Reciprocal Frame Ceremonial House – Part 1

One of our current projects is to build a new ceremonial house. I chose to build a reciprocal frame structure as it is one of my favorites to build and we have access to all of the wood that we need. We designed it as an octagon and first set the 8 posts into the ground. We temporarily nailed in some smaller diameter poles to the side of the posts to keep the top of the posts equidistant from each other. Next, we installed the horizontal henge pieces, spending a bit of extra time to notch them out so they overlapped each other. We just liked the extra detail! Then we drilled holes and pinned the henge pieces to the posts with rebar pins. We fashioned a charlie stick out of a long pole, this holds the first rafter in place and then each following rafter sits on the one before it. Make sure the charlie stick is totally secure otherwise it will eventually shift under the mounting weight. If that happens you can have a bad accident or at least have to spend a lot more time getting the rafters back into place. Also, make sure the charlie stick is about a third of the way down the rafter, at least far enough outside the opening in the roof so that it is not in the way when you come around to put the final rafter into place. We found that it was easiest to get our intended diameter opening in the roof by drawing the size of the opening on the ground and using a plumb bob as we installed each rafter. After adding each rafter, we secured it by tying or wiring it to the previous one at the top and also doing the same at the bottom to the henge piece. Once we got all the way around there was nearly a perfect gap to slide the final rafter in. At this point we moved the charlie stick enough to let the roof set into place on its own. We made sure the charlie stick was loose but left it there as a precaution. This is where the real fun began! We fashioned more rebar pins, securing the rafters together around the opening at the top and also securing the bottom part of the rafter to the henge piece. We then removed all the ropes, wires, and charlie stick, and took a break to admire our handiwork! The following day we began to design our upper roof, or hat, to cover the opening at the apex. We came up with a very simple and easy design that uses very little wood. Two cross pieces that are notched together sit into the reciprocal opening with a vertical piece coming off of the top of it. 8 small rafters sit on the top of this piece and also onto every other larger rafter that has been notched out to fit them. So far so good! The main structure is complete and it only took 8 days so far with two builders. Our traditional grass roof will be installed over the next week or so. More pictures coming soon!

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