Sawdust. Tons of sawdust.

The weather has been crappy this week. The next step is to put up sheathing, but I'm using OSB (oriented strand board), and OSB does not like water. It soaks it up and swells the panels in short time. The key is to get it covered with house wrap before it gets exposed to moisture. I need to hang it all, cover it, and get the roof up quickly to prevent it from getting wet on the inside. Speaking of the roof; I'm using OSB sheathing on it, as well. Plywood would probably hold up to a few days of rain better, but it is still prone to warp when wet. The big plus is that OSB is almost 2/3 cheaper than plywood.

So, I've spent several hours of the last couple days cutting the lumber I bought a couple weeks ago. I touched on it before, but I bought a bunch of Red Oak boards from a guy that cut them on his own sawmill, originally intending them to be fence rails. Red Oak has beautiful grain and some cool knots. I'm running the planks through my table saw and slicing them vertically. This means cutting them down to manageable four-foot sections, and running them twice through the saw; cutting halfway through on the first pass, then flipping the board and making a second pass. Cutting three inches each time it goes through is slow and creates a LOT of sawdust. I've already filled a 25-gallon trash bag, and I've only cut a little more than 125 boards. I've got another 200+ to do. While it is monotonous work, the results are pretty cool. 

The plan is to use all these boards to serve as the interior walls and ceiling. It's little hard to calculate with certainty, but I think I have enough. Cutting them down to four feet means I can use them on the walls and ceiling, as the wall studs are 16 inches apart (actually 14.5 inches apart/16 inches from center to center), and the roof rafters are 24 inches apart (on center). 48 inches is easy to handle and produces less scrap. 

Headed to the Habitat for Humanity Restore in Atlanta this afternoon to look for a vanity or sink, and possibly another door. I had originally planned to work out the detail below the stairs today, and write about that on this blog, but that will wait till later in the week. 

PS - I watched a couple of episodes of Tiny House Hunters on the FYI Network. We don't have cable or satellite out here, but I can stream some things on-line. They had an episode where a couple was looking at tiny homes in Jackson Hole, WY. Shannon and I were just there this past summer, but stayed on the other side of the Tetons, in Driggs, ID. The thing that shocked me most was the couple's budget....$300,000!!! They used almost all of it, and got a spacious (sarcasm) 250sq. ft. Location, Location, Location? I guess. :-)

 One of my Red Oak boards before being run through the table saw.

One of my Red Oak boards before being run through the table saw.

 A board after going through the saw. It was cloudy, so it's hard to see the nice grain.

A board after going through the saw. It was cloudy, so it's hard to see the nice grain.

 Boards cut down to 1/2 inch, 4 foot sections. I later stacked them to air in the rafters of my shop.

Boards cut down to 1/2 inch, 4 foot sections. I later stacked them to air in the rafters of my shop.

 This is a rough idea of what the walls and ceilings will look like. Rustic, but cool, I think.

This is a rough idea of what the walls and ceilings will look like. Rustic, but cool, I think.


Trudging along

Last week was cold, but made some pretty good progress. I also did a lot of standing around...thinking.

I've done a lot of building over the years. A friend of mine and I took a house to the foundation and built an entirely new structure. I've done additions, remodels, decks, and roof raisings, but building a small house requires a whole different perspective. What looks good on paper can look completely different in three dimensional space. 

Several years ago, I participated in a weekend-long workshop on tiny houses with a company called Tumbleweed; one of the pioneering groups that saw this vision before the general public. One of the first things we did was take painters tape and outline an 8ft by 13ft area - a common footprint for a tiny house on wheels. The idea was to give us a true representation of the confines of this type of living. After the workshop was done, I left thinking that I could live "small", but doubted I could ever live "tiny". That weekend got the gears turning in my head about how I might one day stop working on existing structures and businesses, and build them myself. 

Back to the build... I added the loft to the existing four walls. There will be room for some stairs on one side, and I intentionally left about a foot and a half of vertical wall space so that it didn't feel cramped entering the loft, and so that I could put in actual stairs instead of a ladder. I'm pretty pleased with that decision. Without the roof, the loft feels downright spacious. Of course, that will change some when the roof is framed in. I used a reclaimed 6"X6" post that a friend of mine gave me when they rebuilt the deck on his house. It serves as the support for the portion of the loft that is not connected from wall to wall. I put subflooring on the loft and covered it with house wrap because of the predicted rain early this week. 

