Beginner Timber Frame Projects: A Solar Battery Box

When Jesse and I had our minds made up that we wanted to build a timber frame house, we knew it was going to be a wise idea to take on as many small timber frame projects as we could prior to starting construction of our home. The first opportunity we had that was great to practice our skills was building a battery box for our solar power needs, so why not timber frame it?

We knew we wanted to build a quality structure for our boxes that was both sturdy and secure, so instead of creating a stick-built structure, we figured we could build a miniature timber frame home! On this project we were really able to put into motion what we’ve been reading about in our timber framing books.

A timber frame project: building a battery box!

Watch How This Timber Fame Project Video Series

To fully see how this project came together, we put together these two videos. In the first you’ll find the frame of the project and in the second we focus more on finishing up the project rather than actual timber framing.

Books That Prepared Us For Our First Timber Frame Project

Timber framing is unlike normal construction in the fact that joinery is almost unheard of in modern construction, and both materials and material sizes are per-determined. That said, before we were ready to do anything with a timber fame we decided to invest in ourselves and our education and put some new books on our library shelf. The ones we bought and have been studying are as follows:

IMG_8537

Creating and Finding the Timbers

Because we didn’t want to spend a dime on this battery box , we knew that we were going have to get creative when it came to sourcing our timbers. We took a walk around our property to see what good wood we had laying around, especially as a result of the 100-year windstorm last fall.

It turns out there was quite a bit of windfall on the back of our property due to the huge windstorm last year so we hooked sections of tree to our ATV and brought them to the front side of our property.

Instead of getting straight to work with our Alaskan chainsaw mill, we first mapped out a rough design of a timber frame box to determine what size timbers we would need. We also took into account the trees we had for us on this project and were able to create a design that maximized the lumber we had available.

designing our small timber frame project

Once we had our cut list, we used both the Alaskan chainsaw mill and mini mill, to create beautiful timbers to begin our project with.

using mini alaskan chainsaw mill for timber framing

Beginner Timber Fame Projects: Practicing Joinery

After brushing up on our timber frame joinery, we understood basic ideas of it yet hadn’t been able to do it ourselves, so off we went practicing our joinery! We had a variety of hand drills, power drills, chisels and saws that we were able to use to create mortises and tenons. Jesse decided which types of joints to use and where they would go in the design, and after some careful instruction I was able to help him carve these out of our timbers.

We’re happy to report that all went pretty smooth, and assembly couldn’t have gone better! Everything fit like a glove.

timber frame joinery

timber framing projects

Finishing Up the Timber Fame Project With Modern Construction

After our timber frame was assembled, we decided to finish the box with more modern construction methods. We added additional framing to the sides, added OSB for the walls, added some 2″ foam board insulation, added some rafters, added a metal roof and called it a day.

timber frame project - timber frame battery box

It actually wasn’t that simple because Jesse took this as an opportunity to practice some additional constructions methods he had floating around in his head. After all… how often do we get to build miniature houses? Not very!

First, Jesse did some reading from an ancient book (published in the early 1900s by Sears… this might be a more modern one but hard to tell based on the description or lack of) on the framing square. He learned that there is more to this square than meets the eye and that it can be used for complex measurements. Using this square he was able to figure out how to create rafter seats, proper angles for the rafters and more.

timber framing square

Jesse also wanted to try making a boxed eave so that the box really looked tidy rather than quickly thrown together. This was worth the effort as it was a skill we should probably know and it really helped to seal up our box and make it somewhat airtight. This process wasn’t incredibly straightforward, so it took some researching as well as some trial and error to get it right. In the end, Jesse feels a lot better about eave construction.

Don’t worry… we left a vent in the roof so that the box and our solar power batteries can breathe.

eave on timber frame project

Value of Small Timber Fame Projects

We stress this again and again on our blog because many people ask us on a daily basis “Why haven’t you started building your house yet?” and the answer has been that we don’t have enough experience under our belts. But we’re getting there and plan to get down to business this spring.

With every small project we take on, we learn and get to practice THAT many more skills that will help us with “the big build”, and with every project we find more and more flow with working together. That’s one reason why we built a hot tub and deck before a house.

For timber framing specially, there is even more to learn. Joinery is just one portion of timber framing. We also spent a bit of time fine-tuning our tree felling methods, fine tune how we turn tree sections from the forest into usable lumber, and even how to mill up the sides of a timber with a mini chainsaw mill. Constructing a timber frame is yet another skill set, one we have just a little more practicing doing by putting together this timber frame battery box!

working on a timber frame project

Our Hopeful Next Timber Frame Project: A Model House

We haven’t talked about it much on the blog, but we’re in the process of finalizing our house plans and hoping to send them over to an an engineering firm that specializes in timber structures within the next couple of months. Then, we’re still hoping we can create a mini timber frame of our house with 1×1″ sticks, and hopefully that will be another chance to practice joinery on a micro-level. We’re hoping this will educate us even more as to how our timber frame house will come together, only we can practice with timbers that don’t need cranes to be lifted!

Get involved!

