Firewood Shed

Woodwork Jan 8, 2022

It was a relief to arrive back at camp with my tent and wood stove still intact.

I had a tent, a big pile of lumber under a tarp, and no other level ground. While there was a lot of burnable wood close by, including the whole upper part of the oak tree I'd just cut down, none of it was cut up. And there was no level ground to cut anything up or store it on.

I just so happened to have an extra sheet of plywood at the camp, and about 9 2x4s. So I went to work leveling ground and building.

Should you start with the top or the bottom of a building?
I ended up doing both at once.

It took a bit of digging. And some mud pie making. Not to mention just moving away all the stuff on top of the soil and the bark and stuff I'd thrown there from earlier. Working as a painter for years has its perks. I've collected a few buckets. I found the big, black pot on the other side of the hill.

It's hard to tell which way is uphill and which ways is downhill because it changes everywhere. I remembered to bring a string line and level to at least try to make things level.

It's good to keep varying your tasks.

Get bored with something....throw it down....pick up something else...come back to it later.

That's how I ended up transplanting trees up the hill. Hopefully they will take. They've got a better chance there of growing tall there than down in the crowded woods.

After some string lining I discovered what I thought to be a point level with my tent. I dug down to that point and back to the perimeter line I'd made earlier. And I built up to that level starting at the bottom. There's a lot of leveling left to do, but I did enough for the woodshed and even an area to work next to it.

Rather than just build the shed for winter survival, I made it an exercise in hand cut lap joints, with saw and chisel.

It was sort of hard work, but not compared to carrying stones up from the creek, or digging, or fixing the trail, or cutting firewood, etc.

I cut the one 4x4 I had in half, for the front of the shed. Then I worked out the joinery to fit with the roof sloping down a foot from top to bottom. This gave me a full 4x8 sheet of plywood for the roof.

I laid it all out and cut everything to fit.

I had just enough time to get everything screwed into place when I had to leave to join the family for Christmas back home. Looked like a manger scene.

When I got back to camp after Christmas, I was ready to burn the shed...just about. I'll explain soon.

I had to take the shed completely apart.

But before doing that, I did some final positioning and leveling of the rocks, then I scribed the bottom of each post to the rock underneath.

Then I took the whole thing apart.

Makes you wonder if you're actually getting anywhere...but it's all part of the process.

I wanted to keep the wood dry for the next step. It rained a lot that trip.

After sawing and chiseling out the bottoms of the posts, I was ready to burn.

I mean, after I went out and collected some more long branches and made a drying rack, I was ready.

Raw linseed oil brushed on while the board is still warm from the fire.

This was really fun.

I tried to burn the top pieces a little better, since they'll always be out in the elements.

The boards were mostly covered by a tarp overhead, but some rain still found its way to the boards overnight.

I was happy to see the water beading up like that. It means they are really waterproof...at least for right now.

Before I put the shed together the next day, I did some more digging and building up around the foundation. Easier to do with the shed out of the way.

It's hard to see in the picture, but a little oil was squeezed out when I drove in the screws. It's a good sign that the oil has really penetrated the board.

The shed went back up pretty easily. And my scribed posts even fit mostly. I'm excited about that.

There was water building up, up above the shed, so I dug a trench to let it flow out. I also built up around the foundation with all the clay I was digging up.

Good clean mud and clay

At this point it was raining almost continuously and water was flowing everywhere. I carried a large, flat stone up from the creek to use as a doorstep. And I put some wood across the little drainage ditch to make it possible to move around in the wet muck.

I eventually finished roughly sewing a tarp cover that goes around the boards that stick out of the roof.
But it was time to go, after packing up and making some trips back up the hill to the car in the rain. The rain kept me from taking a final picture, too.

I can't really explain this project. I could have done something much simpler, with much less work, if I just wanted to make a little storage shed. But this is also a sort of prototype or experiment for scribing posts, using linseed oil, using dirt and stones, etc. I'm curious to see how these 2x4s will hold up over time. I got a feel for the soil and clay and am inspired to make some cobb structures someday. So there is actually a lot that I got out of it, besides a wood storage place.

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Joseph Shamis

Joseph Shamis is a recovering academic.

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