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Homemade Clapboards

 
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In renovating our Tiny House, Katie and I needed a cheap way to cover our foursquare cheaply, but were unsure how. After a little research, and them some new techniques on the sawmill, we were able to produce our own clapboards.

I am well aware that cedar is typically used for clapboards, but we do not really have supersized cedars, so after a little research found out the old duffers would use Eastern Hemlock. We got plenty of big hemlock! So we found that if we sawed the logs into 10 inch cants (10 x 10 inch beams), then put wedges under the cant on every other board sawn, we could make quality wedge shaped chapboards. On some logs we were getting (25) 3/8 clapboards 12 feet long. That is 300 linear feet of siding, or 150 square feet if placed 6 inches to the weather...from a single log! In one day we were able to saw up 800 linear feet. We need 2000 feet linear feet granted, but the fact we could do so in quick order was encouraging.

But what would it look like on the building?

Today we sawwed out the corner boards, and then started putting up some homemade Eastern Hemlock clapboards. We chose to go a little wider with "six inches to the weather" versus that of the typical 4 inches, but that is just to get a little more coverage with less material.

So other than a little money in chainsaw gas and oil, diesel to get the logs out of the woods, some gas in the bandsaw sawmill, then some nails to put the siding on, it is VERY inexpensive, "green" clapboards.




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Great outcome
How old is the place you are re cladding?
 
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The previous owner here had some hemlock lumber in the barn.  It has such bad shake (I think that's the right term) that it is next to useless.  Even when it isn't quartersawn the wood will crack right along the growth rings.  Hopefully that's just from one bad tree.  If it is usually good wood, I'd be more interested in the many huge hemlocks I have back in the woods...
 
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Oooh! Wanna come do my house next?
 
Travis Johnson
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John C Daley wrote:Great outcome
How old is the place you are re cladding?



Not that old actually. I think it was built around 1922, but I am not sure.

This is known as a Foursquare, a type of house that was often mail ordered from Sears, Alladin and Stirling from 1890-1930. I have never found an exact model like this, but plans from a Stirling House in 1922 are VERY close to this. The only difference was the placement of the chimney, a lack of a bathroom, and the overall size. However the answer may be because this place was a dance hall years ago before it burned. I think they might have just adjusted the size of the building because the foundation (fieldstone) was already in place. For instance the plans I found were for a house 22 x 24, and this house is 18 x 22. Naturally any house built out here in rural Maine prior to the 1960's had an outhouse and not a bathroom, and a chimney running through the center of the home would have been a requirment for Maine as well.

I go to church with the Register of Deeds, so she might be able to help me determine when this house was built exactly. I just have not had a chance to do that yet.
 
Travis Johnson
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Mike Jay wrote:The previous owner here had some hemlock lumber in the barn.  It has such bad shake (I think that's the right term) that it is next to useless.  Even when it isn't quartersawn the wood will crack right along the growth rings.  Hopefully that's just from one bad tree.  If it is usually good wood, I'd be more interested in the many huge hemlocks I have back in the woods...



It is hard to say, typically the bigger the tree size, the more shake it has in it.

What causes shake I am not sure. My Grandfather always told me it came from the wind separating the layers of wood by shear force, but I have heard it is a bacteria in the wood. The first explanation would explain why it would happen with larger trees and not smaller ones, but considering how plentiful Eastern hemlock is, I am sure the Forest Service has studied the problem well.

My forest is not prone to shake, but does have it for sure. My issue is more with black heart (rot), but rot seems to clear up after cutting off the bottom section of the tree, where as shake goes from the top to the bottom.

Overall, I love Eastern Hemlock, with about 90% of what I build being out of Hemlock; that being framing, sheathing, flooring and now siding. Time will tell if the siding stands up long enough for it to be a viable siding material, but we shall see. About the only thing I dislike about Eastern Hemlock is its weight. When I redid some floor stringers in this house that I had to lift overhead, I was not about to hoist Eastern Hemlock 2x5's into the air, so I sawed them out of White Spruce; much lighter in weight.
 
Mike Jay
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Great to know, must've been a bad tree.  Now I won't be afraid to saw up any that need to be sawn up.
 
Travis Johnson
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Mike Jay wrote:Great to know, must've been a bad tree.  Now I won't be afraid to saw up any that need to be sawn up.



Shake runs in areas; some places will have it, and some will not, but the problem is when selling it to commercial buyers, they see big hemlock and automatically deduct for shake. Sorry for the strong words, but man that really makes me mad!! It should be based on what each log is, and what it will get for lumber, and not setting a set amount of deductions for shake.

Interestingly enough, most of my siding logs were logs that were rejected for commercial sawmills. In other words, the following picture is all logs that they had left to rot. I am literally building a house out of what they left behind. I am not saying they are the best logs ever, but it is a sizeable pile just left behind. It would have been such a waste if I did not have a sawmill.


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Living in an area of BC that has winds--50 mile an hour gusts at times-I thought that the cracks in wood
were caused by stress.

I read that "shake" is also caused by trees infected with a bacteria that belongs to the clostridium genus.
The bacteria is often accompanied by an unpleasant odor.
 
Travis Johnson
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R Jay wrote:
Living in an area of BC that has winds--50 mile an hour gusts at times-I thought that the cracks in wood
were caused by stress.

I read that "shake" is also caused by trees infected with a bacteria that belongs to the clostridium genus.
The bacteria is often accompanied by an unpleasant odor.



My Grandfather always said that it was caued by the wind, but the Maine Forest Service says it is caused by bacteria. I do not know. I have cut a tree here, and there is no shake, and one ten feet away has a lot in it. Shake also is in different species of wood. Here, White Fir occassionally has shake too, but almost never White, Red or Black Spruce. All grow where it is wet.


In any case, I should wrap up the siding project of our tiny house today. In all it was 2000 linear feet of clapboards, cut 10 inches wide, and nailed 6 inches to the weather. Deducting for rain days, and some mechanical problems, it took us a week to go from felled tree, hauling out the logs, sawing the logs into clapboards, and nailing them to the house. Not bad in terms of time.

Money wise it is even better.

I found out from my local supplier that the cheapest clapboards are $1.79 a linear foot, so my cost from purchased materials would have been $3580. My cost was $55.26 for two boxes of 6 penny pnuematic nail gun nails. That would have been spent though on boughten clapboards, so it does not really matter.

I'll try to get a photo when it is completed.



 
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Oh wow, that looks great. What a good idea to slant the cant for clapboard making too. Can you run that mill by yourself? Anyway, brilliant work.
Interesting about the "shake." I learn something here every few minutes.
Thanks
Brian
 
Travis Johnson
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Brian Rodgers wrote:Can you run that mill by yourself?



Sort of...

I could do it, but it is a lot easier with two people because the milling is so fast. Usually as I am inserting, or removing the shims to tilt or level the cant on the sawmill, my father is removing the clapboard from off the sawmill. That really helps speed up production otherwise I would be stopped twice as long. By the time he removes the clapboard and puts it on a trailer to take it to the house, I have already started my next clapboard. It really is that fast.

 
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Travis, I know this doesn't answer your question.  I have you thought of using rough boards?  I can't remember what they are called though they are really popular in Texas.  Maybe they are called bark boards or wavy edge?










 
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