On the kitchen table a hexagonal tower with an annex is taking shape. Steven has designed it with reversed battens, windows with pointed arches, and balconies with little braces. He made the six panels up flat on the table and got his girlfriend to hold them in place while he screwed the panels onto the plywood floor structure inside.
The valleyed truss roof of the annex is quite intricate.
“If I wasn’t a builder by trade I don’t think I’d be able to do them. I put it together as a truss roof. If I hadn’t, I imagine it would’ve gone all higgledy-piggledy and dodgy as. So I found a way to make trusses and worked from there, making the ridges and valleys. Once I’ve formed the roof I get a piece of paper and cut it to the size I want for the size of the roof panels. Then using the paper as a pattern I cut them out of the totara battens,” he explains.
For this birdhouse the roof panels are vertical. Five vertical panels will be butted tightly together, not overlapped, as he usually does. If they were horizontal he says that the pieces would get too small and split. Fascia boards will “tidy it up” and, as it is a work in progress, further down the track he will put in some little windows, finials, and an exterior staircase.
“The more wood I put on them the stronger they become. By the time I’m finished with this turret with all the pieces on it, it will probably just bounce if I drop it.”
Steven also makes picture frames for his pencil drawings. He does a lot of art, mainly depicting Whanganui’s heritage buildings. The city boasts 11 per cent of New Zealand’s heritage buildings, so there is no shortage of subject matter. He draws from photographs, preferring to do that rather than be distracted by rubberneckers and chatty bystanders. “After being injured and at home a lot I just picked up the pencil to keep me occupied,” he says of his drawing. With a neck full of titanium and other “scaffolding” Steven is doing what teachers told him he should do when he was at school — pursue his creative talents. And prompted by people telling him his timber creations look like doll’s houses, that could be next on his shed assembly line.