In the pics below, the window directly to the right of the door will be moved to the far right, in the bathroom. Originally, it was supposed to be directly above the sink/kitchen area. It just looks awkward next to the 14 panel door, and moving it to the bathroom will give some natural light in there, as well as make it look more symmetrical. There will be an identical window in the loft, centered in the wall. 

I spent the better part of two hours yesterday trying to clear a jammed nail from my framing gun. I have no idea how it happened, but it's put a screeching halt to progress. I'm no stranger to the business end of a hammer, but framing with a hammer takes time, and I already have a load of framing nails that fit my gun. Plus, to make more progress, I have to put in some full days because  it looks like I'll be fighting the weather this week.

I took the down time to cut all the roof rafters. The next step is to sheath the existing outside walls, move the window referenced above, and make some changes to the front of the house to accommodate the window that will go above the french doors. Originally, it was going to be put in too high. After that, I will support the 16ft ridge beam, and start installing the rafters. In the pics, you can see my sample rafter that mimics the roof line. It was another one of those things that on paper looked one way, but in the "field" it feels different. Originally, I was going to use a 12/12 pitch, meaning the roof would rise 12 inches for every horizontal 12 inches. I've moved closer to 9.5/12 (or a 40degree angle vs. 45degree). 

Enough rambling. I'm headed out to the shop to start the laborious task of cutting the 100+ red oak pieces I bought last week. The next update will discuss placement of the refrigerator and A/C unit under the stairs. Have a great week!

 I love this part of building, where it really starts to look like a house! The window next to the door will be moved to the far right - into the bathroom. The window you see at the far end is tacked in place where there is current framing. I need to re-do that framing because the original placement was just going to be too high.

I love this part of building, where it really starts to look like a house! The window next to the door will be moved to the far right - into the bathroom. The window you see at the far end is tacked in place where there is current framing. I need to re-do that framing because the original placement was just going to be too high.

 Sitting in the loft. That window was originally going to sit on the top of the framing. As it temporarily sits now, it will actually give a decent view from this position. An hour's work, but worth it.

Sitting in the loft. That window was originally going to sit on the top of the framing. As it temporarily sits now, it will actually give a decent view from this position. An hour's work, but worth it.

 The framing for the loft. The green post supports the parts that are not supported by opposing walls. I reclaimed the post from a friend's deck remodel.

The framing for the loft. The green post supports the parts that are not supported by opposing walls. I reclaimed the post from a friend's deck remodel.

 A slightly better pic. Note the previous taped areas. To the left is the stairway. The back corner is the bathroom, and the centered area will house a small sink.

A slightly better pic. Note the previous taped areas. To the left is the stairway. The back corner is the bathroom, and the centered area will house a small sink.


Cold progress

Started work outside about 8:30 this morning. It was around 30 degrees, but sunny and windless. As I started moving, I was actually quite comfortable. It got progressively windier, and the sun went behind the clouds as the temps stayed in the low 30s. I could work all day in these conditions, although I'd prefer to not have wind gusts. It got me to thinking about how I can't comprehend how folks work outside when the temps are below 20. I have tons of gloves, but not a pair in which I can manipulate a tape measure, make consistent marks with my pencil, or operate some hand tools. I guess I'm built to stay in the south!

Built and raised the southeast wall today. The place is starting to look like a real building! I had to make a header and make a rough opening for the window that will be centered in that wall. After getting the wall up, I dry fit the window, just to make sure that it would fit. It does. I also clamped the main door in its rough place, just to see how it would look and how the place flows. So far, I'm pretty happy with the layout. The top of the window falls almost exactly at the place where the joists that will support the loft hit. I still haven't decided whether I will go with 2X4s or 2X6s to support the loft. Sixes are probably overkill, but I tend to overbuild things anyway. If this house were built on a trailer bed, I would have done things differently. As it is, it is way over-engineered!

Gotta hit the road to pick up the munchkin from school and take her to dance class. 

 Raising the southeast wall.

Raising the southeast wall.

 Clamped in the window, just to make sure it fit.

