Cottage Guide Rafters

Our ancestors were too busy to leave us the instruction booklet on building cottages, but we have templates aplenty in ruined dwellings and byres.

We’ve come to realise that old buildings have definite standard sizes and shapes – this is confirmed by measuring the pitch of our 300 yr old byre – 36 degrees again.

A wall plate is screwed down into stone then gaps are filled with Lime.

There was a short debate about whether or not to use damp proofing between timber and stone – the verdict was to ‘go commando’.

A captivating moment – the true shape of our gable is about to be drawn against the sky.

Especially important when building a rough-hewn yoke of a cottage like this is to ‘balance’ both wall plates. They should be fixed in perfect parallel (left) in case of a discrepancy between gable widths. (3 inches here!)

A ‘bird’s mouth’ is the niche cut into a  guide rafter (right) which slots onto the wall plate.

But due to a stone which sits too broad here, they can’t connect.  Kieran remarks (not for the first time): ‘Whoever doubts the strength of Lime should try taking a stone off.’  

It is tough stuff yet remains workable insofar it can be chipped away by hand using a sharp tool years after it has set, then reused as fill.

I just love it when the guys ‘make it fit’.

7 thoughts on “Cottage Guide Rafters

  1. Louise, it is looking fantastic. Kierán and the boys are doing some job. I can’t wait to see the roof going on. exciting times.

  2. I LOVE this blog! I love the building & the awesome guys doing the work! We are starting up a natural building teaching centre, OzEarth (and TazEarth) across the world in Tasmania: I trained in lime in Devon, in earth buildings in California, and all the rest picking it up here and there along the way: strawclay, lime-crete, Rocket stove mass heaters, cob… we love it all. I’m originally from Ireland and this blog makes my soul sing! Heaps of love, Chloe. oxoxxo

  3. Hi Chloe – very nice to hear from you. Don’t be thinking the awesome guys are doing ALL the work – I too build, admittedly a wee bit wonkily sometimes..
    I just had a look at your site and see we share a few passions! It’s great to see your co-operative ethos of ‘we can build it for you, but actually we’d rather not’. After we finish our cottage we hope to do some collective projects in stone – involving restoration of (yet more) crumbling cottages or perhaps an old harbour wall.
    Thanks for your support and may the ‘wild learning spree’ never end.

  4. Louise,
    Reference the constant proportions you are finding in the houses, have a look at ”Buildings of the Scottish Countryside” by Robert J Naismith, particularly pages 139-146.
    The book is a mine of info on building styles, many will be repeated in Ireland.

    1. Thanks Nick – I see in one review that book ‘is based on a sample survey involving visits to over 23,000 sites all over Scotland. Systematic field-work, as the introduction claims, led to systematic analysis.’ Pretty comprehensive! Well illustrated? A few Irish (much smaller) surveys I‘ve looked at seem to be rich on features & typology – but poor on actual measurements – any excuse to delve around in ruins with a tape measure.

      1. There are tons of illustrations in the book, details of roofing, porches, windows etc etc – and good maps to show where the buildings are.
        I recommend the book.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s