A Birthday Woodshed for DH

Last spring I decided that for DH’s birthday in July, I would build him a woodshed for his cabin and fill it with firewood. I finally finished it last week and he was surprised and pleased.

The woodshed was a multi-step present.

In April I telephoned a friend who had been laid off and asked him to cut down my Dr. Seuss “truffula trees,” the very tall, very spindly black cherries that had been left by the loggers in my back acres. He promised to come out with his chainsaw, but between weeks of rain and juggling job opportunities, he never got here.

In May, I rented heavy equipment for earth-moving. There was a morning when progress stalled and our hands were tied.

Allen looked out at the cherries and decided to simply uproot them.

He stacked the seven trees by the old pond.

My friend Mike stopped by to cut off the limbs and stumps for me, and saw the trees into log lengths.

I hauled all the stripped logs up near the cabin with my truck and chain. There were more than twenty heavy sections. After watching me for a while, Leon got off his bulldozer and walked over.

Leon showed me how to wrap two logs with a figure-eight that would tighten as I dragged. The biggest boles he rolled onto my chain with the blade of the dozer. I hauled all the logs up into the clearing.

In June, Mike came by again after work and sawed the logs into stove lengths. Most he cut to eighteen inches for the cabin woodstove. Two he sawed into 1-foot chunks for the sauna stove.

Over the 4th of July weekend, a friend lent me his hydraulic wood splitter. I drove into town to tow the splitter home. As I listened to my friend explain the controls for gas, choke, throttle, and hydraulics, I couldn’t decide if it was flattering or frightening that despite all evidence to the contrary, men simply assume I can do such things.

That weekend, between bites from blackflies and anxious checks on Katika in my sleepless pre-calving vigil, I split all the wood. I had a tremendous pile. Here it is at the halfway mark.

Now it was time to build the woodshed. My plan was to use mostly scraps I had on hand, to keep expenses around $100. I bought five treated 4x4s from the local lumber yard, a handful of 2x4s, some cheap furring strips, and a box of deck screws.

For the big weight-bearing headers, I found on Craigslist some used, treated, fourteen-foot 2x10s for sale in town. They were only $7. I bought two. A nice man helped me load them in my truck. Everyone I later told about my great deal explained that the man was a notorious drug dealer recently out of jail. Oh.

Allen kindly came out to the farm on a Sunday afternoon to help me set my corner posts.

It was very hot and humid. Like my own father, Allen is old-fashioned. Despite the sweltering weather, he wore his usual long-sleeved button-down shirt and undershirt. I sweated just to look at him. Allen paid no attention to the heat.

We got the corner posts plumb and square…

… and he helped me lift, level, and tack the heavy headers.

A few days later I hired Luke, 18, to help me for a couple of hours during a break in his summer job.

I’ve  known Luke since he was six years old. When I first hired him on weekends, he and I were the same size and about the same strength. Now he is a muscled athlete and 6’5″ — a very handy guy to have around when you’re cutting and installing roof supports.

I didn’t really need the help of either Luke or Allen, but when you work alone every day, it’s nice to have the company . . . and someone to hold the other end of the board or the measuring tape.

By the time I drove Luke back to his real job, we had the rafters, roof nailers, and braces up.

For the side walls I planned to use clapboard siding that had been stacked outside last winter by my carpenter. The boards had not been covered properly and their smooth sides (not visible in these photos) had turned black with mildew. They could no longer be stained white for the garage. However I thought they would be fine for a woodshed.

I spent an afternoon cutting and nailing up siding on three walls, spacing it for airflow.

Allen had urged me to have an overhang along the front of the woodshed — partly to increase the weather protection, but partly just for “makin’ it fancy.” I had plenty of wood scraps: why not? I built the frame of the overhang. Here it is, not yet finished or braced.

The most expensive part of the woodshed would have been the metal roof. However I’d set this woodshed up against trees so that I could use various odd bits of roofing that I’d had stockpiled in the barnyard for years. No one would see the different colors — or the wrinkles where the sheets had been caught by the wind and bent.

I measured my “tin” (no one here refers to “corrugated steef roofing” — it’s all called tin) and found six-foot sections in each sheet that were still usable. I snapped my chalk lines and began cutting.

