Recycled Materials (159)

Breathing New Life into Old Wood: Former Duck-Hunting Cabins Find a Home

In 2017, the Millers snagged a 10-acre gem on Buchanan Lake in Minnesota, complete with a trio of old-school duck-hunting cabins that had seen better days. Legend has it, even an NFL big shot used to hunt here. Right before sealing the deal, the previous owners were close to tearing the cabins down. But the Millers saw some rustic gold in that wood and decided to dismantle the structures instead, aiming to breathe new life into the aged siding.

Two old wood cabins

Each cabin told its own story. One was the crash pad, still packed with a dozen mattresses—a mash-up of bunk and twin beds in one room, plus a couple of full-size beds in the next. The roof had given up on doing its job here, and most of the windows were a testament to better times gone by. Another cabin was all about the grub; its kitchen setup was surprisingly intact with a fridge, stove, and sink. And then there was the storage shack, standing firm on a concrete foundation, while its siblings squatted on wooden floors that were quickly deteriorating—think rotted planks! 

One long old wood cabin, half rotting

But here’s where it gets good. The Millers managed to rescue about 60% of that wood, trimming off the rough edges (literally) to weave it into their new digs inside a steel shed—you know, the steel shed that people use for a house—a “shouse.” They power-washed each plank to its former glory, skipped the sanding to keep that rugged charm, and sealed each with a layer of clear varnish. They went all in on a cozy, lived-in vibe.

two walls with repurposed wood, one rustic tongue and groove and the other painted shiplap

Installing the siding was a bit like putting together a giant puzzle—using the tongue and groove style on stud walls, pinned down with finishing nails. Some of the boards were stripped in half for the trim to keep up the rustic look. The roofing boards got a new lease on life too. They were cleaned up, painted, and lined up for a shiplap statement wall. All in all, it took about a week of prep and DIY magic to get everything up and looking sharp.

picture of Meg Simonds house from the book, Small Homes

While many of our books feature recycled materials, Meg Simonds, featured in Small Homes, explains it best: “Building with recycled wood is a slow and arduous affair, from finding it to pulling the last nail. It is a lot of work and rarely is it delivered. The payoff is twofold. The quality of older wood generally surpasses that of new, and its deep, rich beauty only comes with age. For us, more importantly, [we love] getting to have a truly deep relationship with the wood. All this wood once had a home, an ancient forest, the lungs of the Earth; little of this remains. The best we can do now is to have a deep respect for what was and what is. We approached building our home with this in mind.” (pg. 126-127)

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Tom's Lorry

…After a lot of trawling through eBay, I finally found the perfect lorry to build my house on, the beastly 1988 Bedford MJ. The build began in November 2016, and, as I was building it mainly single-handedly, I didn’t move into it until November 2017.

My house has everything you need, including a fully equipped kitchen, log burner, bathroom with shower and composting toilet, and — most importantly — space for surfboards! To maximize space, the bed is suspended from the ceiling on pulleys, raised during the day over the living room and lowers down to be slept on. It’s also fully off-grid, with solar panels and a rain water harvesting system…

  • Tom’s Lorry will be featured in our upcoming book Hit the Road Jack.
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Homestead of Recycled Materials in Quebec

…In the fall of 2008 we came across an opportunity to pick up pine trees that were locally cut. We adapted our plans to the amount of wood available.

We hired a local sawmill owner to cut the timbers for us. That winter we rented a shop and prebuilt a 24′×30′ timber frame of 9′×9′ pine. The joinery is mortise-and-tenon, sculpted with mallet and chisels…

From our book, Small Homes: The Right Size

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Affordable Off-Grid Tiny Home Built with Recycled Picket Fence Palings



This incredible tiny house has been built for a remarkable price. Builder Jesse has taken a whole bunch of salvaged materials (mostly lots of old fence palings) and constructed a fully featured and whimsically beautiful tiny home all for less that $20,000.

While a tiny house may be small, there’s nothing tiny about the amount of labour that goes into constructing one. If you’re choosing to use reclaimed or salvaged materials that work load is dramatically increased as there is a lot of labour involved in reconditioning old materials and preparing them for a new project. If you’re willing to put in the work though, you can construct an affordable and beautiful home for a remarkably low figure.

Jesse’s home sits on an amazing property where he lives and works full time as a tiny house builder. While his boss was away on holiday and there was a break of work in the shop, Jessie turned his attention to constructing his own home on wheels. Ever resourceful, he had managed to find a whole bunch of old windows which he salvaged and designed his tiny house around. Except for the framing, old fence palings which he saved from landfill and thus got for free were used for both interior and exterior cladding as well as much of the cabinetry in the house…

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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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SunRay Kelley’s New Tiny Home on Wheels For Sale



From SunRay’s website:

This 20′ vardo is off-grid ready. Solar panels run a high-efficiency solar refrigerator and 12-volt lighting. The wood-fired heater heats 14 gallons of hot water while it heats your home. A propane stove and oven additionally warm this tiny home when you make tea or bake.

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Handcrafted Heirloom Tiny House



When constructing a tiny house on wheels, we are presented with a unique opportunity to add materials and fittings which we may not be able to afford were we constructing a larger home. Reducing the size of a home also means reducing the amount of materials which are required to build it and therefore gives us an opportunity to use higher quality, longer-lasting materials. Putting hardwood floors down in a 5-bedroom family home would be an extreme cost, but when you’re only placing them in a tiny house on wheels, then all of a sudden that becomes achievable. When Alex and Emmie, a young couple from Ojai, California decided to build their tiny house, they chose to truly craft it as an heirloom, utilising high-quality, sustainably sourced materials to build their home in a way that it would stand the test of time, and be a treasure which they could pass down to future generations.

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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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The Sugar Shack by Bill Castle

The entire structure is built with salvaged material.

…The theme of our eco-resort has always been Adirondack Style, which translates to “built with time and no money.” Our resort is surrounded 56,000 acres of New York State Forest lands and each year we renew our contract with the state to harvest “dead and down trees.” It’s like building structures in the middle of Mother Nature’s lumberyard.

The newest edition is The Sugar Shack, nestled in the wilderness, but with homey conveniences. The floor plan is 12′ × 16′, and includes a bedroom/living room, kitchenette, gravity-fed spring shower, composting toilet, and a cozy fireplace…

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