Recently a customer called to talk to me about a woodworking project and asked if I have ever built a bell frame. I told him, “No, but I am pretty sure that no one else you are going to find around here has either.” That may not have instilled much confidence, but I got the job anyway (it may have also helped that he was a friend of a friend).
My customer gave the bell to his wife for their anniversary. It was made in 1908 and weighs about 450 lbs. The bell and the new headstock and wheel all came from Whitechapel bell foundry in England, makers of Big Ben and the Liberty Bell.
The frame is made of walnut, which is very durable outside, and is mounted on a slab of granite from New Hampshire. I was able to get all of the major parts from one log that was perfectly suited for the job. It was straight-grained on one end, which I used for the feet and top rails, and it was curved on the other end, which I used for the four legs. I loved using the sawmill to cut the thick lumber and chainsaw to do the rough work.
One of the most enjoyable parts of this job was being able to start with a log, and in a short time end up with a finished piece.
I have been working on a project for a year or so,nestled in the rolling hills of Augusta (MO) on 200 acres of land that makes me question going home at night. After all (I ponder), if I had a tent I wouldn’t need to drive all the way home just to drive all the way back in the morning. There is a never-ending chunk of woods surrounding a never-fished pond at the end of a never-seen-before creek bed. I picture myself catching fish for dinner and sleeping off the aches of a long day alongside the crackling fire. Of course, I come ill-prepared to camp and don’t really have permission to do so, but I think about it – then head home.
Now that winter has rolled around, I think less about camping and fishing and more about the project at hand, and it is a good thing now that it is finally coming together. There have been a few bumps in the road, but it is on track again and it is time to show some photos. Everyone I talk to has heard about the “Augusta Project”, and I am sure that they are starting to wonder if there really is such a project. Well, I have proof now.
The “Augusta Project” is a timber-frame house that is being built with an earth-friendly approach, though the homeowners aren’t going out of their way to get any particular green certification. I got in on the action through the architect, Dan Hellmuth, from Hellmuth & Bicknesse. I worked with Dan a couple of years ago on a project for Washington University, where the Living Learning Center was crowned one of the greenest buildings in the country. This job has much less paperwork (none, to this point), but I am doing very similar work.
So far, I have been contracted to harvest the trees and manufacture specific products for the building. The exterior decking is made from 5/4 thick white oak and is the first finished product that has been delivered to the job site. The land has a lot of nice white oaks (some that I can actually get to) that I felled, milled, dried and then had molded by Fehlig Brothers in St. Louis. The material was profiled with grooves down both sides to receive hidden fasteners. I have also cut a lot of cedars which are going to become the siding for the parts of the house not covered in stone. There was also a mix of hard maple, hickory and ash that I milled for purposes yet undetermined.
I cannot take credit for the major installed work to this point, which is the timber frame being installed by Trillium Dell Timber Framers. It is made from Douglas Fir and mostly cut in the shop, though some of the trickier cuts are being done on site. I snapped some photos this week of the frame, which is almost done. Be sure to enjoy the view! Click on the photos to enlarge.