Sheds at Home

As it is with any foundation, it’s important to get it right. When you do, everything else falls into place. Level and square are the two key elements after ensuring the foundation is strong enough to support the whole when done and then some. Standing the stud walls on so small a structure is not hard or particularly heavy. Braces at the ready, nails started and then the spirit level for plumbing. With the foundation (floor) squared solid and skinned with 3/4″ ply and level everything else from here on is about being plumb. I’m enjoying the work. It’s different for me. I installed the up and over door as a cost saving and because I didn’t want to scrap a good working model that may well help me with access and so on. I plan to build shelves in front of the door inside but to put them on wheels. That way I won’t lose the long wall for the storage I need. So far I have kept all of my materials dry throughout. Nothing worse than working with wet wood with hand tools. No forgiveness there.

When I stood the walls I had inset the braces to each frame and whenI stood them I could tweak them before screwing them permanently in place. it was quick. A frame took me half an hour to nail stand and plumb and brace once my studs were cut. This saw is one from the early 70s before Spear & Jackson sold up and shipped out. It’s one of their bicentennial versions but this one has the mahogany handle.

I have a couple of the rosewood versions (one with the original S&J box) which I really like and you can look for them on eBay. I usually would pay £40 for the rosewood handled version, £20 for the mahogany: Oops, the price just quadrupled. I would go higher too. They are worth it. basically you are getting a new-old-stock saw that will last you a lifetime. The plate is a little thick but not overly so. When they get too thin you run the risk of buckling to a kink.

Building against the brick wall of my garage saved money too. It’s unlikely that I will move so I bolted the wall frames and floor frame to the wall for rigidity too. If I ever need to I can always unbolt, lift and roller it out to another location. It was really the slab that decided me. It was obviously the foundation for a building somer time in the past so replacing it with mine works well for me.

I use my trailer for most of the lugging work and that works great for me. I can also use the trailer as a work platform as I did when I made my five trusses. It works perfectly and in the past I have also used it with power equipment like chop saws and tablesaws as it is just the right size and I had wooden outriggers to support the workpiece. I had decided to lower my my eaves to allow more light next to the passage down the side of my neighbours side so I had to compromise my internal height somewhat and accommodate to the up and over garage door at the last minute. Bit Heath Robinson but it will be fine. I have yet to add the second gussets this side of the trusses yet but I will do that now that they are in place. No big deal but I was running out of daylight and could be bothered setting up lights so late at night.

I picked the windiest rainiest day to put up the roof trusses. Dodging between the bursts of rain wasn’t easy but I managed to stay mostly dry. When heavy rain came in I almost gave up with the plywood for the rest of the day but I took a cafe break to write and think and when I came out the rains had all goner. I saw a large blackberry bush fully laden and I love blackberries.

Two memories flooded back to me during the past two weeks of building my shed. No, it hasn’t taken me two weeks to build a shed. I have an hour or two before dark after my day job keeping you all entertained with videos. The memories? One, the smell of mixed pines and plywood from when I built my first Texas home. If I could bottle that it would be wonderful to uncork it now and again. The missing ingredient was the mountain laurels covering the hillsides around my home there.

The second memory was picking the blackberries. My brothers and sisters (six of us) and mum and dad often took in-season day trips to the brickyard in Adswood to pick blackberries. We took five gallon buckets and would not leave until we had filled five of them. When we got home mum would start making the blackberry jam and jellies. She made a years supply of jam over the two days and we had jam for a year again.

With the wind whipping around my ears I stood atop the ladders and stood the trusses to anchor them at the wall plate (UK). In place, bracing them inside so that they then stand parallel and plumb is a temporary fix until the plywood is in palace and its this that keeps everything square and stiff in the upper reaches. The wind got up to 40-50 miles an hour and perhaps higher in the gusts. That was the point when I decided to put the plywood on. Not thew best timing but I felt it was doable so I did it.

Instead of nailing I screwed the sheets down. I used half inch plyfor this and I plan to add some 1 1/2″ by 3″ battens inside in line with the screw line so that I can use longer screws for anchorage. This comes from living in Texas where I have seen screws reverse themselves in the thread as a direct result of the heat raining down to expand the pressure on the screws. Longer is better. predrilling the centreline holes prepared for the screws and I waited between the unpredictable blasts to lift the sheets in place. It worked. All in all the last sheet went up at 9pm.

