Studio Test Run

David's picture

The dancing flame atop the candle is ever so quite as it moves to the music. Sometimes the music is fast and the flame kicks up and swings this way and that. And then the music will slow down, and the flame begins to sway back and forth, waltzing to a hypnotic rhythm. As the music plays, the little flame of the candle dances, and I ,sitting in my little wooden chair, sit back and watch. The room is dark and the night ..., darker. I am alone, here in the audience. And the flame is a lone dancer. Other than the dancing flame, the warm mist of my breath is all that I see. But wait! There is one more being on stage which I have just noticed. The glow of the dancing flame has stirred the shadows, and they are dancing along with the flame. All around the candle the shadows are moving against the earthen wall. They too, can hear the sweet music. Of course the music being played is one which I cannot hear. The flame and shadows are dancing to the rhythm of light and subtle breezes. It's a magnificent display indeed.

Well, that's the romantic part of the cob studio anyway. Truthfully I wish the flame would stop dancing. That would mean there wouldn't be any more drafts in this place! But it is what it is, at least for the time being. So yeah, we have done a few more things to the studio. Just enough, in fact, that we felt it was enough to give it a test run. It's far from being completed of course, but we were so eager to try it out, that we threw caution to the wind and moved on in.

Ok so we didn't move in, but we have been spending a lot of time there, including spending the night.

Since the last time I blogged I had just finished putting in the flooring and some door hardware. I then went on to putting in the door trim. Nothing fancy just some simple 1x2's to cover all of the door reveals. I thought it would be a quick installation, but it turned out to be quite a bit of work. The latch side of the door opening was the easiest. I simply positioned the door to where I wanted it closed, laid the trim flat on the frame, butted it to the door, and nailed it on. Then I did the hinge side. I'm not to happy with this side. You see, when I installed the door, I made sure the gap along the sides of the door were wide enough so that when the door opened and closed, the edge of the door wouldn't rub and bind against the door frame. And so, a generous gap was maintained. It turns out, I was a bit too generous. With the trim in position, it was not thick enough to cover the entire reveal. To fix this (temporarily), I turned it on edge. It looks odd this way, but at least the reveal is covered. But then came another issue. Because of the thickness of the door, it ended up rubbing and binding against the trim on the hinge side. At this point I could either plane down the corner of the door, or plane the trim. I decided it was best to plane the trim. And with a good amount of the trim trimmed away, all was working well. That is until I started putting in the top trim at the peak.

This was the worst part of it all. The problem was the door itself. The door is made up of salvaged 4x6 beams. All of them generally have the same thickness, but are not perfect. Well, when I put the door together, I wanted the outside of the door to look the nicest so I made sure to have all the faces flush to each other, on the outside. Apparently I should have given this more thought. Now, the inside of the door was in no shape to sit flat against the trim. The sides were ok because the trim runs along one length of timber. But at the top is were the trim has to cross several timbers. There wasn't much I could do now, but plane the door. More work that could have been avoided if I was thinking functionality and not beauty. But in the end I got it all to sit flat.

Eventually, I want to remove the door and screw in the hinge bolts a bit deeper to narrow up the reveals. This is somewhat of a big job, so it will have to wait.

Next, I put in a counter top. I'm not sure if you caught it in a previous picture, but we embedded a horizontal limb, into the cob wall. We positioned it to be at the height of our proposed counter top, and left it exposed on the inside. This gave us something to anchor the counter top to the cob wall. Well for the counter top, I simply framed up a couple of 1x10's, supported by a couple of 4x4 posts on the leading edge. Very simple, but effective.

After that came the loft. We had some great ideas of what to use for the loft flooring, but we ended up using basic plywood. We did use the kind with 'good one side', and installed it face down. We figured the underside would be the most visible, so it should look the best. Using plywood wasn't our first choice of course, but for what we had, it was pretty much the only choice. Again, going back a few steps, when I installed the loft joists, I used raw pine timber. I did make note to keep the flattest sides of the timbers facing up, but they still weren't very flat. I wanted to use the same flooring as the main floor, and figured with enough intimidation I could get the flooring to contour to the joists. But I ended up having just enough flooring to do the main floor. I then thought maybe some 1x6 rough cut wood planks, but the lumber store didn't have any. So plywood it was.