Clamped in the window, just to make sure it fit.

 This is a door we recovered from a farmhouse that some friends of ours were tearing down in south Georgia a couple years ago. I knew we'd find a use for it! I think it will be perfect.

This is a door we recovered from a farmhouse that some friends of ours were tearing down in south Georgia a couple years ago. I knew we'd find a use for it! I think it will be perfect.

 A view from inside. The boards clamped between the door and the window (above) represent where the floor joists for the sleeping loft will be.  

A view from inside. The boards clamped between the door and the window (above) represent where the floor joists for the sleeping loft will be.  


Raising the first wall

We got absolutely rocked by the storms on Saturday night down here in the Hollow! The pond and creek overflowed their banks in every direction. We woke at 4am to see a large tree trunk just float by our front porch. My workshop had water all around it, but survived flooding by about two inches! We spent every daylight hour on Sunday cleaning up the debris, replacing a couple of bridges, and having our neighbor come by on his tractor to fix flood damage to our driveway, as we had a big truck scheduled to deliver propane yesterday. It was exhausting, but the sun and wind yesterday has it almost back to normal.

Today, I framed up the first wall, raised it, and tacked it into place. It is the left (or Northwest) wall, as you enter the house from the parking area. The framing was pretty uneventful, as it it the only wall that currently will not have a window (that may change at some point). 

Saturday, we went to a salvage and overstock builder's supply store in Woodstock. I had gone by there a few times and found it a little hard to understand, as they do not have anything marked with a price. Met a nice guy who shot some pretty good numbers at us (and gave us a discount for cash), so we walked out with a really nice set of french doors for the front of the house, and a couple of windows; one will go over the french doors, the other will go over the sink. So, we have all the windows and doors, and there's nothing stopping me from framing up the rest of the house...except time!

The walls are nine feet tall, with the loft clearance being 7 feet. Once I had the first wall erected, I realized just how high that's going to be! It looks like I'm going to have to install the loft before I can install the ridge beam or rafters for the roof, as I don't have a ladder tall enough! I thought about reducing the height, but I don't want the loft to feel cramped.

After getting the first wall in place, I took some time to lay out the bathroom, sink, and main entrance, just to see how it felt. The bathroom will just be a toilet, and will sit diagonally under the landing of the loft. A little cramped, but it will do. We'll just have a small bar sink, and enough counter space for a coffee maker. Above the window will be a small cabinet, and somewhere along the side will be room for a toaster oven or microwave. 

Gotta get back to work, but some pics of the progress are below.

 By mid-morning Sunday, the waters had receded somewhat. We were pretty spent after the clean up process. 

By mid-morning Sunday, the waters had receded somewhat. We were pretty spent after the clean up process. 

 The Northeast wall is up.

The Northeast wall is up.

 Just enough room for business.

Just enough room for business.

 The stairs are 8" deep with an 8" rise...currently.

The stairs are 8" deep with an 8" rise...currently.

 With everything permanent in and along the far corner, it leaves a nice amount of area to play with in the rest of the space.

With everything permanent in and along the far corner, it leaves a nice amount of area to play with in the rest of the space.

 Our house faces directly west. I put the compass on the guest house, and was a little surprised at the orientation. It doesn't feel like it is 20+degrees different, but it is.

Our house faces directly west. I put the compass on the guest house, and was a little surprised at the orientation. It doesn't feel like it is 20+degrees different, but it is.


Happy New Year!

No progress to speak of, but as soon as the weather lifts, I'll be at it full steam. Picked up a couple of nice windows from a buddy of mine that had a couple left over from a renovation several years ago. One will go in the sleeping loft, the other will go along the Northeast wall. I need a fixed window that will go on the end facing the pond (over french doors), and a small window to go in the kitchen/bath area. 

I scored a bunch of wood off of Craigslist this morning. It is quarter sawn red oak that a guy cut to use for fencing. I bought all he had (109 pieces of 1"X6" - 8' long). I put a piece on my table saw and halved it vertically. It takes a pass through the saw, then I flip it and complete the cut (can't cut 6" wood vertically). It taxes the saw a bit, but doubles the square footage I can get out of each board. My intention is to use it to cover the interior walls and ceiling. The wood was cheap (about $2.75 a piece), but there will be quite a bit of labor to cut it. I think the end product will look awesome though.

