Monday, June 28, 2010

Rafters: something I miss

Last week while wandering around the internet, I ran up on the Rafter Angle Calculator at Construction It looks like a nice resource, and it brought back some memories.

Once upon a time I was a rafter man on a framing crew. It seems far away now. It's been probably 15 years or more since I did much construction work. On days when I'm not out in the 100 degree heat, I miss both framing in general in rafter cutting in particular. [Actually out in the heat I don't miss it quite as much ;-) ]

After finding the "Rafter Angle Calculator", I did some further searching on rafter cutting. It appears to be a skill whose practitioners are dwindling. Or so they say. Pre-made trusses are one major factor in this. Curiously, while reading about the subject online I didn't notice anyone mentioning that rafters could be laid out with a framing square.

After learning to cut rafters from my Dad, I tried to learn more through reading and practice. One of the best was an old textbook cast off by some school. I'm going to have to hunt it up out of storage and find the title.

Eventually I might cut an entire roof ahead of or at the beginning of construction. In order to not have thousands of dollars of 2X6's cut wrong, I used a three-part safety system. I laid out the rafter with a framing square, calculated the length of the rafter with a
Construction Master Calculator by Calculated Industries* (given to me by my boss), and used a rafter table booklet title Full Length Roof Framer by A. F. J. Riechers.** If these were the same, I was confident there was no mistake and the 6-1/2" worm drive Skil Saw was ready to take its bite. If you find a house with rafters that I cut it will have a pattern rafter (or more according to roof type) with all the information about the rafter -- cut, length, depth of seat cut, overhang, etc., as well as a signature of approval.

Those were the days.

Other info on roof framing
A Roof Cutter's Secrets to Framing the Custom Home by Will L. Holladay

Roof Framing by Marshall Gross (Carlsbad, CA: Craftsman Book Co., 1998)

Book Review of Full Length Roof Framer by Mike Merisko

Roof Framer's Bible: The Complete Pocket Reference to Roof Framing by Barry D. Musse

Basic Roof Framing Instructions online

*The Construction Master Calculator can calculate in feet/inches and figure pitch, rise, run, etc.
** The Full Length Roof Framer has been in publication since 1917 and is still not outdated.


Anonymous said...

Robert, this brought something to mind after reading this. I would imagine you would be qualified to give an insightful opinion.

There is no hiding the fact that many of your old homes built 100 years ago and even much further back, are still in very good condition. Some are still solid as a rock. You could also say the same thing about some types of furniture. Then you have homes that are not even 20 years old, and are falling apart. What would you say is the reason for this? Was it the quality of workmanship in that maybe more attention to detail was given? Or could it have been the materials used? Perhaps it could have been a combination of factors.

I recall a story of a school building about 30 years ago, which was only about 10 years old at the time, if i remember correctly. It was literally already falling apart. They said you could actually push on the walls and feel them move. Quite a scary thought if you think about it. I believe they ended up tearing out one whole side of the building and redo it. You certainly never heard of anything of the sort about old brick homes and buildings from earlier times.

R. L. Vaughn said...

I'm not sure I have much insight. I think it would probably be a combination of factors. I believe that quality of workmanship and attention to detail would be a factor. But then again, I think that probably in most eras there has probably been quality of workmanship & attention to detail, as well as poor workmanship. Possibly also at times there is the necessity or near necessity or building a cheap house one can afford to get in and get in quickly. But I do think that in the present time some have really honed the skill of seeing just how much they can get away with.

I think when it comes to natural timber, the materials of the past were better. Much of the pine lumber is quick growth stuff that is all sap.

Just some of my thoughts that may not be worth much.