Monday, October 6, 2014

Photos from the workshop

Check out this set of photos from the workshop. There will be a recap posted soon, but for now enjoy the pictures!

Hannah's Tiny House

Monday, September 1, 2014

Tiny house building workshop announced!

Hey Everyone,

I am excited to announce that I will be helping to teach a one week workshop offered through Worcester Think Tank on building a tiny house! We will start with a 20' trailer, and in one week build the frame, sheath it, add windows, a roof, and siding. You will learn everything you need to know to build your own tiny house to the point that it is weather tight. This will be taking place on a farm in Leicester MA, just outside of Worcester. The price of the workshop is $475 and includes lunch. Send me an email if you have any questions, but spaces are filling fast!

Here is the website for the course.
Registration can be done here.


Once I installed the steel roof, I was finally able to put the solar panel back up on the roof. See this post for more info on the system. Not much has changed with the system other than a little house to keep the batteries in.

Eventually these will live in the basement.

I am still not catching as much energy as I should be because of the shade from the trees, but as long as I am careful about turning things off when they are not being used, I am getting enough energy to power three lights, the water pump, an amplifier for music, and an inverter to charge computers, phones and power a wireless router. It is amazing how little electricity we need if we are careful.

This is a short time lapse video showing the shade patterns on the roof throughout the day. It is far from ideal for a solar panel, but it works for now.


For the past four years, I have had some version of a tarp on the roof. I went through a couple of regular tarps, and two retired billboards. I have been trying to hold out for the final standing seam copper roof, but is is going to be expensive and complicated to construct. When it came time for a new tarp this summer, I finally broke down and bought the most inexpensive galvanized steel roofing I could get. For about $250 and 5 hours of work, I have a leak proof roof that I don't need to worry about. Eventually when I build the skylights and copper roof, the steel can just be unscrewed and used on another project. I wish I did this four years ago...


For the past few months we have had running hot water! The system is still in testing mode and I will have to reconfigure it for winter, but it has been nice to turn on the tap and have instant hot or cold water.

Right now the system consists of two 55 gallon drums that I fill with a hose, then drive up to the house. These two drums last about a month before needing to be refilled. Once at the house, I hook them up the the panel you see in the photo. There is a 12V SureFlo pump that turns on when the tap opens. From there the water either goes straight to the cold tap, or through an on-demand propane water heater. The water heater is an Ecotemp L5. After a few months of using it, I can barely feel a difference in the weight of the propane tank. Right now the sink drain just goes through the floor and drains onto the ground.

Before winter I hope to have a basement finished for the house (more on that later). When that happens, I am going to try to sink a drive-point well in the basement. See this site for information on what that is. This will also give me a spot to run all of my plumbing that will be easier to protect from freezing. I will also have to dig a small drainage field for the grey water.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Installing a countertop in under 30 seconds

Once again, inclement weather seemed to motivate me to make a major change to the house. Lauren and I have been staying out there more in the cold weather. It is actually warmer in the house with the wood stove going than it is in our apartment. Last week I hooked up the little propane cook stove, but without a surface to prepare food on it was surprisingly hard to cook a meal. After staying in the house for the first day of the storm, we realized that it was time for a countertop.

By the time I was able to get back to the shop with the measurements and a small sink that I found at the ReStore, it was already six o'clock, and the snow drifts were building. I used a piece of knotty-pine plywood that I had at the shop for the countertop, cutting a hole for the sink and coping around the posts. I chopped up some 2x4's for the frame, loaded the tools and headed back out to the house. By this time it was nearly ten o'clock and the temperature had plummeted to one degree, with 20 mph winds. Near blizzard conditions. It took three trips through the woods to bring the supplies up. The last one must have been a sight if anyone had been watching. The eight foot countertop acting as a sail under my arm was knocking me around, but the cast iron sink I was wearing as a hat kept me safe. Once I was back in the warmth and comfort of the house the installation went very well. Enjoy the video!

In the next few days I will get the drain hooked up to a catch bucket under the house so we can at least do some light dish washing. After all, this is still just a temporary solution until I build a real cabinet and concrete countertops.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Thursday, December 5, 2013

In the Pines

A foggy night with Jupiter

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Getting settled.

