Our Spiral Staircase got its finishing touches last week, Dylan did most of the work on it, with some help from Andy, and made a fantastic job of it.
The newel post for it went in back when the building was just an empty timber frame. Below you can see the guys winching the post into place. The post was made of larch, we felled it back in the spring in Valewood when we were fetching the ridge pole and wall plates.
The post was tied in to the roof structure at the top, and onto one of the underfloor oak beams at the bottom.
For a couple of months the post sat within the building as floors, ceilings and walls were built around it. There was barely any time to think about stairs, but, eventually attention was turned back to the staircase and what it was to be built of. We needed air dryed timber to ensure the wood wouldn’t warp over time. Our woodshed provided most of the elm, beech and oak. Ben’s provided a bit of extra beech for a couple of treads we couldn’t find enough properly dry timber for. Every one of the treads has a story behind where the wood came from, especialy the elm. Its a staircase with connections to some of the people that have worked here over the years, as well as the local woodlands.
It is also a staircase of many colours. The newel is larch, the first and last three treads are elm, the supporting frame for the first couple of steps is oak, the treads in the middle are all beech, the spindles and handrail are chestnut. I even managed to find a shapely piece of rhododendron we used as a hand hold by the side of the first two steps, an amusing irony really putting a bit of rhodi in the building as we spend a great deal of our time trying to eradicate this particular problem species. It sounds like it could be a complete mess of different types of wood, but somehow it really works. It is definitely one of my favourite parts of the building.
The stair treads are securely morticed into the newel post and wind around it like turbine blades.
Large coppiced chestnut spindles then bind the treads together and provide the main support for the handrail.
We wanted to find a piece of naturaly twisted wood to use for the handrail, in the end it had to be made out of two twists jointed together in the middle. For most of the building we were hunting for nice straight pieces of timber, looking for one growing in a nice graceful curve was a different challenge alltogether.
Chase Woods on the edge of Black Down provided the answer though, on one edge of the wood there were some coppice stools whose shoots had been twisted by the direction of the light and the slope of the hill.
Smaller spindles then filled in the gaps to make it safe for anyone to use. It is on full view in the heart of the main living space in the building, displaying the products of the woodlands around Haslemere.
Last week the Roundwood Timber Framing Company came to the end of the main works under their contract and Ben’s team finished up on the site. There is still lots of work to do, but its now down to the Black Down countryside team and our volunteers to finish off the rest of the project. Its been kind of strange not having the team here, they have been a real pleasure to work with and over the summer became very much part of life at Swan Barn Farm. Thanks very much to Ben, Dylan, Chris, Sam, Andy, Rudy, Barney, Adam, Nick, Kris,Ian, Georgie, Dave, and Rich. I hope you will all get chance to come back at some stage and see how the building progresses.
There is still plenty of the story of Speckled Wood to unfold and tell and I am looking forward to that. But in the last week or two it has started to feel like the end might be somewhere in sight. The thing I like best about this building is that when I look at it, not only can I remember the woods and trees where the materials for it came, but I can also remember the many people who have come together to build it.