Creating An Heirloom - The Building of A Farmhouse Table

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Sometimes it’s the little things that remind you why you get up in the morning and do what you do. For me, it was this farmhouse table build.

I was contacted by a friend of a friend, Samantha, who was very much interested in a custom farmhouse table for her kitchen. She sent me some images of some tables she liked, and that saved me a lot of time in determining what style she was after. We settled on a price, and I was eager to get started. I took pictures every step of the way, and while this is not a “how-to-build-a-farmhouse-table-step-by-step-with-Luke-Andrews”, it should give you a pretty good idea of the techniques I used.

As with everything I build (and I mean everything), it starts with a SketchUp model. This not only helps me with accurate dimensioning and pre-build problem solving, but also helps the customer understand what it will look like and leaves as little to the imagination as possible.

 A SketchUp model helps both my customer and me visualize what the piece will look like.

A SketchUp model helps both my customer and me visualize what the piece will look like.


Once Samantha understood what materials would be used and the style of the table, I culled out some white oak we have in stock. I wasn’t too concerned about knots at this point, because I knew she was after that old farmhouse table look. When culling the boards, what I was most interested in was straight-grained, flat boards with as little crown as possible.

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After the culling, using a combination of the Festool and the table saw, I got rid of the “factory edge” on the boards to ensure a tight fit during the glue-up process.

 Before the Festool track saw, a raw edge

Before the Festool track saw, a raw edge

 After cutting, a straight edge! WOOHOO!

After cutting, a straight edge! WOOHOO!

Once all the edges were straight, it was time to add the splines. I’m quite sure that we did not invent this technique, but we use it on our table tops to ensure that the top will stay together for decades.

The splines add a tongue and groove effect to the wood without the hassle of making an actual tongue and groove. A simple spline router is used to create the groove, and I trimmed down some poplar we had lying around for the splines themselves.

Once I was sure that the boards and splines would fit together perfectly, it was time to turn this stack of milled wood into a bona fide table top by edge-gluing them together with epoxy. A lot of people like to use wood glue for this (which would work fine), but I chose epoxy for its void-filling properties. You may have noticed that the splines were ever so slightly smaller than the grooves they were going in. I want those voids completely filled with thickened epoxy so I can be sure this top will never crack at the joint.

 Table top all clamped up. Let it cure overnight.

Table top all clamped up. Let it cure overnight.

 Extra space all filled with thickened epoxy!

Extra space all filled with thickened epoxy!

The un-clamping of the table top was one of my favorite parts of the project, because it meant that it was time for some really fun joinery work. I took the clamps off, sanded down the top, filled whatever knots and scratches left on the face of the table with clear epoxy, and cut it to size. It was time to add the bread board ends.

The importance of bread board ends cannot be understated, especially with a table top you want to last for generations. Think of the wood grain always wanting to curl up, even after the edge gluing process. The end “cap” of the two ends prevents this from happening. It’s not enough to simply glue the bread boards onto the ends of the table; we want interlocking joinery to create a physical joint and keep the end from curling, even if the glue fails.

To accomplish this, I created a jig using careful measurements and a rabbit bit on my router. Jigs are important with this kind of work. My Dad taught me everything I know about templates and jigs - thanks Rick!

It went together beautifully. There is nothing more satisfying than lightly tapping in two perfectly fitting wooden members.

After the dry fit, the bread board ends were glued using epoxy and clamps. 24 hours later, the clamps were removed, the excess epoxy sanded away, and I was left with a beautiful table top ready to be sanded and finished with polyurethane.

 Sanded from 80-320 grit, ready for that sweet sweet polyurethane finish.

Sanded from 80-320 grit, ready for that sweet sweet polyurethane finish.

Applying the polyurethane finish was hands down my favorite part of the project. I applied 5 coats in total (3 on the top, 2 on the bottom), buffing the last coat out by wet sanding. For the final buff, I used steel wool and paste wax to give it that silky smooth feel and desired sheen.

 
 Before Polyurethane.

Before Polyurethane.

 
 After Polyurethane.

After Polyurethane.

So the table top was more or less finished! On to the base!

Samantha decided she liked the old farmhouse table look, which is heavily defined by the legs. I had to outsource the legs as I do not have the means of turning my own, but I was able to find a great deal on these heavy parawood legs on Etsy. I was very pleased with the quality.

 Lord knows I love a nice set of legs!

Lord knows I love a nice set of legs!

