Raising the Rafters

Hello Project Ventura readers! A lot has been happening in the greenhouse lately. We framed the walls, attached the ridge pole along with the top halves of each side of the frame, weeded and de-grubbed the ground the greenhouse is on top of, and today we raised the rafters (well, half of them).

Once we attached the top frame to the side walls, I felt like the greenhouse looked like an actual structure, one that is sturdy and safe, useful and utilized, functional and almost finished.  While this outlined the building, it is not near enough to support the building, especially the roof. To this end, we have been building rafters to bridge the gap between the side wall and the ridge pole at the top. They’re almost like arms, bent slightly at the elbow, grasping the sides and holding them in place, ensuring that everything is supported and stable.

With nothing to fill the spaces between each rafter it is like a skeleton—the rib-cage of a whale, an insect’s exoskeleton, the bare bones of the hull of a ship. It reminds me how much we have done and how much more we still have to do—how far we have come and how far we have yet to go.

Blog Post 4-7 Pic 1

Ms. Jo and Chandler Linseisen screw the first rafter into place. Because each section has to be very precise, they carefully line it up with pre-measured lines and designs. Photo by Cypress Lefebre.

Ironically, it is much easier to raise the rafters of a full-sized greenhouse than a large doghouse one-third of the size of this building, which was supposed to be easier, and let us practice our skills on a somewhat simpler project. It is much more difficult to reach, though. Chandler and Ms. Jo were both on ladders inside the greenhouse, lining up the top edge of each rafter with the lines that Shilah had meticulously measured and drawn on earlier, and gluing, squaring, and screwing them in. After everything was aligned on the ridge pole, Cypress, Shilah, Britton and I would correct the bottom edge of the beam, which was usually pushed out of place when it went into place at the top. We then completed the same process—squaring, shifting, pushing and pulling, gluing and screwing and getting wood glue everywhere.

One of the reasons why it is so much easier to build this greenhouse than it was to build the doghouse/chicken coop/playhouse is because we have been learning more and more techniques and skills, and tools to use in different situations that do the job much better. To attach the rafters to the side wall, we needed a screw to go through both pieces of wood, which are perpendicular to each other. Before, we would have gotten stuck, discussed the problem extensively, and dug a spare bracket out of a drawer full of odds and ends. Today, though, Ms. Jo taught us about toenailing.

Shilah Chhadua screws a rafter onto the side wall through toenailing.  Photo by Asha Mani.

Shilah Chhadua screws a rafter onto the side wall through toenailing.
Photo by Asha Mani.

I’m still doubtful of the appropriateness of the name of this technique, as I certainly wouldn’t want to drive my toenail diagonally through several different pieces of wood with a high-powered drill, but it is a useful skill nonetheless. Essentially, you just position the screw in the wood at an angle rather than perpendicular to the wood, and as you drive it in, it goes through several pieces of wood which are not all parallel. Sometimes it was difficult (especially for me) but with pilot holds and practices, Shilah and Cypress soon became pros.

From the beginning to the end of class, our greenhouse went from looking like a building to feeling like a building, and I can’t wait to see how it changes and comes out as we get closer and closer to completion.

Until next time!



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