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Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties > Make a Sawed-Lumber Shanty

Make a Sawed-Lumber Shanty


Before we proceed any further it may be best to give the plan of a workshop, a camp, an outhouse, or a shed to be made of sawed lumber, the framework of which is made of what is known as two-by-fours, that is, pieces of lumber two inches thick by four inches wide. The plans used here are from my book "The Jack of All Trades," but the dimensions may be altered to suit your convenience. The sills, which are four inches by four inches, are also supposed to be made by nailing two two-by-fours together. First stake out your foundation and see that the corners are square, that is, at right angles, and test this with a tape or ruler by measuring six feet one way and eight feet the other from a corner along the proposed sides of the house marking these points. If a ten-foot rod will reach exactly across from point to point, the corner is square and you may dig your post-holes.

The Foundation

You may use a foundation of stones or a series of stone piles, but if you use stones and expect your house to remain plumb where the winters are severe you must dig holes for them at least three feet deep in order to go below the frost-line. Fill these holes with broken stone, on top of which you can make your pile of stones to act as support for the sills; but the simplest method is to use posts of locust, cedar, or chestnut; or, if this is too much trouble, pack the dirt tightly, drain it well by making it slope away from the house in every direction, and lay your foundation sills on the level earth. In that case you had better use chestnut wood for the sills; spruce will rot very quickly in contact with the damp earth and pine will not last long under the same circumstances.

All through certain sections of this country there are hundreds of humble dwellings built upon "mudsills," in other words, with no foundation or floor but the bare ground.

We will suppose that you have secured some posts about two feet six inches long with good, flat ends. The better material you can obtain the trimmer and better will be the appearance of your house, but a house which will protect you and your tools may be made of the roughest lumber.

The plans here drawn will answer for the rough or fine material, but we suppose that medium material is to be used. It will be taken for granted that the reader is able to procure enough two-by-four-inch timber to supply studs, ribs, purlins, rafters, beams, and posts for the frame shown in Fig. 49. Two pieces of four-by-four-inch timber each fifteen feet long should be made for sills by nailing two-by-fours together. Add to this some tongue-and-grooved boarding or even rough boards for sides and roof, some enthusiasm, and good American pluck and the shop is almost as good as built.

First lay the foundation, eight by fifteen feet, and then you may proceed to dig your post-holes. The outside of the posts should be flush or even with the outside edges of the sills and end beams of the house as shown in the diagram. If there are four posts on each of the long sides they should be equal distances apart.

Dig the holes three feet deep, allowing six inches of the posts to protrude above ground. If you drive two stakes a short distance beyond the foundation in line with your foundation lines and run a string from the top of one stake to the top of the other you can, without much trouble, get it upon a perfect level by testing it and adjusting until the string represents the level for your sill. When this is done, set your posts to correspond to the level of the string, then place your sill on top of the posts and test that with your level. If found to be correct, fill in the dirt around the posts and pack it firmly, then spike your sill to the posts and go through the same operation with opposite sets of posts and sill.

Fig. 49.

Frame of two-by-fours milled lumber, with names of parts. Frame of two-by-fours milled lumber, with names of parts.

The first difficult work is now done and, with the exception of the roof, the rest only needs ordinary care.

It is supposed that you have already sawed off and prepared about nine two-by-four-inch beams each of which is exactly eight feet long. Set these on edge from sill to sill, equal distances apart, the edges of the end beams being exactly even with the ends of the sills as in Fig. 49. See that the beams all cross the sills at right angles and toe-nail them in place. You may now neatly floor the foundation with one-inch boards; these boards must be laid lengthwise with the building and crosswise with the beams. When this is finished you will have a beautiful platform on which to work, where you will be in no danger of losing your tools, and you may use the floor as a table on which to measure and plan the sides and roof.

Ridge Plank and Rafters

It is a good idea to make your ridge plank and rafters while the floor is clear of rubbish. Lay out and mark on the floor, with a carpenter's soft pencil, a straight line four feet long (A, B, Fig. 49). At right angles to this draw another line three feet six inches long (A, D, Fig. 49). Connect these points (B, D, Fig. 49) with a straight line, then complete the figure A, B, C, D (Fig. 49). Allow two inches at the top for the ridge plank at B and two by four for the end of the side-plate at D. You then have a pattern for each rafter with a "plumb edge" at B and a "bird's mouth" at D. The plumb edge must be parallel with B, C and the two jaws of the "bird's mouth" parallel with D, C and A, D, respectively. Make six rafters of two-by-fours and one ridge plank.

