curved rafters

Vardo Rafter Raising

I am grateful to all the Tiny House Helpers who spent their Memorial Day weekend giving shape to the Lucky Penny. Special thanks to Angela Ramseyer of Mighty Micro Built who made the trip down from Whidbey Island to be my right-hand-woman for the weekend, Chris Robison who spent three whole days helping, and to Randy, Tony, Audrey and Tomas who committed two days of their holiday weekend. My tiny house on wheels is well on its way!

My SIPs Wall Raising was on Friday. On Saturday we applied My Tiny House Air Barrier and put up one of the walls of my build buddy Laura’s tiny house. Yesterday we raised the rafters for the Lucky Penny and raised another of Laura’s walls. Today we put the skylight box into place and prepped the beadboard sheets for installation.

I knew that Sunday would require some noodling as we figured out the spot for the birdsmouths, the scribing for the skylight box, and the spacing of the rafters (since they couldn’t be quite even). My roof is fairly complex because I have both curved rafters and skylights. Fortunately, I had lots of help and plenty of sounding boards. Everyone played a role in getting my roof overhead.

On Sunday Aline finished up the spot sanding on the rafters to remove scuffmarks and Randy and Anita sealed the rafters with a clear sealer. (I’d already sanded and sealed the rafters, but they were jostled around enough between then and now that they needed a little more TLC.) Angela scribed the rafter curve onto the skylight box and made the cuts with a jigsaw. Tony and I worked together to figure out the placement of the birdsmouths and to map out the rafter layout on the top plate. Tony and Angela, who have both built themselves tiny houses on wheels, were a great help as I figured out how to take the ideas that were in my head and my sketch book and manifest them in three dimensions in the real world.

We had just put the rafters up when the wind and rain kicked up and we realized we would be rained out. So we threw the tarp over the top of the Lucky Penny and secured it down all around. Aline and Tony buzzed up to the Ace Hardware in St. John’s to pick up four more tarps to cover my door and windows. Once we’d battened down the hatches we headed to Proper Eats where a few other tiny housers joined us for dinner. It was a very celebratory atmosphere, especially because amongst us there are three tiny houses in the works and several of the other tiny houses have recently found great parking spots!

Today Tony, Chris, and I secured My Arched Rafters into place with Timbertite screws. This involved drilling a pilot hole followed by a larger hole to countersink the screw head. Supposedly we didn't need to predrill but enough of us had put time into the rafters by this point we wanted to be careful with them! We ratcheted the Timbertite into place with an impact driver fitted with a 5/16" hex head. Once the rafters were secure, Miles, Matthew, and Rebecca helped hoist the skylight box into place. Fortunately, Angela did a great job with her scribing and cutting so the skylight box lined up nicely with the rafters that were placed to support it. We secured the skylight box into the rafters with more Timbertites.

Meanwhile, Matthew and Rebecca worked on reversing the swing of My Arched Door and Audrey and Tomas put a layer of sealer on the beadboard sheets. I’d considered using true beadboard the way Katy Anderson does for her vardos, but the sheet good seemed like it would be quick and lightweight. We had started to put the beadboard in place when I realized that the staples weren’t holding well enough. I wanted to keep working, but I decided it would be best to tarp everything up well and call it a day. Or rather, call it a couple weeks. I’m going to have to let the Lucky Penny sit for a couple weekends because I’ll be out of town and leading a Guided Tour for Portland’s ADU Tour.

Fortunately, I already have some Tiny House Helpers lined up for the weekend of June 14-15 and a couple more for the weekend of June 20-21. If you’d like to join in on the fun, please contact me. If you can’t make it out to help, but you’d like to Support the Lucky Penny, you can contribute via The Lucky Penny Wish List or send me notes of encouragement on Facebook. Thanks everyone!

P.S. Lots more photos to come!


Planing My Curved Rafters


Evan shows off the first planed rafter Waaay back in March, I began Building My Arched Rafters for my gypsy wagon, The Lucky Penny. I was able to borrow a jig from the uber talented Katy Anderson. Katy is a woodcrafter extraordinaire (who is currently building a vardo for Dee Williams which she’ll be taking on her book tour for The Big Tiny!) Laminating the ¼” strips of mixed grain fir on the jig was a neat process. (If you’d like to learn how you can do it yourself, check out the Vardo Plan Set from Portland Alternative Dwellings!)

even when I was good about pressing the strips into the jig, they were pretty rough

I’d never done any lamination before so I learned a lot through trial-and-error. I found there were two particularly important things to remember:

First, it’s important to prep your workspace because once you start gluing up the rafters you have to keep moving. Even the Titebond III glue has a fairly short open time. (That means it starts sticking quickly so you have to get things positioned just how you want them before it’s too late!)

Second, if you aren’t really good about pressing the fir strips down (in addition to clamping them against the jig), you end up with quite a bit of variation along the edges of the rafters. I didn't consider this at all on the first rafter I built and it was all kinds of cattywampus! On the second one I remembered to press down at the middle but didn't realize it was important to do this all the way to the edges. With two trial rafters under my belt I caught on and made the rest of them much better. However, even on the best ones, when my rafters were all glued up there was probably about a ¼” worth of variation from the low point to the high point on each side.

Gabriel, Mike, and Evan helping me plane my curved rafters - thanks, fellas!

Fortunately, the Breathe Building, the Living Building Challenge project I'm working on, had just purchased a planer. We’ve salvaged the wood that was removed from the North Building and we’ll be milling it down to use as interior finishes throughout the new facility. When I told Mike about my project he suggested we use my rafters to test out the new planer.

So yesterday afternoon my coworkers Mike, Gabriel, and Evan spent a couple hours helping me plane my rafters down so that they’re smooth on both sides. We all oohed and ahhed when the first one came through the planer. They are bee-a-you-tee-full! It was fun getting into a rhythm with the team and making the magic happen thanks to a really great tool. Both the machine and its operators get two thumbs up from yours truly! I can’t wait to see what all the wood in the Breathe Building looks like when it’s done...