Designing and Building a Tiny House, and Everything In Between. 

Ribbons, Sails 

& Dandelion Fluff

May 2020 –

Building a Shelter

Steel Frames & Cladding

Apr 20 – Jul 19

Doors & Windows

The Beginnings of a ‘Tiny’ Project

Apr 19 – Aug 17

Succulents & Raspberries;

A First Foray into Gardening.

Oct 17 – Apr 15

The Carpenter

SEA CHEST

Terribly lousy with an iron, there’s no doubt that I will be hanging the majority of my clothing. That said, I still need a home for socks and undies, and some of the bulkier items of a well-rounded wardrobe. To fulfil this need, I decided to build myself a wee chest of drawers.

Design & Build

The end of September saw our progress on the exterior take a hit due to some rather miserable weather, but happily, this presented me with the excuse to finally get started on the interior fixtures. Something I have been looking forward to for quite a while! Wishing to start small, I resolved to give a set of drawers a crack. With a designated space of 700mm wide and 600mm deep, I settled on three drawers, with a space below for shoes. As always, I started in Sketch Up, then took my measurements to the shed to get to work. For me, this project highlighted the substantial improvement of my skills. Thanks to our work on the frame, my understanding of bracing has bettered immensely, not to mention my efficiency. I managed to knock together the design and frame within two days and another day spent on refinement and ‘finishing’. Oh and I should mention that the plywood was some leftovers from the subfloor!

Refinement

I had never made a drawer before so had a good look at my sister’s wardrobe before tackling the rails. The decision against drawer slides was somewhat a budget choice, but really my collection of offcuts has grown so rapidly that it made sense to make use of some scraps. The drawers travel along a pair of rails, with just enough space to ensure they pull out smoothly, but not too large that they tip forward when opened fully. Throughout this stage, I only had to make a few adjustments because, for once, I managed to get my measurement pretty darn accurate! Originally, I had planned to fix a front face onto the ply drawers, perhaps a fancy piece of plywood or a veneer, but after some deliberation I decided to make use of some leftover cedar, (plus, nothing like a little weight reduction!) So though probably unusual, the pocket holes are visible, but I will fill these prior to installation. 

Looking Pretty

My first decision was that I would lime wash the ply. This would allow me to preserve the appearance of the grain, and prevent the cabinetry from looking too heavy. I gave the plywood two coats and a final layer of Intergrain Non-Yellowing Clear Varnish. Now, personally, I’m not too keen on a plywood edge, so I decided to slice up some western red cedar on the table saw and make myself some trim, which I stained with a dark brown. 

I have always been very enamoured with traditional sailing ships, of the pirate kind, (blame a love of Pirates of the Caribbean, and later, Robin Hobb’s ‘The Liveship Traders,’) so with this one I wanted to capture the essence of a handsome sea chest. I was fortunate to stumble across Costal Blacksmith on Etsy and discovered these lovely hand forged drawer pulls, and in my opinion, they look pretty fine against the warmth of the cedar. 

‘The dark blue trousers and short jacket had seen some mending, but the work of his own needle never shamed a good sailor’

The Mad Ship - Robin Hobb
Finishing Touches
COMING SOON

And that is where I have left off. There is still some finer work to be done- the dressing of the insides and the trimming down of the wooden nails. I have flat packed it away for now however, to be finished when it's time to install.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on pocket
Share on email

How to Build a Door Part 2

Whilst I may have myself a very handsome, very solid timber door, it is still missing the vital components that will ensure that it is openable, swingable and lockable- all the redeeming qualities of the very best doors. In the next couple of posts, I will be exploring my options for weathering protection, hinges, handles, locks and the glazing of the glass pane. All areas which I know almost nothing about, yet..

The most pressing aspect to settle is how I am going to protect the door from the weather, because I will tell you, after all the effort of researching, designing and building this thing; there is no way I am allowing it to get eat up by rot, or weathered away by sun rays! Nope, none of any of those terrible threats Coating* companies are constantly harping on about will be happening to my lovely door. And yet as an individual who rates aesthetics very highly, I had been focusing my first attentions on how I wanted the door to look, struggling over colours and ideas. However, a couple of weeks ago I was (wisely) advised to prioritise durability and ease of maintenance- so to first decide on a product, then work within the confines of the colours and finishes available to achieve the appearance you are after. Find out what coatings are readily available to the DIYer and identify the ones that require the least amount of hassle for reapplication. List narrowed, select the best product that meets both those needs.