I mortised the legs to allow for a 3.5” skirt all the way around. These thick legs and a hefty 5/4” thick skirt provide the stability needed on a mid-sized dining table. Again, using templates guarantees consistency amongst the joints. I glued the skirts into their respective mortises, sanded the base after the epoxy cured, and painted it. Samantha chose classic white to complete the farmhouse look.

If you have never built something before, I highly encourage you to do so. Many people are not creative individuals, but that is okay. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just make something. Because you’ll realize it’s not about the end product. It’s about the journey of creation, about that feeling you get when you come up with an idea, try at out, and see that it is beautiful because you simply willed it into reality. Nothing beats that feeling, and I felt it as I was combining the painted base with the finished top.

 She’s a beaut!

She’s a beaut!

I gave the table top one last polishing with steel wool and wax paste before delivery. This really brought out the sheen and pronounced the wood grain beautifully.

When the time came to deliver the table, Samantha was so excited! These next images of the final product are all from her, so thank you Samantha for these great images and allowing me to build this table for you. I hope you and your family enjoy it for decades to come. Cheers!

Admit It, You Nerd - SketchUp 3D Basecamp 2018

So there’s a little-known fact about me, one that I finally admitted to myself when I first really started designing homes.

I’m a nerd.

I think my close friends have known about my condition for quite some time. When I finally admitted it to Shannon for the first time, she gave me a warm pat on the shoulder and said gently, “I know, babe. I know.”

In that moment I think I was really just admitting it to myself. This “coming out” as it were was a really big step for me. So then some questions started popping up: What happens next? Where do I go from here? How did a skateboarding, surfing, sailing, backflipping, snowboard instructing, woodworking home builder end up this way? Then it dawned on me.

My nerdiness and love for technology can enhance what I love to do tremendously. All of my ideas for a design now start with a 3D model. Want to design a house? Model it. Idea for a skateboard shape? Model it. Want to make a cutting board? MODEL IT. There’s a very unique blend of creativity and nerdiness there that I never thought possible. Computers and the programs within them (in my case, SketchUp), have enhanced my creativity to the point where I feel confident I can develop an idea quickly and efficiently using this program. It has changed the way we do business, and in effect has changed my life. When I first started, I knew SketchUp would take me places. Then I heard about 3D Basecamp.

 Sketchup did an awesome job with the decor

Sketchup did an awesome job with the decor

Holy shit. Where to begin.

If I had to put it in a sentence, it would go something like this. 3D Basecamp is a conference where SketchUp users of all backgrounds get together to learn more about the program, each other, and most importantly for me : the things that are possible with SketchUp. The creativity was palpable. At its heart, SketchUp is made for architecture. I knew that. But what I didn’t know is that people use SketchUp for most anything you can imagine. Engineers. Interior Designers. Artists. Educators. Woodworkers. The list goes on. Almost 1800 creative professionals attended this year’s Basecamp in Palm Desert, California. If you have a even a modicum of creativity in your body, you can imagine the excitement of being surrounded by that amount of imagination.

So here’s the run-down. This week-long conference consisted of 5 days of seminars, workshops, and presentations, each one more valuable than the last. On average I was able to take 4 workshops per day, with breakfast, lunch, and snacks provided in between. (Shout out to the Palm Desert Marriott, the service and food was incredible).

Besides the actual learning itself, I met TONS of people eager to share what they knew and gather whatever tidbits of information from me that they could. A quick shout out to Alex, Allen, Alice, Chris, Daniel, Dorte, Eitan, Eric, Emily, Jeff, Keith, Larry, Lang, Lance, Lourenço, Matt, Mia, Michael, Sarah, Steve, Yoni, and Zack. I have never met a group of people more eager to share ideas and gather information. These people were genuinely interested in what I do and how I do it. I think the honesty and raw conversations with everyone there is a rare find in the world, and I am grateful to have experienced my time here with them.

The People of BaseCamp

 Allen, Lang, and eitan

Allen, Lang, and eitan

The first person I met here was a guy from Israel named Eitan. This dude posted on the Basecamp app (which was awesome, by the way. Leave it to the people at a software conference to have a badass app, am I right?) that he had a car and would be available to give people a ride from the airport to the hotel, about a 30 minute drive. He ended up saving 3 other Basecampers and me about 30 bucks on an Uber. Such a nice guy. Later in the week, I ended up going with Eitan and another guy, Jeff, to Joshua Tree national park for the day, but I’ll talk about that later. Eitan’s got a big heart and I had a blast getting to know him.

