Bunk Room

Posted by Lloyd on July 23, 2015 with 3 Comments
in The Cabin

I apologize for not posting in such a long time. Working on the house, running in the woods with the grandchildren and playing a little pickle ball leaves me ready for bed by the time the sun disappears.  I’ll try to do better, but no promises.

With everything there is to do to finish our house, where do we start?  The kitchen?  No.  How about our bedroom? Negatory there too.  Maybe it should be the living room so we have a place to welcome guests? Again not a top priority.

Susan and I decided the most important room to finish first would be the bunk room for our grandchildren.  It’s a room above the log cabin living room that measures 18′ x 24′, contains a bathroom and has a 21’6″ vaulted ceiling.  Our idea is to make this a fun, indestructable space for our grandchildren to build memories in.

Last year Evan and I installed the beginnings of a loft in the  bunk room with some locust logs scavanged from our lot.



This summer I found friend Phillip Steen was available to help me with work on the bunk room.  One of many neat aspects about getting Phillip involved in the cabin remodel is that he helped Susan’s father build our cabin the first time when it was under construction thirty years ago.  Phillip has hand built several log homes and a lot of furniture since he worked on the cabin the first time, so he’s not only helping me with his hands, he is also helping me think through all the challenges of cabin building.

Here we are letting the balcony floor joists into the locust log with a chisel.  As a hardness frame of reference, chiseling locust makes cutting oak feel marshmellowish.

After letting in the joists we installed a sub floor of t&g pine.



It took a little fine tuning with the adze to lay the sub floor board next to the locust log.  I really was working on this project even though the photos don’t reveal it!



After the sub floor we installed oak flooring.  You may remember we are using a character oak floor, 4″ wide and cut from several species of Florida oak that we brought to NC from a little sawmill in Eustis, Florida.

Also shown in this photo are the added locust posts that will form a railing on the loft.  We don’t want our grandchildren falling 9′ to the floor below.  A ladder will be installed in between the two posts on the right.



After the loft floor was installed we paneled the bathroom walls with barn board that used to cover the back part of our house before the cabin remodel.  This barn board originally came from a barn in Grainger county Tennessee.  Before the barn in Tennessee the boards were standing timber in a virgin forest.  Because of the tight grain, these boards are sound and straight even though they have been exposed to weather for more than 100 years.

IMG_0437 (1280x960)


Next came the ceiling.  We decided on using rough sawmill cut white pine planks for the ceiling of the bunk room.  Since the boards are not planed, there is variation in thickness that can be seen in the photographs.

At the time this photograph was taken we were installing a row of can lights.  Because of the 14/12 pitch of the ceiling the can lights ended up looking like portholes and was detracting from the rustic look we are going for so we took them out and went in a different direction with lighting.




Reaching the top of the ceiling required filling the room with scaffolding.

Fifteen feet above the floor we used some rough-sawn recalimed pine and hemlock 2×6’s to form fake trusses. Since we used timber loc screws to install the trusses they end up being structural.  Instead of can lights we settled on four pendant lights in a wire cage that have an industrial look, unfortunately they are on back order right now so you are seeing bare bulbs.


Truss detail is a stylized arrow.



Son Evan and daughter Joy Lynne had to test the new loft…which caused problems with the grandsons because we would not let them on the loft without a handrail.  The clock is ticking for me to get a hand rail up.

IMG_0475 (1280x960)


Granddaughter Meg loves the woods.

IMG_0460 (1280x978)


We are pretty happy with our RV, but on a recent trip to Illinois we saw a home-made camper that made me struggle with envy.  I followed this truck into a restaurant parking lot to get to talk to the driver.  Even though the truck looks crusty, it has been sensitively restored.  The camper part he bought on Craig’s List.  I caught the owner on his way to Colorado.  Cool truck!


We’re Back in the Mountains

Posted by Lloyd on April 27, 2015 with No Comments
in The Cabin

Yesterday we arrived back at our mountain cabin for the season.  We always feel a bit like the Clampetts unloading our two vehicles and vowing each year to find a way to move fewer things back and forth from Florida.  After three hours of unloading the vehicles I walked around with my camera taking a few shots and also taking stock of the work ahead.

