Hand Tools (100)

Greg Clark's Handmade House

Hi Lloyd,

I’ve been fascinated by handmade houses for years. I came across a book in the ’70s called The Wood Butcher’s Art. I now teach in a traditional school in India, and teach my students about such houses. With their help I made a house here in West Bengal from mostly local timber and I thought you might be interested. We have several of your books which are very inspiring. The boys made several models based on a reading of some of your books. If you are interested I can send more photos. The house was inspired by my travels in Cambodia, Thailand, and Assam.

I teach in a traditional school in West Bengal, India. We have international students and I wanted to show them that you can build a great house out of local renewable materials. The trees for the frame and most of the floors was all local. Many students came and helped me build the house. It took about two years. I wanted to use shingles for the roof, but we can’t get cedar here. So I had to invest quite a bit to make teak shingles, which were used historically in tropical places like Hawaii or Mauritius. The walls are made from ‘Slipstraw’ but we used the abundant eucalyptus sawdust that we generated instead of straw. We finished the walls with a lime sand plaster. It came out so well we had no need to paint. The wood was finished with a mix of local beeswax and pine turpentine.

The Bhaktivedanta Academy Gurukula, a traditional Vedic school with international students in West Bengal, India is helping to construct a series of houses for teachers. The boys of the academy spend a couple of hours each day learning basic construction methods based on age-old building traditions and using mostly local materials. The school’s oxen and horse also assist in the process. The boys are from all over the world: Russia, Ukraine, China, Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia, different parts of India, Ecuador, Argentina, Peru, Chile, Hungary, Bulgaria, etc. Before starting to build the boys spent several lessons studying your books, Builders of the Pacific Coast, Shelter 1-2, etc.

–Greg Clark

Sasha making pegs

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Off-Grid Tiny Home in Australia



This stunning off-the-grid home in Australia may be tiny, but it has a very big story to tell. Constructed as a do-it-yourself build by recent empty-nesters Jan and Kev, this tiny house is open, spacious very efficient and completely off the grid.

When the last of their adult children left home, Jan and Kev decided it was time to redesign their lives. Constructing a tiny house on wheels was a fantastic way of freeing up capital and living a more simple lifestyle which would give them plenty of opportunity to travel and focus on the things in life which are important to them.

The home was constructed as a DIY project as Jan and Kev got stuck into all aspects of the build themselves. With no prior building experience, the tiny house was certainly a challenging project and the couple admit there were more than a few arguments throughout the process including a few walk-offs. Ultimately though, together they have built a beautiful home which has taught the couple they really can achieve anything they set their minds to.

Even though it’s a tiny house, there’s still plenty of space for entertaining their family when they come over. The couple are currently expanding on their home by adding a large deck, which will be completely under cover giving a lot of additional outdoor living space to capitalize on the fabulous Queensland weather…

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Yogan Carpenter’s Ladybug Truck

Yogan, a highly creative French carpenter, has been in our last three books. Here is his latest creation, about which he wrote:

This is a 2002 Mercedes 311cdi Sprinter double-cabin (7 seats) truck with a hydraulic bed lift. I call it Le Benne-Benz. I wanted the 7-seater because we live in collective and it’s cool to go to festivals in only one vehicle! All the stuff (tent, mattress, etc.) is in the truck and there’s only one driver! It’s also good for a hot tub and a good stage for a concert!

I travel a lot, so I had to make a place to sleep and live during my travels. The idea to make a removable cell came to me because I like to sleep under the stars, and sunbathe nude, so the open roof was mandatory!

For the shell, I made 10 arches in laminated poplar wood (9mm × 8 layers) and I glued 2 layers (2 × 6mm) of poplar plywood for the shell.

I have a big lifting frame in the forest where I suspend it, and it’s possible to sleep inside while it’s suspended (off the truck) like a big swing seat!

I travel with “Sucette,” my cat, and under my bed I have space to put my paraglider, my longboard, my accordions, and a lot of Cabanophiles books to sell during my travels.

This structure cost me less than 300 Euros!

I can level the bed with the hydraulic lift, which means I can find a lot more good camping spots! 50° max!

To use a van with a camper shell is a good way to be “unruly” because now in France its illegal to make your own rolling home. With this technique you can be so creative! I like to be unruly in this world; we need to be creative and have fun!

I will put Le Benne-Benz in my next book Cabanophiles II, in 2 years!

Note: Yogan published a book about his travels called Cabinophiles (for which I wrote the intro). It’s in French, but he’s translating it into English. www.cabanophiles.com

Here is more info on his Mercedes: yogan.over-blog.com/2018/08/dans-mon-benne-benne-benz.html

Finally, here is Yogan and his pal Menthe visiting Shelter two years ago:

www.lloydkahn.com/2015/11/french-carpenters-stop-by-shelter-on

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Waioli Mission Hall, Hanalei

Waioli Mission Hall stands as a major monument of Hawaiian architectural history, the primary inspiration for the Hawaiian double-pitched hipped roof so widely popularized by C. W. Dickey in the 1920s. Built by the Reverend William P. Alexander, Dickey’s grandfather, the plaster walls of the frame structure repose beneath a sprawling roof and encircling lanai. The roof, originally thatched, was shingled in 1851. Similarly, the freestanding, ohia-framed belfry at the rear of the mission was of thatch construction, but most likely received a covering of shingles in the same year. The form of the twenty-five-foot-high belfry drew upon a long British and American colonial tradition. Common in its day, today it stands as the sole surviving example of its type in Hawaii.