The next person I connected with was Sarah. Sarah works for a pharmacy in Pennsylvania laying out floor plans for different equipment related to lab applications. She’s apparently a badass because she went for runs and bike rides the entire time she was here, and that means in 100+ degree heat (I am not exaggerating, I literally burned myself touching the wrong outdoor fixtures and concrete).

We clicked because of our mutual general awe of what’s possible in SketchUp. Sarah is able to create a detailed floor plan of her different pharmaceutical machines, which gives her clients a sense of workflow and scale. Mobility is very important in a workspace, and sometimes you just can’t convey that effectively with a floor plan. We had a great time playing cornhole, discussing SketchUp, and sharing a very nice bottle of wine at a very nice restaurant in Palm Desert (which neither of us really wanted or paid for, but it was a great experience! Shout out to Keith for his generosity! I can’t wait to see where she goes in her SketchUp career. If her character is any indication of her drive, I think she’ll be very successful.

Speaking of Keith, he may have been one of the single most influential people I met here. Keith is into fine cabinetry and wood processing, and he automates everything. “Automate everything,” he says. “My CNC never calls in sick, never has a bad day, and doesn’t require workman’s comp insurance.” That really stuck for me.

Of course, everyone has different ways to automate what they do. I’ll admit that cabinet parts are much different than a SIPs wall, but with a little creativity and determination, I believe we can implement automation in ways that will greatly increase our accuracy and productivity. I’ve got some ideas in the works, but nothing so solid that I can talk about it here with any idea of what I’m talking about. Anyway, thanks Keith. Your ideas and accomplishments were inspirational to say the least.

Another couple of awesome guys I met here were Allen and Lang, who were teachers from right here in California. Allen reminded me of the Dos Equis guy, otherwise known as “the most interesting man in the world.” I met people who spoke Hebrew, Spanish, Danish, and French. Luckily for me, all of those people spoke English very well. Allen would notice someone’s accent, ask where they were from, and then proceed to have a conversation in whatever language they were familiar with. It was awesome to see peoples’ faces light up when he spoke in their native tongue. Couple his multilingual capabilities with his warm smile, beautiful grey mustache and seemingly endless wardrobe of Tommy Bahama shirts, Allen was a great guy to be around.

Lang was a great guy as well. He and I wreaked havoc on the shuffleboard table at the glow party, which may be the hardest game ever invented. Lang also told us about Joshua Tree national park, which we ended up visiting. His knowledge of the not-so-secret southern entrance saved us an admission fee to the park, and I’m really glad we took his advice and just went. I’m going to need to write a separate post on that experience, which was possibly the highlight of my time here.

Alice, Dorte, and Mia were the Danes. These girls were my impromptu breakfast buddies, and they were all beautiful inside and out. They told me that yes, everyone in Denmark were in fact blondes, and that yes, it was beautiful there. They also introduced me to the work of Bjarke Ingels, a Danish architect who has created some pretty amazing buildings. One of those buildings was a trash recycling facility that also serves as a ski slope. I was told it was very flat in Denmark, so an improvised ski slope seemed like a great idea.

 IMAGE © 2018 BIG ARCHITECTURE

IMAGE © 2018 BIG ARCHITECTURE

There are tons more people worth mentioning, like Matt the badass architect from D.C., who had the longest dreadlocks I had seen and the most organized SketchUp models as well. He also took his longboard everywhere he went, which was cool. Alex was a mechanical engineer who gave me a crash course in creating dynamic components one day at breakfast. Those are going to prove very useful when creating doors and windows in my models, not to mention decks, deck rails, stair systems, and anything else with repeating characteristics. What a guy. I know I am leaving some people out, but suffice to say I made some awesome connections with some truly talented and creative people.

The Experience of BaseCamp

If there is anyone even remotely interested in SketchUp or 3D modeling in general, I would highly recommend coming to BaseCamp. The conference is a week-long experience, and the connections you can make with the instructors and attendees alike are worth it alone. I was impressed from the moment I walked through the doors. Big, pastel colors of teal and light pink and simple cartoon pictures was the signature style of BaseCamp Palm Springs 2018. Everything was extremely well organized, and the BaseCamp app kept everything simple and in one place. I hardly ever needed to ask anyone for assistance. Everything was right there on the app!

