The Goose Palace
Or, The Substack Builds a Barn
Much to say and write lately, but even more to do. In fact, dear friends, together we are going to build a Goose Palace.
It will be a timber framed (or “post and beam”, or “post and bean” if you are my baby) structure, 12x16 feet with a loft, and a roof of wooden shingles. The largest timbers are themselves 8x8 inches, 16 feet long. Since they are freshly cut they weigh several hundred pounds. I move them around on pivots and rollers.
This project is somewhat confounded by the fact that I do not know how to timber frame.
This alone, of course, is a good reason to do it. I could start with small or piecemeal projects, but I think the best learning usually involves a certain amount of gravity or meaning in the project, even if the mistakes are more costly.
I call this the Goose Palace because it will be in effect a small barn for geese and other birds. But such a home for them could be done much more cheaply and easily with stick framing, an asphalt shingle roof, plywood, cement blocks, etc. Instead their home will be magnificent. If it is not a folly, perhaps it will outlive me.
Every old building that we admire for its beauty and longevity was the work of someone’s hand. But it is one thing to see the springs of the machine, it is another to work them. Like with software or the other arts, it can be difficult to appreciate the magnitude of something, or the care with which it was made, until you try to make it yourself. So I create this building to better ponder them all.
I will be following someone else’s plan, an old design. Like with designing my home, I rely on tradition to fill the gaps in my own knowledge, only this time I am building too. I would someday wish to design and build a whole cottage, but this is many years off.
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I say together we are going to build the Goose Palace because subscriptions to my newsletter have covered the purchase of these timbers. So if you are a paying subscriber I thank you for your contribution to this art.
Of course it will take more than money. Love and effort create beautiful things, and I take vacation time here to get things done in an acceptable timeframe.
The cost, so far, is $2,118.40 for the timbers and roofing boards. I still need to purchase siding boards, flooring, cedar roof shingles (particularly pricey, but particularly beautiful), wooden pegs, and nails. I already have granite (miraculously, for free), which I have split into pieces for a foundation, and a large reclaimed granite piece purchased last year ($200) that I will use for the front step.
This is not an anachronistic project—I have nothing against power tools. I am using an electric drill and circular saw in addition to my chisels and pull-saws. Though I will not use a nailer, because I do not own one, and because it feels more fitting to affix each nail by hand, even on the roof.
What will it look like? We will both have to wait and see. Timber framing—especially as a novice working alone—requires a little faith. All the while I saw and chisel, but there is no visible progress on the building site, until at last the day of raising. But I’m a ways off from that still. I will write to you again, then.
Feel free to ask questions, of course. In a few weeks I hope to have better answers.
Part 2 — Building the Goose Palace