Kevin McCloud’s Shed, Kevin McCloud’s Man Made Home, Shingle notes for the self builder

one man and his shed - battening and shingles

shingle battens screwed to 18mm ply

The first picture here shows shingle battens screwed to 18mm ply covered with Tyvek breathable membrane. The second picture is us shingling the roof. You can see the patterning of shingle laying which is stepped in from the corners at an angle.

one man and his shed - shingling

patterning of shingle laying

This roof is laid at 25°, which is very shallow for a shingle roof and not usually recommended. It was important for Kevin in this instance to keep the building profile low. However shingles will not last as long at this angle and there is more chance of blow off and water ingress. A more suitable angle is around 45°.

Kevin’s shed used 3308 shingles, which were overlapped 3 deep. Once you become experienced you should expect to be able to make about 100-120 high quality hand split shingles a day, depending on the quality of the tree. This is very relaxing and satisfying work. Part of the skill in making shingles is choosing your tree and reading the tree shape to anticipate the quality of wood inside. If you are making un-dressed machine split shakes (not drawknifed to a taper) you might make double that quantity per day. The majority of the shed shingles we hand made back at our yard which took 20/person days.

one man and his shed - oak shingles

oak shingles

If you are buying shingles in for a project there are a few options. Hand made oak shingles are the most expensive. They are thick, long, smooth, straight-sided and tapered from the bottom to the top. Machine split oak shingles are a bit cheaper, often smaller (so you need more per square metre) and fitting them will take longer. They are also rougher, thinner and will not last quite as long. Sawn cedar shingles are cheaper still but they only last max 30yrs, compared to max 100yrs for oak, so you’ll replace them more often.

We experimented with making hand split cedar shingles. Our experience is that you’ll produce a lot of waste and low quality shingles using UK grown cedar. The timber is cheaper than oak but the amount of work involved is similar and the final product not as durable. However, if you are on a limited budget and you have cheap or free access to cedar it may be worth considering.

Kevin McCloud’s Manmade Home - shingle cutting

Each shingle is a bespoke job

We have attached our shingles with ring shanked stainless steel nails to douglas fir battens. Making and laying shingles is a skill and if you plan to do it yourself you’ll save time by studying it first. Laying shingles up to a contoured edge as I have done here against the swept oak is quite a joy. Each shingle is a bespoke job and here’s how we do it. First, hold the shingle in position and scribe the cut line with a pencil. I then do one of two things, depending on whether the shape follows the grain or crosses it. If following the grain I’ll cut the shape with a carving axe. If there is only a slither to remove I’ll use the drawknife. If the shape runs cross grain, I’ll cut the bulk off with a saw and then drawknife the final profile. It can also be done with a fet saw.

To make shingles you’ll need a froe, heavy wooden mallet, side axe, drawknife and a shave horse. Cutting the tree trunk into disks requires a powerful chainsaw. I use a Stihl 066 and a 3ft bar.

Where to buy tools:
Bristol design – 0117 929 1740

Kevin McCloud’s Shed, Kevin McCloud’s Man Made Home, Dovetail joint notes for the self builders

one man and his shed - dovetail joint

These joints are self-locking.

There are two wonderful dovetail joints on tie beams between the back wall and the swept beams. Along with two other horizontal ties they hold the back wall against the spreading/downward load of the roof. These joints will be self-locking on a green oak frame if the tie beam itself is cut from seasoned oak. You can see me here cutting a quarter way into the swept beam. It is a very satisfying joint to cut and this one was so snug that the two halves had to be wound together using a sash cramp. I cut these joints with a normal panel saw and a mortise chisel.

one man and his shed - joints

me cutting a dovetail joint

Kevin McCloud’s Shed, Kevin McCloud’s Man Made Home, Building process notes for self builders

one man and his shed - building process

‘Guided’ or ‘assisted’ building projects.

This type of build is what I call a ‘guided’ or ‘assisted’ building project. Commonly the owner will have a passion for building or design but not the time or experience to actually do it all. Kevin probably does have the skills to build something on this scale but also juggles many other projects, so joined us on site when he was free. He also sent regular pencil sketches and CAD designs by email and discussed the next stages by phone so the project kept moving forward.

Assisted builds are a good option to consider for the DIY shed builder short of time or skills.

Kevin McCloud’s Shed, Kevin McCloud’s Man Made Home, Timber frame notes for the self builder

one man and his shed - the frame

Pictured here is the finished frame and studding.

Pictured here is the finished frame and studding. Kevin was keen for the line of the roof to continue as a ‘folded’ profile down the north wall. His idea was for this wall also to be shingled as a continuation of the roof. I’m very glad he suggested this as I’ve enjoyed building it and it looks great. There is a small 1” drip overhang, which is the absolute minimum. It is just possible in this picture to see the blue sealed sections of end grain. I like to seal end grain in these situations to reduce cracking during the drying process. You can also see the ratchet strap which held the south wall in place before ribs and braces were attached.

Further learning;
There are lots of books and a few courses on timber framing. You could book yourself on to one of our marvellous 5 day courses in Gloucestershire ( or check out the Low Impact Living Initiative for other venues (
For books –

Kevin McCloud’s Shed, Kevin McCloud’s Man Made Home, Lifting notes for the self builder

one man and his shed - pulleys

basic tripod arrangement to hoist the swept oak beams up to the wall plate.

We used a basic tripod arrangement to hoist the swept oak beams up to the wall plate. The mechanism had to be easily controllable and very safe so that it could all be done in one day, with assistance from people who had no previous experience. This can be achieved by pre-cutting and fitting as much as possible in advance. We used 10mm rope, a block and tackle, three spruce poles roped together at the apex and also tied off at the bottom so the tripod legs can’t slip. You want to have sufficient mechanical advantage in your pulleys so that one person can operate the pulley and be able to have a hand free to tie off. When timber is in the air it is important to have clear instruction from one person.