Sunday 11 November 2012

Batten and shingles

Autumn is truly here and the leaves are falling, so its time to get the roof covered, starting with nailing down  battens and making  shingles.

The rafters and batten are cut from local larch by Jo sawmills, and they gave us some really nice stuff. 4"x 3" rafters and 2 x1" batten.

The batten is spaced at 6" centres to match the exposure of the shingles, which are 18" long, meaning the top 12" of each shingle is covered by the next layer. We nailed the batten down with galvanised nails to prevent corrosion. The durability of the larch means that it will easily last as long as the shingles, which can stay good for 70 years and more.

You make  footholds as you go. The ends get trimmed evenly once all is nailed down.

Larch has a lovely salmon colour, and is commonly used as planking for wooden boats, giving an idea of how durable it can be. There is a massive amount being felled country wide because of the phytophera contagion that is attacking it. Its nice to be able to source it but I worry whether we will see much locally in the future.

While the batten was being laid some of us started splitting out the shingles. Sweet chestnut is our choice of wood for the job, being easily splittable and very durable.

We cross-cut the bolts to the required length, then split them down the middle using a froe and mallet. Sweet chestnut is a joy to use in this way and splits incredibly easily. The most important thing is that the tree used is very straight-grained and knot free, otherwise the cleaving becomes difficult and the wastage gets unreasonable


You get a nice satisfying crunch as the fibres of the wood cleave apart, revealing the long story of the tree as it grew quietly in the woodland.

Then its time to trim off excess with a good sharp axe.

The drawknife then finishes it off with a nice smooth taper.

We will be needing over 2000 shingles so a long way to go, but there is no sense of hurry about this and meeting up regularly with a team of keen green woodworkers will be a great way to spend some  coming winter sundays.

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