New M&T Shop Building: Granite Foundation


Now that Issue Three is at the printer and my edits to the Fisher book are complete, Mike and I have begun getting things ready for the new M&T shop frame to arrive on the 18th. We started the morning staring at a pile of granite foundation blocks. We gathered small log rounds, pry bars, and all other manner of tools to muscle the 100 linear feet of granite into place on the gravel pad. After we got a few pieces in place, a stone mason friend of mine, Ken stopped over on a lead from a neighbor. He showed up to generously share his experience and knowledge of the finer points of moving large stone. With his help, we made pretty quick work of it.

We squared up the corners and began fine tuning the straight lines by the end of the day. At that point, we began shooting ideas around for the best way to determine level on these blocks. As the words were still in our mouths, another good friend of mine, Adam drove up and shouted, “Hey! What are you guys doing?” “Building a new shop. Come over and help!”

After parking his truck, Adam joined in our planning session and announced that he has an antique transit that we could use. “Do you want me to go get it?” he asked. Are you kidding me? Of course!

 

Adam drove up the road to his house to retrieve the transit and immediately set it up on site. I’ve never seen one of these things at work. Pretty cool. Within 15 minutes, we had level measured on all four corners. Tomorrow (in the rain, probably) Mike and I will level the blocks and put the few remaining in place. Once the blocks are leveled, we will build a conventionally-framed deck that the shop will sit on. We’ve got to hustle because the 18th is not that far away!

 

As we work on this part of the project, Luke Larson and his crew at Green Mountain Timber Frames have been restoring the frame. The 24’ x 26’ beech and chestnut hand-hewn frame was built in Pawlet, Vermont around the year 1800. In the 1980s, it was given to a local Grange to use as their meeting hall. There was a lot of gutting work done at that time but no one messed with the frame.

 

About a year ago, Luke purchased the house (read his blog entry about it here) and he and his crew carefully disassembled it for restoration. The frame was in great shape with the exception of the rafters and ridge beam, which suffered fire and leak damage. When I found out about this frame and discussed it with Luke, he asked what I'd like to replace the rafters with. I told him I wanted old material, as close to the original roof system as possible. He did some digging and came up with a five-sided pine ridge beam almost the exact same size as well as round cedar rafters from a barn in Addison, Vt. virtually identical to the original. He and his crew have replicated the original roof system using these reclaimed materials. They’ve taken great care to leave the original surfaces unmarred. They’ve also de-nailed and washed all the 1-1/4”-thick sheathing. As Luke put it, “There is nothing like the patina of old boards.” Totally agree.

 

The old stock roof sheathing was then laid out for optimum placement and labeled. This will make reattaching this sheathing after the frame is raised a breeze. They’ve also added collar ties to the gable ends and braces on the first floor to strengthen the frame even more.

Mike and I are beside ourselves excited about this frame. We plan to leave the interior unfinished with roughsawn old boards and the frame completely exposed. All the insulation will be built on the outside of the frame and then exterior sheathing attached to that. From the inside, it will look like an 18th-century workshop in all its rough-hewn glory. I’ve also purchased a pile of antique window sashes (with wavy glass) that we will be using.

Besides a quick trip down to do a presentation at the Yale Furniture Study this Friday, this is the rest of our year. We will be working on this over the winter, hoping to be completely moved in by spring. We’ll see.

 

This is to be the new M&T headquarters. In this shop, our magazine will be created, our videos will be filmed, and our workshops will take place. As goofy as it sounds, this is a dream come true. This frame exceeds all my hopes for a little shop of my own on my property.

 

We will be documenting this project extensively, so if antique timber frame restoration is something you’re interested in, follow along here and on our Instagram page. It promises to be a fun ride.