralie and Kuba

Marcin and Joe debating

More sill fitting and compression

Fairy cakes by our friend Penny, rock cakes by my mum.  All scrumptious.

Kuba bashing a stake in.  The fourth layer of bales is pinned to the rest with long hazel stakes.

The first wall-plate sections arrive from Darren's workshop.  Aksel, Joe, Mark and Kuba (and me behind the camera) take in how big and heavy they are, and contemplate how to get them up on top of the walls.  Cursing of structural engineer's over-engineering begins.

Walls!  They weren't there when I went out to buy screws (at least, that what it felt like)

Marcin and Civita battle it out

The first week's team (a good number stayed for second week and were joined by more).  Front row: Darren, Kuba, Anna, me, Julia, Civita, Tim. Back row: Luke, Marcin, Aksel, Mark, Joe, Robert, Sam, Jonny, Mike.

Meanwhile, over on the wrap: timber baseplate fitted ready for bales (timber for all baseplates, wallplates, window/door posts and sills, is UK Douglas Fir - good durable timber that will take a long time to rot even if it gets wet.)

Walls at full height

window-containing boxes for the wrap, so that the new windows can sit in the line of the bale insulation (windows will be fitted flush with the outside edge of the timber)

Kuba setting up his time lapse camera.

More wall plate, squeezed in to Darren's workshop.  It's a big workshop but the wallplates only just fitted.  He said moving them around was like playing Tetris.

packing strap, passed through eyelets in the wall...

...the strapping passes over two verticle hazel poles which are slotted into the ends of a horizontal timber, forming a big 'H' which is clamped back toward the wall using the ratchet tensioner on the strapping.  This secures the bales to the bungalow wall and helps compress them.

The baseplate is (intentionally) set up so the space above is slightly less than the number of bales we need to fit in.  The penultimate row of bales is then compressed downwards using jar-jacks and a steel plate, the last bale is squashed in, resulting in a dense, strong, compressed bale wrap.

Joining the sections of insanely unwieldy wall-plate in situ.

The wall plate was resting on temporary bales above the height of the window and door posts, so we could join it all together.  Here we're starting to lower it into place (lots of people on scaffold lifting, other people pulling or pushing the support bales out, then all lowering it down)

Kuba finally turns into a bale

A tricky moment

The dog poses while in the background we try to get the window and door posts to slot through the holes in wallplate

The last door post is slotted through, signifying complete walls for the extension.  Everyone clapped and cheered, which surprised me, but was lovely.  Mum said it was a proud moment, and Dad would have thought so too.  We both got a bit weepy for a brief moment then pulled it together.

Pleased and relieved.

Look at my lovely bale walls