Accoya themselves recommend a coating of Teknos Aqua Primer 2907-02, followed by two coats of either Intergrain or Cabot’s. From what I could deduce Aqua Primer is a spray coating and not something I can easily get my hands on. Anxious to understand if this step was essential, I sent an email off to the supplier of my timber who pointed me in the direction of their own go-to coating expert. A few days later I received a very kind response advising that in a production sense, Teknos would be applied as a pre-primer. This was due to the vast array of top coat brands/products they use, some for which such a coating would be necessary. However, on an individual level this was not always essential, concluding that he hadn’t seen any issues when Intergrain or Cabot’s were used alone, as long as it was per the provided instructions. Good to know! 

[Let me just add that asking these questions was pivotal in realising the amount of time and stress that I spend trying to find all the answers on the big wide web. The habit stems from a long time worry of asking dumb questions and a fear of being viewed as ignorant. This was the week I finally recognised I needed to do something about this. I believe this is an area worthy of greater discussion so I think I will delve into this another day, but something shifted and it all seems less scary now.]

By asking a few experts, I was relieved of the worry of being unsure of my choices and decided to have a look into one of the products I was recommended; Osmo. I scrolled through Osmo’s site and though their exterior colours were limited, it appeared to match all my needs. A quick search informed me that the majority of their range was stocked in a local outdoor furniture store and so I made plans to go check this out. It took two visits to achieve success.

On my first trip I had set my heart on Osmo’s Natural Oil Wood Stain, colour: Larch. Source 1 had advised that the lighter the stain the better. (I realised later, I am not entirely sure why, I think the closer the tone to the natural timber, the more subtle the aging..but that’s just a guess, I could be completely wrong!) Accoya is only specially treated pine so the door has a very pale complexion. My thought was that Larch would warm it up to tone nicely with the windows, but wouldn’t be too great of a jump from its natural colouring. Yet this plan was dashed when I discovered that they only stocked the Larch in 2.5L tins- far, FAR more than I needed and super pricey! The helpful shop assistant proposed I look at the UV Protection Oil Range– a clear oil with a UV protection factor of 12 (whatever that means), recommended for vertical surfaces. Not convinced but not wishing to leave empty-handed, I accepted a few sachets of a UV ‘Cedar’ sample (slightly warmer than the clear pine) and went on my way.

Last week I finally got about testing the sample. Initially, I wasn’t impressed, the colouring appeared too yellow, something reminiscent of a cane Easter basket. Determined to find me some Larch I launched into another web search clicking through every Victorian stockist trying to find a smaller tin size. No luck! It seems no one in Australia stocks the 750ml, except for in Ebony- (which certainly would not be appropriate.) Undeterred I investigated Osmo’s Country Colour line, an opaque satin coating. Not precisely what I had in mind but…. Alas, again, I was thwarted! Sites only stocked Teak and Mahogany, both too dark, though I was almost tempted by the Teak. (I do genuinely wonder why only these two!)

I momentarily toyed with the idea of switching brands, but by then, I was entirely sick of stains and oils and honestly couldn’t be bothered combing through another single site. I went back to the shed and stared at the sample piece. Maybe it was alright? If I squinted my eyes and held it in the light… Perhaps it evoked images of golden hay instead of yellowing 70’s wicker furniture?.. I gave it a second coat and set it aside.

The wise proclaim that tomorrow will be kinder, and on a second examination, true enough, I was feeling more kindly towards the Accoya Sample, immediately deciding it will do. And so it has, for my door has now been treated to two coats of UV Protection Oil Extra- Cedar. Whether there will be any adverse effects for using the Clear Cedar stain instead of the Pine Clear? I do not know; however the sales assistant didn’t believe so, and therefore with goodwill I shall trust his judgment.

