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.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sustainability Design Class

Hey Everyone,

I just wanted to let you know that I will be teaching a class at the Worcester Area Think Tank this fall on sustainable design. The class is designed for students age 13-18 and will be held on Tuesdays between 11 and 2 from September 4th to December 21st. We will be building our own solar panels and all sorts of fun things! To make it even better, the cost is only $425 for sixteen three hour classes!

Here is the course description from the Think Tank Website.

For most of us, energy is the electricity that comes out of the wall or the fuel that runs our car and heats our house. Where does it really come from and what are the environmental consequences of how we typically produce it? We will explore these questions and learn about alternative methods of energy production. Students will learn about energy from the sun by experimenting with ways to collect, store and use it. Some of the projects will include building a solar oven to cook food, active and passive hot water and air heaters, a solar powered hydrogen car and photovoltaic solar panels to take home and experiment with. Using formulas relating volts, amps and watts, students will be challenged to calculate the energy usage and component specifications for a small photovoltaic system that we will build to power a device at Think Tank. Hone your soldering skills and learn to use Google SketchUp (a free Computer Aided Design program) to plan and visualize ideas as we learn what unplugging from the grid is all about!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

By the way

These are some of the things I saw just outside my house a few weeks ago. Remember, this was or is a heavy industrial area of the city. The color is due to the hard work from many people at our shop, Blank Slate, and Amanda who is growing food with the urban CSA, Nuestro Huerto (

Floor finising

Since It has been so long since I have been able to put time into the house, I decided that I should do something quick with big results. I picked sanding and finishing the floor. I planned on spending last sunday on this and imagined myself watching the finish dry by evening. I should have known better than to think that I could let a simple project be so simple...

Some of you may remember reading way back that I bought this flooring from a sawyer in Rutland for next to nothing. I carted home rough cut oak that had air-dried for an unknown amount of time and spent many days planing, shaping and installing the flooring. Over the past couple of years it has endured many spills, environmental changes and even a short time with a cat named Pete who liked his presence to be known. In that time it has also had plenty of time to finish drying (shrinking). As I sanded the boards down, some of these imperfections vanished while others came to the surface. These imperfections are what make this floor interesting and unique. I am even okay with the ones left by Pete. The last thing I want is a floor that is "perfect" with no character or distinctions. 

The sanding was a longer process than expected. It was too small of a job to warrant renting a floor sander and I couldn't track down a professional edging sander. I ended up using a decent sized random orbital sander which worked well, but slowly. It took three passes- one with 40 grit, a second with 60 and a final with 120. The first pass took me hours since I had to knock down all the ridges between boards and bring them all into the same plane. The other passes went quickly though as I only had to remove the gouges from the rough sand paper. All in all, the sanding happened over a two day period, but the results were encouraging! Note the Purple Heart plugs over the screws on the edge trim.

At this point I could have just picked a finish and completed the project, but since I already exceeded my timeline, I might as well go all out. The first holdup came when deciding what to do with the spaces that opened up between the floorboards. Some are tight but others have as much as a 3/16" gap between them. I love how this looks, but don't like how it feels underfoot and don't want them to constantly fill up with dirt. I have been looking into an epoxy filler made by Advanced Repair Tech ( that supposedly stays flexible and will move with the seasonal expansion of the wood. It can also be tinted. I really like the idea of using a dark color to accentuate the lines. The only problem is the cost. It comes out to nearly $100 for 15 oz of the filler! The kit that comes with all of the proper mixing nozzles and gun retails for $214.95! I would probably need more than 15oz also. So now I am back to square one with this. I am having a hard time picking a shade of finish without knowing what I am doing with the filler. If I can fill the cracks with a dark filler I will probably go with the natural color. If not, I will probably use a dark stain. Either way, I will probably go with an oil and wax finish.

Anyway, while I am muling over my options, I have started to lay out a fibonacci spiral on the floor. The ratio of the length to width of the house are almost exactly the golden ratio- 1.618. With this in mind I had hoped to route a 1/8" spiral into the floor and inlay it with a thin brass strip. A while ago I decided against it in the interest of time, but why not. I am committed to this house. At least it is fun.