Wood Shed Build

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Minister of Fire
May 29, 2012
central NJ
After a few years of fussing with tarps, rubber roofing, fence posts, etc, I decided it was time for a shed of my own. The project actually started back in January when I poured through the Show us Your Woodshed thread and scouted out designs I liked. I drew up some plans in Sketchup and went for something relatively simple with good airflow and not too deep. I only wanted to do this once, so I went 36' long x 8' deep, 6' in the back to 8' in the front:


Here is the site I selected... I've got just a little yard and then a bunch of forest, so hard to find enough free space. I built a little model so I could see how it looks from the house. It's hard to tell from the photo, but over the 36' it actually slopes down 3' from the model down to the wood pile between the trees. I considered a tiered design, or building the roof to match the slope of the hill, but instead I decided to excavate and get a level site.



I piled up a bunch of rocks for a retaining wall of sorts and then effectively moved 1.5' of dirt from the high side over to the low side.


Finished site, ready for a wood shed.


At this point site construction was put on hold as we got a bunch of snow that stuck around for a few months.

There are a whole slew of long, straight oak and ash trees down near me from Hurricane Sandy a few years back, even after I cut up god knows how many cords for firewood. I decided to cut at least the major timbers for the project so I bought myself a Haddon Beam Maker attachment for my chainsaw. While waiting for the snow to melt and ground to thaw, I worked on gathering the timbers and posts.

Here is the process for cutting one of the posts... this was a big locust tree I pass every day on my way to/from work. A year or two back the utility company came through and topped it off to keep the lines free. I stopped and left a note asking if I could cut it down and the homeowner said 'have at it.' It was a pretty good size but a strange clover shape.


The Beam Maker is a little jig that rides on a 2x4 or 2x6 keeping the chainsaw relatively straight but allowing it to pivot up and down to cut down through the log. I used a 2x4 screwed to a 2x10 for rigidity, and the whole mess screwed the log. It takes some time to plan out how to cut the log to get the beam(s) you want and then line everything up. That is a 660 with 32" bar for reference.


First cut complete. It is slow going because you are more or less cutting across the end grain. With the longer bar you can angle it a bit, but it's still long, slow work, especially in locust. I would touch up the chain every two cuts or so.


I then rotated the log 90 degrees and cut the next two sides.


Final cut and I have myself a 8"x8"x11' locust post. That sucker was heavy! Cutoffs where cut up into firewood.


There was a big crotch section at the top... I split by hand and that was never going to happen with this chunk, so I sliced it into cookies to maybe use as steppers in a garden pathway or something.


I managed to find enough big locust trees to cut the front four posts all 8"x8"x11'. For the back posts I used locust logs 6-8" in diameter and 9' long.

I followed more or less the same process for the beams. They are 4"x10", 12' long for the middle two and 14' long for the ends. The nice part about beams is you use the 3.5" wide 2x4 and then the jig adds 1/4", so you can just run it down one side, turn it around and run it back the other to end up with a 4" wide beam. Then you trim the edges off which goes pretty quick since you're only cutting through 4" of wood.


Five of the beams are cut from ash and one of the 12' middle beams came from a red oak. Very fortunate to have so many long, straight trees around me, but let me tell you, milling is hard work. It was pretty impressive though how straight a beam you could make with a $80 jig and a 2x4. I just used a regular chain, nice and sharp, and as long as you were smooth in the cut, the finished surface was pretty decent.

Well now it's spring and the ground has finally thawed. I took a break from the wood shed to make some progress on another backyard project... a patio/fire pit. I'm scavenging those rocks from the hill/stream behind my house and stacking them up in that circle. Eventually I'll lay flagstone in the bottom and put a fire pit in the middle. Again the entire back of my property slopes down and away from my house, so inside that circle the near side is a good 1' higher than the far side, so I had to excavate it level.


I made myself a little soil sifter using 4x4 landscape timbers for a frame, some old pallet wood for a carriage and a tray with wire mesh stapled to it. A reciprocating saw shakes the carriage back and forth and the soil falls into the lawn cart below while the rocks tumble off the end into the wheel barrow. I wired a dimmer switch to the end of the extension cord to control the speed of the reciprocating saw. Anyhow why is this in my wood shed build thread? Because while excavating the dirt from the high side of the firepit area, I sifted out the rocks out to use for the floor of the wood shed.

I put in a few weeks work on the fire pit and about this time a couple stacks from 2+ years ago fall over, so it's back to the wood shed project. No pics of me digging holes for the poles, but let me tell you it sucked. This soil is full of awesome rocks for gravel and has excellent drainage, but digging here sucks. My neighbor stopped by and joked that digging around here you get two rocks for every one dirt. It was maybe 25% post hole digger and 50% shale bar and 25% scooping/prying/digging by hand. Awful. Original plan was 3' holes, but new plan is 2' holes. Well a little past 2' and then I stuck a big flat rock in the bottom of each to bring it back up to 2'.