I've also been thinking about stair design. I'm trying to incorporate some sort of storage into them. I'm currently looking at an 8" rise over 8" treads - steep and shallow, but much easier to navigate than a ladder. 

Another new idea is the location of the bathroom. I haven't even sketched it out yet, but I'm thinking of placing it in the back corner, which should be a good use of space. I need to work out the details to see if it will work well there. The bathroom will be just a toilet. I have done a bunch of research, and I think we're going with a Laveo Dry Flush toilet. It is electric (with a solar option), and uses vacuum technology to seal and bag your "deposits". It's far less maintenance than a composting toilet, and less than half the price.

Stay tuned!

 The Laveo Dry Flush toilet...it'll take care of our business.

The Laveo Dry Flush toilet...it'll take care of our business.

 Re-sawn red oak that will serve as the interior walls

Re-sawn red oak that will serve as the interior walls


Mock up roof/walls

Just a quick update, as that's about all I have time for this week.

If you'd like to comment on this post, I'd love the feedback. I'm stuck on design. Originally, I had intended to try a fairly non-traditional design that I thought worked well with the beautiful view we'll have on our site. It gave the front of the house a large, flat expanse for french doors and a big picture window. However, that design does not translate well on all building sites, and it might be very hard to duplicate should someone want a narrower profile (like building one on wheels). For a reminder, here is a sketch of the side view of my original design:

Now, I'm thinking along the lines of a more traditional design that would be easy to duplicate in different sizes, and may appeal to more people. Something like this:

Obviously, this design is more appealing because you get an idea of the finished product, but I'm trying to be objective.

This morning, before I have to run out, I erected some mock walls and roof that would be similar to the above design. I'm gonna stew on it a while, and hope to start progress on the actually building right after Christmas. In the meantime, if anyone has some input, I'd love to hear it.

 Front view.

Front view.

 Back view.

Back view.


Framing the floor

Ok, so I know none of this has been terribly exciting stuff, but it's finally starting to take shape. I installed the floor joists today. This brings me to a roadblock, in that I had hoped to find some wood to repurpose for the subfloor. Plywood has stabilized a bit, but it really skyrocketed in price the last few years. I may just bite the bullet and buy some because I can't really move forward with framing the walls without it.

There is a builder's liquidation warehouse in Woodstock (about 15 miles away) that I went to check out a few weeks ago. I'll be buying house wrap from them at a good price, so I may go see what they have in the lumber department. I'll also be pricing some windows from them, as I can't lay out the wall framing without knowing at least the size of windows I'll be using. We salvaged a really nice multi-paned exterior door for the main entrance from a farm house that was being torn down last year. I'll be going with the same look on the front of the house with french doors, so I need to find some of them, as well. They show up on Craigslist a lot. 

 I need to run a band up each side to tie it all together, but I didn't have my rack on my truck when I went to the hardware store this morning. Carrying 16-footers with a 6-foot bed doesn't work, according to the laws of physics. I'll pick them up tomorrow.

I need to run a band up each side to tie it all together, but I didn't have my rack on my truck when I went to the hardware store this morning. Carrying 16-footers with a 6-foot bed doesn't work, according to the laws of physics. I'll pick them up tomorrow.


Funding the tiny house

I've really enjoyed the starting process of the tiny house. Unfortunately, I've got to make some cheddar to pay for it all. Over the past month I've been putting in some time at Haven Development's new retail/residential community in Alpharetta called Avalon. It is a concept that has had some traction in the metro Atlanta area. It is very upscale, and it's not exactly a place I want to live, but is a nice concept.

I've been working with Welborn-Henson on both the Crate & Barrel store and the El Felix Restaurant. El Felix is using a ton of reclaimed barn lumber. It is very rustic, and (from what I gather) very expensive. Working with irregular lumber doesn't mean you can be careless. In fact, they are so concerned about the "look" that we probably spend more time trying to perfect it than we would if we were using new lumber. We worked with some beams today that were very old and very dense. The growth rings were so tight that they were almost indiscernible. 

Crate & Barrel front elevation blueprints.

I've got shingles

Got some progress done this week. That ends tomorrow when I have to go make money to fund this project.

