Stud Walls

The time has come to build the stud walls and give some more rigidity to my oak frame. We got a delivery of timber and had to move it from the drop off point beyond my gates into my garage where we’d be storing it.

Oli and I did the manual labour since he was on Summer holidays. We started off carry 2 lengths of 4×2. Then I carried 3 pieces in one go. Naturally Oli then had to carry 4. So I moved 5. With 6 pieces of timber left Oli went for it. It all slipped out of his hands and he struggled to get through the gate but he made it in the end. Took him twice as long as if he’d taken them one at a time though

All set for turning into beautiful stud walls

In the past when I’ve been making stud walls I just kind of eyeballed the right angles with varying results. But when I was making my bookcases I started to appreciate the beauty of a proper right angle. So I got some 90 degree clamps. I made use of them on each stud wall I made and they turned out pretty well.

As I put my first nicely square stud wall in it highlighted that the entire frame had shifted at some point and was now kinda leaning backwards a bit. So I dug out some ground anchors and a ratchet strap and brought the frame forwards by a few degrees. The ratchet strap would have to stay in place until I had stud walls everywhere. It was there for a couple of weeks and it was a happy moment when I eventually disconnected the strap and nothing fell over!

First test stud wall with added ratchet-strap-ness
More stud walls with the OG still in the background

The day eventually came when I had all the stud walls in place and I could get rid of the ratchet strap and finally give my grass a proper cut.

It’s difficult to make out in the picture above but I’ve also put the rafters in for my mezzanine. So what’s the first thing everyone does when building a mezzanine? Lob a palette up there and then climb up a ladder onto the wobbly palette then call your son and say “hey look out of your window” and then wave at him from the end of your garden. That’s the first thing everyone does right?

Me on top of a palette on top of my mezzanine taking a selfie

Cambridge 34 years on

For the past decade or so all the old Xerox boys have tried to meet up in September to celebrate being another year older, wiser and still alive. We’ve lost a couple along the way and some have just drifted off but we always get a good turnout when we meet up

Gang signs Darren…really?

This year’s restaurant was Thaikuhn and we all had a wonderful time except Scouse who nearly got battered in the toilet when he flicked his wet hands in the face of a complete stranger who had a passing resemblance to Dickie. There’s always something that goes wrong!

For the past few years I’ve stayed in one of the colleges. I’m a bit dubious about going back to Sidney Sussex college after the fire alarm/smoke detector incident so this year a bunch of us stayed at Christs, which I argue is a better place anyway.

My front door for a couple of days


My Mum and I had a wonderful day at the Emmerdale experience tour. Sam Dingle poured me a pint for £6 [ robbing bastard ] and my mother and I met Laurel

When we came to The Woolpack I asked my Mother to take a picture of me. This is what I got

A fine pair of boots!


A while ago we had a Thai meal with Sarah and Freddie. During the Thai meal Sarah mentioned they were going Karting later in the week and would Oli and I like to go. Oli said he’d like to try it, I was amazed that he’d never done it, so later that week off we popped.

Now I personally am rather a dab hand at this sort of thing as I went quite often during the magic4 days ….

Won the entire thing after overtaking Brian Bennet on the ramp up the bridge on the final lap. I bet he still smarts about arseing up that corner and giving me a way past

Oli did really well for his first ever go at Karting. I won, of course, but when the lap times came in Oli’s fastest lap was only 0.5s behind my fastest lap. I was very impressed with him.

After the karting session Oli was buzzing and asked if he could go again the week after with his mates. Oli organised it. I booked it. The parents went along to watch them and Oli took first place. Got a “gold” medal and everything.

Escape Room

Amelia was off in Spain with Mary so Emma, Oli and I took a trip into Liverpool to do an escape room. It was expensive and hot but very much fun. Oli was great – we were rubbish. On the way back we nipped into Albert Schloss and had the best beer and pretzels evahhhhhhhh

Here comes the oak frame

I finished a recent blog post with “But it’s done. Next step…how on earth am I going to manhandle the oak frame into place. This is going to be tough.”

I looked into hiring a machine to do the heavy lifting for me but it was going to be about £130 per day and with hindsight of how long it took it would have cost me about £1000 down that route. Luckily for me I have a lovely friend that owns a digger and a trailer. He dropped it off for me, gave me a hand with the first part of the build and then nobbed off on holiday leaving me to crack on with it at my leisure.

The first wall we put up was the one on the right

We did the wall on the right since it would be least visible when we make mistakes…and mistakes were definitely made.

By the time we’d constructed the second wall of the frame I was getting a bit better at mortise and tenon joints – not brilliant….but definitely better. Before starting the build proper I spent an entire day making a mortise for the wind brace by hand with a hammer and chisel. Seriously….an entire day to make a practice mortise. I nearly cried. The realisation of how many mortise holes I had to make in this incredibly tough oak was soul destroying. So I rented a chain mortise. By the end of the build I could do a wind brace mortise in 10 minutes rather than 7 hours.

The Chain Mortiser is the machine at the foot of the image

Three frame walls in and things were getting easier and quicker

My lap joints were also getting better given that I’d picked up a few tricks on using the chain mortiser to take material out of the beam and finish off with a hammer and chisel. Took me a while to work out that the measure ticks on the side of the mortiser took into account the curvature of the chain saw.

Not perfect…but not that bad either

Things start getting a bit complicated when connecting the middle brace. There are two lap joints and two wind braces to consider so stuff really needs to line up. This one turned out pretty well, the wind brace is a bit loose but I’ll fix it in when the frame is finished and the stud walls have pulled everything square.

