September 30, 2011

Rose Gum Cottage - finished at last!

Our new cottage, Rose Gum, is finally finished, after many months of completing seemingly endless details. We've had our first guests, and feedback has been very positive, with one couple becoming engaged on their weekend here, with plans to return each year for their anniversary.

It's full of crafty details, like the staircase and the fork handles in the kitchen. The balustrade of the staircase was particularly tricky, but worth the trouble.

The attic bedroom (still to be painted - one day!) is cute and cosy.

And the bathroom, with its big bath and a view out to the forest, is truly a place to relax.

September 23, 2011

Recycling - kitchen cupboards

We’ve installed a few kitchens over the years, and in all of them we have made extensive use of recycled materials.

I have to say we can’t go past IKEA for the base cabinets. Their system is so simple, flexible and easy to use that it makes setting up the structure painless. I do feel a bit guilty about using melamine units, but we have to be conscious of providing a squeaky clean environment for our guests, so it’s an obvious easy-clean option.

The kitchen in our first cottage, White Gum, was made from IKEA bases, with recycled hoop pine from old Queenslander houses for the doors and drawer fronts. 

Recycled hoop pine kitchen - White Gum Cottage

Russell used old silver forks to bend into handles. 

Silver forks become door handles

We used hoop pine again for the kitchen of our house in Toowong, where we lived before moving to Mount Glorious.  

New kitchen from hoop pine - Miskin St, Toowong

The old kitchen we had pulled out at Toowong (a real shocker) had a few further incarnations. First it was a work bench in our shed here. It then got reused as a temporary kitchen in Rose Gum, which we were living in while we were working on the house when we first moved up the mountain. Most of it finally got turfed, but the drawer unit was resurrected to be incorporated into the new kitchen in Rose Gum. 

Constructing the kitchen in Rose Gum Cottage

Both the bench top and the cupboard and drawer fronts in our new cottage kitchen are ironbark. It’s a beautiful, very hard wood. We had a few boards left over after having floors laid in the B&B suite in the house, and they were way too beautiful to waste. To continue the theme from our first cottage, Russell has again made his fork handles. 

Completed kitchen in Rose Gum Cottage

September 14, 2011

The economics of milling

Given the fact that we had to cut down some trees to build our house and new cabin, we were keen to make use of the timber. The question remains, however, on the economics of milling your own timber.

Our Rose Gum was initially milled into flooring and wall linings. This required a Lucasmill on site, plus sending away for kiln drying and profiling into tongue-and-groove boards. 

The recovery rate was not high. The timber for profiling can only be taken out of the larger logs, as both the soft outer wood (sapwood) and the centre of the log, which may later split, are not suitable for profiling. So apart from the large trees that were suitable for profiling, there were several that was simply cut into slabs or large beams. Even among that timber which was profiled, there was quite a bit that was badly knotted or split, and ended up being unusable for walls or floors.

In addition, the timber was not nearly as easy to work with as new timber from a plantation. Many of the trunks were bent, which resulted in bent boards which were very difficult to put in.

We did a costing of the milling and profiling, as compared with the final area of flooring and wall linings we ended up with. On a $/m2 basis, it was not much better value than buying the flooring commercially. There were, however, other advantages:
  • We made use of the timber that had to be cut, rather than mulching or burning it.
  • There is a natural connection between what we are building, and what grows here.
  • We got timber that is quite different to what is commercially available.
  • We have additional beams, posts, stair treads and slabs which have been used around the house, creating an individual style.

Is milling your own timber worthwhile? On a small scale, possibly not. Profiling is expensive, but if you had a large quantity that could be rough sawn into framing and construction timber, then maybe the savings would be there. And if you are keen to use timber in interesting and creative ways, then having your own supply is definitely a bonus. 

September 1, 2011

Iron balustrade

One thing we felt was important in our building project was to incorporate lots of hand crafted details. It’s probably also the reason some things are taking a long time!

The verandah balustrade, which wraps around the north and east faces, was always going to be a major and very prominent element of the house. We wanted something that would reflect and complement the natural environment around us.

Working with the guys from Dean WilsonIron, we designed a balustrade with a trailing vine that follows through from one panel to the next.  Incorporating a hammered finish, twisting tendrils and curved leaves, it mimics nicely the vines in the rainforest below the house.

It is both beautiful to look at, and open enough to see through it to the trees and garden beyond.