Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Woodworking for Dummies

When we finally found out that The Lodge was going to be ours, Dawn and I made a solemn vow - we would do as much work as possible ourselves and we'd do it together whenever we could.


We even shook hands on it and toasted our future DIY success with pepperoni pizza - that's how seriously we were taking it. Pizza pacts are not to be taken lightly.

Three months later (yesterday) - while I was up the scaffolding at the ungodly hour of 5.30am and Dawn was unconscious in the shed trying to touch all four corners of the bed at once, I wondered just where that determination and commitment had gone.

Pine always reminds me of crappy bed frames...
It's July here in the UK, you see, which can mean only one thing. Torrential rain was due to hit within a few hours and I needed to coat the exposed stripped wooden purlins with linseed oil, ready for painting before Roofer #2 (a story for another time) comes to replace three rafters and some laths midweek. Weather permitting.
If the rain came and I hadn't oiled the wood, you see, they'd need a few dry days before I could do them and time is running out because we're already paying extra for the scaffolding (another story for another time).

So the weekend just gone and the next few days is all about the woodwork up on the roof.

If you remember almost two months ago, when the scaffolding first went up for Roofer #1 to sort out the tiles, lead flashing and chimney etc, I decided to use the opportunity to strip the front bargeboards and get them repainted... only to find that most of the wood was rotten.

To be diplomatic and tactful about it, Roofer #1 wasn't really in a position to help with our problem so it was down to us to sort out new rafters and bargeboards, but it's fair to say that we dragged our heels a little bit because we had no idea how to go about it when we already, theoretically, had a roofer on board.
Cutting a long story short, that procrastination has jumped up to bite us on the backside and it's now a mad rush to get things ready for Roofer #2's imminent arrival. Hence insomniac me watching the sun come up from the scaffolding yesterday while listening to what I can only describe as a pig being slaughtered in the vicinity of the shed. I can't say I blame Dawn, though, because she actually works for a living and 5.30am on a Sunday is a time we've only ever read about in books. It's quite a scary concept.

I had told Roofer #2 that we wanted to do as much as possible ourselves so we took delivery of the untreated basic timber on Thursday morning, but for various work-related reasons (I do sometimes have to partake in real-life employment) I'd only had time to pre-oil half of it before the weekend made an appearance.

Hairless. Clueless.
So after running a few Lodge-based errands on Saturday morning Dawn and I set about our biggest and most daunting challenge to date: making the new bargeboards from scratch.
This would be a chance to test our mettle and make our own personal statement on the public-facing exterior of The Lodge, but it was also likely to be the most time-consuming job so oiling the rest of the wood would have to wait.

Now then, I'm as much a gifted carpenter as Dawn is a lion-taming monkey-juggler so in lieu of us having the relevant skills necessary for bargeboard success we grunted in single syllables, puzzled over calculations, drew lots of diagrams in crayon and stared into the middle distance for extended periods of time before we even fathomed out how to measure the lengths we'd need to cut the timber to - two lots of 4m planks and two lots of 2m planks.

But we managed. We even managed to get the angles correct at the apexes of both front bedrooms so that the sawn lengths of timber fitted together almost where they were meant to.

Most normal people would have left it at that and bathed in their success against all the odds while gazing lovingly at their basic bargeboards, but for some reason a couple of weeks ago I convinced Dawn that we should "do a poncey design or something" because we'd probably not get another chance for the next 25 years or whatever, all things being well. And she agreed.

Dawn, Andy and SamTheDog.
Supervisor's chair and Mr Grumpy mug.
So after my early-morning spell high above the countryside we drafted in our friend Andy from Renovating An Old Stone Cottage who brought with him a router, an entire Woodwork A-level and SamTheDog, arch rival to our very own SausageTheCat.
As I attempted to avoid having my face licked clean off by a very enthusiastic StD, and with the Living Room transformed into a workshop because the predicted Biblical flooding had arrived, Dawn and Andy conjured up nothing short of a minor miracle with string, a pencil, a steel ruler and complete guesswork to produce scribblings on the planks that looked a bit like a bargeboard design Dawn had found on the internet last week. If we squinted a little bit.

It was then my turn to step up to the plate, so I tentatively set about cutting the first board only to discover half-way through that my rapidly-overheating 20-year-old cordless B&D jigsaw was more likely to explode in an all-consuming fireball than actually finish the job it was designed for. So I high-tailed it to Screwfix for a replacement.
When I returned Andy had jigsawed a little more at great personal risk but, with palms aflame, he had invented somewhere else more important to be and had to leave so he gave me a brief lesson in how to use the router and headed off with StD, abandoning us to our own inadequate devices.

And I can honestly say that what we eventually produced many hours later - without sarcasm or any of my usual over-written nonsense - was something we will remember as one of our proudest moments in the whole Lodge experience, because we genuinely surprised ourselves.

Yes, all it took was a bit of drawing, some sawing, a few cups of coffee and a steady supply of Jammy Dodgers, but with no prior experience whatsoever we turned a few quids' worth of plain pine planks into decorative bargeboards that not only look the business, but if we had bought them online from the place where Dawn first saw the design, would have set us back almost £600.

Me, Dawn, Andy, SamTheDog and SausageTheCat.
That's teamwork right there, folks.

Of course the next few days are all about the laborious task of oiling and painting the boards black alongside miles of architrave and rafters, so that's where the short-lived teamwork ends. I'll be on my lonesome for that little lot because the glory-seekers have all abandoned ship.

Apparently they've got better things to do, the bloody shirkers.
It's not glamorous enough for them.


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