I had numerous special guest appearances from Uncle Chris who provided invaluable advice when it came to getting ratchet straps out and pulling the frame together. He’s a great engineer and can definitely wield a mallet.

Hit it…hit it harder

Until finally we get to this

This is the phase that I always thought would be the hardest, and it definitely was. The brick laying was tough but I’ve done it before and knew it was a matter of patience. But manhandling 6m long 150mm square Oak beams was really really hard. Putting lap joints and mortises in there was tough. Manhandling them into place using a digger and mallets and ratchet straps with millimetre accuracy was insanely hard. Trying to get everything square…well that was beyond my capability. Things are a little wonky in places but hopefully the stud walls [ which are the next phase ] will neaten things up.

If I were building this again I’d probably do a better job as I picked up a few tricks along the way and the last few joints were way better than the first. I’d use longer tenons and deeper mortises but taking into account the bows in the beams is just a nightmare.


I watched a youTube video where a fella carved roman numerals into his beams so that he could easily identify which was which. This seemed like a stellar idea to me. So I copied him

It looks better when the numeral is filled in with charcoal.

But then I decided to go one better and start chiselling pagan symbolism into my shamanistic meditation and hallucinatory experience workshop beams.

with added charcoal

Circular saw rental

My circular saw just wasn’t big enough to cut through the 150mm Oak beams. So I rented this fella for a morning to chop them all to size.

With hindsight I didn’t really need to. If I was doing it now I’d use my newly acquired skill saw…

Ryobi of course

to make cuts all the way around the beam and then finish it off with a hand saw. But you live and learn. The big arse circular saw certainly made it quicker.

Whilst we’re on the subject of new tools acquired for this project.

Belt Sander

Aldi Sliders

Saw these sliders in Aldi and just had to buy them

There’s also a pair of Lidl sliders available to buy but I may have missed the window of opportunity 🙁

The Workshop begins in earnest

I keep calling it a workshop but in reality I’ve got no idea what I’m going to do with it. Could become my art studio, or a sex dungeon. Maybe a VR room or a recording studio. Or maybe it’ll just end up being a really big shed. Whatever it’s going to be, the work has begun in earnest.

The oak beams that will form the load bearing frame arrived a while ago.

They don’t look like much on the picture above but the ones at the back are 6m long. All the beams are 150mm square and so the 6m bad boys weigh ummm I dunno how much but 5 of us struggled to get them off the delivery truck. Very heavy.

The builder people put a concrete slab in for me months ago as has been documented in an earlier post and I finally got around to buying some bricks and making a start on the construction. Bricks from my local building supplier were pretty expensive. Bricks online were slightly cheaper but I ended up nipping in to Huws Gray as they were right next door to the machinery hire place. Huws Gray had some clearance bricks that they were trying to get shut of. I didn’t really give a crap what the bricks looked like but they had to be 65mm and these bricks were. So I ordered 650 of these unbelievably cheap bricks and saved myself about £300.

And so the great brick migration of 2023 begins

There is limited access to the garden so the bricks and sand were offloaded near my gates and I had to wheelbarrow them up the the desired location.

650 bricks and the first ‘barrow of sand

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m rubbish at laying bricks. I have much more of a “fuck it that’ll do” attitude than bricklayers really should. I’m much better at it now as I sit here typing this given that I’ve just picked up and mortared in a brick about 500 times. I can now tell when my mortar is wrong. I now appreciate the use of a piece of string and a spirit level. But when I first started this brick laying odyssey, I was pretty useless.

First course almost complete

The first day I started laying bricks I made the fundamental mistake of not checking the weather. It started properly raining when I was about half way through using up my mix ( mortar ). The second mistake I made was then continuing to lay bricks as it rained. All that happens is the mortar becomes too wet and starts running everywhere. The third mistake was thinking that I had to force the brick into the mortar to get good adhesion – you really don’t have to – doing this just results in the mortar becoming too thin and all your brickwork height calculations ending up wrong. Probably the biggest mistake I made during this whole first day utter fucking disaster of laying bricks was that I thought I could do it whilst drinking several cans of Stella.

Entropy reducing as bricks and pile of sand become a structure

By the time I was onto the second course all sorts of memories of my father, who was a bricklayer, came flooding back. I spent a few weeks working with him one summer when I was a student. He didn’t need my help, he already had a labourer, I think he just wanted to spend some time with his son. Anyway, during this father son bonding period he taught me stuff…either that or my mind has completely made shit up. Stuff like wait an hour or two after your mortar has gone off and then point it. After pointing it go over all your new mortar with a stiff brush and scrub the excess from around the edges and the face of the brick work. Don’t lay brick until the very end of your row and force yourself into chopping a brick to make it work; instead meet in the middle and put your chopped brick in there. All sorts of stuff came back to me and course 2 was better than course 1, and course 3 was better than course 2. I really don’t claim to be an expert but brick laying no longer holds the fear for me that it did a few weeks ago.

I’m pretty proud or courses 2 & 3 but the first course will haunt me forever

It turns out my estimation for the number of bricks needed was pretty good. I initially estimated 600. When the Huws Gray bricks came in so cheaply I decided to buy an extra 50. I ended up with about 100 left over and plenty of sand and cement. It’ll all get used at some point as I need to build some new steps to my office and then just stuff.

All in all it was a pretty terrifying and physically demanding process. But it’s done. Next step…how on earth am I going to manhandle the oak frame into place. This is going to be tough.