One of the first things I am going to do is clear the driveway.  We had the rocks for the new fireplace dumped in front of the house so there is left over rock to clean up.  There is also the old limestone rock I had laid out beside the house when I was taking inventory of our stones to see what we had on hand before starting the fireplace.  Because we have several more projects that will require stone work, I need to carefully stack each rock in an out-of- the-way  place.  I’ll know these stones as individuals before they are finally laid.

You will also notice the woodshed on the left side of the photograph that needs to be torn down.  It served us well for over thirty years but now it is right in front of our kitchen windows blocking our view of the forest.

Then there is the need to finish the porch railing.  I got close to completion in the fall but stopped to go on to another project that was more pressing.

If I mention the need for steps or the missing window trim, I might start getting depressed with all the work to be done because anywhere I point the camera results in a similar epic job list.



Let’s look at trees instead.

Here is a view from out back deck that gives you a good idea of how far spring has advanced in the mountains.  We still have winter trees.  If you look closely there are buds, and the abundance of birds lets us know it is spring, but our trees are still asleep.

I’m trying to ignore the cap that needs to be made for the railing post or the stack of barn wood covered in tin.



Moving on to flowers, the wild Iris are blooming.  Native to our Appalachian chain, these miniature Iris blooms are only 2″ in size.  Locals call these Flags.  I transplanted a few of these Iris on the knoll in front of our house and they are doing well.

Even with much to be done, it is very satisfying to be in the mountains.  I just need to get a good work rhythm going and knock a few items off the list.


Rocker David Payne

Posted by Lloyd on April 22, 2015 with 6 Comments
in The Cabin

David Payne is a third generation rock star from the mountains of Western North Carolina that most of the world has never heard of.  Please don’t get confused here, I am not talking about someone who strums guitar strings for a living, David is from the original guild of rockers and has laid stones his entire life.

We first met David four years ago when he built a set of stone steps beside my shop.  It was easy to see then that David loved his work and put a lot of thought into where he placed each stone he set in mortar.  Not much new construction was going on back in 2011 so it was easy to hire David to build our stone steps and he had plenty of time to work on them.

I called David when we started on our cabin remodel to get him to do the stonework on our chimneys and fireplaces and found him hopelessly busy.  About every six months since then I would call and visit with David to see if he had any gaps in his stone laying calendar only to find his artistry in stone was in high demand.

This Christmas past I called David again and asked what his work schedule looked like and found that he might have a couple of weeks gap between jobs.  Seizing the opportunity, I talked David into visiting some stone yards with me (no time to go tear down old chimneys), bought stone, had sand and mortar delivered and got David started on the job.

Photo shows David finishing up the back of the arch on the fireplace.



Our stone came from Table Rock Quarries in Marion, NC and were called Chocolate Grey.  I picked them because they seemed to be a good match with the grey/blue limestone antique chimney rock we have used in the chimney’s on our home.  While the camera angle makes it look like the fireplace gets narrower at the top, the fireplace stays the same size all the way up to the 17.5′ ceiling peak.  The stone veneer is 8″ thick.

We don’t plan to finish the master bedroom for at least another year but wanted to get the fireplace completed because it makes such a gritty mess to shape, split and lay stones inside a home.  Hopefully we will be getting some finished floors down this year that would suffer from rock being laid.

For orientation as you look at this photograph, the door to the right of the fireplace is the master bath door and the door on the left side is the exit to the master bedroom.

Rocks have been corbeled out about 6′ off the floor to hold an oak slab mantel.  Also you can see an electric outlet hanging out of the rocks that will be hidden in the slab mantel.

