Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Many small things

The house is coming up on its second year out of the shelter of the firehouse. I am still working on it; possibly three years after I had hoped it would be finished. It has survived its second hurricane unscathed. For that matter, better off post storm. For the second time I spent the rainy pre-storm day puting a fresh tarp on the roof. This time it was an extra heavy duty bilboard avertising a heath insurance company. Thanks to the help of Patrick, always ready to lend a hand in inclement weather, we installed some temporarily permanent plexiglass storm windows in the fifty mile an hour winds. No more plastic sheeting over the windows (except the heavy double layer tarp over the skylights). These will remain until I get around to building the proper steel casements. I reinstalled the wood stove so it is cozy in the cool weather.

Ladders in and out, fall garden, warm fire, cool sunset, large timbers, greenhouse.

Call and response

Last weekend I made an attempt at the siding on the parking lot side. Didn't finish it, but I did get the trim up, siding around the window, and a plan to allow the gable panel to be removable.

I made some progress on the photovoltaic system also. Pablo at Green Energy Options in Keene, NH has helped me out with advice and supplied me with a couple of 12 volt compact fluorescent light bulbs that I am now using. So far I have just done some more temporarily permanent wiring for the lighting. 

Once the wall covering goes on all of my wiring will be neatly routed in copper tubing on the surface of the wall. For now it is functional. One of the huge NiCad batteries has taken up residence on the floor. I am still working off of the charge it had when I picked it up, but a full charge should give me 28 days of light for four hours a day. I am constantly amazed by these batteries. Check back soon for a full report on my research into pocket plate NiCads, their reconditioning and use for a photovoltaic system.

Finally, I found a solar panel! This is a 170 watt panel, more than enough power for my current usage. I am hoping to pick up a charge controller for it this week and get this charging my batteries soon! There will be much more info on how I am building the photovoltaic system in the next few weeks.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Productive Procrastination

The past month has been a busy one. The crunch to finish up work before winter has begun, preparations for the class I am teaching have been taking some time, and I have been building a piece of furniture. This furniture project has been interesting in many ways. It is a cherry pedestal that will hold a stainless steel sculpture that one of the other shop members is building. It has been fun learning, and relearning, some techniques. It also turned out to be good motivation to do some work on the house.

I have known for a long time that I am most productive when I have a deadline within sight. I can try to get things done ahead of time, but really, that time is spent doing anything other than the project at hand. Sometimes those things done while procrastinating are very important tasks that I would never get to otherwise like tuning up tools, cleaning, and practicing skills.

I was working on someone else's deadline. I knew that the sculptor would not make the deadline, but I still had to pretend to be working on the pedestal as if it would be ready in time. The real work could not begin until progress happened on the sculpture. In the mean time, I had to clear some space in the shop. A pile of old panelling that I salvaged from the firehouse caught my eye. The easiest way to take care of that pile was to strip the old brown shellac off refinish it, and install it as the kitchen ceiling in my house. That is the easiest way to move a pile, right? (to be honest, it wasn't even in the way, but provided a good distraction). But here are the results! It was a long overdue improvement to the house.

Also in this time, I built the frames for the windows in the gable ends and installed temporary plexiglass windows in them.

Unfortunately that is it for progress on the house at this point. Here are some photos of the pedestal though.


Shooting board for 30 degree bevel

Wedges and rope for the glue-up


Leg stock

Leg pattern

Legs were cut 1/16" oversize then finished with pattern bit on a router

Legs and the column after a messy glue-up

Cutting the tenon

Pared to size

Chamfer to dress up the bottom. This will get a brass
plate over it to hold the staves together and cover the hole

Mortice layout

Hanger bolts installed

Top layout

Upper brackets

A visit to the screw museum- all made right here in Worcester

A screw goes through each stave to hold the wood together,
and three more are prepped to fix the granite top in place.

Last glue-up

Several coats of Tung oil and some wax,
ready to be entwined with stainless steel
roses and graced with the sculpture.

Monday, September 17, 2012


This past week I finally built and installed the two removable panels that make up my gable walls. For once the place is fully closed in (minus the windows)! It is nice to hear the wind without the accompaniment of fluttering tarps over the holes. This is also the first time I have used dimensioned two by fours and plywood. I wanted to keep them as simple, light and rigid as possible, and plywood was the best way to do that. The west end has a diamond shaped window that will hopefully be stained glass at some point. For now it is just plexiglass siliconed in place. The east side over the loft will have a double casement to match the smaller kitchen window. For now it is also plexiglass.

Is that another tiny house in the background? ...possible future story

I seem to go through phases where I do mostly planning, then I switch and build for a while. This one seemed to take a long time to get to, but it finally happened last Sunday while I was reading a book about tiny houses. Seeing photos of other people's houses inspired me to get up and do something. Five hours later, I had just finished installing the new wall! A couple of days later the second one happened, and then the following day a window frame.

Hopefully this productivity continues. The perfect Fall weather helps.

The next step will be to finish trimming out the edges, install siding, and hopefully get a couple of top coats of paint on before winter!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

1000 watts

I just received 1000 watts worth of cracked and broken solar cells from Ebay. They were really cheap and should be fun to experiment with. I am hoping to be able to build about 500 watts worth of solar panels for the house. We will see what happens.

Soft under foot

Since I last posted about the floor, I have done quite a bit of research and work. At that point I was debating what I should do with the cracks that had oppened up between my floorboards. I was hoping to fill them with a dark epoxy that would stay flexible and move with the seasonal changes in the wood. I nixed that idea because of the cost. Other fillers would not stay flexible long enough in the wood. Eventually, I found a company in England that sells long wedge shaped pieces of yellow pine that you cover in glue, pound into place and sand down. I didn't feel like having some little pieces of wood shipped all the way from England, so I grabbed some old boards and sliced them up on the bandsaw.

Since the cracks were not necessarily consistent over the length of each board, there was a lot of custom fitting to do. It took a couple of sessions in the summer heat to get it done, but now the upper section of floor is wedged, glued, and planed.

I think it looks great and it feels nice under foot!

Friday, July 27, 2012

New England Tiny House Community

Two weeks ago a reader clewed me in to the New England Tiny House Community. NETHC is a group of people from the area who live in, are building, or are just generally interested in tiny houses. It is organized by Christopher Kyprianos who is building a tiny house to put on his land in northern Massachusetts. He and his partner Deb organized a barbeque this month for all of us to get together and chat about tiny houses. I never knew there were so many of us around here! In the same way that a well designed tiny house can feel big, a group of 10 tiny house enthusiasts around here was huge!

While the adults talked about salvaged windows and zoning laws, the two girls who are working with their mom to build a little house constructed fairy houses. It was a good time for all.

For a copy of the latest issue of the New England Tiny House Times, email me or Christopher, the editor. Sorry, it is a PDF and I couldn't figure out how to put it on the page!

Thursday, July 19, 2012


This weekend Lauren and I will be heading up to Tinmouth, VT to be part of SolarFest; an 18 year old festival showcasing alternative, sustainable energy. I was asked by a friend of mine to help him run a workshop on tiny houses. We will be talking about all aspects of building and living in a tiny house. If you will be there, be sure to come find us! We will be presenting on Sunday from 3:30 to 4:30.