Inspired by the gorgeous 204 Beech blog and by the desire to savor the pleasures in my life, I thought I’d try to chronicle the latest project at the house: the shed. Our place is small, with neither basement nor garage, so storage is at a premium, and we’d like to move the girls’ bedroom up into the attic sometime soon. Plus, all of the neighbors have sheds, and we’re struggling with some serious shed envy.
After some protracted consideration, we’ve decided to site the structure at the back right corner of the property. This puts it at the top of the hill upon which our house sits, where the ground is the most level and the property least utilized.
Preparations provide most of the labor in building projects (or at least it feels that way), and this one is no exception. After laying out the rough dimensions of the building, I started kicking around the idea of moving some of the granite boulders that are scattered around the site. “Once I build this shed, they’ll be covered up forever, and that’d be a shame,” I thought to myself, adding “besides, it’ll be nice to use them for landscaping around the yard”.
But my definition of ‘forever’ was about to be expanded. As I started digging, the 1-foot rock faces peeking out from the soil proved to be the very tops of some quite large boulders. “Tips of some icebergs,” I thought to myself as I kept digging and hoping that I’d be able to move the pieces which I unearthed. But try as I might, I couldn’t find the bottom of these boulders– they were connected to the crust of the earth itself, it seemed. Some of the smaller pieces (say, up to the size of a large suitcase) had been separated by roots and ice over the past few million years, but the larger stuff was connected directly to even larger stone surfaces that extended right into the hillside. It was a humbling thing to gaze upon something so prehistoric.
Even the smaller pieces, though, were too much for me to lift (or even to roll out with my various digging/prying implements). My plan here came in the form of an ancient tool that was used to build the pyramids: feathers and wedges. Utterly simple, they consist of feathers which are carefully placed into a row of drilled holes perpendicular to the direction of the cut line. The chunky wedges are then inserted between the feathers, and things are then set to pop. Firm but gentle blows of a small sledge hammer– up the cut line and then back again– are all that are needed to seat the wedges and then deliver several tons of old-fashioned pressure to cleave the rock. One hears the tone of the hammer blows increase in pitch, until the sound softens and a barely discernible crack
appears. A few more blows and you’re carefully searching the dirt for every last one of your wedges and feathers. It’s a beautiful thing.
Posted in: The Shed