This was the third church building on the site, with the earlier thatched edifices falling prey to fire and storms. It remained a center for worship until the completion of Waioli Huiia Church in 1912, when it became a community hall for the church, a function it still serves today. The building has been thrice restored: in 1921 by Hart Wood, in 1978 by Bob Fox, and again in 1993, following Hurricane Iniki, by Designare Architects.

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Scott Holmen's 14′ × 14′ Post-and-Beam Cabin

…I have worked as a forester since the mid-1970s and have lived in places that had specialized structures with limited functions, a cookhouse for cooking and eating, a bathhouse for showers and clothes washing, and a smaller structure (cabin or tent frame) to sleep in. Not much of a stretch to think I could do that again. I always wanted a large outside space which would stay dry. So I ended up with a 16´ × 16´ covered deck in front of the cabin. This had an added advantage because it gave me a large, dry, flat building area. Since it does rain a bit around here, that was a huge plus.

The cabin’s concept was to build modular log walls, and then assemble them in a post-and-beam framework. The log walls use ¾˝ thick, 3˝ wide plywood splines to attach them to the posts. The modules are built on a jig, and are then either stored somewhere until it is time to build or are then rebuilt on the foundation.

I’m just a retro-grouch at heart. Old school, wood and steel, no electricity, and a bit of skill beats power tools any day. I like my electric hand planers for smoothing wall timbers, love my chainsaw for cutting the big stuff — but for a simple bevel on a board (or 70 boards), I like the sound of a quiet hand plane that is older than my grandkids, older than my kids, older than me, maybe older than my father, and just like the ones my grand­father used to use.
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Hybrid Natural Home in Colorado Highlands Built by Brett LeCompte

My home, which I built in 
2003–04, is a hybrid design. 
The north, east, and west wall are straw bale, while the south wall is adobe and glass. The upper story is framed with 2˝ × 8˝ rough-sawn local Ponderosa Pine, furred out to about 9½˝ to accommodate a heavy coat of cellulose insulation, which also fills the roof cavity. Downstairs, there are earthen plasters inside and outside, while upstairs is sheathed in local, rough-sawn pine board and batten.

Drywall walls upstairs are finished in earthen plasters, which ties the two levels together. A central woodstove heats the home, which is off the grid. I tried to use materials mostly from my county in southwest Colorado. Ceilings are tongue-and-groove aspen sawn in a mill six miles away. The frame is local Ponderosa pine, including a third of them milled from my property. I did my own bathroom and kitchen ­cabinetry. Downstairs floors are earthen (two thirds) and tile (one third). There are lots of porches for protection of my earthen walls during a Colorado winter. One unique feature is a 10-inch lizard (painted blue) that runs up the staircase on an interior adobe wall. I named her Noelle when I finished shaping her one Christmas afternoon. I share the house with my wife Shaine, kids Rosie and Fielder, and dog Ella…

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Barn in Oregon Framed with 1″ Lumber

I’ve been going through old photos lately. I shot photos of this beautiful barn in 2014. I posted it back then, but I think it’s worth looking at it again, in more detail. Here’s what I wrote:

There are buildings that have — for lack of a better word — a sweetness to them. Like this barn, like a small abandoned cottage in an English field I once found, slowly disintegrating back into the soil from which all its materials came. Inside, I could feel the lives that had been lived there. Or the buildings of master carpenter Lloyd House. It happens most frequently in barns, where practicality and experience create form with function. Architecture without architects.

The unique feature here is that the roof’s curve is achieved by building the rafters out of 1″ material. 1 × 12s laminated together (I believe 4 of them) to achieve the simplest of laminated trusses. The barn is 24′ wide, 32′ long, 26′ to the ridge. Thanks to Mackenzie Strawn for measuring it; he also wrote: “I have a carpentry manual from the 1930’s with a short section on the Gothic arch barns, they suggest making the roof radius ¾ of the width.”

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Curved-Roof Shed


This is 10′ by 10′. Rafters made of four 1″ by 4″ by ⅜″ redwood bender board, 16′ long, bent, glued and clamped together. Roof sheathing is 1 × 6 redwood fence boards from Home Depot. Siding is ⅜″ rough-sawn exterior DF plywood. Eventually I’ll panel the inside with used fence boards. Flooring is used yellow pine T&G from Heritage Salvage in Petaluma. Windows (used) from Urban Ore in Berkeley.

Billy Cummings has done most of the work here, including cutting and fitting double-wall polycarbonate greenhouse glazing under the curved eaves.

Next step is to build a sliding door for one half of the end wall shown here so a bed can be rolled out onto the deck for nighttime star gazing. Jay Nelson built a sliding door for his shop that gave me the idea.

Note: A curved roof is infinitely more time-consuming (in many ways) as compared with, say, a shed roof or a gable roof. BUT the space underneath is wonderful and something I highly recommend for tiny homes. If you take the time to build a roof like this, it will give you a feeling of spaciousness and avoid the claustrophobia of small spaces. Curved roofs are the secret to the good feeling in Gypsy wagons (vardos).

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Margaret's Cabin Built by Jan Janzen

This little cabin was built almost entirely from a cedar tree that had been lying nearby. Framing, flooring, shakes. Maybe that’s what makes the building so harmonious. Jan had told me this and, as I was climbing around inside and out shooting photos, I had a vision of a tree, a solid chunk of wood, cut up rearranged, and expanded to make this cozy place…

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