The back posts were small/light enough I could manhandle them into the holes. Pictured at left is my pile-o-gravel from soil sifting.


I'll mention here that at one point I considered doing some timber framing joinery. Read all sorts of stuff, bought myself a big old timber framing chisel, cut a giant cross beam from an ash tree and cut tenons on both ends. Then I spent an ungodly amount of time making one stupid mortise and said forget that, I'll just bolt this thing together. So I used the chainsaw to notch the tops of the posts and eventually fastened the beams using 1/2" carriage bolts.


Sorry for the blurry photo but here is my pal John helping me put the front posts into their holes. These were really too big to move much at all by hand, let alone pick up vertically and carefully maneuver over/into a 2' deep hole it just barely fits into.


Poles are set, level and braced.

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Minister of Fire
May 29, 2012
central NJ
With the posts in place it was time to get the beams up. I cut them all long just to be safe so they had to be trimmed to final length. In principle the posts were to 12' apart, but in practice it was more complicated. For one thing, my layout/measurement/hole digging skills leave something to be desired. Also some of the posts had defects, like in the corner of the one above. I wanted at least three inches of full bearing at each end of the beam so on the post above they don't actually meet in the middle, it's offset to one side a bit. Net net I measured and cut each beam as I put them up. Due to my "close enough" construction standars I would end up individually measuring and cutting just about everything in this damn shed.

Here's how I cut a relatively square end with my chainsaw: First I used a framing square and straight edge to draw square lines across the face and both sides of the beam.


Then I carefully cut at an angle through one quarter of the beam, making sure my cuts were lining up with the top and side lines.


Same on the opposite side.


And finally finish it off.


I actually read about this technique on my little timber framing detour, so that adventure was not a total loss.

Again my pal John helped with the heavy lifting.



Next I worked on the floor and landscaping for a bit... partly because I wasn't yet sure how I wanted to do the roof, and partly because the giant rock pile was kind of in the way.

I put down landscape fabric to try and keep the weeds at bay.


There were a bunch of old railroad ties out in the woods near the site, so I used these to build a little retaining wall around where I had excavated. Who knows how old these things are but they are surprisingly solid. I had to cut one or two to fit and they reeked of creosote. The end grain looked like oak. In this pic you can see that one stupid mortise that took forever to cut... newfound respect for timber framed buildings.


Filling in the floor with gravel as I go.


Once I had finished the floor of the shed and the rock pile had diminished, I went back to the roof. I decided on 2x4 rafters 12" OC... 16" probably would have been okay but I didn't want the OSB to sag and it only took a few more sticks for 12" OC. I bought 12' 2x4s thinking I would use just over 8' to span the roof, leave just about 2' for a back overhang and use the 2' cut off to do the front overhang.

Unfortunately for a few reasons the distance between the front and back beams was not the same all the way down the line. For one, the first set of beams I cut ended up bowing on me a bit. I had cut a 8 1/4x10 from the center of a log and then split it down the middle to get two 4x10s. Due to stresses in the wood each half bowed out towards the ends. Later beams were cut boxed heart and didn't have this problem. Also my holes/poles ended up being off by an inch here or there and I was too lazy to pull them back out and dig more. The end result was the middle of the front beams was about 7" in from either end. Did I mention this was the first thing I'd ever built?

I wanted to correct this bow with the rafters so the decking would go on right and the roof itself would be straight. I considered cutting the top seat cuts on the middle rafters 7" deeper, but that would have left only 1 1/2" or so of rafter left. Instead I split the difference and ran a string from about half way across the beam, and cut everything to meet the string. So the end rafters were only bearing maybe 2" on the beam and the middle rafters had a seat cut like 5" back or something. This also meant I had to individually measure/cut all 40 rafters. I'm sure there was a better way to do this, but this is the best my brain could come up with.

Measuring distance-from-string for a middle rafter.


Cutting the end plumb with the miter saw.


Measuring top seat cut.


Cut most of the way with the circular saw.


Finished with the hand saw. For anyone who hasn't used a sharp handsaw, it's really quite a pleasure. Prior to this guy I'd only used rusty, old, dull, wood handled beasts. This thing makes short work of 2x4s and leaves a nice clean notch.



To locate the second birdsmouth I laid the rafter up in place, marked a plumb line where it met the back of the beam, and then another 1/4 offset. Why? I don't know, but that's what worked.


Marked off 4" with the framing square and cut out the second birdsmouth.