IMG_0378 (960x1280)


One of my projects this winter was to help our daughter and son-in-law  replace their front porch steps.  We think the steps were original to the house, built in the early 1980’s, and the years of Georgia sun and rain had left them ready to collapse.  In addition to replacing the steps, we needed to add some size to the top of the landing so the front door could be opened without having to back down the steps.  Son- in- law Chris and I were able to tear off these steps in about twenty minutes due to their weakened condition.



As usual to most remodeling jobs, scope creep immediately pounced on us with discovery of rot under the door sill requiring replacement of the sill and siding .  Chris is adding flashing while our daughter Joy Lynne inspects the work.



The old sidewalk had to be jack hammered out of existence and nothing calls grandsons faster than the sound of a jackhammer chisel on concrete.  Matching gloves helped the work go faster.

I erected batter boards that can be seen in the background to precisely lay out the foundation holes that were going to support the new porch.

You can see I saved one of the old stair way runners from going to the dump, lying on the right hand side of the photograph, in case I needed it for reference when constructing the new stairs.  It also helped  to use it to  visualize where the new steps would end.



Chris’s mom and dad came in to help in the construction phase of the porch building.  Here Mike and Chris are putting together the frame of the deck.

The large 6×6 posts look out of proportion at this point because we did not cut them to proper length until we had established the hand rail height.  If you will look at the base of the posts you can see they are sitting on galvanized metal pads anchor bolted to poured concrete.  Using the batter boards and string line (now missing) allowed us to set the anchor bolts exactly were we needed them to position the posts correctly.



You are looking at the first real set of steps I have ever built so I was pretty nervous about this stage of the building.  As I screw in these step boards I still don’t know how we are going to cut the compound angles that the hand rails will require.



Using a sacrificial board I adjusted our little 10″ miter saw as far as I could to get close to the compound angle needed for the hand rail.  The final few degrees of cut needed for a perfect fit were achieved with a block plane and my most important woodworking tool, my eyes.  Chris patiently helped me cut and re-cut until we got them right.



Here is what we ended up with at the end of the week.  Decorative caps will go on the tops of all the posts as soon as Joy Lynne and Chris recover from the cost of our building activities.






Goat Panels

Posted by Lloyd on February 24, 2015 with 7 Comments
in The Cabin

Finding a solution for the back porch railing for the cabin was even more important to gaining occupancy than the front porch, because the back porch provided greater opportunities for falling lethal distances.  After spending several weeks weaving rhododendron branches on the front porch I was looking for an simpler solution as well.  Since the back porch provides the best views of the woods and mountains we also wanted a railing system that provided the best visibility possible when sitting down.

My first thought was to use stainless steel air craft cable to keep our guests and grandchildren from falling, but the cost turned out to be pretty expensive and keeping the proper tension was a maintenance issue I wanted to avoid if possible.

Agricultural Goat Panels turned out to be a great solution for us.  Goat panels come in 4′ x 16′ sections and are made from stiff 6 Ga. galvanized wire with 4″ x 4″ squares that meet code.  Tractor Supply or almost any local farm and seed store carry these panels in stock.

Using stained Western Cedar 2×6’s and 2×2’s connected by stainless steel screws, I quickly filled in the empty spaces between the deck posts with secure, see-through railing.



The day after I got the back deck railing finished it snowed, making the safety of railing all the more welcoming.  We are enjoying seeing the mountain ridges appear through the bare trees of winter.  If you look though the deck railing I think you’ll agree there is very little view blockage.



My plan is to screen in the section of the porch behind the master bedroom, which is the narrow section on the right hand side of this photograph.




On a construction site there are many places one could lose life or limb without much effort.  After going up and down stairs with no railing for months, one tends to forget about the danger.  Our building inspector reminded me there had to be stairway railing before we could gain occupancy.

Since I want to take my time to build a proper railing I threw up this 2×4 1970’s post modern architectural nightmare to keep the building inspector at bay.  Within a couple of days of having the railing up we wondered how we had managed without it.

IMG_0225 (1280x960)


I used the same lovely 2×4’s and architectural styling to fence off the stairway opening upstairs too.