So next I will pick up the roof tin, galvanised followed by green colouring, foam infilling and screws and flashing. I will be insulating and lining the walls with plywood too.

That upgrade will take me over budget but I may change the use one day from shed to art studio, for when I start writing and illustrating the books I will write into the future’s of hand tool woodworkers.

29 thoughts on “Sheds at Home”

  1. Insulating now for future use seems very wise. Then all you’d need to do is replace the cold dark garage door with something suitable at that later point.

    Will you be setting the outside cladding off the walls on battens? I mention it only because you don’t yet show any roof overhang on the front wall and you’d need one to cover that kind of structure. Seems also you’ve opted for diagonal braces rather than OSB which rather makes me wonder whether you have in mind a solid wall. If so it might be worth reconsidering. In wet climates the insulation must not touch the outside cladding otherwise you’ll end up with damp walls. The ventilated air gap created by the battens is really important for that reason. Makes the outside cladding last longer too as it restores its ability to dry from both sides. Without the gap you might actually be better off leaving the shed uninsulated.

    If you do insulate it’s also a good idea to use building wrap. It really helps eliminate drafts and make a dry, warm long lasting building. It might not make a huge difference while paired with the garage door but I’m sure you’d be glad of it when you convert the shed for use a writing studio. These wraps are perhaps not the most environmentally friendly material but they do have a very positive environmental impact in use.

  2. Building an insulated enclosure that you can live in (not necessarily sleep in) all from hand tools looks so fun and satisfying. I look forward to doing the same when I purchase a house in the next few years.

    1. I’m a stickler for words so rarely use the word “fun” for the work I do because work is work. Anyone could have had my lifestyle had they chosen it. It was a question of having good guidance from parents who support you instead of postponing decision making until it was too late and you ended up in higher education and had to take whatever job came along that paid the rent. This, working with adult males post war, matured me quickly as I started work at 15 and took on responsibility for my work straight away. Whereas I always enjoy the process of designing what I build and building it, it goes much deeper than ‘fun’. This has always been a way of life for me. Fun literally means foolish or if you look here you’ll see what I mean.

  3. David Watson (fellow Stockport lad)

    Memories!!!. I remember picking raspberries the other side of Stockport at what was nicknamed the bricked just off Marbury road estate in Haeton Chapel,in the days of my childhood, with a friend or friends and occasionally we’d bump into an old man we knew only as Ed ,he was one of the germs that fertilized the first seeds of interest in wood work in me. He used to sit on a one legged stool with axe handsaw small plane and chisel and make things for his home and she’d, it was a marvel to watch him,me being about eight at the I as a fascinated.
    I asked him once why he did his work at the brickey?,he replied his shed was not far enough away from women’s strong hold the kitchen when the boss was in one of her moods,and that I would learn about that if and when I get hitched.
    I did get’ hitched’ and wished I’d remembered that conversation when I built my shed leaning on to ‘woman’s strong hold’. Help !!!!.

  4. Nothing much better than homemade blackberry jam … except possibly homemade blackberry wine…

    Smart to use screws instead of nails – learned the same from my younger brother (a boat builder) – holds everything right, but makes changes, repairs and demo much cleaner and faster. To some extent, nails seem like a holdover from before screw guns. Hand planes, chisels even saws all are under-rated these days, but i’d Be hard pressed to give up that cordless power hand drill. Thanks for sharing

  5. Flemming Aaberg

    I once framed up a whole house using hand tools. The timber was green and the saw very sharp (first time I’d ever sharpened and set a saw myself) – cut like a hot knife through butter. Made me truly appreciate hand tools at that time. Alas over the years I succumbed to power tools, but have been reverting back to hand tools thanks to your advocacy.

