Sunday 24 September 2017

Reaching Trace

We love homemade soap made with natural ingredients. We also love creating new recipes such as this little gem. This Sunrise Citrus soap recipe from Handcrafted Soap by Delores Boone,  is our first scented soap and I have to say if your the type who does their waking up in the shower, waking up to the smell of tangerines is a pretty refreshing way to start the morning.

The soaps we make here don't just form up into little squares of tangerine loveliness. The soap making process has a few intricate steps involved to get them to a safe and usable state. Chosen oils and a mixture of lye and distilled water get mixed together and heated at a low temperature to start the process of binding the oils with the lye-water mixture.

In our old little attic apartment we found it easiest to heat the oil and lye mixture in a slow cooker on a low heat setting. While the liquid soap is heating, we mix it with a hand mixer for about 5-10 min depending on the soap. 

Some soaps will take longer to mix than others. For instance, this Sunrise Citrus Soap ended up taking anywhere from 10-15 min. Homemade soap definitely requires a very novice understanding of science...specifically chemistry. Thus, we blame differences in mixing time on chemistry. The goal of mixing the oil and lye-water mixture is to reach a very important stage in the soap making process known as Trace.

Reaching Trace is sort of like a point of no return. It essentially means that you've emulsified the oil and lye-water mixture and you no longer risk the potential of these ingredients separating. You have completed the first stage of forming soap! You'll known when you've reached Trace because the soap will sort of look like pudding and will have ridge lines. 

Happy soaping.

Friday 1 September 2017

Canvas Covered Timber Frame

A 14' x 20' custom designed timber frame structure. Built out of northern west coast cedar, this timber frame involved hand-cut mortise and tenon connections, and various sized knee braces with the longest being 7'. This timber frame will provide 280 square feet of covered outdoor living space in the spring, summer, and fall.

This timber frame is designed to support a custom-made canvas cover for 3-season protection from the elements. This location sees a lot of precipitation, being located in Northern British Columbia, so the canvas cover was essential to have this part of the deck be useable during more than just the odd sunny day.

The 15 degree slope of the roof line for this timber frame was designed this way to a) follow the roof line of this 1980s log home and b) shed water. 

The corner post has been scribed to create a natural transition from the log to timber frame construction.

Happy Building.


Wood: The Pergola (Part 3)

The Raising

64 hours. The length of time in laboured hours it took Chad to cut and raise the pergola. Here's how he raised this beauty.

Chad braced the first raised bent with 2X4 lumber and clamps to stop the frame from twisting while being lifted and to protect the joinery.

Once the first bent was up and secure the braces come off and the second bent gets raised into the pre-measured and fastened metal collars.

An initial trellis rafter was put up and secured in place to provide stability for the two raised bents while the rest of the pergola gets raised.

Next steps involve joining the tie beam that bridges the parallel bents and the knee braces that support these connections. This step also happens on the other side of the pergola once other pieces are in place.

A second lateral beam is spliced together with the initial raised bent and joined with an end post and knee brace. This is done on both ends of the initial bents.

Every connection is held together with oak pegs that get hammered into the structure with the very necessary wooden 'caveman' mallet. A must have in every timberframer's toolbox.

The finishing touches include putting up the trellis rafters, fastening wood trim around the metal collars and putting in some mean timber stairs. You can also see in these pictures how the arch over the stairs came out that Chad cut with a chainsaw. You can see how the joinery was cut and the work involved before the raising here and here.

Happy Building.

Wood: The Pergola (Part 2)

Thought you folks might want an update on how the work's going on a recent post featuring a timberframed Pergola that Chad is building for a neighbour.

Things worth mentioning:
#1 Mortises can totally be cut without the use of a chain mortiser! Why is this good news? Because chain mortisers are pretty pricey. Here is the one Chad is after. It's in Chad's opinion that Mafell are some of the finest made woodworking tools currently on the market. Check out their philosophy if your interested and have a chance. Overall, it takes a bit longer to cut mortises without a chain mortiser (about 5x), so if your in a hurry....maybe splurge for the tools.

What you need to cut mortises without a chain mortiser:
1 1/2 " ultra smooth wood owl auger bit 
18 volt Metabo drill (The big selling feature on this drill for Chad.....the 3 year warranty on the batteries....unheard of)
1 1/2" and 2" Barr Framing Chisel
* A wooden mallet 

#2 Know your sawmill! The wood we ordered looked beautiful, but there were a few characteristics that made it tougher to work with. 

* Watch for timbers that are out of square. Out of square timbers can make layout difficult and makes it next to impossible to get connections to fit perfectly.

* Wavy timbers. This effect happens when the band (blade) on the sawmill is dull. Wavy edges also make layout a challenge since you have no totally flat/straight edge to lay your framing square against (Note: framing squares are used for laying out a timberframe).

