This section is from the book "Spons' Mechanics' Own Book: A Manual For Handicraftsmen And Amateurs", by Edward Spon. Also available from Amazon: Spons' Mechanics' Own Book.
The following remarks are intended only to describe the materials adapted for building summer-houses and the manner of putting them together. For designs, the reader must exercise his own taste, or he may refer to an interesting series of papers on rustic carpentry written by Arthur Yorke in Amateur Work, portions of which have been availed of here.
The wood looks best if left with the bark on, in which case it should be cut down in winter while the sap is out of it; if to be peeled, it is better cut when the sap is rising. The most suitable and durable wood for this purpose is larch, after which come silver fir, common fir, and spruce. Poles should be selected from trees grown in close plantations, these being more regular in form and less branched; smaller wood is got from the branches of trees growing in the open. Oak " bangles " (smaller branches very contorted) look best when peeled, and do well in grotesque work. Elm branches are more durable than oak. Apple branches possess the same advantage, with equal irregularity, and often cost nothing. Hazel rods, and sticks of maple and wych-elm are well adapted for interior work.
Fig. G23 shows the construction of a summer-house 8 ft. long, 4 ft. wide, and 6 ft. high to the eaves. The collar posts a are set 2 ft. deep in the ground, that portion having been first peeled and well tarred. The cross pieces b are joined to the posts in the manner shown at c; when the rafter d is added, a large spike nail is driven through all and into the post, but smaller nails may be used temporarily to hold the cross pieces until the rafter is on. The corner posts a are 4 12-5 in. in diameter, and sawn flat at the top. Pieces called "ledgers" are nailed cross-wise at top and bottom, immediately below the wall-plate and above the ground line respectively, on the inside of the house, their juncture with the corner posts being as shown in plan at e. The walls f are formed of split poles, the splitting being best done by a circular saw, if available; they are nailed at top and bottom to the ledgers, with their sawn faces inwards, their upper ends sloping off to fit against the wall-plate, and their lower reaching 2 or 3 in. into the ground. The walls are lined inside, the lining of the lower half being formed of another row of split poles, arranged with their sawn sides towards the first, and so that they cover the spaces between them.
The upper half may be lined with smaller half-stuff placed diagonally. From the top of the pediment of the roof, a ridge piece extends backwards 18 in.; this keeps the finishing point of the thatch some distance back, and enables the eaves to project over the pediment. The end of the rafters are sawn as at g. When the rafters are fixed, a number of rough rods about 1 1/2 in. thick are nailed across them some 5 in. apart, for carrying the thatch. A 1-in. plank 14 in. wide and fixed at 16 or 17 in. above the floor affords a good seat. The subject of thatching will be found under the section on Roofing. The under side of the thatch is all the better in appearance for being lined. The best material for the purpose is heather (ling), and next to it comes furze. In fixing it, a layer is spread at the bottom of the roof with the brush ends' pointing downwards to the wall-plate, and a strip of wood is nailed tightly across the root ends from rafter to rafter; succeeding courses are laid in the same manner, each overlapping the preceding and hiding the wooden strips. Failing heath and furze, recourse may be had to moss, fastened to the thatch by small twig buckles.
Another substitute is sheets of elm bark, dried flat on the floor of a shed under pressure, and secured by flat-headed naila, moss serving to fill any interstices. Indeed moss, previously dried, is admirable for stopping all chinks and cracks. For flooring, the best possible plan is to drive short pieces (say 6 in. long) of wooden poles into the ground leaving all their tops level. Intervals may be filled in with sand. Concreting and asphalting are expensive, gravelling is productive of much dust, and flooring has an inappropriate appearance.