IMG_0229 (1280x960)


Even though the building inspector did not require it for occupancy, Susan was rather anxious to gain a bathroom door.  So compromise creeps into our interior finishes.  It had been my goal to build all interior doors,  but with my glacial speed as a finish carpenter, I went in search of “cabin” type doors that would work with our other finishes.  I found a big stack of pine panel doors in a warehouse in Asheville  that will do the trick and bought enough to fill all the door openings on the second level of the cabin.

The door frame was made from reclaimed pine so it is a little darker than the door.

We are finishing what will later become the guest bathroom first.  We have a laundry room on the first floor, but since we have the small washer/dryer unit from our pre-remodeled cabin we thought it would be nice to offer laundry in our guest bath and created the laundry closet you see on the left of the photograph.





I don’t think I’ve shown you this before, but here is the finished shower in our guest bathroom.



The Wormhole

Posted by Lloyd on January 14, 2015 with 2 Comments
in Traveling

During the fall I found myself in a Barnes and Noble Bookstore doing a little free magazine reading when I came across an article that purported to list the top fifteen coffee shops in the US.  Two of the shops they profiled were in Chicago, and since I go there four times a year, I put their names in my phone to check out on my next trip North.

My early December cab ride from Midway Airport to The Wormhole Coffee Shop on Milwaukee Avenue was long enough for me to get to know my Nigerian cab driver to the degree I felt morally obligated to leave him a big tip.  The national headlines that day were about a seven hour power failure the city of Detroit had experienced the previous day and from where my driver had come from he said there would be cause for headlines if the power stayed on for seven hours straight.  Once again I was reminded I am never thankful enough for the world I live in.

A quick jog across Milwaukee Avenue with my travel bag on my shoulder though mid 30”s temperatures and I was on the threshold of my first wormhole.  Entering The Wormhole transported me to the 80’s with a life sized replica of a Back to the Future modified De Loren and Star Wars memorabilia adorning the walls.  While the shop was comfortably crowded with patrons cradling iPads, I was able to find a seat at the bar where I was served by Andreas, pictured below, pouring my coffee.

Andreas started my cup of coffee by carefully weighing out 25.5 grams of freshly ground coffee.  Next he pre warmed the coffee equipment by pouring hot water in over a coffee filter suspended above a glass beaker in a Vee 60 device, shown below.  After properly warming up the coffee maker and my empty coffee mug with hot water Andreas took a measured pot of water off an induction heater precisely set at 209 degrees, and using a stop watch timer, poured the water over the coffee grounds for exactly two an a half minutes.  Before serving me my cup of coffee, Andreas poured a small sample for himself and tasted my coffee to ensure it was up to par.

I honestly can’t remember how much I paid for the coffee because the quality of the taste and the experience caused the price to not register.  I do recall it was close enough to Starbuckian prices that the dark roasters from Seattle can’t compete with what Wormhole patrons are drinking.  The Wormhole’s coffees are much lighter roasted than many popular coffees I am used to but their flavors seemed more complex and fuller.

It was interesting to discover that neither Andreas or the other employees were aware of the article that had identified them as a top fifteen coffee shop.  These guys are coffee nerds, with their heads too deep in their cups to be into self promotion.  Wormhole coffee has come a long way since coffee was first sipped at Sufi shrines in the 15th century.


Fueled by a nice caffeine buzz I left The Wormhole and not being able to to delay gratification, I decided to walk to the second Chicago coffee shop on the top 15 list, Little Goat Diner. Google maps said was only four urban miles away and most of those miles were in the direction of my downtown hotel.  I got a nice view of the Chicago skyline as I walked.

At this point in my journey I decided to ignore Siri’s guidance and head South through a neighborhood in an imagined “shortcut.”



After passing the Bethel Jerusalem Apostolic Church twice it was time to rebuild my relationship with Siri and find my way out of the neighbor hood.



Urban hiking is much more interesting than riding in a car.  I would have never noticed this wood sculpture from a grimy cab window.