As you might have guessed, social events are a big part of what makes BaseCamp so beneficial. The Trail Mixer on the second night of the conference was very nice. Drink tickets made sure everyone was nice and socially lubricated for optimal conversation. This is where I realized I was undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with on the cornhole boards. I guess in Virginia I get some pretty good practice. What can I say, we are great at tossing bags of corn!

 giant checkers, giant jenga, and a giant crowd of people were key parts of the mixer!

giant checkers, giant jenga, and a giant crowd of people were key parts of the mixer!

The backbone of Basecamp is the plethora of workshops and presentations available every single day. This is where I learned something: SketchUp is capable of so many incredible things. From initial line drawings all the way through to photorealistic renders, SketchUp can get the job done.

I also realized that using SketchUp without extensions is like using a SmartPhone without apps. Extensions are similar to apps. They are created by SketchUp users to expand the capabilities of the program in a specific way or another. There are both free and paid extensions, but they all exist to expedite your workflow in one way or another. There are, of course, extension developers as well. Many of those developers were at the conference, and they are like rock stars. It might sound a bit strange - some nerd who sits at a computer and codes programs all day being treated like a celebrity, but these people make SketchUp faster. SketchUp has changed so many people’s lives by giving them a livelihood and changing the way they make a living. These extension developers make my work easier, faster, and better. It’s no wonder they are revered and respected the way they are.

 nick sonder’s class on smart construction modeling showed me exactly what’s possible when it comes to using sketchup for architecture

nick sonder’s class on smart construction modeling showed me exactly what’s possible when it comes to using sketchup for architecture

The classes themselves varied greatly. They range in topics from SketchUp 101 to creating complex construction documents using both SketchUp and Layout in tandem. I personally enjoyed all of my classes, although some of the workshops I attended were more rudimentary than I anticipated. If there is one thing I would suggest for Basecamps in the future, it would be a better indication system for the skill level of each class. It would be helpful to know more details on what the class is about and the specific skill set requirements for the class in question. Regardless, I left each class with at least one piece of helpful information or hack to make my workflow easier.

 nick sonders shows how dividing a project into different, smaller files can organize a model while also keeping the file size down

nick sonders shows how dividing a project into different, smaller files can organize a model while also keeping the file size down

Desert Glow Party

If there was one thing I would have expected to NOT see at 3D Basecamp in Palm Springs, it would have been a lady riding a 10’ tall giant flamingo. I did not see that coming.

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That was a good indication that the Desert Glow Party on Thursday night was going to be a good one. The night started off of course with drink tickets (which seemed to be abundant, people just kept giving them to me). Dinner was included, which was awesome like the rest of the meals they provided. They had an awesome band, which included a different type of hula dancer. She was basically pearched on a spinning hoop 10 feet above the ground. Shannon, whom I love dearly, was wondering how she stayed up there. That conversation went as follows:

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After too many drinks and a bit of dancing, I turned in at the ripe hour of midnight to be ready for the classes the next morning.

A Canadian, an Israeli, and an America were all driving through the desert...

...And it was amazing.

I haven’t mentioned Jeff yet, but he was one of the people I connected with most at Basecamp. Jeff is a Canadian, eh, and he actually designs emergency expandable medical shelters, which sounded very similar to Bayside Tiny Homes. Both of us had no real formal training in architecture - everything we know we learned ourselves.

At dinner one night, Eitan, Jeff and I all decided we should visit Joshua Tree National Park, which was about a 45 minute drive from our hotel. We gathered our gear after the farewell lunch on friday and headed out. It was really nice of Eitan to drive us in his rental, otherwise I don’t think we could have made it happen.

 the more barren parts of joshua tree on the southern side of the park

the more barren parts of joshua tree on the southern side of the park

 the cactus garden

the cactus garden

We came in through the southern entrance of the park, which was mostly barren desert with some mountains in the distance. As we continued, the desert vegetation started to become more lush, eventually taking us to what is known as the cactus garden.

Walking through the cactus garden was a trip. Both Eitan and Jeff brought their drones (which were awesome, by the way. Eitan has a DJI spark which is incredible). Eitan got some awesome shots of the cacti...it was insane the sheer amount of cacti congregated in one place. They went on as far as the eye could see. We hung out there until eitan had used up a battery in his drone, then we plucked the cacti out of our shoes and continued our adventure.

 those needles go right through a tennis shoe, by the way

those needles go right through a tennis shoe, by the way

 caution: boulders are way bigger than they appear

caution: boulders are way bigger than they appear

As we drove deeper into the park, we started to notice the boulders. These suckers just kept getting bigger and bigger the further we went. Eventually we got the a place called skull rock. It reminded me of skull rock in peter pan where the pirates took Tiger Lily. We hiked and climbed through the boulders, which thankfully were very textured. I was pleasantly surprised just how steep of a surface you could climb. I can totally understand the draw to bouldering (which we saw a lot of people doing).