  6. Paul, so enjoy reading your posts. I am close to your age, be 71 in December, and can relate to much that you share. I have 4-1/2 acres in the country in southern Ohio, USA and have designed and built our 2 story house, two story barn (28 ft x 38 ft), smaller barn (12 ft x 16 ft) with attached sun shed where we winter over many of our flowers, and a log sided cabin with sleeping loft. While I did use a power circular saw, everything else was by hand. I laid the brick and stonework on the house. The smaller barn and cabin were framed and sheeted with recycled lumber that I brought home from work and rescued from the incinerator, I even straightened all the nails and reused them. Designed, built and set the trusses all by myself. Exciting to take a project from an idea, to a sketch, then to more detailed drawings, and see the final project come to a finally which can be used and enjoyed for many, many years.

  7. My first project when I got re-interested in wood working was to build a 10×12 garden shed very much like this one. Took me months by myself but was very satisfying when done. It now has electricity, a Sellers/Aldren Watson workbench and wall tool rack. Tired of looking at bare stud walls so next will be insulation and wall paneling.

  8. Stephen McGonigle

    An enjoyable and informative post as ever Paul. I’ve a similar project planned for next spring.

    Can you give advice or possibly do a short tutorial on using a saw wrest please? I have a couple of these simple looking tools but little idea on how they are used.

    I hope you don’t mind me asking on this post, but I was unsure how to ask otherwise.

    Oh, and picked I blackberries in my garden in Cheadle Hulme this morning. I also went to the tip at Adswood which I think is on the site of the old brickworks.

  9. Mr Martin Streat

    I know you are an untirable worker but you somehow missed to mention who came to help you had lifting the trusses and ply onto the frame? One old man and a garage door in the wind.? Why are they secret?

      1. Well done then Mr Paul! (I blame auto text)
        But you mind balancing on a stepladder by yourself. Dont want your next blog done from A&E. Get that son of yours to help you. Mine helped me and it was good bonding. He bashed in the nails as my old body is well knackered. PS worried how you will get to the roof on the far side with all junk about and a fence so close.

        1. Then I’ll leave you to do the unnecessary worrying while ~I just get on with the work.

          1. Lol. You sound like my father in law. In his late 60s, it was not uncommon to find him 30 feet up straddling a rafter or on a high pitch roof doing some work. It was my wife who worried about her father up that high and often alone.

  10. Pardon if I made hard work of construction seem foolish. I hesitated at first before using the word “fun” but as an amateur who really does enjoy the process the same way I enjoy playing games, at times I do feel a little foolish for perhaps “wasting” my time on activities instead of working on my career (although I think programming and research is fun too, but there is more to work than just the enjoyable stuff). Call me naive, or spoiled, but gosh darnit, I enjoy it too much! I want it to be apart of my life. (I also believe learning different things improves your other skills/talents but that’s another conversation).

    1. Ah! Now there is a word I really like to use a lot; Enjoyment! I like fulfilling too. No reason not to use fun, either, Brent. Go for it.

  11. As kids we used to ride bikes all over town(back when kids did stuff outside). We would sometime ride to the creek and there were blackberries growing alongside the water. We would stop and set down bikes and eat blackberries. I guess as kids you kind of have fantasies about living off the land out in the wilderness when doing stuff like this, even though you are really only a couple miles from home. But that is what blackberries always remind me of.

  12. Seems to me Paul you love the writing as much as the work,
    I’ve got to say I love reading reading them look forward to the books

  13. Christopher J. Tomas

    I’ve been engaged in building a small cottage in Northern Wisconsin for some years now. After working 6 to 9 days straight I return to Milwaukee totally spent, but elated with a sense of accomplishment. This is extremely satisfying for me!
    This usually includes cutting trails in my six acres of prairie and forest.
    For me the key word is accomplishment…But that can be fun, certainly enjoyable!
    Words can be misunderstood, everyone has their own perception of reality and subjectivity…I really love numbers…Design, figuring and measurement!

  14. Are the Spear and Jackson professional tenon saws of the same quality as the panel saw you mentioned? I’m currently trying to find a good starter tenon saw and its a bit daunting with all the different makers I have never heard of.

    The shed is coming along nicely! Hopefully the weather brightens up a bit for you.

