Monthly Archives: January 2014

Round Pole Framing Workshop 2014 ~ interview with intern Kirstin Pope

Debarked Round Role

Sun Jan the 19th Strawbale Studio hosted the Round Pole Framing Workshop (rescheduled from 5th due to the extreme snowfall and ice). Deanne co-presented this workshop along with local carver, Mark Angelini. They covered the principles of working with round pole, plus tools and safety, then we worked on building a small round pole project: the Fairy Forest Frame.

First, why would someone choose to build with round poles?

Well, round poles are stronger than dimensional lumber to start. When working with dimensionally cut pieces of wood, you need to ask yourself, what are weaker points in the cut wood that could affect the design? With round poles, there are no areas weaker than others because the trees rings are intact!

Besides this they are: Aesthetic. Ecological. Require less energy. Part of a craft. It is true that the process takes more time, BUT you can connect to the land and your materials verses when you buy dimensionally cut pieces.

Round Role Tools Demo by Mark Angelini

This workshop’s participants learned that two of the  main tools needed to work with round poles are a mallet and a hatchet. Therefore, the group started by learning how to use a hatchet to make a mallet out of a chunk of wood to use in their building process. After some mallet making, everyone went out to harvest some trees for the poles. Mark showed his technique of cutting down sapling with the hatchet before going back in to discuss how to read and understand more on round pole design.

Some of the highlights: It is important to learn about the dimensions of the round poles and also how pieces fit together. In the design of structures, for example, with round poles the strongest joinery is always “wood on wood” ~ two flat surfaces touching each other. If the builder is relying on nails and screws then the strength of the building is only that of the nails and screws. Further, if the builder uses wooden pegs, then the design can even be dismantled, taken somewhere, and rebuilt as a moveable structure.

Technical points covered on round pole construction were:

The curvature of the log and how it will fit into the structure naturally

Ways to hold and control the wood

Using a draw knife to debark the logs

Making different cuts, including a Kerf cut (Google it!)

Different examples of joinery, such as a lap joint, saddle joint, and birdsmouth joint

Putting joints together using the newly made mallets and chisels

Notching and tying beams

Triangulating (putting in diagonal braces between horizontal and vertical members) in order to stabilize the structure laterally.

Talk about a lot of information! One thing SBS will consider in the future in turning this into a two day workshop in order to give people more time to absorb and play with these techniques.

Round Pole Frame

Deanne’s “Winterns” (interns staying for the month of Jan) had prepared for this workshop the week before. One of these awesome Winterns, Kirsten, really appreciated helping to make a small model (8” x 10” x 5”) before the workshop in order to work out kinks on a small scale- how all the pieces fit.

Overall, everyone agreed Round Role Frames could be a really “Funstrating activity” (fun+ frustrating, hah). While there’s a lot of ease with dimensional lumber compared to round poles, there’s a lot of satisfaction with wrapping your brain around the shape of the round poles.

If you’d like to experience “funstrating” and satisfying round pole construction, contact Deanne to get on the list for the next time this workshop is offered!

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Thatching Workshop 2014

On Saturday Jan 18th, some lucky visitors of the Strawbale Studio enjoyed learning about Thatching techniques. This is one of the many awesome  workshops SBS offers on sustainable building.

Thatching Frame

Participants started off learning about the basics of thatching indoors (due to Jan weather). This included learning how to lash and tie a quick-release knot for making reed bundles in the field (literally a reed field haha). The square lashing knot was also learned so students could make a round pole lashed wood frame in the future.  After practicing, everyone then went outside to gather by the earth oven and bonfire pit. Here was a round pole frame built by Deanne’s Winterns earlier in the week for the purpose of practicing thatching and creating a wood shed by the firepit. Everyone watched and participated in a demonstration of how to attach bundles of reeds to the frame, using reed bundles that Winterns had collected the day before. Lastly, before breaking for lunch, everyone received a tour of some of the completed thatch structures on the premises, such as Kids Cottage, to see examples of finished products. So cool!

Reed Collecting!

After lunch, out in the reed field Winterns taught and helped new folks harvest reed bundles of their own. Very labor intensive stuff! As a reward, everyone sat down at the end and watched a video on thatching that showed different ways it can be done. Some of these examples were based on the types of reeds or from specific places such as England and Denmark.

Some who attended the workshop plan to apply their newly learned thatching skills as soon as possible. For example, a couple named Brook and Steve are looking to buy land near Grand Rapids and start an eco-village. We wish them luck!

One of the Winterns stated how really satisfying it was to see the flow of thatching after only a few layers of bundled reeds were attached to the frame. Also, how great it was to see examples of finished work around the property.