Not mentioned on the tin itself, but found tucked away in the brochure on their website, Osmo recommends an initial coat of Natural Stain or Country Colour. However considering all the trouble above, (and that they failed to think it important enough to slap it on the tin), I chose to disregard this step. My fingers are crossed that the two coats of clear will suffice and that I won’t be required to re-coat too regularly. It shall be interesting to see if and how quickly the colouring will fade. Only time will tell.

~~~~~~~~~~

(*Coatings- that’s a new term for me. I think it just a general word for timber finishes whether that be oil, stain, varnish or paint, but I am really not sure. If you know better, do let me know!)

~~~~~~~~~

* In poor lighting my camera hasn’t quite captured the tone accurately but you get the gist. 

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on pocket
Share on email

The Halfway Point ~ Windows

After what seems a very long time, (because it was a very long time), all six window sashes have been cut and fitted, with rabbets for the glass routered. The remaining window panes have been ordered and one sash has even been stained and glazed. Progress is being made, even if in apparent slow motion. Except the funny thing is that these windows weren’t actually all that difficult and weren’t all that time-consuming to make. In fact, if one took out all the times they were sidelined, I think it would equate to approximately one month of work, beginning to end. Yet, I am my own worst enemy and to those of you out there who have ever enquired after my progress, you may justly suppose that I have been working on them for half a decade.

You see, for quite a while it was the task that I would prattle off every time a well-meaning family, friend or work colleague would ask ‘Fiona, how is that charming tiny house of your’s going? Nearly finished?’ ‘Ah, well actually, I am just about to build the windows! Isn’t that wretchedly exciting?’For there is no denying that this sounds far more impressive than ‘Uh, um, alright? Yeaaaa I’m afraid the house is not nearly finished… and well uh no, we haven’t started the frame yet.’However, like most aspects of this project, the windows were postponed and delayed and unavoidably made me a liar. For me to only now declare ‘Family! Friends! Let’s rejoice for the windows are half way done!’would reasonably give any of these individuals pause as they mentally do the math and conclude that they must have misheard,’Silly me, I thought she said she was building a tiny house, but she must have said SKYSCRAPER! Yes, I see now, those bad boys do have a fair few windows, what a champ!’Happily no one, bar myself and probably my parents, truly gives two hoots if I take the entire century to build this thing. No doubt social conversation would probably become a little dry as I reached the 30th year, but the plumbing scheduled for year 32 could only lead to the most dazzling of discussions.

Yet for now, I am content that the windows are finally tangible and yesterday I had a good play, testing locations and heights. With each confirmed measurement, the blurred vision that is my house, becomes a little clearer, revealing new details, like the location of a reading lamp, (important for power plans), or the height and design of the desk. It is all well and good to have a Sketch-up drawing but it is nothing like shaping the spaces with the real deal.

When I began planning these windows, the reading and viewing material available was limited, and though I would never argue that my sashes are on level with professionally built ones, I plan to soon share a detailing my process thus far for inspiration or reference. They have been, for most of the time, a pleasure to make, and I do believe they have saved me in both cost and weight, though at the risk of boiling or freezing to death due to a lack of insulated glass? Who knows. But I am getting ahead of myself, glazing is not scheduled until 2024.

After what seems a very long time, (because it was a very long time), all six window sashes have been cut and fitted, with rabbets for the glass routered. The remaining window panes have been ordered and one sash has even been stained and glazed. Progress is being made, even if in apparent slow motion. Except the funny thing is that these windows weren’t actually all that difficult and weren’t all that time-consuming to make. In fact, if one took out all the times they were sidelined, I think it would equate to approximately one month of work, beginning to end. Yet, I am my own worst enemy and to those of you out there who have ever enquired after my progress, you may justly suppose that I have been working on them for half a decade.

