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

Door

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. 

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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!

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I would be lying if I denied that there are days when I consider every single choice I have ever made to be AWFUL. A HUGE MISTAKE. ONE BIG FAT DISASTER. THE WORST DECISION OF MY LIFE.

Of course, this is a perfectly reasonable response. Your life too would get you down if you chose to take time out from work to build a little house of your own. One where every window and every cupboard has been designed to meet your precise taste and need. Horrific!

So, I can tend to be a little over dramatic. Nevertheless, it is true that I regularly inflate into a panicked, overblown cartoon of complete anxiety when it comes to this build.

Let me provide you with an example: Last week I began thicknessing the Accoya I acquired for my exterior door. All was going well, I successfully set up a flat surface and routered the timber without drama, making a few minor mistakes but nothing diabolical. I needed to trim the width of the wood to create a reference face, (a straight edge that I could use against the fence of my table saw). Easy! I would just run along one side with a circular saw. I drew my marking lines, clamped down a fence and began to saw. That is, for about 4 seconds. The saw cut out, and though the motor was running, the blade was refusing to budge.

I should mention that this is a pretty old electric saw, it’s my Dad’s, and though it USUALLY works fine, there is no denying that it has seen better days. Clearly, it had finally had enough. But that didn’t make sense! When I tried again, it would work but again only up until that very same point. Frustrated, I spent the next fifteen minutes trying to find the problem. I double checked if the saw was clashing with the table legs.  I triple checked if something was blocking the blade.  I re-clamped the piece in several positions and spent a whole lot of time glaring at it. By this time I was ropable and stormed inside, declaring to my sister that I was indeed a failure! An idiot! Questioning aggressively why anyone in their right mind would choose to BUILD a door rather than BUY one?! Demanding why anyone on Earth would build a HOUSE, rather than buy one!

When I returned to the shed, only slightly appeased, I recklessly decided to give it a go on the table saw. Unsurprisingly it didn’t go well. The timber was rough sawn, so not especially straight, and therefore when I used it against the fence, it just cut to the same bends. I charged back inside to lament to my darling sister some more.

We ended up finding an old plane desperately in need of some love, and I huffed about having to sharpen the thing. However, by the time it was sharp I was finally beginning to feel encouraged. I haven’t had a significant amount of practice sharpening tools and don’t feel overly comfortable with the task, but I successfully honed a nice sharp blade without much difficulty or mess, (water stones). My faith in my ability somewhat boosted; I began to plane my straight edge.

It took some time, but I had marked out a straight line and was managing to get a close cut. I used my spirit level as reference, rocking it back and forth until it was flush and finally ended up with a pretty decent edge. Not as perfect as I would have achieved with the saw, (or a jointer for that matter), but close! I could confidently use this as my new reference face to cut the plank down to size.

Several hours from when I started, I was finally cradling a piece of my door! One of the lower panels. It was beautiful and my insides warmed with pride. Oh but that’s right, One. I had another to cut before the day was done. Encouraged by my success, I tentatively broached the circular saw once more. As I picked it up, I noticed that the bolt which held the blade in place was loose. Hmmm. I tightened the bolt. Yes, that indeed fixed it. A few minutes later I had a nice neat cut and was ready to cut the second edge on the table saw.


I suppose the moral of this story is listen to your sister- she suggested there might be something not quite right with the blade when it first cut out. Wouldn’t it have been nice if I had listened?

I remember reading once that Victoria Beckham loves Mondays ‘because you have a whole week ahead of you’ and I have to say I agree whole-heartedly. Monday is the day when you start fresh, the upcoming week stretching before you like a neatly paved road to success.  The possibility of checking off every item on that to-do list is not only possible but easy. The day thrums with a sense of purpose and organisation.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are pretty great too. You’re continuing to smash off all those tasks so you’re feeling pretty pleased with yourself. Plus, you’ve still got time up your sleeve.

But Friday? In one breath, Friday happily sings out that tomorrow is the weekend, and in the next, turns to you with cold indifference to remind you that there are several empty check boxes staring up at you from your diary, each little blank face radiating crumbled disappointment.

Of course, I am likely being a tad dramatic about this, but after all, today is FRIDAY. Seriously, where on earth did this week go because I am pretty sure it should only be Wednesday. But gone it has and therefore I suppose I should quit my grumbling and get to stamping out the weekly update.

16th – 22nd February:

This week I watched another two Fouch Family videos, one where Nick builds a door jamb, and the other the door’s threshold/sill. These were immensely helpful and I have now added both of these to the door design.

I also came to the conclusion that a slightly narrower door would be better in our situation. You see, when the Murphy bed folds down, the end corner lands smack bang in the middle(ish) of the door way. As you can imagine, this is not really ideal. We did know this was going to occur to a certain degree but with a 820mm door it’s worse than I anticipated. By reducing the door to 720mm this issue is almost completely eradicated. It also means a little less timber to buy and a little less weight, so a winner all round.

In regards to timber I think I have decided to use Accoya. True, it turns out to be a little cheaper than Western Red Cedar, but it is somewhat heavier, so not a clear-cut solution.  That said, I just don’t feel the Cedar will hold up as well to the inevitable day-to-day trauma a door must endure, hence the leaning towards Accoya.

With the door design and timber pretty much decided, Thursday was predominately spent producing a cut list. This task always takes me far too long, I spend so much time fiddling around with the numbers to try to keep my total lengths under 3 metres (this way I can fit it in the car), whilst trying to find the most efficient solution. You may notice that some of the material lengths seem a bit excessive. Apparently it’s recommended to have a decent amount of excess as it allows you to achieve good straight pieces for the door. I’m heeding the advice in this case because I haven’t made a door before and figure it’s no huge drama if I have left overs, I am sure I will find use for them.

Screen Shot 2019-02-22 at 3.04.49 pm

And that is all I felt like I achieved!
I did mess around on Sketch Up a fair bit, trying to clean up a couple of models I had. Turns out my understanding of ‘Layers’ was completely incorrect- not an uncommon mistake I am assured.

Upcoming Week POA:
  1. Confirm and purchase some test pieces of the materials we are using to clad the house. This is simply so we can develop a feel and understanding of them before throwing them on the frame.
  2. I need to design a jig for my router so I can plane down the timber for the door, I therefore anticipate that I will be watching a few more YouTube videos. Hopefully I can get onto that this weekend so I can buy the materials and build it on Monday.
  3. I then plan to test this out on some blackwood offcuts I have, and if all goes well, purchase the timber per mentioned cut list. (I don’t think I will collect the timber for the jamb and threshold at the same time because storage is very limited in our family shed, but we shall see.)
  4. Non door realated but important all the same, I need to finalise the window sill design and order timber for that. The sooner the better because Western Red Cedar is a Special Order for us, and can take two weeks to turn up.
Scan 4
Please ignore that very hideous door in the left hand corner.