What was the artist thinking when they constructed this design?  Was it done just to camouflage a weather worn wall, could it have been the construction dumpster was full and there was no place for this stuff to go or were there higher goals in mind?  I like to contemplate street art.



Walking also exposes the underbelly of a city’s infrastructure.  Rust and stalactites didn’t give me a lot of confidence walking under this bridge.  I hope some municipal worker’s responsibility is to keep an eye on this oxidation.

IMG_0257 ____________________________________

With my neck bent from being yoked to my carry on bag and my shoulders aching, I arrived at Little Goat Diner on Randolph Street.  The Goat is a sophisticated urban diner filled with suits and stilettoed patrons eating a two o’clock business lunch.  This joint has it all, a dark coffee bar, a bakery and a bright open dining area where my bag joined me for lunch in the facing chair of a table for two.

I had a Los Drowned sandwich(twist on a French dip), which was very tasty, and a cup of their coffee.  To make sure my furnace was fully stoked for the walk to my motel I topped the sandwich off with a piece of caramel pie, as recommended by my attentive server.  While the pie was excellent, I had to leave some of it on the plate due to it’s generous size and the fact that I had just wolfed down a large sadwich.

The Little Goat Diner turned out to be many things, all of them good, but in my opinion it was not a coffee shop even though they serve excellent coffee.  Proving once again that top ten, top fifteen, top one hundred lists are not to be completely trusted.



Fortunately I didn’t have to dodge any falling ice on my walk to the hotel as I was not very quick on my feet in this final stage of my Chicago odyssey.  The two miles left to the hotel clipped by pretty quickly, where I then laid down for a long winter’s nap.


“Working Kitchen”

Posted by Lloyd on December 8, 2014 with 2 Comments
in The Cabin

When we began our house remodel last year, we talked to Neal our building inspector about what we needed to have completed to get an occupancy permit.  He told us all we had to have was a working kitchen and working bathroom.  Susan, suspecting it might be a long time before I had the cabin completely finished quizzed Neal in detail about just what “working kitchen” meant.  Neal, being a pretty laid back building inspector and focused more on life safety issues than finishing details, defined a working kitchen to mean having a connected sink and stove.

With a hand full of Kreg screws and a few left over exterior siding boards I soon had a 10′ sink base cabinet to hold our sink.  Sink and faucet came gratis from a pile of old sinks we saw at the granite yard when we purchased our bathroom counter top.  I brushed the rotted leaves off the sink and hooked it up, finding the faucet worked like a brand new one.  The counter top is on loan from a scrounger friend of mine Dick who couldn’t allow it to go to the dump when other friends David and Nancy remodeled their kitchen.

We have about $20.00 tied up in connecting water and drain pipes in this kitchen, which may qualify it for the Guinness world record category of world’s cheapest kitchen.  The plan was to make this temporary kitchen bad enough that I will be motivated to work on the permanent replacement sooner rather than later.  As crude as it is, it still beats the kitchen in our little RV.



Back during the summer Susan got the urge to go kitchen stove shopping on Craig’s List one evening.  The amazing thing about this story is that Susan almost never looks at Craig’s List.  However, it wasn’t long after she started scrolling through stoves, she found a 48″ KitchenAid range described as “lightly used” about 20 miles from our house.  The owners of the stove had just bought a tiny bungalow in Weaverville and the stove overwhelmed it’s diminutive kitchen.

With muscle from Evan and his boss from work we got this 400 pound stove out of the bungalow and into our cabin using a dolly I custom made to hold the stove.  The dolly continued to be handy for rolling the stove around in the house as we worked this summer.  Since this is just a temporary kitchen, we left the dolly under the stove when we hooked it up, to save lifting effort next summer when we put down hardwood flooring.  The stove is sitting very close to it’s permanent location in the finished kitchen.

The dolly adds about 10′ of height to the stove which saves our backs baking in the ovens and makes us feel like kids when we’re cooking on the stove eyes.