You see, for quite a while it was the task that I would prattle off every time a well-meaning family, friend or work colleague would ask ‘Fiona, how is that charming tiny house of your’s going? Nearly finished?’  ‘Ah, well actually, I am just about to build the windows! Isn’t that wretchedly exciting?’ For there is no denying that this sounds far more impressive than ‘Uh, um, alright? Yeaaaa I’m afraid the house is not nearly finished… and well uh no, we haven’t started the frame yet.’ However, like most aspects of this project, the windows were postponed and delayed and unavoidably made me a liar. For me to only now declare ‘Family! Friends! Let’s rejoice for the windows are half way done!’ would reasonably give any of these individuals pause as they mentally do the math and conclude that they must have misheard, ‘Silly me, I thought she said she was building a tiny house, but she must have said SKYSCRAPER! Yes, I see now, those bad boys do have a fair few windows, what a champ!’ Happily no one, bar myself and probably my parents, truly gives two hoots if I take the entire century to build this thing. No doubt social conversation would probably become a little dry as I reached the 30th year, but the plumbing scheduled for year 32 could only lead to the most dazzling of discussions.

Yet for now, I am content that the windows are finally tangible and yesterday I had a good play, testing locations and heights. With each confirmed measurement, the blurred vision that is my house, becomes a little clearer, revealing new details, like the location of a reading lamp, (important for power plans), or the height and design of the desk. It is all well and good to have a Sketch-up drawing but it is nothing like shaping the spaces with the real deal.

When I began planning these windows, the reading and viewing material available was limited, and though I would never argue that my sashes are on level with professionally built ones, I plan to soon share a detailing my process thus far for inspiration or reference. They have been, for most of the time, a pleasure to make, and I do believe they have saved me in both cost and weight, though at the risk of boiling or freezing to death due to a lack of insulated glass? Who knows. But I am getting ahead of myself, glazing is not scheduled until 2024.

 

Six Windows
Read More
The bottom right corner window was treated as my mockup and so has been victim of some maybe-too-orange stain. I glazed it with 4mm glass pretty successfully, though the drying time of the putty bordered on four weeks and there was a minor incident involving a leaking shed roof. It goes without saying that this window is far from perfect, but it has been relegated to the bathroom at the end of the house so the poor putty job shouldn't be too noticeable. 
Windows in place
Read More
It's difficult to see, but there is a faint purple chalk line marking out the borders of the house. Clockwise from the bottom: Bathroom casement / Double casement above kitchen prep counter / Single casement above the desk. An awning window above the couch and another awning above the kitchen sink. 
Double Casement
Read More
This is a pairing of two windows, which sit along the front wall of the house, above the kitchen counter. I am quite excited for these two, as I think they will present a lovely view.
Bathroom Window
Read More
The bathroom window is rather oversized as I ended up with a free pane of glass when I ordered the pane for the desk window. I had ordered raw edges, but they had polished them, and so cut a secondary piece when the mistake had been realised. When I came to collect the sheet, they offered me the spare free of charge. Naturally, I didn't refuse. This did mean that one of the windows had to be resized to fit the glass, and initially, I was thinking the lounge one. However, this one I wanted to be landscape, and the dimensions of the pane were too squat for such orientation. It was suggested for the bathroom but I was hesitant about the lack of privacy a large window may present. That said the other windows had already been cut and I didn't want to waste the sheet. I tested it with greater height, but it looked bizarre and threatened to hit the roof line. I then remembered a tiny house I had once visited, with a window that expanded the back wall, shelved with indoor plants. I placed a few plants on the sill and was impressed with the effect. With an extended window sill, such large plants could certainly provide something of a screen. 
Lounge WindowBELOW
Read More
This will actually be more in line with the left end,  but I was propping it up with clamps. The height is just about right though. 

Building my Exterior Door

Though I endeavoured this year to post weekly, it is typically only once I have come out of a rather sullen mood, that I find the desire to tap into a bit of reflective writing. I am sure this is no individual quirk. It only makes sense if you consider the tortured artist. And though I would never go so far to claim my writings as equally glorious, significant or moving as the works of the masters, it is typically when I produce my best work. Well, perhaps not. But something gets written, so surely I get bonus points for that. Truth be told, when I am smashing goals, or conquering dovetails, I simply am having too much fun to sit down and think. (Not that I have EVER ‘conquered’ a dovetail, and ‘fun’ may be pushing it.)

