Written by: The Bridge on Tuesday, June 6th, 2006
Working with wood is always an intriguing challenge. Out here in Africa, working with exotic woods and without the proper tools makes it even more of a challenge. Eddy Vetter wanted to get a roof built over three of the containers, to keep them nice and dry, that they would make better storage. So, he got a pile of wood for me and told me to get at it. I looked at the pile of wood that was supposed to be two by fours and wondered if anything could be made from them! I bent down to pick up one piece and I found I could hardly lift it! Unlike at home, the wood isn’t dry, it’s freshly cut and completely saturated with moisture. Out of curiosity, I just had to weight one, so I hauled it over to the scale and found that one 18 ft piece weighed 65 lbs. That means, the final rafter being 24 ft long by 3 ft high, weighs around 190 lbs!
The wood is mostly hard wood, the termites and ants eat up the soft wood in no time. Back home, the wood that we use here would be considered an exotic hard wood, we would pay quite a bit for it. I’d really like to know what kind of wood it is but itï¿½s hard to find somebody who knows stuff like that. This particular type that I had to work with had a beautiful red colour to it, from the picture you can see that the sap looks like blood. Somehow, I got it all over my cloths and now they are permanently stained a dull red colour. I’m wondering if this might not be the famous West African Padauk wood.
To construct the rafter, we used rafter plates that Riverbend had sent along in one of the containers. I couldn’t help but think that Acadia would complete this job in less then 15 minutes, it took us most of the day. We used a sledge hammer to get the plates nailed into place. Nailing the hard wood is quite another challenge. One small miss and the nail gets bent and then it’s useless, they bend like soft wire. One of the women walked past, saw our dilemma, and suggested that we use oil on the nails to get them to go in better, it worked well. We used palm oil, because they process it right where we work, it’s readily available.
The tin that they use on the roof is really thin, very flimsy stuff to work with. I made a real bad job of getting them on straight, but by the time we got the last side on, we got things figured out, reasonably well anyway. It was a learning experience for all of us. The older boys and young boys that help, need to be taught everything, from holding a hammer correctly, to figuring out if forward or reverse works best when putting in screws! For screws, we used the ones that Newdale had sent on a container, they sure worked good for this job. The next job will probably be putting a roof on the container that is used for storing feed, then we’ll start fixing the chicken barns. The younger boys are always eager to help but the older ones need to be pushed quite a bit.