I'm done with the foundation. I poured all 6 piers and mounted 2X10s that will support the floor joists. It doesn't look like much, but I already have about 25 hours invested. I've already had some conflicting thoughts about my original design. My original plan would work well with the site we have, but I might opt for another design that would be more marketable for level sites, as opposed to the slope we are putting our on. Still have some head scratching to do.

As I originally stated, I wanted to do this project with as many reclaimed materials as I could. That is proving to be harder than I anticipated. Reclaimed lumber, particularly in the Atlanta area, is very expensive. I have had little luck finding anyone willing to have me dismantle a barn or old building. That said, there are still opportunities to find inexpensive materials. 

I tend to have a knack for finding bargains. On Monday, I was at Home Depot and was pricing some lumber. I happened upon a stack of 24" cedar shingles. They were a little weathered, like they had been sitting on a pallet outside, but were marked down drastically. I took the chance on letting them sit for a day, and went by last night on my way home and bought all they had (11 bundles). They are normally $50 a bundle, and I got them for just over $13, almost a 75% discount!

I'm contemplating what to do with them. Do I use them for siding (and possibly not have enough) or do I make a cedar roof? I already have some tin that was left on our property when we bought it that I intended to use for the roof. Changing designs may also have an effect on which way I go. I have some time to think about it. The weather has been phenomenal this week, and I hate that I can't cram in some more time. 

More to come!

 I've got a little junk in my trunk.

I've got a little junk in my trunk.

 I'm still not sure what I'm going to do with them, but I'm not passing up this deal!

I'm still not sure what I'm going to do with them, but I'm not passing up this deal!

 Ready to start installing floor joists.

Ready to start installing floor joists.

 The view uphill.

The view uphill.

Starting the foundation

Short post. Poured the front two piers and set the 4X4 posts on Tuesday. Olivia was off for the week for the Thanksgiving break and helped me out. I have several leads on some materials. Next week, I will finish pouring the other 4 piers and start framing the floor. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

 Picked up some cheap labor at Home Depot! Olivia was off this week for Thanksgiving, and gave me a hand hauling materials.

Picked up some cheap labor at Home Depot! Olivia was off this week for Thanksgiving, and gave me a hand hauling materials.

 Poured the front two piers. Finally making progress...more than just moving dirt!

Poured the front two piers. Finally making progress...more than just moving dirt!


Laying it all out

Started work on our guest house/prototype small house. This weekend I cleared the land a bit more. Our driveway does a circle before dropping down to our carport. Last summer I had the guy that does Bobcat work for us install a cut through to allow guests to park without descending the hill, which can be tough to get back up without 4 wheel drive! The guest house will utilize that cut through.

I leveled out three areas to set up some posts and get an idea of the slope that I'll be building the house on. The house will rest on (2) 4"X4" beams, that will sit on 6 concrete piers. While the dimensions of the house will be 10'X14', the beams will be 8' apart with the extra foot on each side cantilevered. 

Looks like our elevation drop over the 14' (the deck will extend past that) is just under 3 feet. Now I have to decide exactly how I'm going to build the piers. The ones on the upper side will probably just sit on the ground (with a deck block underneath), while the middle and lower ones will probably be pour tubes with deck blocks on top that will allow me to level it should there be some settling over time. Honestly, this should be the hardest part of the entire process, since I don't have a lot of experience with foundations.

Several people have asked me for a timeline. I really don't know. I still have to work on other jobs, and I'm hoping to salvage some materials for this project, so it will all depend on time, budget, and availability of materials. I would like to have a framed-in structure by the first of the year. Stay tuned to this blog, as I will try and document every day that I spend on this project. In the meantime, if you or anyone you know is possibly interested in a tiny home/studio/guest house of their own, recommend them to my site!  Thanks!

image.jpeg

This will be the view from deck level, about 3' off the ground. I'll clear some limbs to have a nice view of the pond.

 Looking back up the hill. Aden, my helper, is on the right.

Looking back up the hill. Aden, my helper, is on the right.

 Leveling the four corners.   

Leveling the four corners.

 

 Aden, my helper for the day. He is cheap labor.

Aden, my helper for the day. He is cheap labor.