Having opened this post in such a fashion, I too would suspect that we are about to dig deep into the who, why and how of yesterday’s foul mood but despair not, this is not a pity post, but rather, a celebration of a very fruitful last fortnight! In fact, the only reason I think I fell into a black mood yesterday was that I was simply fatigued from all the success. (Such a sweet, modest gal.) A window was glazed and the couch was sanded and stained, but today I am going to focus on my tolerably decent exterior door! So my dear readers, please find below a blow by blow, minute by minute recounting of how I built, and nearly finished my first door ever.

1. Routing the Remaining Accoya

IMPORTANT: The most critical aspect when thicknessing timber with a router is to set up a flat surface. Reason being is that if your workbench is not straight, then the wood you sit on top of it won’t be either. I faced this problem on my second batch of timber. I only have access to a pretty dodgy, beat up table which I set up on a concrete floor that is cracked and consequently far from flat. I can get around this by propping up the table legs with thin squares of cardboard until the table is square along each edge. I then use steel rails to create a flat surface to run my router jig along. [This jig is based on the ones you see on Google Images if you search ‘thicknessing router jig’.] Now, this would all work fine if you had a decent table, however, what I failed to take note of is that the table surface dips in the centre, out to one of the edges. Therefore when I sat the timber on this surface, it wasn’t square with the jig, so the timber cut on a slight angle, one side thicker than the other. I ended up sandwiching a piece of ply between two steel lengths, as shown below. This worked so much better and was a lot less time consuming to set up.

My router jig: Not sure how I achieved such flattering mood lighting.
I had one length of timber with a dramatic bow, (which is likely why it was the last neglected piece left at the timber yard.) I attempted to straighten the piece with hot water, towels and weight but regrettably it didn't work in the slighest. By cutting this piece into smaller pieces of the door, I could router it down without losing too much timber.

2. Cut timber to size

As mentioned in my previous post, this design in based on the Fouch Families Exterior Door. I ended up reducing the width of my door to 720mm, as this ensured it wouldn’t interfere with the Murphy bed. Here are the key pieces of the door cut to size roughly to size. Well obviously except those top pieces..

I fixed down small offcuts at each end of the smaller pieces to keep the lengths in place whilst routering.

3. Cutting the Dado's with the Table Saw

The design of the door is captured in the below illustration- the pink represents dados, the yellow, the tenons. In theory each piece fits into each other so I decided that the table saw would be my best bet at accuracy. (I used coloured chalk to mark each piece to ensure I wouldn’t mix them up- VERY IMPORTANT.)

The thickness of the door is 35mm and the dado’s should be approximately one third of this thickness. For my door I set the blade to leave 12mm for the shoulders, and 11mm for the mortises. I cut the 12mm shoulders of each piece first, then dialled the fence in to cut out the excess. For the short edges, I used my mortise and tenon jig to support the longer pieces (ie; middle rail).

Mortise and Tenon jig that I used for the windows.

You may notice that the dado’s don’t extend the entire length of the stiles. This is for the glass pane. To avoid cutting this section I marked it out on the timber, and made a mark on the table saw at the start of the blade. When the two marks met up, I would stop the saw. This left incomplete chanels but they were easy enough to chisel out. We then fed the timber in from the top end and repeated the process.

4. Cutting the Tenons

Lucky for me, Dad has been on Long Service Leave, so he could help me out with the cutting of the more awkward lengths. (He has his own blog, which has nothing to do with Tiny Houses, unless you mean of the scale 1:72.)

5. Test Fit

The test fit was pretty successful, but I admit there was a fair amount of hand fitting involved. I made the mistake of cutting the tenon cheeks 2mm too long and a tad fat, so spent too much time trimming these down with hand saw and plane. It is one thing to be on the safe side, but really it pays to have confidence in your measurements and cut to the right size. Though not pictured here, the door is now pretty much ready for glue up, but I will keep that for another post. All in all, I have so far truly enjoyed building this door. It has been incredibly satisfying and I am really rather proud. I would love to have the chance to build another at some point. Now that I have done it once, I know just how much better the next one would be!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on pocket
Share on email