  15. Hello Paul,
    I’ve been following your work for a few years now, mostly bench-work, learning the joints and techniques. Now, I want to build a summer house, but I wondered if you could suggest how to start please. The techniques seem very different to bench work. What kind of joints do you use for the frames and roof? Nailing, screwing and fixing plates all seem a bit crude after bench joinery. Would you consider sharing your plans, with a few hints on the joints, door and window framing, etc. I would be very interested to know what you recommend.

  16. Paul. You mention using tin for the shed roof and, knowing how you work, I’m sure you will have weighed up all pros and cons before deciding on this.
    I replaced my leaking shed roof a little while ago using Onduline corrugated bitumen roofing sheets (from Wickes) and found them to be a great alternative to other materials. They were straightforward to install and provide good thermal and sound insulation. Wouldn’t use anything else now. Just thought I’d mention.
    Best wishes.

  17. Paul I like the way you balanced the roof pitch of the shed with the pitch of the house, leaves a nice shape in between.
    An artists studio for writing and illustrating, sounds like an enjoyable and contemplative place to retire to.
    Paul this shed you’re building, will it translate into a master class project.
    In any case, thanks as this is a project I must use for a workshop and so I can get out of the garage.


  18. I truly enjoy work when it is done with my hands – better still when my hands and brain work in concert – best is when the mistakes are few and the damage to my hands is minimal. I agree the word “fun” isn’t the word, but I truly think he intended the word “enjoy” or even “fulfilling” – at least in the states we’ve lost connection to the meanings of many words. This bothers me deeply as a seasoned writer in addition to a burgeoning woodworker. I did enjoy the reply though, of setting the record straight.
    I have your tome and companion DVD and am better for it. Thank you for the continued free to us guidance.

  19. Steven Newman/Bandit571

    Been there, done that, threw the T-shirts away….

    The thing I remember the most about picking those berries…..Hornets also like them….had to fight for my share….

    Anything from new front porch, to building factories, and even Schools…until I got too old to play in concrete….

  20. I’m enjoying this build, I have a shed, bought it, my wife balked at me building one and my right arm spent a fair amount of time in a sling. The shed isn’t a commercial one sold by a big box store, they are over priced, poorly built junk, it’s an Amish built with treated 4 X 4 floor joists 16 inches on center, treated plywood floor, not OSB, 2 X 4 stud walls 16 inches on center clad in plywood, 2 X 4 trusses clad in ply with a coated steel roof, 2 windows that do open and close.
    Over the last 5 years I’ve had 2 shoulder surgeries, a wrist replacement, 6 injections in my lower back and arthroscopic surgery on a knee, building something like a shed is a bit dicey but I’m slowly building up a collection of woodworking hand tools and hope to have a shop in the basement by the first of the year. I’m looking forward to making some projects I’ve had in the back of my head and you’re a part of my doing it. Thank you for sharing your expertise and thoughts!

  21. Edmund Sergeant

    Fantastic project! May I recommend that you consider rock wool for the insulation? It is an old solution, but far more durable than the pink fiberglass stuff and it doesn’t get ruined if it gets wet, unlike fiberglass. A century ago rock wool was the only insultation used in finer homes and after living in a damp climate I am just not convinced that fiberglass is really an improvement. I also believe that rock wool is more flame resistant as well. Just a thought. Can’t wait to see this thing completed! A great job.

  22. Never built a shed from scratch, but have repaired several. Recently had to replace a rotten joist on our summer house. Was at the back, so I cut through the floorboard nails using a metal blade in a jigsaw. Was then able to pull out the old one. Then tapped a new one in place. Others looked OK, but to be safe I tapped 2 more new ones along the length of it. Not sure how old it is, but it is the second time I have repaired it in 20 years. Inherited it when we moved in.

    I tend to put cross bearers under shed joists (fence posts) extends the life of the joists. Unfortunately, in this case the joists sit directly on concrete slabs.The cost of the repair was £3 for tanalised off cuts from a fencing contractor, some wood preserver I already had plus a few screws and nails. I also replaced the bottom board for £5. The only tanalised one I could find was overlap rather than T & G so i did use my router to create a rebate that created a tongue to fit the existing board.

    Hopefully, this will give it another 20 years. I suspect that it is at least 40 years old.

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