How many of these bundles do you think there are on the Strawbale Studio? 2000!!!

Attached Reed Bundles to Frame

The experience overall made this Wintern feel she gained a lot of respect for the people that do this professionally and for the craft itself. The professionals seen in the video were so fast, like machines, while this group is just at the beginning of the learning process.  Feel inspired like them? Contact Deanne to hear when the next workshop on thatching will be held!

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Winternship 2014 Week 2

January 12, 2014

Round Pole Building

On Mon the 13th, our Winterns Kirsten, Scott, Ben, Zack and Jimez started making a model of the Round Pole structure for the upcoming workshop, which was moved from the 11th to Sun the 19th, due to the extreme snowfall.  Deanne also gave them an official orientation to the 2014 Winternship, discussing the month’s learning plans and goals.

On Tuesday the 14th, the main goal was to start building the thatching frame using round pole and lashing techniques, which Winterns began to learn the week before. This would be used in the Thatching Workshop set for the upcoming week, to have near the earth oven pit as a model during the workshop. Winterns also took care of a few chores like gathering sawdust from piles out by the pipeline corridor to put into the compost configuration inside the house. In the evening, they went together to yoga class at Ramsa Yoga, where Deanne is a regular, to decompress.

Wed the 15th, Winterns completed the thatching frame from yesterday, ordered some bulk food for the SBS, did more debarking using draw knives, and completed the round pole saw horse. That evening the SBS held its monthly Full Moon Potluck, including a tour of the SBS, red shed, and earth oven. On this, one of the Winterns proclaimed, “It was cold and dark and nice.”

Thurs the 16th was another precious day off. A few people from Frogholler Farm, where Kirsten normally works, had stayed the night from the Full Moon Potluck. Everyone enjoyed a pancake breakfast with applesauce from apples at the farm.

Reed Collecting

Finally, on Fri the 17th, Winterns prepared for the weekend workshops, Thatching on Sat and Round Pole rescheduled for Sun. As a group, they went out to the local reed fields for the first time and learned how to harvest the phragmite and tie up bundles that will later become a thatched roof. After strapping the bundles on the roof of the car, they returned with a job well done.

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Winternship 2014 Week 1

Jan 5, 2014

Winternship 2014

   The Winternship (Winter Internship) is a program which runs from Jan 5 through Feb 5, 2014.  Participants learn a wide variety of skills in natural building & sustainable living and attend all workshops during the month: Round Pole, Rocket Stove, Thatching intro, Earth Plastering & Sculpting.

This year’s Winternship had a slightly delayed beginning due to the extreme weather this January. Kirsten, Scott, Ben, Zack, and Jimez were all scheduled to arrive on Jan 5th but since southeast Michigan received up to 18 inches of snow (WOW!!!) that weekend, people did their best to trickle in throughout the week. Jimez and Kirsten managed to arrive on Sunday, while Zack…got stuck in the Cleveland bus station for 3 days !  Some of the initial activities they started were snedding (go on, look it up) and debarking logs for upcoming workshops in the month. They also decided they wanted to make some saw horses and researched designs online, and tried to integrate some Round Pole principles. While harvesting trees for saw horse, Winterns also came upon mushroom logs under the snow and soaked a few indoors in the bathtub in order to grow mushroom. (Today, Jan 28th we ate the ones who grew)

 On Wed Jan 8th, Winterns were able to have some fun socializing outside of the SBS by attending the Oakland County Permaculture Meetup’s monthly meeting in Clarkston, MI. The theme of the Meetup for that evening was how to set up food pantries and buy in bulk collectively with friends and neighbors. Winterns enjoyed the knowledge sharing and networking with Meetup members of similar interests.

Round Pole

 On Fri the 10th, everyone started getting ready for the Round Pole Framing workshop scheduled for the weekend. This included firing up the rocket stove in order to warm the space. Unfortunately, on Sat the roads were terribly icy, and very unsafe. Deanne’s co-instructor, Mark, tried to come out and had to back home. Deanne and the Winterns tried to get the message out to everyone but a few people missed it and managed to arrive unharmed. Two of these people were Jason and Julie Gold from the Michigan Folk school near Ann Arbor. For their trouble, everyone put together a smaller version of the Round Pole Framing, which was very much enjoyed.

 Sunday the 12th, the Winterns had a day off. Yay! A woman named Krystal and her 6 year old daughter Phoenix, who had been visiting and helping since the end of the week made an awesome breakfast before leaving that morning. Everyone else spent the evening playing cards and enjoyed their day of rest.

 Not even the Michigan weather can keep these Winterns down 🙂

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