Toe nailed them in with my buddy's framing nailer and some 3 1/4" galvanized nails. The is the first time I used a framing nailer and what an awesome timesaver that is.

About 2/3 through with the rafters. Once I got into a rhythm the measuring/cutting actually went pretty quick, and I really enjoyed this bit. Very satisfying to cut and fit them all.


Just for good measure I went back and added a 2x4 support for the middle rafters with the deeper seat cuts.


I had bought 12' 2x4s expecting to span just over 8' and split the remainder between the front and back overhangs. once I had the 12' rafters up though I was struck by how nice the extra long overhang looked at the back of the shed, extending over the gravel and just past the retaining wall. I decided to change plans and do a 30" overhang in the back and then get more lumber for the front overhang. I struck a chalk line down the row of rafters and cut them off even.

Next I put up the OSB decking. All 17? sheets of 7/16 Exposure 1 OSB came from some guy off craiglist for free. Score! Same guy would also provide a bunch of 4' 2x4s for the front overhang and some 8' pallets to stack wood on. I guess I forgot to take pics of this part but you imagine what a bunch of 4x8 sheets of OSB being nailed to rafters looks like. Again the framing nailer came in hand here but now filled 2 3/8" galvanized rink shank nails. Again, that thing is awesome. So many nails in so little time. I also beveled the edges of OSB so there would be a nice smooth transition for the rubber roofing that would eventually go on.

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Minister of Fire
May 29, 2012
central NJ
With most of roof decking up I had someplace to walk on so I could work on the peak and putting up the overhang framing. Naturally this would match the back at 30". I used the 4' 2x4s from my freeCL pal and cut them all down to uniform size and appropriately angled with the miter saw.


Wasn't sure best way to get the right angle on these stub rafters so I decided to assemble the overhang in 8' sections and then hang the sections. First I marked on a 2x4 where the rafters ended. These were pretty accurately spaced at 12", but figured it was best to just mark based on their actual locations.


Assembling one of the overhang sections.


I used 2x4s clamped to the beam to act as supports while I put up the overhang units.


Making sure it's level before I nail it in. I nailed the ends of the stub rafters to the actual rafters, which was good enough to hold it in the place until the supports went in.


Another round of cutting 40 2x4s, this time for the front overhang supports. I was able to use the rafter cutoffs for these.


Nailing up the supports.


Finished the supports and the rest of the decking.


Now for the roof. I had bought a bunch of used rubber roofing from a salvage building supply place for $3/sheet, and they ranged in size from about 10x10 on up. I was fortunate enough to get one 45'x10' piece so used that for the overhang and about 2/3 down the back of it. The remaining 1/3 was covered with two other pieces.

Laying out the epdm.


I cut an extra strip and ran it along the peak where the roof and overhang join. There were a few rougher spots there so wanted some extra reinforcement to be sure I didn't tear anything.


To join the pieces of roofing I bought some pond liner seam tape off Amazon. I looked into primer/cement made specifically for roofing, but it's all super expensive. The pond liner tape got good reviews so hopefully it will hold up. Lined up the pieces and then prepped the surfaces by cleaning off the dirt and grime and the wiping it down with mineral spirits, as per instructions.


Unrolled the seam tape, which is like gooey double sided tape. Then I folded the top piece over and pressed it down tight. Went back over it with a rolling pin to be sure there were no air bubbles.


To finish the front and back edges, I ran the rubber down over the eave and stapled it back underneath using a staple gun.


To hold things in place and give it a more finished look, I made up some trim by ripping pressure treated 2x10s (another freeCL score) and then screwed them tight up against bottom.


Apart from the rafters there were no bigger beams holding together the front and rear assemblies, so I added some diagonal bracing between the posts to keep everything super rigid. They would also separate the internal space into bays and serve as supports against which I could stack.

I used that 1 1/2" timber framing chisel to cut little pockets into the inside faces of the posts. The locust wood has long, stringy grain so it went pretty quick. I really enjoyed this part as well.



I then ripped some more of those PT 2x10s in half and meticulously trimmed them so they just barely fit between the post, snug enough they had to be hammered into their pockets with a rubber mallet. I secured them with a few 3 1/2" deck screws for good measure. In this pic you can also see some of the hurricane ties on the rafters. It seemed excessive to put these on every rafter so I did every other, on both ends and on the overhang as well. We don't get many hurricanes up this way so I think it should be good.


Completed wood shed, ready to be filled.



I started filling it today, beginning with the locust cutoffs from the trees that produced the posts and continuing with the little stacks that had recently toppled over.


I estimate it will hold 13-15 cords depending on how high I stack it. There's a big stack of crotch and knotty pieces I've been saving so I plan to rent a splitter one day soon and get all that split and stacked in the shed. Then I will consolidate the rest of the smaller single row stacks scattered about in between trees and see where that gets me. I may also end up using some part of the right most bay to store the John Deere, but we'll see how it goes.