Otter Hollow Small Houses

I'm finally moving forward with an interest I've had for a long time: building a "tiny" home. I'm going to try and document the entire process here. Last week, I started making materials lists, budget, and making some notes. This week, I put pencil to paper and drew up some rough sketches of the first prototype that we plan to use as a guest house.

Tiny Homes are a relatively new idea. There is a movement of people who want to downsize, reduce their total debt, and drastically simplify their lives. A true Tiny Home is built on a trailer frame, thus making it a non-permanent dwelling and not subject to most codes and regulations of a permanent home. There are also "Small Homes" that are just that; a less than 1000sq ft dwelling, usually aimed at a smaller, simplified living.

I'm focusing on something in between - buildings closer to a "tiny" home in size, but in a permanent or non-permanent configuration. I will build a tiny home, but I'm also targeting a market that is interested in just a small, personal space. That can be a guest house, home office, yoga studio, home theater, fly-tying shack, or whatever your heart desires. 

As I said, last week I started some drawings (I'm old fashioned and still use a drafting board). I also staked out a site on our property with a nice view and easy access. Stay tuned!

 A few rough sketches 

A few rough sketches 

 Side framing view

Side framing view

 Shannon actually picked this site. I think it's perfect.

Shannon actually picked this site. I think it's perfect.


YOU can do-it-yourself

I grew up the son of a mechanical engineer. It's where I learned most of my basic skills for fixing just about anything. Working on things was just part of growing up, and I just assumed everyone grew up that way until I was much older. 

The interesting thing about my dad was that he didn't just fix things. Most of the time, if we needed something, he'd build it. If we needed a tool and there either wasn't one easily available, or, better yet, such a tool didn't exist, he'd make one. Sometimes it meant modifying something he already had, and other times it meant building something from scratch with a welder and some stock metal. 

It wasn't until I was well into adulthood that I realized that your time is worth money, and that just because you can do something yourself doesn't necessarily mean you should. Sometimes, doing what you do best, and allowing someone else to do what they do best for you is the answer. I'm not afraid to admit that there are things that I can do, but not necessarily do well...or efficiently. And never forget to factor in your time when considering whether a project is worth doing yourself. 

68134032_low.jpg

I had a friend who bought a car several years ago. He bought the car for $5000, spent $300 on parts, and then sold it a month later for $7000. To hear him tell the story, he'd "made" $1700 on the deal. Not bad...until you consider ALL the factors. He bought the car in Florida, and never accounted for the gas and two days' driving from Atlanta. He spent at least 30-35 hours doing the labor of installing some new parts, detailing the car, and fixing a few minor issues. He sold the car to the fifth person that looked at it, yet never factored in the time he took to show it to the other 4 potential buyers. So, even if his time was only worth minimum wage, he probably barely broke even on the deal. Never underestimate the value of your time.

I'm always more than willing to show or teach a customer a little about the repair or project I'm doing for them. Some find it fascinating, are curious to learn, and appreciate your honesty and wisdom, while others just want it fixed. If they end up tackling their next project on their own, then I get some gratitude from that, even if it means I don't make a dime. It's good business and good karma. 

Form

I went for a run this evening after work on the trails at Red Top Mountain. I'm training for a trail race next month and am woefully behind. Being an athlete defined the first 30 years of my life, so being out of shape and just hoping to finish a race is not really something I'm used to. 

As I was running, I thought about my form. I have been consciously trying to run with my arms in a higher position. It helps drive up hills, and seems to change my foot strike as I tend to lean a little more forward. I think it is helping, and feels more efficient. As I plodded along, I thought about how important form is in almost every repetitive motion we make, and how I've observed a large number of people who seem to give little regard to how they perform a task.

I used to live on a flat 2 1/2 mile road that dead ended into a state park. It was used constantly by runners and cyclists. I went to college on a track scholarship and raced bikes professionally in the mid-90's, so I've had the chance to watch thousands of people go about each discipline. I always used to giggle a little when I saw someone ride or run with zero attention to "how" they were actually performing the task.

Bad-Golfer-300x300.jpg
 Just by looking at their follow-through, who would you guess is the better golfer???

Just by looking at their follow-through, who would you guess is the better golfer???