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Our time in Joshua Tree ended after that, as the sun was quickly descending back behind the mountains that surrounded us. In a last little moment of awe, I glanced out of my passenger side window and saw a figure perched atop the summit of a boulder. None of us could really tell what it was, but upon closer inspection with his monocular, Jeff was able to see it was a goat with big round horns curling around his head. He was just chilling, watching the sunset over his kingdom. Pretty damn majestic if you ask me, and a great way to end the day at Joshua Tree.

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The next day, we all said our goodbyes, and Eitan, being the generous man he is, saved me yet another Uber to the airport. I told him to consider going to the next Basecamp in Vancouver, but he said his family might kill him if he leaves too often. As I sit here in Pheonix finishing my story of Basecamp, I’m thinking maybe he’ll read this and I can convince him to get away for another week in a couple of years. So to everyone I met in Palm Springs, I can’t wait to reconnect in 2 years to see what everyone has accomplished! Later, nerds.

The Construction of the Rambler

Building a living space for myself has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember.

Growing up the son of a master woodworker and craftsman, I have always been obsessed with building things to use for whatever hobby I was into at the time. I can remember being 8 years old, making wooden swords out of scraps from my Dad’s woodshop and begging him to battle with me. By the time I was an angsty, skateboarding 14 year old I had built several forts, treehouses, and ramps. My friends and I--unbeknownst to my parents at the time--turned their garage into an all out skate park, with plywood ramps facing each other on either end of the garage. It was our own little skateboarding paradise. Mom and Dad were pretty pissed at first, but they let us keep it for a while.

It wasn’t long before I started to build my own skateboards- mostly flat longboards with the occasional kick tailed mini just for messing around. My best friend Zack went up to college and came back with some videos he’d made of himself power sliding on my 4’ long Big Board- the first one I had built. So naturally we made sliding gloves that allowed us to put our hands on the ground and take longboarding to a whole new level. Any hill, no matter how steep, was now our playground- and it was all made possible by a specially shaped piece of wood and leather work gloves with pieces of star-board velcroed to them. The feeling of creating something to use for your own exploits and having them actually work is indescribable. It’s like being self-sufficient, but not in terms of survival. It’s an enhanced version of doing the things that make you happy. The hard work that goes into getting you to the place where you are doing the things that bring you joy, that bring you peace, is more exciting than any other kind of work.

The coolest thing I have built to date is my stand up paddleboard. It’s got a styrofoam core and is wrapped in 1 lamination of 4 oz fiberglass. The first time I took it out to New Point Comfort Lighthouse was in March of 2016. The water was freezing- my feet were numb- but I didn’t care. There I was, coming as close to walking on water as you can without being Jesus Christ, and the experience was made that much better because I had built that SUP with my own two hands. All of the sanding, shaping, glassing, sanding again, painting, and waiting for epoxy to cure had all led me to that moment of happily freezing my butt off at New Point.  I expect to make more SUPs in the future, but that one will always be my favorite.

Naturally, the next project in my never ending and ever growing list of projects was a house. I didn’t have nearly enough cash on hand to buy land, much less to buy the materials needed to build a house. In late 2016 we were about 90% done with building the first-ever Bayside Cottage and I had fallen in love to stay the least. The cottage was cozy, it was delightfully manageable, and it was everything a 24-year-old guy could want. But it wasn’t just the beautiful woodwork and carpeted loft that had me wrapped around her finger; it was the way she was built. Seeing those full wall panels erected with the exterior glass already applied and ready to paint just made my heart soar. Seeing the way that house had gone from a drawing to a finished product and all of the steps in between changed the way I thought about home building. And I knew it was time to get started on my own.

Before you get too excited, let me just say that for my first Tiny House I decided to go simple. That is not to say she isn’t beautiful inside and out, but I opted to run only electricity to the house- no plumbing or gas lines. She’s only 8’ wide and 16’ long, basically a large bedroom. Eventually I plan on building an identical house that will be my kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room- connecting the two buildings with a deck in between them. The benefits to this sort of “open campus” home are pretty appealing to a guy like me.