Dec 2, 2014
Western Washington
Wow! Impressive looking wood shed! You sure put a lot of time into it and it shows. I really like the beams and posts you cut yourself. I'm about to start on a shed too. What do you think of the 8' span with the 2x4s? That is a little long for 2x4 rafters


Jan 18, 2015
Great job on the whole project and the post. The time it took to plan and construct was well worth it. I'm by great adventure, where about are you? About how much wood do you go through a year? Did a very small amount of timber work during the construction of our stove and it is a humbling experience. Good luck with getting it filled and say hi to John.


Minister of Fire
Jul 22, 2008
Unity/Bangor, Maine
Very nice.


Minister of Fire
Nov 3, 2014
Burnsville, NC
That's awesome! Nice job there.
Now that you finished that project, you can come to my place and build one. :) :cool: :cool: :)


Minister of Fire
May 29, 2012
central NJ
Thanks all for the kind words.
What do you think of the 8' span with the 2x4s? That is a little long for 2x4 rafters
I think it's right at the limit for 2x4 rafters, but they are 12" OC and only holding up OSB and rubber roofing (and eventually some snow.) Time will tell how they hold up, but everything felt very solid walking around up there.
I'm by great adventure, where about are you? About how much wood do you go through a year?
I'm just south of Flemington, about an hour west, slightly north of you. Never do a good job tracking the wood usage but I would guess 3-4 cords/year, burning pretty much nonstop.


Minister of Fire
Aug 4, 2015
Northeast PA
I think I have shed envy :p


Minister of Fire
Sep 27, 2011
Dayton, OH
I'm in awe! I have zero ability with hammers and threaded stuff, etc., so it looks like magic to me. You went about as old-school-organic-local as you possibly could.

I can only imagine typing up the summation here was easier than the build!!

Do you have any worries about the posts being in the ground? It'd be a crime to get any less than 100 years out of that thing.


Minister of Fire
Jun 28, 2014
Fairbanks, Alaska
That's really nice.

Do you regret purchasing the framing slick at all? I want one real bad, not sure how often I would use it.


Minister of Fire
Jan 22, 2012
Southbury, CT
Great shed. I'm building a pallet shed right now and this post made me want to just tear it down and aim higher!
Also, I really wish I had a friend named John to help me with lifting the heavy stuff. I'm using a bottle jack.


Minister of Fire
May 29, 2012
central NJ
Do you have any worries about the posts being in the ground?
I am hoping the locust poles will last indefinitely, or at least the rest of my lifetime. The soil drains well here so that should help. A little concerned about frost heave but we'll see what happens this winter.

Do you regret purchasing the framing slick at all?
I bought this 1 1/2" flat back chisel off ebay for $39 shipped. I think it was another $15 for a flat stone to sharpen it. I only used it a few times for this project but no regrets. I rarely regret buying tools, especially quality, used tools... if it sits unused for a year or two and I get tired of looking at it, I can probably sell it for what I bought it for.


Also, I really wish I had a friend named John to help me with lifting the heavy stuff.
I probably wouldn't have attempted this without John.


Jan 18, 2015
If I owned my own splitter I would bring up to you but mostly borrow one myself. I have been looking at getting my own and if that works out I will contact you. Good luck in the mean time.

English BoB

Minister of Fire
Nov 20, 2014
Brunswick NY
What a great job, thanks for sharing .



Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2015
Central Illinois
I am hoping the locust poles will last indefinitely, or at least the rest of my lifetime. The soil drains well here so that should help. A little concerned about frost heave but we'll see what happens this winter.

I probably wouldn't have attempted this without John.

Without John's help you do a build up using 2x lumber to make the beams. A pair of 2x12s attached to each other face to face is at least as strong as a 4x12 made of the same wood. It also gets around the issue of having a beam stop on a particular post because you can overlap the pieces such that the longer piece is on opposite ends of the beam. For a 24 foot span with 2 intermediate posts you use 3 16 foot long 2x12s. Cut one in half so it can be added to a 16 to give the 24 feet but put the 16 foot sections at opposite ends of the span and put one cut end on each post. After you have used your framing nailer to attach the 2x12s to each other in place on the post, drill some holes and run carriage bolts through to hold them together as if they were a single board. When I did my house beams I spaced those 1/2 inch bolts about 2 feet apart and built up my beams at 3 2x12s thick. I alternated between a top and a bottom hole for the carriage bolt to keep all the lumber flat, prevent warping. The most I ever had to lift was a single 16 foot 2x12, something most of us can do without John's help.
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