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May 2014

As we moved into May, it was time to get the roof on. On paper the theory is fine, however working with timber above head height with children adds a complexity to the logistics and safety aspects that require careful consideration. Tasks needed to be age appropriate, group size appropriate and the safety briefing had to be adjusted accordingly.

Roofing timbers were measured by the children on the structure using a long easily manipulated piece of hazel. This was then laid on the ground as a measuring stick and potential rafters were offered up and prepared one at a time. A tripod was constructed using square lashing at the apex. The tripod could define the finished roof apex by adjusting the pitch of the the tripod's legs. Once the tripod was in place, a stoud hazel cross piece was created (a little like a cart wheel without a complete rim) so that each rafter could be secured just below the apex. With the children working as a team, each prepared timber was presented to the ringbeam and pushed into it's final position. Held in position, the rafter could be securely fixed to the ringbeam and the top cross piece.


Magda enjoying some fresh air.


Mrs Knowles sorting out the long timbers


Buiding the small cross piece to secure the apex


Hazel cross members forming the extended porch

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Here you can see the temporary tripod to rest rafters on until they can support each other. In the centre is suspended the cross piece to which each rafter will be secured. In the image on the right you can see one rafter in position. This was notched into the ring  beam, timber tied at the ring beam level, then fixed to the cross piece at the apex.


Adam working with Year 5 to secure hazel to the porch roof


Here you can see the second rafter in position on the left

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  By the end of the day we had made great progress. The porch roof was ready for weaving with more slender hazel or wilow prior to thatching and two rafters were in place, ready to receive the remaining 14!

This week the weather was dreadful. Jerome arrive early to put the parachute over the structure to keep off the worst of the torrential rain and strong winds. Despite this the decision was made not to include the children this week. This was partly as cold wet children do not generally engage with the work, but also for safety reasons - we were going to be working on parts of the roof and as the wood was wet and slippy it would be sfaer and easier to manage with just the adults.

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                        Here you can see the cross piece, and hazel square in place at the apex.


Here is Jerome showing off / testing the structure - it depends on whether you ask Adam or Jerome! 

We had an entertaining day resolving the structure at the apex of the roof. Cable ties were used in the first instance as a quick and safe way to secure timbers in place until permanent fixings could be fitted. Each of the four principal rafters were secured to the apex cross piece, and to each other at the very top. Once this was done, the supporting tripod could be removed as the roof was self-supporting. Finally four lengths of hazel were secured in a square around the outside of the rafters. This was rather 'belt and braces' but ensured there was no flexing or twisting at the apex. At this point the remaining rafters had a stable and secure structure to be fitted to. It took about 5 minures to measure, cut, and fix in place the fifth rafter, so we expect the rest will be equally quick and much more straighforward to do with the children.

Once again the weather was determined to make life difficult for us at the end of May. Despite this, through torrential downpours we managed to complete and secure the 16 roof timbers. Each rafter from a column top was secured at the apex and to the central frame. Each intermediate rafter was cut slightly shorter and secured to the central frame. This prevented the apex becoming too crowded.

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Once the rafters were in place, a piece of string was used to mark a roughly level line for them to be cut to length. Some were already the correct length (or a little short) but most were fitted deliberately long and needed trimming.

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The final job for the day was to secure the lowest hazel horizontal bar between the rafters. This was screwed into place with 75mm screws as it was bent between each rafter end. This was to serve as a ladder rung for older children to continue wrapping or weaving hazel on the roof.

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Loading up with hazel and willow for a day's hard graft.

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The view from the roof with Mrs Knowles.