First of all, it allows me to build the 2 rooms or buildings independent of each other. The bedroom can be built and moved into before I even start thinking about the kitchen, bathroom and laundry room. Second, when it comes to energy savings, I don’t have to heat the rooms I am not using all the time. In a traditional house, if you put the thermostat at 70 degrees and go into your bedroom, the heat pump will run until all the rooms in the house are that temperature. In my split home, I cannot be in the kitchen and bedroom at one time, so why should two rooms be heated when I am only using one?

 standing the walls up gave me butterflies

standing the walls up gave me butterflies

Speaking of cost efficiency, I am very excited to have first-hand experience on the heating and cooling aspects of living in a SIPs Tiny House. These things are very well insulated. In the dead of winter I expect to be able to heat it with a small space heater. In the summer, a small portable air conditioner should do the trick and then some.

 The roof panel gets fiberglassed and sealed

The roof panel gets fiberglassed and sealed

The thing about a home is that everybody needs one. Every single human on the face of the planet needs a place to lay their head at night. Unfortunately, not everyone is as fortunate as the majority of us but the fact remains: a house is just as important to a person as food and water.

According to Mark J Perry, finance and economics professor at the University of Michigan, the average square footage of a home in the United States is 1,000 square feet larger today than it was in 1973 - an increase of 61.4%. So what happened? Well people haven’t gotten 61.4% larger over the past 46 years. The average family size is actually smaller, and the average income (adjusted for inflation) is only slightly higher than it was in the 70s. So what gives?

It’s a culture shift.

We’ve seen first hand the dangers of buying more than you can afford- the housing crisis in 2008 sent the US economy into a downward spiral which would have been disastrous if not for the federal bailout. People living beyond their means is still running rampant among Americans who don’t understand that just because you can borrow insane amounts of money doesn’t mean you should. As Brad Pitt explains in Fight Club, “The things you own end up owning you.” It’s high time we start living within our means and experience what it’s like to have actual ownership of one of the most basic human necessities- a home that is durable, affordable, and within our means. Ok, that’s it. I’m done preaching.

I’ve always been amazed to see how things are built, how things are put together, and how they work. This house is no different. In fact, that’s what made me fall in love with these little houses. The first difference between our homes and a “regular” tiny house--if there is such a thing--is that we use SIPs, or Structural Insulated Panels. These have a number of advantages over a standard stick-framed wall not only in the final product, but in the building system itself.

Back in the wooden ship-building days of old England, shipwrights would create a scale model of a ship before they started the real thing. This gave them the ability not only to have a visual reference of the great feat they were about to undertake, but also to make whatever mistakes they made on a much smaller scale the first time. When building with SIPs (or sticks, for that matter) you need to know exactly how your home is going to go together before you even cut your first piece of OSB. I am a bit more computer savvy than the old English shipwright, and I accomplish this by making a 3D model of the entire project using a program called SketchUp. SketchUp is a program where you draw in 3D, rather than draw in 2D and convert it to 3D. This makes for a faster, more immersive design experience. Once you have your 3D model complete, you have access to every single dimension, material, and the overall flow of the building. Making a 3D model first is critical.

 making a 3d model before you start building is critical

making a 3d model before you start building is critical

I often wonder if my love of building would still be there if my Dad had chosen another profession. He started off in the workforce as a lineman for the phone company. Suppose he had stuck with that career- would I be as interested in building things as I am? If I did not have a wood shop at my disposal, tools to build with (not to mention the wealth of knowledge that Dad possesses) would I be interested in building things? I guess I’ll never know the true answer, but what I do know is this: my Dad has always been right there to help me with my next project, no matter what it was.  I’ll never forget that time in 3rd grade making these little wooden race cars in church. We would all sand them, paint them, and glue pennies inside the bottom to weigh them down. I remember going up to my Dad, holding out my half-finished car and asking, “Is this good? Is it done?” I suppose I was looking for re-assurance that my sanding skills were up to snuff. His answer was always the same- “If it’s good enough for you, it’s good enough.”

Little did that 10 year old boy know, but that attitude would be there through my teen years and into my twenties. He has always been there to lend his helpful advice without being overbearing. It is very easy to develop a vision for a certain project and expect it to be done that way, even if it is not your project (I know from personal experience). Dad, however, is able to step back and allow me to grow creatively, to make my own decisions and mistakes for myself while still being there to answer any questions and lend a hand in whatever way he can. I remember him telling me once, “Son, your problems are my problems.” I will never forget that. And for it I am forever grateful.

