Monthly Archives: April 2014

Smoko – shed building

Okay, so quickly while I’m having a cuppa, an update on the block:

At every given opportunity for the last couple of months, I have been stretching my mental faculties, skill levels and muscles building a new shed.

Long story short, it began as a simple 10m2 design, with a 10m2 veranda but quickly escalated into an earth-covered 80-100m2 design, incorporating a reciprocal roof. Well, at least on paper it has. I have many moments of doubts about my ability to carry it off, particularly as I pretty much do it all on my own and there are some seriously heavy pieces of timber involved (and lots of them), but nevertheless I have been slowly plodding forward, and now have all bar 3 of my poles cut and several rafters.

I’d consider myself reasonably proficient with a lot of tools, but am definitely an amateur when it comes to carpentry, and so I have spent a lot of time researching online and talking on the phone to a builder mate asking him to picture it in his head and answer my complicated questions. I even had some advice from a fella in Dorset. There is a lot of stuff about reciprocal structures around. This bloke ( is by far my main inspiration as his ragamuffin approach to his “hobbit” house construction remind me of me (i.e. I know I should debark my poles and beams before installing them, but I look at them all [we’re talking a total of some 200m+ of structural wood here, all taken from the bush around the site – within 20m of it in fact], and I look at how many other jobs I’ve got to get done, and I think (excuse my french, Gran) ‘fuck it, I like the rustic look…!’).

Anyway, for all the information that is out there, I find myself needing more, and being unable to find it I am working it out for myself. I have some factors influencing my design:

  • I have a budget of almost zero. With the exception of some fasteners (threaded rod, washers and bolts and a bucket of batten screws), and almost certainly the waterproofing (probably plastic sheeting), I need to spend no money on this, because we have none.
  • The site is beneath a fork in a very seasonal creek, so that it has a banked wall on 3 sides of it (east, south and west) with a creek on the other side. I plan to use this on the east and west to determine my roof width, so that it will drain into the creeks. I’m still pondering drainage for the south side.
  • No budget means no excavator to level the site, just a mattock, so I am building on fairly wildly fluctuating floor levels. This is a total nightmare when it comes to getting pole heights right for the roof.
  • No budget means no concrete, so poles are going straight in the ground.
  • There is only myself to do the build, though now and again T can help move a particularly big piece of timber.

There are probably others that will come to mind, but one more big factor is this: I started building before I started planning properly, or rather I was planning something else when I first started building, so for a good solar passive design I have my north wall at 3.1m high whereas my south wall is only 2.3m. Here’s an example of a question that goes round my head: If my roof peak is at 3.6m high, and 1.2m from my 3.1m high wall (that’s a 22.5 degree pitch), and the pole I’m trying to work out the height of is 4.3m from the peak, but on ground that, as far as I can tell not owning a laser level, is about 840mm higher than the ground the 3.1m wall is on, how high should the bloody pole be?! And I’ve got 22 poles in this building, and every single one of them needs the above question answered, all with different variables of course.

Here is my most excellent blueprint:


Those who zoom in may get confused until they understand my clever system of combining both metric and imperial measurements (in order to draw a bigger scale plan that still fit on my graph paper), and graphs with a right-to-left axis. Okay, so it wasn’t very clever (the pole-length question above actually has another element in it – if my plan shows the pole in question is 3.2 inches away from the reference point, how many mm is that so I can check the meter length on my right-to-left axis height-working-out-thingamajig – almost certainly then misreading, say, 3.5 for 2.5).

Here is a picture of my tool kit. Everything will be built with what is in the wheelbarrow, with heavy emphasis on chainsaw, hammer and chisel.


And here is the site as it was a few days ago. There’s a fair few more poles in, hole points marked and cut timber lying up there presently, and the pieces lying across the roof space are a relic of the skillion roof I originally planned and no longer there.


I’ll try to give updates, and plan to do a how-I-did-it step-by-step guide for other penniless crazy bastards out there.

There’s lots more I should have said – how I’ll do the floor for one (dunno, maybe floating, maybe with a reciprocal frame also, maybe compressed dirt…cheap ideas anyone?), but typing blogs isn’t getting timbers prepared and mind boggling mathematics worked out, so I’m back into it.

If you have any questions…comment on the blog and ask them! It might motivate me to write a bit more often.