Colin McGhee. MgGhee & Co. Roof Thatchers.

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:: Thatching Tools ::

Each bundle of reed is laid in a course on the roof. Each course of reed applied to roof is affixed with hooks & sway. McGhee hand forges each hook. While the billhook has many uses, it is primarily used by the thatcher to cut each tied bundle once it has been laid in the course. Its other main function is to serve as a good bottled beer opener after a hard day of thatching. As each course is applied to the roof up to the ridge area it is 'dressed' with a leggett. When the courses have been applied to the roof up to the ridge area it is then time for the ridgework. The ridge is made of rye straw which is then cut with the sheepshears into an ornamental pattern to the client's requirements.

Thatching tool. Thatching tool. Thatching tool. Thatching tool.

:: Coatwork ::

Water Reed thatch is normally laid at a depth of 12" above the purine. The two most important techniques to ensure a long life are depth of thatch over the fixing and the angle of the reed's lay on the roof. Here in the USA we have found that the reed must be less tight at the surface. This allows the thatch to cope with the very humid climate. Click on any of the following images to see a larger version.

Coatwork Coatwork Coatwork

:: Interior ::

When using exposed thatch for the interior we use maple saplings (or a similar material) for the purlins and neatly trimmed thatch over heavy timbers. The thatch is neatly dressed to create an attractive ceiling. It is not dusty and there are no bugs or falling thatch. Using this method of construction saves money that would otherwise be spent on a ceiling and a plywood subroof. Click on any of the following images to see a larger version.

Interior Interior

:: Chimney & Ridgework ::

At the ridge the new thatch will be approximately 18" above the ridge board. The chimney will have to be built taller to compensate for this. A chimney built into the roof will need a chimney cricket or flashing built prior to thatching. Click on any of the following images to see a larger version.

Chimney Chimney Chimney

:: Windows ::

Windows come in three varieties. From left to right: eyebrow, half hipped, and gable dormer.

Window. Window. Window.

:: Reed Over Shingles ::

The thick eave projects out at 90 degrees, with a lead flashing on the shingles, and runs up the sub roof prior to thatching to make a watertight joint.


:: Glossary ::

BedA prepared heap of long straw, sedge or rye, from which a yealm is drawn.
BindersSee "sways".
BottleA yealm of straw tied at the small end, used for setting eaves and gables.
BroachesSee "spars".
Brow CourseThe first course of reed; after the eave is set in. Determines the pitch of the roof.
Bunch/BundleA unit of water reed approximately 24" (600mm) or continental at 39" (1m) in circumference at the tie.
ButtThe lower end of a bundle of straw or reed.
ButtingDressing the butt ends by dropping onto a hard, clean surface.
CasingTo rethatch, with any material, over the existing thatch after it has been stripped to a reasonable level and refastened to the rafters.
CourseA horizontal layer of reed or straw thatch.
CrooksMade from quarter inch or three eighths iron rod varies from 8" to 12" in length. Pointed at one end, with a forged right angle hook on the other to hold the sway. Driven into the rafters to hold the sway.
Cross RodsHazel rods split and used for ornamentation between liggers.
FaceThe surface of the roof.
FleekingA woven mat of water reed used as an alternative to battens in exposed rafter situations; rarely used now.
FlashingCement or lead sheeting fixed over the thatch and onto brickwork at the chimney or wall abutments.
Gable FlueThe finished edge of the thatch hanging over the gable end.
Gable TopA yealm of ridging material without pronounced taper at either end forming the topmost part of the ridge.
GaddLength of hazel nut wood before splitting.
GoosenecksSee "spars".
HooksSee "crooks".
L PinsSee "crooks".
LedgersSee "sways".
LiggersRods of split hazel (4' to 5') used on the outside surface of ridges, and in the case of long straw, on eaves and gables.
Long StrawThreshed wheat straw prepared by hand.
Pattern PiecesSee "cross rods".
NibPortion of the roof beside window or chimney.
PinnacleA raised end of a ridge, gable, or top point of a hip.
PrickersSee "spars".
RidgeCapping on topmost part of roof, various finishes.
Roll DollySausage-like roll(s) of reed or straw. 4" to 8" in diameter and of any suitable length, used to build up the ridge to a sharp apex prior to capping.
Rye StrawThreshed and used for ridging.
SaddleThe junction of a ridge with a main coat.
SedgeUsed for capping a water reed roof.
SkirtThe side courses of a ridge thickened at the butt when used as a cut pattern roof.
SparsSplit hazel rods 30" pointed at each end, and twisted in the center into a 'staple' shape and used to fix 1/2 coat work or the liggers on the ridge.
SpikesSee "crooks".
SpitsSee "spars".
SwaysHazel rods or 1/4" steel rod used to secure thatch to the rafters in the roof. The sways are fixed by stitching with tarred cord or by hooks driven into the rafters at intervals dictated by the length of the materials to be fixed. These are coverd by each succeeding course.
SweepThe forming of a valley.
Tarred CordStrong cord treated with Stockholm tar. Synthetics are also used but tying is rare as a permanent fixture. When used the sway is tied to the rafter or batten or no sway is used.
TwistersSee "spars".
Verge BargeSee "gable flue".
WaddSmall bundle of material to continue the action of the tilting.
YealmA prepared drawn layer of long straw or sedge. 14" to 18" wide. 4" thick. 1/2 Coat.

Copyright © 2002 - 2004, McGhee & Co :: Phone 845.721.0443 or 888.842.8241 :: Fax 540.886.0007 ::