 The walls of the rambler are so stiff you can literally pick up one end with a forklift

The walls of the rambler are so stiff you can literally pick up one end with a forklift

Today is Sunday, March 26 2017. Warmer weather is just around the corner and I might be able to meet my self-imposed goal of Memorial Day as my finish date. As of right now, I have most of the exterior completely fiberglassed and sanded. Once the remainder of the glassing is done, she’ll be ready for paint on the inside and out. It is an amazing thing to be able to look ahead and know all of the steps necessary to call this little house a finished product. Given, there are certain things (such as building the built in bed-closet) that I don’t have quite figured out yet, but I know I will be able to tackle it once I get to it. As Jeff Johnson puts it: “The best journeys answer questions that in the beginning, you didn’t even think to ask.” 180 Degrees South is the best documentary I have ever seen. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it now.

And that’s what this is: a journey. Not in the traditional sense, mind you- I have physically stayed in one place since this whole thing started in October. I consider it a journey of the mind; a journey of the intellect. It is the journey of an idea from its purest form- as a thought- to a tangible, livable product. I have worked on my techniques throughout and am in the process of making them as perfect as they can possibly be. The goal is to come out with a seamless, completely waterproof exterior that will last through whatever the world can dish out. What’s exciting about that is (to our knowledge, at least) nobody in the home building market is even attempting this. When you really get down to it, fiberglass is not even heard of in the realm of home building. I can’t help but stop and think, “is this really a such a good idea?” So far, the first tiny home we built is holding up very well outdoors, so we have every reason to believe that the rest will be no different. I am just excited to be able to call one my own.

We recently took on a remodeling job for a gorgeous house in Ware Neck. The house itself is over 100 years old, additions being added as the current owner at the time saw fit. Eventually, someone connected all of the additions with decks on the upper and lower floors, these decks containing beautiful woodwork and lots of space for activities. While walking through the house for the first time, I found myself constantly saying the same word: “wow”. The sheer size of the house is not readily apparent from the outside. As you explore from one room to the other, the house sort of presents itself to you, room-by-room. The kitchen is huge, and is attached to a large dining room, which leads into a foyer which connects to a massive patio deck. Each time you go into a room, the house seems to expand and offer yet another room beyond.

I imagined living there with a community of 15-20 like-minded individuals, who want to share my dream of living at least mostly off of the land; with gardens, livestock, fresh-water collection systems, solar power, etc. Everyone would pitch in and do their part, and in return we would all share this beautiful piece of land on the water, reaping the rewards of our hard work. Sailing, grilling, events, amazing dinners, games, swimming, banging, everything related to the pursuit of pleasure. If you want to see what I’m talking about, watch “The Beach” sometime, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio. You’ll know exactly what I mean.

Then it hit me: You don’t have to own a multi-million dollar property with a 4000 sq ft mansion on it in order to live out this dream. This dream can be easily accomplished with Tiny Houses. Picture this: you purchase a piece of land (on your own or jointly, doesn’t matter), and place however many Tiny Houses all over the property. In the center, you build a large kitchen/ living space with bathrooms which is to be used by everyone who lives there. That way, you could have the option of omitting the kitchen and/or bathroom from the surrounding Tiny Homes, lowering the cost. You can still have your communal gardens, your parties, everything I described above. It could be a community of young couples and professionals looking to live more deliberately and efficiently, coming together to help each other as the ancient nomads and tribes have done for hundreds and thousands of years. It is truly a utopian idea. I realize that. With more people come more challenges, and I am not oblivious to that fact. Again, see the movie, “The Beach”.

It has been over 7 months since I took on this project. Countless hours after work, coffee-breathed mornings, and weekends have led me to this point. My tiny house is finally finished.

My Rambler is situated in the corner of my good friend Will’s yard, tucked between two small white oaks in its own small corner of the world. The shade from the two trees coupled with the super-insulated SIPs construction ensures that it stays nice and cool inside the house (thus far, anyway). A small, treated deck extends from the door side of the house. As I mentioned before, my house has no bathroom or kitchen. This is remedied by a short walk through the trees to Will's house, where I have access to both. I pay a small amount of rent and my share of the utilities, and it works out great for both of us. Looking forward, I cannot wait to build another one. Each house has it's own story. I'm very lucky to be a part of this one.