2005-03 (MARCH, 2005)

Some Serious Shed Building - NSW, Australia

My Easter break was spent being looked after by Dave & Jenny at Dogwood. I flew from Wellington to Sydney on a delayed Thursday afternoon flight. I had to peg it from the International terminal to the Domestic terminal for my flight up to Port Macquarie (which fortunately was delayed too) - I had underestimated my connection timings! Once I was on board the plane for my short hop north I was finally able to relax. Dave collected me from the Port and four months of catch-up chat made the hour's drive back to Upper Lansdowne fly by. Beer, chat and weekend plans kept us up until the wee small hours. Bliss.

Friday saw Dave and I down on the shed building site early enough. Our goal for the day was to clean up the site (which had become a touch overgrown over the summer) and to get all the floor bearers installed - an ambitious first day's work. Each 4"x3" hardwood (Blackbutt) bearer spans between 3 and 3½ metres. The bearers are supported along their length by one or more of the brick piers as well as a vertical pole at each end. Each vertical pole / bearer joint required the pole to be scarfed to accept the bearer and these scarfs needed to be cut with some precision. Dave took care of the bulk of the work with a small chainsaw and I followed with a hammer and chisel to clean and refine each scarf. It was tiring work and both of us were suffering from cramped hands and bad backs by the end of the day. Jenny, of course, looked after us mightily and fed & watered us to her typically high standard. The beer and chat that evening did not go late - the boys were knackered!

Trevor and Daniel joined the working party on Saturday and Trev and Dave had the last two bearers in place before I'd even made it down to the site. With the bearers all installed it was time to begin laying the joists. The joists were slightly more manageable than the bearers (4"x2" instead of 4"x3") even though they were of the same hardwood and spanned similar lengths. With three of us on the job (plus Daniel as a willing Gopher) we had the all the joist work finished off by mid afternoon. We spent the rest of the working day cutting and laying the first few runs of the hardwood floorboards and got 7 full runs down before knocking off time. That evening we had a mighty BBQ-style dinner and beers around the bonfire. I retired a little earlier than the others as I was feeling a bit sun-bashed. Trev and Daniel stayed the night.

Sunday saw all hands on deck to continue the job of laying the floorboards. This was a laborious process that proceeded more slowly than expected (thanks, in part to a less-than-cooperative nail gun) and by knocking off time we had only just made it to the halfway point (at 70m², however, this is a big floor). Trev's experience proved critical for keeping us on the straight-and-narrow today. Another earlyish night was had by all.

On Monday Dave and I began by laying the boards that span the transition between the two sides of the shed. This involved shaping each of four runs of boards to fit snugly around the centre poles. We devised several cunning ways of getting a good fit and were very pleased with the results. Trev and Daniel returned again today (ever the gluttons for punishment) and we decided to concentrate on the jobs that Dave would struggle to do by himself (seeing as this was the last day on site for most of the team). Nailing down the planks can easily be done by a single person, but cutting and laying the boards goes much more swiftly when there are several people on the job. I measured each span as we went and called these to Dave. Dave looked after the wood pile and located planks that equalled or slightly exceeded the called span whilst attempting to minimise wasted wood. Trev trimmed the boards to length and passed them to me to lay in place. With this production line in operation we managed to cut and lay the entire second half of the shed floor by knock off. All that was left was for Dave to nail down the boards the following weekend. Beers and food and chat flowed in celebration of a solid few days of work - the shed had been transformed from a tentative pile of potential into a solid, real structure well on its way to completion.

I had absented myself from work on the Tuesday and spent the morning in Port Macquarie (where Dave works). We met up again for lunch and then he dropped me out to the airport for my return trip to Sydney. Again I had over-estimated the generosity of my connection times and an afternoon visit to see my brother in Bondi Junction had to be scaled back to a brief rendezvous in the airport. My early evening flight back to Wellington had me back on the ground by 23:45 and I was surprised and touched to find Andy waiting outside to meet me. We cabbed it home and I slept very, very well. A great weekend.