We bought two sheets. We installed the first sheet at the leading edge, and nailed it down. Simple. The loft is about 5' x 9', so we had a few feet to fill in at two sides. The strip against the side wall was a bit tricky. It's difficult to explain, but the joists are not at the same height as the gable wall framing. So to keep it simple, the side strip of plywood was installed at an angle. I'm pretty sure if I was to frame out a step to keep everything at 90deg. angles, it would look out of place. As it sits now, it angles up quite nicely. The last strip of plywood, at the head of the loft still needs to be installed. Just a simple strip. It's one of those jobs where hauling out the tools, laying out the material and prepping the work site will take 4x's as long as actually installing the piece. So I'll do this last bit when I have another project to work on. But until then, the loft is quite usable.

So that was it. After that Patricia and I decided it was a good time to try the place out. We brought in a futon mattress to lay in the loft. Loaded it with blankets and pillows, lit up some candles for lighting, and then tucked ourselves in for the night. *Ahhhhh*

We've been sleeping in there for the past few nights, and found a few things that needing doing. First off, I needed to do something about the door. The only latch to close it is on the inside. So one couldn't open the door from the outside. If one of us left, for whatever reason, the other had to wait by the door to let them back in. Not very user friendly. So I fashioned an eye tube out of a piece of copper tubing. I nailed it to the door frame so that a pin leaver (you do realize I'm making up names for these parts as I go), attached to the door on a pivot, could be dropped into the eye tube, effectively latching the door closed. I drilled a hole into the pin leaver so that I could attach a string to it. The string is then fed through a knot hole at the top and through the door, to the outside. I simply tied the end of the string to a knob so that it wouldn't fall back through the hole. But now, all one would have to do is pull on the string, and the pin leaver would lift out of the eye tube and the door would open. I'm sure an eight year old could do better, but this was just a quick fix to an annoying problem. I'm going to keep the design, but fashion a better system in the future.

Next I built a guardrail for the loft. It didn't matter if Patricia and/or I were up there with Phoenix, we were always nervous of her toppling down. Before we pulled all our hair out, I decided I'd best hurry and build a guardrail. I had some small lengths of 2x2 cedar, and a couple of long 2x2 pine laying around, so I went to work with that. Again, a very basic design with a top and bottom rail and a few intermediates in between. The railing is about 4' long, which is about half the width of the loft. I did this so that our ladder was not required to be in a dedicated location. But it turned out great, and as Patricia says, "It looks smart."

Last came the ladder. We had been using an aluminium ladder, but the rungs are not quite designed for bare feet. You wouldn't think it but they are awfully painful. Not only that, the ladder was so tall that it was difficult to maneuver around at the top, and the rungs were spaced a bit to far apart for Phoenix's little legs. So on one bright sunny day, Phoenix and I went scouting. We found a couple of fallen birch trees that were the perfect size for ladder rails. I limbed the trees and trimmed them down to size. One of them had a perfectly placed fork at the top, which was perfect for my ladder design.

Limbed and trimmed we carried them back to the cob. I then dismantled the bramble fencing i made for the greenhouse, and used it to make the rungs for the ladder. The ladder is a pueblo or kiva style ladder but my rails touch at the top forming an 'A' shape. I made it this way so that it's easier to get on and off the ladder at the top. It was easy to construct. I cut a notch out of each end of each rung, and then made more notches on the rails so that a flat and solid connection could be made from the rungs to the rails. The fork at the top of the one rail was perfect for lashing the other rail to it.

And I think that's about it for now. Lately the nights have been pretty mild at 10C, and we slept quite snuggly at that temp. The other night dropped to -1C and not only that, but the wind was whipping around outside and was easily penetrating our perforated walls. Patricia didn't like it too much and decided that's about as much as she'd like to endure. And so last night dropped to about -14C so we spent the night inside the main house. I'm sure once the studio is completely sealed in, we'll have a better experience with cold temps.

Here are a few picks of our progress. Enjoy!


Rachel's picture

Nice! The loft looks comfy cozy. Are you planning on putting a milk paint or something on the walls?

By Rachel