The same applies to my trade. Watch a professional swing a hammer; how it is a fluid motion, getting the maximum amount of drive with conceivably little effort. Witnessing a seasoned drywall finisher is like watching an artist. They scoop the drywall compound effortlessly onto their trowel and spread it evenly in one fluid motion. A few strokes in opposing directions and all it will take is a light sanding before it is ready for priming. Anyone that has even tried to patch a nail hole understands how easy it is to screw up.

A golfer that bends their elbow at the top of their swing can never depend on their ball going straight, just as a violinist who doesn't keep their bow arm elevated will miss notes. Proper form is often the difference between just doing something, and doing it well. I research form, I observe form, I am fascinated by it. Is there anything in your life that you do often, but have never thought about HOW you do it? Take the time to watch people that are good at what you do and try to emulate them. More often than not, you will witness a breakthrough in your own accomplishments. 

What's the deal with reclaimed lumber?

No doubt about it, reclaimed lumber is hot right now. A simple Craigslist search will reveal that folks are asking anywhere between $7 to $15 a board foot these days for wood that has been salvaged from old buildings, houses, warehouses, and barns. That's $50 (or more) a piece for a standard 2X4!

Some people will argue that it's "green", others just want to be able to tell the story. It's become romantic to talk about the history and age of the wood used for all sorts of projects around the house these days. And, admittedly, I'm no different. I am, however, shocked at how hard it is to find old lumber and the cost associated with it. I never dreamed that an old, weathered, and oftentimes nail-ridden board would far exceed the cost of a nice straight new piece.

 I have coveted this pic of a spiral staircase made from reclaimed lumber. I've searched, but can't find the details on exactly how it was made, but it is stunning.

I have coveted this pic of a spiral staircase made from reclaimed lumber. I've searched, but can't find the details on exactly how it was made, but it is stunning.

There is something sexy about old wood. Today's wood used in construction and furniture building is actually quite different from a piece used 75-100 years ago. Lumber filling the aisles at your local home improvement store is typically "new growth", meaning that is has been grown and farmed exclusively for that use. The trees used have been fertilized to some degree to force the tree to grow at a faster rate than natural. This results in a less dense piece of wood, which, when dried, results in more knots, less attractive grain, and is more prone to twisting and cupping. Troll through a stack of 2X4 "premium" studs at Home Depot; I usually find a truly straight piece 1 out of 5 times. 

What irks me is the chain stores that are "aging" new wood to make a piece look like it is very old. Something about that just seems wrong. What's worse are the companies reproducing old signs, that, when looked at closely, don't even begin to look vintage. What's the point? Several years ago, I watched an episode of Antiques Roadshow where a Victorian era chair had been appraised at over $200,000! Months later, they encountered a chair that looked almost the same. It turned out that a man on Long Island had made chairs (fairly well, too) and anchored them on a sandbar for several months, allowing the sea to weather the wood to a patina that appeared to be many centuries old. Amazing!

I am relatively new to the search process of finding old wood for projects. I scan every road I drive for old buildings, sheds, and barns, wondering if they are still in use and if the owner would be willing to part with them. It's a sad habit, as it has highlighted the fact that there are a lot of abandoned properties littering our countryside (and city-side). Half the fun is in actually finding the wood! I'm looking forward to sharing my adventures, so check out my blog in the near future. 


My latest employee

Today is MLK Day, and Olivia was home from school. We could sit around the house and watch Hannah Montana (Yeah, I thought that was "so yesterday", too), or we could build something. There's a corner hutch that I've been wanting to build for the dining area, so we went to the shop and got to work.

IMGP0132.jpg

Olivia helped for a good hour, cutting boards and driving screws. Keeping an 11-year old girl's attention that long is pretty good these days. Eventually, we broke for lunch and her attention drifted. She ended up here:

IMGP0139.jpg

She chilled in the hammock watching Netflix and I almost finished the hutch before we had to leave for her house. It was a nice day to waste in a hammock, and a pretty decent day for working in the shop. Maybe this spring we can tackle another project that just might keep her attention for the duration!


Website is LIVE!

Well, it's certainly not done, but I've got the website up and running. I've used other web hosting services before, but Squarespace seems pretty cool. We'll see how it works out. I like to play around with the layout, but I have to admit that I'm not the most tech savvy guy out there.