A Vacation I'm Dreaming of!

I want to go to this 10 day timber framing course! It's in Latvia, a little country on the Baltic Sea.

Personally I am a fan of working with modern tools while we have them available. But learning without them is a good first step so as to understand the intricacies of the material and art of the craft! Plus then when disruption occurs to the global economy and political balance, we don't need the products it produces and can thrive in its absence.

Looking to share my shop!

I am looking to share my shop. I have a bounty of space, tools, and wood + metal working skills. I do not have a specific idea of how this sharing of space, tools, and skill might look. It depends on where the most energy lies and who responds! Below are a few ideas.

  • You are a skilled maker, and would like to collaborate on some projects. I have 101 ideas, and would love to hear yours. We can come up with ones that push both our skills and sound most fun to work together on. You may be wildly more skilled than me! 
  • You are comfortable with shop tools and techniques, and would like to assist with projects to gain experience and have a good time.
  • You are a novice and would like lessons in wood and metal working. I never had shop in high school, and most don't in middle school, I could remedy that for 2 or three students at least! 

I have 5+ years teaching experience with all ages, and would happily work with people 10-108 years old. Say, meet once or twice a week, 6-9pm, and a few weekends we can decide as our schedule allows? 

We can sell things we make and share profits, you can pay me money, or share a bounty you have! 

I have a: table saw, chop saw, surface planner, metal forge, TIG welder, chainsaw mill, grinders, band saw, drill press, and a whole slew of hand tools and smaller tools. 

Barroing on an Old Tradition

Barro is a Spanish word for mud, but for those who remember, it is much more. With Barro you can raise a home out of the earth around you. It is an ancient building technique using clay, sand, and natural fiber. I was hired to teach this method of construction to a group of local contractors and laborers in Yelapa, Mexico last summer. Check out what we made!

Why build a privacy wall from cinderblocks? 

Why build a privacy wall from cinderblocks? 

I felt pretty silly as a Cascadian going to Mexico to teach the locals about cob! It is a building technique used there for thousands of years. Several people in the village I was in remembered a grandparent or great aunt who lived in a Barro home, but no one knew the mixtures, finishing techniques, or how to go about it! I did my best to remedy that, teaching my crew and anyone who stopped to look on the curious spectacle.

Mixing the finish plaster.

Mixing the finish plaster.

It didn't matter what color you wore to the cobsite, everyone wore red home. 

It didn't matter what color you wore to the cobsite, everyone wore red home. 

The goals of my client were twofold. Create an attractive piece of art to stop foot traffic and create buzz around a beachfront rental property, and inspire a resurgence of traditional building techniques. For the locals, concrete was the name of the game. Streets, shops, houses, everything was concrete. We wanted to use beauty to remind the town  that there are other ways of building. The site was directly on a main path, meaning we had a lot of explaining to do. No, it won't get washed away when it rains. No, there is no cement. Yes, it is really "just" barro! The comments we got back were quite skeptical. You don't need fluency to understand snickering. It was such a treat hearing awe and praise from those same people when the smooth coat was applied and the wall took final shape! I believe we achieved both of the client's goals. It was beautiful, and the locals were a little softer on the idea of building with mud. 

I kept telling my crew "just wait until we apply the base coat, their comments will flip"!

I kept telling my crew "just wait until we apply the base coat, their comments will flip"!

I flew home after two months in Yelapa, the end of a successful project. My client wrote me a glowing review, and everyone was really impressed with the project. I have to admit I am nervous about it though. Once I left they decided to use concrete sealer instead of linseed oil for water protection, and I am worried how it will fare. But I hope it works! I will write an update once it weathers a few seasons. 

The Cob Team! 

The Cob Team! 

Overall, this project was a big lesson in terms of expectations and plans. You really cannot have too many plans in natural building. They bend and flow like the cob. But I would do it again in a heartbeat:) If you are ever in Yelapa, Mexico, go take a look at a very special wall for me. 

One Day Build: A loft was born

A friend of mine recently purchased a home, which has a very odd shaped storage room. It was mostly unused, given its long, tall, and narrow shape plus lack of shelving. We decided to change that! Any tall room deserves a loft as far as I am concerned. If you are going to build it and heat it, why not use it? Interior design minded folks might protest this, arguing for a sense of spaciousness and freedom. There is even some data to back this idea up (1). Fine, I'm not saying we should all live in 5' tall rooms. But hey, if you like the visual of a tall room, why not make a suspended net structure? I've spent time in Dream Nets outdoors, and thought it would be a great idea to make one in a tall living room. On to the loft though. 

1 Joan Meyers-Levy and Rui (Juliet) Zhu, “The Influence of Ceiling Height: The Effect of Priming on the Type of Processing That People Use”; Yannick Joye,

Pre-loft. 

Post-loft. 

I had big ideas about making the ladder and rail from salvaged branches and small trees off a clear cut, with fancy mortise and tenon joinery, but sometimes you just gotta get it done fast. Hard to beat a one day start to finish project! 

Builder Seeking Project

I am looking forward to the spring/summer building season, and am seeking a client. I would like to design and build a small dwelling, be it a guest cottage, artist studio, workshop, small house, or retreat space. This relationship would ideally be one of commissioning an artist, rather than merely hiring a laborer. If you or someone you know might be interested, please get in touch with me and we can discuss possibilities! 

Below are a selection of images that inspire me, to give an idea of the type of building I am imagining. The materials used, shape, and aesthetic will of course be determined by the client's needs. 

I believe dwellings can be beautiful, functional, efficient and affordable. If you do too, let's discuss working together. 

 

Looking for a Project.jpg

Why "Cedar Creek"?

I tried to come up with a name for a few years. Nothing seemed to fit! My friends were totally unhelpful, offering suggestions like "Torrey's Wood" or "I build Wood Good". I opened a general contracting business in Bellingham, and ended up just calling it "Torrey Burke-Weeks" for lack of a better idea (plus using my own name saved me $3 in registration fees). 

I was recently fishing in Squamish, on a lovely snowy day. Snow is about the easiest tracking there is, and soon enough I had gotten distracted, trailing a black bear through the woods. I was at least a half day behind it, so low chances for a surprise run-in. The tracks led to a stunning view of the river with sweeping cedar branches reaching for the water on both banks, where both the bear and I (several hours apart) stopped for a break. The name seemed obvious at that moment. Thanks Bear! 

The "Cedar Creek" that gave inspiration for the name.

Tracks from the bear who led me.

A spot where the bear bent down to take a drink.