Just like a giant xmas package, Underhill House is being trimmed.  I’m not talking ribbons and bows.  I’m talking about the wood edging around the doors and windows. DSC_0009

For Underhill House, all the trim is coming from trees that were thinned from our woods last winter and milled on site last spring.  Since then, the boards have been dried in a solar kiln at Dean Swenson’s farm and mill about 15 miles away.  They were then planed at Foggy Bottom Woodworks, who are also making our kitchen cabinets.

When a slab of wood is sliced from a tree trunk, it is live edge, which means it still has all the natural, undulating edge from the surface of the tree.  In most cases, that irregular edge is sawed off and considered scrap, but using the live edge pieces is a way to both make the most of the tree and incorporate some natural beauty into your space.

To most efficiently use our trees, we elected to use straight-edge trim on the vertical sections of the trim, and top them with live edge pieces.

Because we are painting our unmilled timbers, we also painted our trim.

The time for that painting came at Thanksgiving, which was great for our family.  We are camping out in a snug apartment above a business in downtown Mineral Point. With both girls home, we didn’t have the space for our usual Thanksgiving weekend family fun, so we spent Saturday and Sunday in the house prepping and painting trim.

KJ and Della painting trim the day after Thanksgiving.

KJ and Della painting trim the day after Thanksgiving.

Both days were brilliantly sunny, and it was wonderful to be together in the new space listening to music and chatting as Della, KJ and I sanded and painted piece after piece of freshly planed wood.  Doug was working outside taking the bark off some 2” slabs that will be used for window sills and counter tops and book shelves.  (I’ll write about that later.  Those slabs of cherry and elm–from dying trees on our land–are breath-taking and will not be painted.)

We had a productive weekend, but at the end, we realized we would have to ask Jacob from Alchemy Painting to come back and help us again.  My appreciation of how professional painters work increased as the project kicked up to high gear.

Della and Jacob painting at warp speed using rollers.

Della and Jacob painting at warp speed using rollers.

Della and Jacob painted trim together for several days while I painted walls, then Jacob continued working on not only the loose trim boards, but also the trim around the window frames.

The first thing Jacob did was to streamline the process.  Instead of taking each board and painting all three sides with a brush, he would put about 4 boards on end and roll the edges, then set them flat and roll the main surface.  It went so much faster and actually looked better.

These live edge pieces looked really beautiful on the rack.  One of the many beautiful but ephemeral stages in the construction of Undershill House.

These live edge pieces looked really beautiful on the rack. One of the many beautiful but ephemeral stages in the construction of Undershill House.

Another much-appreciated innovation from Alchemy Painting was the use of their racks made of simple boards with long nails.  These allowed us to stack up dozens and dozens of trim pieces to dry while using only a small portion of our very limited floor space.

One of my office windows.  How am I ever going to get anything done when all I want to do is look at and out of the window?

One of my office windows. How am I ever going to get anything done when all I want to do is look at and out of the window?

The challenge was to paint and dry the trim while other workmen swirled around us working on stairs and porch and built-in storage we are tucking into every available nook — all of which will eventually be trimmed with these painted boards.

My office door will soon also be painted white.  We picked it up at the ReStore in Madison.  Reuse!

My office door will soon also be painted white. We picked it up at the ReStore in Madison. Reuse!

Now the paint has dried, it is being methodically fitted into place as doors and windows become ready.

The idea of live edge wood painted white is coming into being, and looking very nice.  At Oscar Meyer, they used to say that they used every big of the pig but the squeal.  At Underhill House, we are using every bit of the wood but the bark.

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3 replies

  1. And of course the bark is going to make mulch for paths or round vegetables or flowers? 🙂

    I was talking to one of our neighbours who owns a firewood factory yesterday and she said she had about 1m3 of wood blocks, approximately 2.5cm thick, which they had saved because they looked good pieces. Hubby and I looked at each other and both thought the same thing – wood floor. So that looks like a better alternative to laminate flooring from goodness knows where with goodness knows what impregnated in it. Just have to find a good place to get them planed now. Lovely seeing how your project is coming together, hope ours comes together as well as yours.

  2. So I read your whole blog, start to current and though I am not quite a fan of the overall design, I am a big fan of sustainable home building and am in the design stages of a slip-form home using locally harvested limestone/timber frame hybrid. I am constantly scouring the internet for inspiration and insight on these topics.

    I’ve been building/remodeling houses for 10 years now and been restoring my 110 year old 2 story brick for 5 years so I’m also no novice to swinging a hammer. My bread and butter though is dry wall so the last few posts sort of rubbed me the wrong way.

    First, I hate the lightweight rock. It is in no way superior to the standard and is not in any way equitable to firerock. When you have the option and money is no object (and honestly the $2 a sheet difference in a house doesn’t add up too terribly much) use 5/8″ firerock on everything but walls in moist rooms (bathrooms). It’s heavy, takes an errant punch and best of all won’t roll like ocean waves on a ceiling after a few years like 1/2″ rock inevitably will. Lightweight rock will roll on a lid even faster.

    And not to throw your drywall finishers under the bus, but that raw edge above your office door, where the rock transitions into the unmilled timber rafter looks terrible. Some Tear-A-Way bead would of allowed for a seamless edge, rather than the open gash that is there now. Even flat taping would of been better option than whats there now.

    I found it almost laughable when you introduced your drywall crew by surname, because throughout your entire blog you touted using locally sourced material like a badge of honor, then hire out non-local labor (pun intended). I can also most assuredly tell you that any schmuck (or homeowner) can slap rock on a wall, but it takes years with a pan and knife to break out butts and bastards so you don’t notice them in full sun.

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