When I was a child I helped my dad build a “can” cabinet for my mom.  We mostly lived in very small houses with little kitchen storage, so my parents designed the cabinet to be one-can deep to fit on the wall of a hallway or room used for other purposes.  Since the nut didn’t fall far from the tree, one of my early 80’s woodworking projects was to build Susan a “can” cabinet to make better use of space in our own small house.

Since building the cabinet in Knoxville, we have found a place for this cabinet in our homes in St. Louis, Kansas City, Dallas and Bloomington.  I’ve had to cut off the base in St. Louis because the ceilings were too low, add a foot on to it to go over a high baseboard in Bloomington and then cut it off again when we moved it to the cabin before the remodel.

As useful as this cabinet has been through the years we haven’t found a permanent place for it in our remodeled cabin.  Don’t worry, that harvest gold refrigerator Susan’s parents bought for the cabin 35 years ago will be gone after we finish this part of the kitchen.



Here is what the interior of the can cabinet looks like.  Nothing gets lost in a shallow cabinet like this.



I learned to make cove molding on this can cabinet project by clamping a temporary fence on the table saw and running the board perpendicular into the blade, letting the curve of the blade kerf make the cove.  I made the Grecian key molding with a radial arm saw and dado blade.  The arts and crafts direction I’ve been going in for the last twenty years has not used these particular cutting skills to make moldings.



Since we are still re-chinking the cabin, which will be our future living room, we’ve set up a temporary living area in the future dining room.  Rolling out a rug on the sub floor and a few pieces of furniture, makes the place feel real homey.  I didn’t realize how much I missed my recliner and how tired we had grown of the RV until we got this living area set up.



Winter comes in November at 4,300′ in elevation.  Here is view of my shop from the front porch of the cabin.



There is something very comforting found in looking at falling snow from the window of a warm, snug cabin.



Work Camp

Posted by Lloyd on November 25, 2014 with 2 Comments
in The Cabin

For the third time now since we’ve torn down our cabin and started rebuilding it, friends Scott and Suzanne have called to say they are coming up for work camp.  When get a phone call from Scott it usually goes like this: “Hey Lloyd, we’ve got the weekend of the 27th open and want to come up to work, plan something!”  Professionally Scott is a project manager for a large, international construction company, and he and Suzanne have spent their lives living away from their Greenville, SC home.  We feel pretty special when they give up one of their rare weekends at home to toil away with us at the cabin.

Before the many of our other friends reading this post start hanging their heads in shame because you don’t come up to work when you visit, let me say that we very much appreciate all visits, whether you come to work or play.  We actually need the play as much as the work because most of the time Susan and I are getting plenty of work through the week.

During this work camp weekend it was my and Scott’s job to put up 1 x 6 Florida pine ceiling boards.  Because of the size and complexity of the master bedroom, Susan and I have decided to finish the two guest bedrooms and guest bath upstairs first to establish a beachhead for cabin living and get us out of the RV as soon as possible. Here Scott and I are installing the ceiling in our first bedroom.  Scott is holding the board in with a small pry bar while I nail the board home.  In the day and a half we worked together we got this bedroom ceiling in as well as the bathroom ceiling.




In all the houses we have lived in Susan has insisted on painting the closets first.  Her reasoning is that once you move in, the closets are filled and you never go back to paint them later.  Here Suzanne is painting a guest bedroom closet so we can move in!




For the guest bathroom vanity table I got out the Kreg jig.  I have to keep reminding myself that house cabinets are not fine furniture and don’t need mortise and tenon joints, but it always seems like a compromise to screw nice wood together.  To get the joints right, without the benefit of having a mortis and tenon I had to rig up clamping jigs to screw together the frame of the vanity table.  Nothing like a 50# scale weight to hold things down.DSC_9041



Here is what the vanity table looks like before finishing.  Since bathroom vanities are only seen from the front I was able to use cherry legs with check cracking in their backs and that is a piece of birch plywood forming the rear stretcher.DSC_9042



Plumbing is the only time I get to lay down on the job, but it is never comfortable.  To the right in  the photo our small washer/dryer combo from the original cabin is visible.  While we are going to have a laundry room downstairs, we added this laundry closet in the guest bath to make use of  a washer and dryer we already had.  After a year of going to the laundromat we are grateful to have this unit back in service.



