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.