* Watch for inconsistent sizing of timber. The timbers in this frame varied in dimension by over 1/2" making layout a challenge and adding the extra step of measuring each timber before cutting the joint that will receive that timber in a connection.

Really if you can, check out the sawmill before you order. If possible try to take a look at the timbers milled by your sawmill and look for any of the above potential issues.

#3 Build under cover! Although it's seems like such a romantic and back to the earth idea to do all your cuts and layouts in the great outdoors, you really don't want to be working in the rain.....this pergola was actually laid out and cut inside a garage, except for the trellis ridge pieces shown here. These cuts were done quite quickly with a circular saw, jigsaw, and a chisel. Chad is using a timberframer's chisel to square up the sides and basin of this notch. These were also stained outside before the pergola was raised, and were tarped until needed.

The client for this timberframe has rather tall son-in-laws so he was worried about the clearance of the pergola just under the eavestrough of his back deck. So, Chad agreed to cut a curve in the center cross-beam for this frame to account for those standing just under 7 feet. Oh yeah, they're the biggest son-in-laws I've ever seen. Due to a shortage of necessary tools (i.e. tools usually used for this cut), Chad used his faithful Stihl chainsaw (Larry) to cut this curve. It might look from this angle that he is totally off of his line, but this is actually pretty good practice for getting the cut accurate. Afterwards he went back and brushed down the rest of the wood to this line with the chainsaw to get a really smooth finish on the curve.

Oh yeah, 'shaving' the top of this curve really looks more like bouncing the edge of the chainsaw off the surface and moving it back and forth while trying to control the extent of the bouncing. Kind of like shaving a garden hedge.....just imagine the curve is a hedge. This takes control in order to not cut through the curve.

Let us know how your projects are going, and if you have any questions or comments related to this post or timberframing give us a shout at 


Wood: Open Season! (The Pergola)

9 months. We've been living here in Kitimat for 9 months. 9 months of which Chadwick hasn't been doing much building. When we first moved out here Chadwick was perhaps a little sick of building.....after 10 years of doing the same craft who wouldn't want a little bit of a break?! Imma Right?! In Ontario, Chadwick primarily worked at log home building and timberframing and considered it to be good work that kept his attention.

*I promise I'll do a full spotlight on his talents eventually*.

 After 9 months of different odd jobs and long chats, it is now clear that in order to be content, Chadwick needs to be building. It's not just "good work that keeps his attention" anymore. I think it was a few days ago that he actually referred to it as his passion. For. Real.

I mean, he totally built us some 'get through this apartment' furniture, and totally put way too much time into probably the best christmas craft ever on my request, but it looks like open season has finally started. Chadwick is once again timberframing.

So in the spirit of true craftsmanship, Chad. bought. tools. Not a lot of tools, but definitely some expensive tools. I'm no expert, but Chadwick raves about Metabo Tools. 

This week Chad has begun a design for a backyard porch pergola and spent this weekend cutting the knee braces needed for the structure. And I cannot be more excited. 

Currently the next tool Chadwick claims to need is a chain mortiser. These mortise joints were cut with a metabo drill and a wood owl auger bit. Joint corners were chipped out with a timberframing chisel. A much longer process, but just as accurate.
More to come! 

Also, if your super interested in any kind of timberframing let us know at or leave a comment!


Reclaimed Harvest Table with Benches

Large table with wide plank mixed wood top. Antique look with old nail and saw mill marks visible throughout the pieces. There are hand cut through mortise and tenon joints with cherry wedges in the benches. Three coats of oil based polyurethane have been applied to preserve the natural beauty of the wood. The table top measures 79" by 41" and the benches are 75" long.


Reclaimed Pine Kitchen Table

Two inch thick top with heavy reclaimed barn timber legs. The entire piece has been hand sanded to bring out the natural beauty of the wood and three coats of polyurethane has been applied to protect it. The top measures 55" by 32".


Reclaimed Pine Fireplace Mantel

Custom reclaimed pine mantel, handcrafted from a timber that dates back over a century. The bottom has been notched to fit over the stone creating a clean transition from stone to wood. The ends of the timber have been mitered to fit flush against the wall. The entire piece measure 9.5" in height by 12" in depth and 75" in length. The finished surface has been lightly sanded to bring back the natural colour of the wood while still leaving the hew marks and all of the other marks unique to a piece of wood that has survived many decades.


BBQ Stand

Custom made charcoal BBQ table. Crafted from cedar reclaimed from a waterwheel that underwent restoration work. There are four heavy caster wheels to allow the entire unit to easily be moved around the patio. Finished with multiple coats of outdoor grade stain to protect the wood from the elements. 

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