While we have no plans to finish the master bedroom for at least a year, it is very useful as a work room.  Here Susan is pre-finishing western cedar boards for deck railing and watching Netflix on her iPad at the same time.667



Cabin Porch Railing

Posted by Lloyd on November 9, 2014 with 7 Comments
in The Cabin

Back during the summer I was having an end of day staff meeting with my friend and electrician Tim Donovan.  As we sipped our micro brews and discussed events of the day, the words of our friendly county building inspector were weighing heavy on my mind.  To get an occupancy permit I needed to have front and back porch railings.

I mentioned to Tim I was hoping to find a source of rhododendron branches to provide a rustic element to the railing and he replied that he had four large rhododendron plants that needed to be cut down at his home to make room for a bathroom remodel.  Aah, front porch staff meetings are the best for solving problems!




After a little chain saw work by me and a lot of loading of the truck by Susan, we had a pretty good pile of rough material to work with on the knoll in front of our cabin.




I spent some time on line looking at rhododendron railings and came to the conclusion that we wanted a railing that was both rustic and refined.  The start of the railing system was a simple screwed together 2″ x 4″ frame of stained western cedar.




The frame was then placed on an old pallet in front of the rhododendron pile and I would start laying branches across the frame, cutting the ends to match the angle of the frame.  The branches are screwed in through the outside of the frame with exterior screws.

I tried all kinds of saws to cut the angles on the rhododendron branches and found the Japanese saw I had purchased at a woodworking show several years ago worked the best.  Overall I am most comfortable using Western style saws, but after cutting hundreds of branches at all kinds of angles I am really impressed at what this thin, whippy, Japanese saw can do.




After my first section passed through our quality and aesthetic department, I only had nine more sections to make randomly uniform to match but not copy this first section.




Here is how the front porch railing has turned out.  I think each section got more difficult than the section before as I learned planned randomness is next to impossible.  Each section took about three hours to weave the panel with branches.

The rhododendron railing turns out to be very rigid and strong.  Rhododendron wood is heavy and dense and as branches crossed each other I would screw them together with small headed screws.  You’ll have confidence as you lean against these rails.


Chain Saw Windows

Posted by Lloyd on November 5, 2014 with 7 Comments
in The Cabin

If you live in a log cabin and want to let more light in, just crank up the chain saw.  There are no worries about where the wall studs are or the need for headers, just start cutting.  Susan caught this view of my chain saw artistry as I was cutting holes for a pair of window frames to go on either side of the fire place.

Thanks Bill R for the “What Do You Know” tee shirt I bummed off of you while helping you move a few years ago.




We found this pair of antique stained glass windows while searching though an antique mall a few years ago and thought they would make a great addition to the fireplace wall of the house.  At $35.00 each, the price was less than the cost of purchasing glass to make the windows myself.

I think these windows came out of a house in England originally.




One note of caution before I go on with this story.  If you’re using a Saw Stop table saw to cut away an old window frame from stained glass, remember that the lead came is conductive and will trigger the saw’s safety stop if  it touches the lead…I learned the hard way.


I built a pair of wormy chestnut window frames to hold the stained glass.  These frames are designed to hold the stained glass on the inside and piece of clear glass on the outside of the cabin for protection and insulation. Wormy chestnut was chosen because of its weather resistance and our plan to trim the interior of the cabin in chestnut, as my father- in- law did when he first built the cabin.




Before cranking up the chain saw it is best to position the windows on the wall.  Since there are no straight lines in an Appalachian log cabin it’s possible to have something both plumb and level and it not look right.  So I hung the new window frames on the wall and stood back and looked at them.




The fireplace wall of the house faces the northeast, with every sunrise now being captured by these two little stained glass windows.DSC_9029


To regain occupancy of the cabin as quickly as possible, we made the decision to have drywall installed before we put in the wood ceilings to the addition on the cabin.  Since drywall is one of those things best left to the professionals, we hired this work to be done.

