Building the Windmill Cap
June 1st, 2010
  • Framing a conical roof
  • I'll admit, even more than the gears and the wind drive system, the notion of fabricating, assembling and installing shingles on the windmill's cap has haunted me from the beginning of the project. In the original plan, I had expected to build the conical cap - however, I had hoped that a team of roofers (with experience) would be responsible for installing the shingles... Alas, with the economy being what it is - this was not to be and clearly roofing was in my future...

    So... let us begin at the beginning...

    The work was conducted over Daniel's spring break from school so that I could have some help during the work day, and also, someone to call an ambulance in the inevitable event of an accident. I cut most of the lumber the week before, so we were ready to roll first thing in the morning. Starting with the bare curb, we continued to add rafters and braces until the roof took shape. Amazingly, we were able to assemble the roof framing in a single day of extraordinary effort...

    The careful observer will note a viscious injury on my leg where a rafter collapse early in the day led to tears, swearing and the application of duct tape.

  • Tying it together
  • As anyone who lives on the east coast can tell you, wood and screws are not enough when it comes to hurricane season --- what you need is steel. ASTM rated, galvanized steel to be exact. Consequently, we spent the second day of the cap making adventure in the manufacture and installation of hurricane straps.

  • Wrapping it up
  • The next step in the process was to wrap the roof with three layers of 1/4" hardwood plywood. Technically speaking, installation at the top is the hardest part because the curve radius becomes very extreme. Because of that, in most cases you would want to start the application of plywood at the bottom where it's relatively easy and develop your skills as you move up. Unfortunately, if you install plywood around the bottom then you won't have the rafters and braces to stand on as you install around the higher levels. Consequently, I had to start the learning process the hard way.

    The good news is Bondo. When the plywood cracked in the upper layers, I was able to repair it with a generous application of the auto body filler. The 'super putty' dried within five minutes and I was ready to sand and continue.

    After a solid coating of tar paper, the cap began to look like a giant witch's hat on the front lawn.

  • Shingling a round roof
  • For those who don't know... and I was one of you... when shingling a round roof, every single shingle must be hand tapered. The good news is that this process can be performed using a jig on the table saw, the bad news is that the angle changes on every successive layer and varies depending on the width of the shingle.

    While the photos below show us boldly driving nails and layering shingles, let me assure you that there were many hours of trimming and tapering before the first nail went into the cedar. Also, although we were all having fun swinging hammers and hitting our thumbs, we decided later that it was more prudent to employ a coil roofing nailer. While not as festive (or colorful), the tool provided a consistent nail depth and reduced bouncing that loosened adjacent shingles.

    Not shown in these pictures is Diamond Dean Golembeski... His efforts were especially heroic on this part of the project because he was the only one of us who had ever installed shingles before. Consequently, he was able to correct (or conceal) most of the mistakes that we made in the lower levels. Also, since he's at least a foot taller than the rest of us... he was able to go much further than we could without employing a ladder.

  • Sealed for it's own protection
  • After the roof was completed, all of the shingles were sealed with a heavy coat of Thompson's Water Seal Advanced Formula. If applied annually, the sealant will help the roof last for many years and will reduce discoloration from age and sun exposure. Additionally, a high quality clear silicone sealant was used anywhere that cracks resulted from bending the cedar. Once sanded, the sealant practically disappeared, but continued to provide a weather-tight lock in the cracked wood.

    For this part of the project, all hands were on deck and I wish to personally thank our volunteers:
  • Diamond Dean Golembeski
  • Jefferson Lab
  • Kandice Carter
  • Jefferson Lab
  • Daniel Akers
  • Troop 123 of Seaford, Virginia - Boy Scouts of America
  • Madelaine Akers
  • Old Dominion University
  • Evelyn Akers
  • Jefferson Lab/The Twisted Oaks Foundation
  • Walt Akers
  • Jefferson Lab/The Twisted Oaks Foundation

    For additional information, please contact Walt Akers.