The purlins and collar can be made and fitted after the roof is raised. Set your roof timber carefully to one side and clear the floor for the studs, ribs, and plates. First prepare the end posts and make them of two-by-fours. Each post is of two pieces. There will be four outside pieces each five feet eight inches in length, which rest on the end beams, and four inside pieces each six feet in length; this allows two inches at the top for the ends of the end plates to rest upon.

Examine the corner posts and you will see that the outside two-by-four rests upon the top side of the end beam and the side-plate rests directly upon said two-by-four. You will also observe that the inside two-by-four rests directly upon the sill, which would make the former four inches longer than the outside piece if it is extended to the side-plate; but you will also notice that there is a notch in the end plate for the outside corner piece to fit in and that the end of the end plate fits on top the inside piece of the corner posts, taking off two inches, which makes the inside piece just six feet long. This is a very simple arrangement, as may be seen by examining the diagram. Besides the corner posts, each of which we have seen is made of two pieces of two-by-fours, there are four studs for the front side, each six feet two inches long. The short studs shown in the diagram on the rear side are unnecessary and are only shown so that they may be put in as convenient attachments for shelves and tool racks.

The first stud on the front is placed two feet from the corner post and the second one about six feet six inches from the first, to allow a space for a six-foot window; the next two studs form the door-jambs and must be far enough from the corner to allow the door to open and swing out of the way. If you make your door two and one half feet wide—a good size—you may set your last stud two feet from the corner post and leave a space of two feet six inches for the doorway. Now mark off on the floor the places where the studs will come, and cut out the flooring at these points to allow the ends of the studs to enter and rest on the sill. Next make four ribs—one long one to go beneath the window, one short one to fit between the corner post and the door stud not shown in diagram, another to fit between the door stud and window stud, and another to fit between the window stud and the first corner post (the nearest corner in the diagram). Next make your side-plate exactly fifteen feet long. Fit the frame together on the floor and nail the pieces together, toe-nailing the ribs in place. Get some help and raise the whole side frame and slip the ends of the studs into their respective slots. Make the end posts plumb and hold them in place temporarily by a board, one end of which is nailed to the top end of the post and the other to the end beam. Such a diagonal board at each end will hold the side in place until the opposite side is raised and similarly supported.

It is now a simple thing to slip the end plates in place under the side-plates until their outside edges are even with the outside of the corner posts. A long wire nail driven through the top-plates and end plates down into the posts at each corner will hold them securely. Toe-nail a rib between the two nearest end posts and make two window studs and three ribs for the opposite end. The framing now only needs the roof timbers to complete the skeleton of your shop. Across from side-plate to side-plate lay some loose boards for a platform, and standing on these boards let your assistant lift one end of the ridge plank while with one nail to each rafter you fasten the two end rafters onto the ridge plank, fit the jaws of the "bird's mouth" over the ends of the side-plates, and hold them temporarily in place with a "stay lath"—that is, a piece of board temporarily nailed to rafter and end plate. The other end of the ridge is now resting on the platform at the other end of the house and this may be lifted up, for the single nails will allow movement.

The rafters are nailed in place with one nail each and a stay lath fastened on to hold them in place. Test the ends with your plumb-level and when they are found to be correct nail all the rafters securely in place and stiffen the centre pair with a piece called a "collar." Add four purlins set at right angles to the rafters and take off your hat and give three cheers and do not forget to nail a green bough to your roof tree in accordance with the ancient and time-honored custom.

The sides of the house may be covered with tent-cloth, oilcloth, tin, tar paper, or the cheapest sort of lumber, and the house may be roofed with the same material; but if you can secure good lumber, use thirteen by seven eighths by nine and one quarter inch, tongue-and-grooved, one side planed so that it may be painted; you can make two sideboards out of each piece six feet six inches in length. Nail the sides on, running the boards vertically, leaving openings for windows and doors at the proper places.

If you have made a triangular edge to your ridge board, it will add to the finish and the roof may be neatly and tightly laid with the upper edge of one side protruding a couple of inches over the opposite side and thus protecting the joint from rain. Additional security is gained by nailing what are called picket strips (seven eighths by one and three quarter inches) over each place where the planks join, or the roof may be covered with sheathing boards and shingles. It is not necessary here to give the many details such as the manufacture of the door and the arrangements of the windows, as these small problems can be easily solved by examining doors and windows of similar structures.

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