In February 2006, our dream of moving to a rural village was finally
a reality. We found a miners cottage in the heart of Bodmin Moor,
part of Cornwall’s historical mining district. The cottage, built
in 1820, was in need of repair and modernization. Fixing the cottage
up to our own tastes made the property all the more appealing.
The only outbuilding that could be used for a potential workshop
was a derelict old pig shed, or piggery, as it is so named in
this part of Cornwall.
The original structure was built at the same time as the cottage.
It measured 20’ long by 4’ wide. The rear wall measured 9’ high,
and the front wall 5’ high. The dividing pens had long since rotted
away, and the granite cobble floor was covered with decades of
earth and debris. The potential was there, and I could envision
the completed project. It would have to wait until summer, though,
as the house improvements were priority.
The time had finally come by early summer. There were still many
projects I wanted to get underway for the house, but I needed
a workshop in order to complete them. The first step was to remove
the greenhouse and rusted tin roof. Now I could get a better look
at the job ahead of me. There was no access for a mini digger,
and the site too removed from the road to have ready mix concrete
delivered. The removal of earth and stone, and the mixing of concrete
would all have to be done by hand.
The front stone-and-earth wall was leaning at a precarious angle.
A simple two-man push made the wall collapse. The granite cobble
floor was excavated along with 18 inches of subsoil to level the
I had to dig below the foundation stones to level the ground.
This presented a potential structural weakness, so the wall had
to be underpinned before pouring a 6” concrete ring and 2-foot
A new breeze block wall was then constructed to tie into the existing
stonework. This was built on the extended foundation, which increased
from 4’ to 10’ wide. Stone from the original leaning wall was
reused to build a secondary external wall against the breeze-blocks.
The three walls needed to be tied together with a 6” deep concrete
ring beam. This would level the rear wall and also provide support
for the slate tile roof. The exposed stone wall was washed of
loose mortar, which is a mixture of mud, lime and chopped straw.
This allowed a deep key for a sand-and-cement mix render.
Now that there were four structurally sound walls, construction
of the roof began. Old Cornish slates were used to tile the roof,
giving the piggery an aged appearance.
It was time to begin the woodwork. The ceiling was made using
pine boards; the window frames and door were constructed from
reclaimed oak. An insulated sub-floor was put down before being
clad with oak floorboards. I wanted a wood floor to protect falling
carving tools, and also for a warm, aesthetic appeal. The leftover
floorboards were used for the main workbench top. The worktops
under the windows were made from a solid piece of white cedar,
the outer edge left natural and curvy.
There was still much work to do. The remaining jobs included painting,
electrics and lights, shelves, dust extraction, mounting machines
and installing a wood burning oven.
The winds had turned cold and brought the rain. Winter was upon
us, and my priority turned back to the house. There were many
wood working projects to complete inside the house. I like to
make furniture, and I spent the winter making nice things for
the house. Pipes were growing strong on my mind, and I was looking
forward to spring to begin creating new pipes.
Some think I went overboard in the construction of a pipe-making
workshop. But I don’t think so. The workshop is more than a place
to build things or make pipes. It is an extension of myself. Sometimes
I will spend hours in my space, and sometimes no more than a few
minutes to puff on a pipe. It is where I go when I’m contemplating
a problem or want to get away from the world. When I’m feeling blue,
I will sit at my workstation and look out the window towards the
house. I think how happy I am to have a wife, a son, and a home.
I think how wonderful it is to be a pipe maker. These thoughts always
make me feel better.