Have you ever practiced with timber frame construction? If so, what types of projects have you worked on? Have you seen any cool timber frame projects on the web? Let us know in the comments below!

 

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I am an aspiring homesteader on a journey to become self-sustainable and free. In my past, I've worked corporate jobs to make ends meet and get ahead a little; it didn't make me happy or confident in my future. Since taking the leap to self-employment and living a more simple life, my happiness levels have increased greatly and I've never felt more alive. I finally understand what I want in life and how to get there, and that is what this blog is all about.

Comments

  1. says

    Great Post Alyssa.
    I stumbled across your blog a few weeks ago and since then have been the Youtube channel as well. It is great to see the enrgy and comittment that you put into realizing your goal.
    Thanks for sharing
    Steve

  2. Sandra Mapstone says

    go to the youtube channel “fouch-o-matic off grid”, they are building a beautiful timber frame home. Lots of videos about the construction.

  3. Robert says

    Ran across your u tube a couple weeks ago. I keep tuning back in, so I joined your community. I appreciate your ‘not hard core’ approach. ( although you clearly work HARD ). I enjoy the thought processes as they relate to your decisions.
    p
    Videos are fun and professionally put together. I love the fast forwarding.
    Have you considered a garage or better yet, a barn (have a barn raising party) . It would solve dry storage issues, improve building skill, and give more time for house design. ( I’m sure you’re a little desperate to get out of trailer but…..) Just my two cents worth. Good luck

    • says

      Hey Robert and welcome! And thanks for the kind words – we work hard to keep our videos enjoyable yet reflective of the real, HARD work that goes on around here. Yes, a barn was the original plan (24×36 two-story floor plan) where we’d have the bottom for a garage for the things mentioned and the top for living… that’s still the plan, but it’s taking a bit longer than we had anticipated. So far, we are labeling 2017 as “Barn Year”, so we’ll see how far we can get. We are anxious to get started because it would solve a lot of our current issues :-)

  4. john Tenhundfeld says

    You asked for videos on timber framing. This couple moved into Kentucky (eastern hills) and using traditional methods, i.e., hand tools, hewed the logs, built a capstan for raising, set foundation stones (cut the stones apart using star drill, hammer and feathers), laid out and notched the joints–including scarf joints to make the long, heavy timbers more manageable–raised the timbers, split the wattle, mixed and applied the daub, etc. They too began small with a workshop/barn and then finally, with neighbors’ help built a house.

    https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=mr.+chickadee

  5. Reuben (Sydney Australia) says

    Great job on the battery box.

    I hope you built in Adequate Ventilation, if not serious gases can build up inside!

  6. Gareth Bath says

    Dear Jesse and Alyssa,

    Another Timber Framing resource on YouTube is ‘Wranglerstar’. He and his family are homesteading in Oregon. I spent 3 weeks ‘commuting’ between Boise and Mountain Home AFB in ~ April and May 2004. I enjoyed a couple of weekends ‘paddling’, kayaking white water on one of the rivers North of Boise. ;o) !

    Yours Aye

    GB

  7. Heidi Blalack says

    Hey I’ve been watching your videos for a while and I’m working on building up the capital for property so your information is incredible for me. I have just run across a wood stove called the Kimberly Wood stove that is designed for a small space. What intrigued me was the conversation about a thermoelectric converter for power. Have you considered have the wood stove you have heat water for you or to have it generate power to top off the batteries?

  8. says

    To the two of you from the two of us. It is so nice to meet others who have embarked on living off grid. We live outside Darrington wa. In the North Cascade Mt range. My wife is from Las Vegas and I am from Idaho. We also payed cash for our property and vow to be completely self reliant. I grew up in the northwest so I had a little pre training. I am a union carpenter who left to go out on my own, and we are living fine. We lived in our 5 th wheel for the first year while we rehabbed a distressed 50 year old A frame. It is done and we moved in October 2016. Our septic we learned and is operational, dug our own well and took hot showers last week. Next project “greenhouse” I own a hardwood flooring and fine woodworking business. If you have any questions or want to trade secrets we would love to hear from you. Respectfullly Ray & Mad

  9. Adrianna D Goodman says

    Hello, We have been trying to find out where the best place to buy Solar Panels and a charger controller. Where to buy the big deep cell batteries? We moved from Texas to Idaho to be Debt Free. We have done a great job with that so far. I love your idea’s and they have helped with ours a lot…Thanks for posting and staying up to date. I love your video’s.

  10. Dave says

    SMART HOME CONCEPTS
    I really enjoy watching Ur bravery in forging a place that U can call your own. I have visited homesteads in central Washington many times only to find out the off the grid living can become labor-some… Have you thought of incorporating a private LAN network to help U WORK SMART NOT HARDER routine. For example… running a Ethernet line inside the double run of pipe for extended wifi coverage and smart sensor technology, electrical and or coax! (Future Use) U did it with solar… U can do it with the water also! One product, I wish I know about was a Sonoff smartphone enabled electrical timer/ switch and temperature controller. (On eBay for around $20-$30) It makes managing a large property a bit more efficient!

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