The move is complete! The house is now sitting on temporary wooden cribbing awaiting a proper foundation. The roof panels are back on, once again with a tarp keeping everything dry. Lauren and I spent our first night out there last night under a full moon. It was a cold windy night, but the stove kept the cold out while we listened to the wind sweeping through the pines. We had a very restful sleep, then woke up to a fiery sunrise before heading back to a hungry cat and our busy days. This is definitely the most peaceful place it has ever been.

Unfortunately I did not have time to photograph much of the second part of the move, but luckily others did! Follow this link for a great series.

dukemantree Flickr series

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Move - Part III

Here is the first of a series showing how the house gets packed up and moved. Every time this happens the system gets refined, but there is no way around it: It is a lot of work! For now, enjoy this time lapse series.

This first series photographed by Russell U.

The Move- Part II

Two years has passed since the house was relocated to my shop in Worcester. It is time to move again. Lauren and I are taking it just a few miles out of the city to a beautiful piece of land in a neighboring town. Once again we will be surrounded by the sounds of nature. Even on our first night in a tent we had a visit by a curious Barred Owl. Otherwise, I have seen signs of fox, moose, coyotes, deer and many other woodland animals. Even the sounds of the train I know so well from the shop occasionally filters up into the hills. The site is situated in a small pine forest, surrounded by many acres of well maintained hardwood forests, sunny meadows, and low wetlands. But from our perch we have well drained soil, steady air movement and soft filtered sunlight. Ideal!

The first step was to make a small clearing for the house. A couple of weeks ago Dermott and I enlarged a clearing that was created by the ice storm of 2008. We dropped many of the standing dead pine trees. The logs will be milled into lumber for future building projects. They were still deep in the woods though. With the generous help of Dale (the person), and Jake and Judy (the horses), from Mesa Farm in Rutland, we pulled about thirty logs to a staging area in one of the meadows where we will have them milled.

It is amazing to watch the power of these gentle horses. They seem to do their work so happily and effortlessly. The jingle of tackle and chains, their snorts, clomps, and even somewhat musical flatulence are so much more pleasant than the din of a skidder. In the end, they leave only a clean swept path through the woods.

Lauren and Dermott admire the work. Almost ready for a little house!

Thank you so much Dale, Jake and Judy!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Skylight design

Right now I am working on a porch that is getting a standing seam copper roof. This has gotten me thinking about my roof again. One of the holdups on this is the design of the skylight. I would like the skylight glass to be practically flush with the roof surface. Each side will be made up of three panes of glass that correspond to the ribs on the copper roof. Building this flush makes the job of keeping water out of the house difficult. I think I have finally worked out the details though. Almost all of the components will be folded out of the same 16 ounce sheet copper that the roof will be made out of.

The edge pieces will roll into the seams of the roof pans.

The picture below is a detail of the insulated glass unit. I am hoping that one can be made with the top sheet of glass longer than the lower piece. This way the roof can overlap the glass at the top of the window, but at the bottom the glass can overlap the roof.

There are still some details to be worked out, but I think this will work!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A small detail

 Here is a photo series of the construction of the copper window frame on the gable end.

Copper is not a cheap material, so a job like this always starts with railroad board templates. Making a template is an interesting process. It is a nice combination of calculated thought and dumb luck, mixed in with a fair amount of persistance. I like to make one piece that represents the flat copper with creases where it should be folded (right side of photo). Then I make a second piece with the profile (bottom of photo). Together, these two pieces of paper give me all the information needed to confidently cut, mark, and bend the copper.

The next task is to miter the two halves. I start with a simple wooden frame that matches my window opening. This gives me the angles I need, and something to support the copper while soldering. It can be a bit of a challenge to mark the mitered cut across all faces of the profile. When available, I the laser attachment included on some miter saws. It is as simple as setting the desired miter angle on the saw, then tracing the laser line with a marker onto the copper. Now the only thing left is to find the right combination of snips to make each section of the cut. I routinely cycle through at least five different pairs.

Here is the finished miter on one piece. The mating piece has the same angle, but must include tabs to aid in assemble and soldering.

Here it is, ready for solder. For some reason, this piece did not want to take the solder. I tried many combinations of flux and solder, but it would not flow until I used the oldest tin of flux and the crustiest looking roll of solder in the shop. Go figure.

The solder joint is a bit messy and will need some touchup when I get to the second half.

Now that the lower half fits, I start the process all over again for the upper half. It must be a slightly different profile to fit up under the overlapping siding. When it is all finished, this window will get a stained glass panel.