Sunday, 5 May 2013

Laying the shingles

Not done a great deal of work on the barn roof over this long, wet and cold winter; certainly not as much as we had planned, but today was a beautifully warm and sunny May day and we are starting to make real progress on one side of the roof.

Over the winter we felled a really nice straight grained, knot free sweet-chestnut that should hopefully provide us with all the good quality stuff we need to complete the roof.
Once we have ringed a few sections of the trunk into 18 inch lengths, we split them initially with a maul and steel wedges.

The quartered sections are then split with a big froe and carried through the woods to the barn.
   It is constantly surprising how easily the chestnut splits, even at this large diameter.


Chestnut has many great qualities, not least of which is the small amount of sap-wood present, meaning most of the wood is perfectly useable, and fit for long years exposure on a roof. Its natural durability, combined with its ease of riving  makes it one of the best woods available in Cornwall for green woodworking. 

  While the team got stuck into making shingles, I got on with laying down some of the stock we made earlier in the year. I'm using 38mm copper nails to fix them as steel nails will corrode and rot out quickly  with the combination of rainwater and the tannic acid in the wood.  

Only 6 inches of the 18 inch shingle is exposed, meaning each run of them is covered with the next two successive ones. It is quite possible to be able to see light shining through chinks from the inside of a properly shingled roof, and have no leaks at all.

Only finished shingles are taken up on the roof but they still occasionally need a wee trim to make
them fit snuggly to their neighbour. A shingling hammer has a little hatchet blade on its back. 
 We are putting these on while they are still green so they can be nailed on with no fear of splitting them with the nails. If they were seasoned we would be forced to pre-drill. Time consuming..

  Work doesn't get much better than this really, sun on your back, birds singing, good wood and sharp tools. Of course doing this kind of project is massively labour intensive and is made enjoyable because of the team-work involved. It would be more of  a slog on your own, but perfectly achievable given the time.