Circular-saw blades for metal are made of composite grit. As sparks fly, the blade grinds itself away. With just one long cut, your blade may dwindle to a two-inch nub. (The first time I used a metal blade, years ago, I was extremely startled by this disappearing act.) Luckily I had four used blades that had started out as 7.5 inches and been discarded by my carpenter at 6 inches. Given my tight budget, I was very pleased to be able to eke out all my cuts with these leftovers. By the final cut, my last blade was the size of a pastry wheel.

I had to lay out these cut metal scraps and piece them together on the roof decking like a quilt. Joanne’s son Alex, 15, jumped into the project for ten minutes to climb up the ladder and hold the pieces in place while I screwed them down.

From the back side, the woodshed roof is stripes of silver and mottled brown. But no one will see it from the back.

For the front overhang, I used one sheet of forest green roofing. All the roofs in DH’s Fossil compound are forest green. I stained the woodshed the same dark chocolate as the other buildings. From the front, my budget woodshed appears to match everything else.

So far half the split firewood has been stacked inside. I’ll finish the stacking tomorrow.

Happy birthday, DH! with lots of love from Sel… and the gang of guys.

17 Responses to A Birthday Woodshed for DH

  1. DH says:

    Mind boggling just to read it! What a gal … am I a lucky guy or what? Fantastic job, what can I say but that I am excited and delighted. love you

  2. Impressive and very attractive! Well done! I love the way you did the roof. Thanks for sharing your steps…

  3. Elaine Murphy says:

    Great job, Selden! This Old House PBS program would be proud of you….

    Women rule……

  4. wyomama says:

    Sweet! You wanna come be my wife? 😀

    • adkmilkmaid says:

      Lee Anne, you are so funny. Quite often when I was working full-time and trying to do some of these things (like building the cabin) after work and on weekends, and still had to get supper on the table and the laundry folded, I would think to myself, “What I need is a wife!” 😀

  5. Coleen says:

    You rock! Great job on the wood shed. Farm families used to be huge; why do we think we can manage all this stuff on our own?? I could use a wife and four strapping sons.

  6. What are the “small” blocks (looks like 2X4’S) up next to the rafters for? I don’t see anything attached to them in the pictures

    • adkmilkmaid says:

      Alwaystheherd, the small blocks are to tie the rafters to the headers. (There are no birdsmouth cuts.) The blocks are screwed into the header on their face and the rafters are screwed to them down the side. You can buy metal ties that do the same more elegantly but they cost money and my focus was to keep costs as low as possible.

  7. A few more questions:
    1. What size is your shed?
    2. What size roof rafters did you use?
    3. Was there a particular reason why you ran the “side boards” horizontally instead of vertically?
    4. How much overhang do you have in the front AND back AND sides?

    • adkmilkmaid says:

      Always The Herd — I was on the road again yesterday and will be again today, so will have to respond this weekend, when I can look more closely at the shed and recall these details. I do know the rafters are 2x4s.

      You should know that a lot of decisions about the shed grew out of my desire to use material I had on hand and were made flying by the seat of my pants, a favorite mode of travel here.

  8. Please don’t foget to let me know when you get time to write a note.
    Thanks and my God bless you.

  9. “Always The Herd — I was on the road again yesterday and will be again today, so will have to respond this weekend, when I can look more closely at the shed and recall these details”

    “Please don’t foget to let me know when you get time to write a note.
    Thanks and my God bless you”

    • adkmilkmaid says:

      Hello, Always the Herd. Though I’d like to accommodate you, I’ve houseguests the last two weekends and a fairly hectic schedule. It is quite likely that I won’t be able to hike out to the woodshed until after Christmas. My apologies!

      • Good morning, adkmilkmaid. I fully understand about the houseguests and the Christmas season being upon us. To have friends and family with us is great….and you may not always have them with you. We have just a few family members left…most of them have passed away or too elderly to get out and travel.

        I truly appreciate your website and I enjoy it very much. The pictures, your writing style…..it’s almost like I am right there with you.

        I sent the reminders because I get excited when I see projects such as this and can’t seem to get them out of my mind. I hope you did not get offended. I just did not want you to forget me. I look forward to hearing from you once you are able to “get out there”.

        Merry Christmas and may God truly bless you and your family.

  10. Just curious if you have had time to get to the firewood shed to get the “specs” I listed earlier (above). I think you said you wouldn’t be able to get to it until after Christmas.
    Thank You,
    Always The Herd

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