Here friend and neighbor Debbie is applying First Coat on the drywall.  Susan and Debbie applied 20 gallons of First Coat before they were finished with this job.

First Coat is a product made by US Gypsum and is designed to even out the differences between the taped sections of the drywall and the paper finish.





What’s in That Barn?

Posted by Lloyd on September 9, 2014 with 7 Comments
in The Cabin

I’ll bet I’ve passed this barn a thousand times and never pondered the question “what’s in it?”  The barn is located just three tenths of a mile from our cabin and years ago was used as stables for Wolf Laurel.  As I have come to find out in recent weeks, since the stables closed the barn has been used for storage – everything from used toilets, a mountainous pile of 70’s era ski boots and old barn siding and beams.

During the winter the barn and the land it was on, along with 700 other odd acres, became the property of the Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land.   Transfer of the property was due to the financial failure of a developer and the new bank owner’s desire for tax advantages from the unwanted land that fell in their laps.

Susan and I went to a meeting this summer to learn about the land trust and it’s impact on property owners like us who live near the trust property.  I can’t remember much of what was said at the meeting because the executive director mentioned there was a lot of old barn wood stored in the stables that he was wanting to sell on behalf of the land trust. For the rest of the meeting my mind was on old barn wood.

I am little embarrassed about the two elderly ladies I had to knock over to be first in line to talk to the executive director about his weathered boards, but these kind of opportunities don’t come along every day.  And who knows, those ladies could have been interested in the barn wood too.




When Susan and I inspected the barn we found a huge pile of old wood packed into a large double horse stall.  Most of the wood in the stack looked pretty questionable, but I did pull out a couple of pieces of wormy chestnut lumber.  If you’ve been a reader of this blog you already know that wormy chestnut works something like cat-nip on me, so it wasn’t long before I had entered into negotiations with the land trust and reached an agreement to buy the chestnut and stack of hewn logs.




Unfortunately for Susan, all my wood recovery endeavors usually end up with her on the wrong end of a long, heavy board, breathing ancient dust and kicking aside rat nests.  At least I hired her an assistant, Skyler, to help.

For every ten or so boards we moved still retaining digestive remains of the farm animals who lived and walked on them, we might find one chestnut board.  Some of you might think this seems like a lot of work for a few chestnut boards, but for me it was hog heaven.




After three hot, dirty days and moving a mountain of worthless boards, the front porch of my shop is full of wormy chestnut lumber.

I am planing some of the chestnut now for wainscoting to go in the first working bathroom of the cabin remodel.




When I left you last I was working on the front door of our cabin.  During my blog silence I was able to finish the door along with several other projects.  A big thanks to neighbor Dick Moeler who dropped by to help me lift the heavy door.




Here is what the door looked like after I installed the door hardware but before installation of the door stops, weather stripping and threshold.  Pay close attention to the door hardware because I am about to point out another bone headed woodworking mistake I am all too prone to make.




A year ago, when I started building the first front door, I ordered two sets of identical Emtek Arts and Crafts style door handles.  You know, I wanted to be prepared for the second door so both doors had the same look.

The door handle was stored ten feet above my head in the shop attic while I designed and built the second door.  Did I bother to go up and get the hardware to see if it was going to be compatible with the door I was constructing?  I’m guessing you know the answer to my question.

With the door completely finished I retrieved the stored hardware and placed it on the door, only to realize that the neat little ledge I had placed under the window made the door knob unusable.  Ahhh, life is always interesting.




I am sorry for the long blog silence and really don’t have an explanation other than this has been a very busy summer.  Thanks for your patience.

Work on the cabin has progressed to the point that tomorrow we are expecting the power company to disconnect us from the temporary power pole and energize the circuits in the home.  Next week the HVAC contractor is coming to install our thermostats and do the final hooking up of our furnaces.  We are very close to having a house we can live in…well, at least live in part of it.