Category Archives: Uncategorized

Cordwood Greenhouse in Montana

Hanna fell in love with Montana, nature, gardening and cordwood.  She built a gorgeous cordwood greenhouse/shed and filled it with plants and gardening tools.hanna-montana-3Then she planted a beautiful garden of flowers and vegetables around the shed. hanna-montana-2Finally she added a deer fence to protect the lovely produce and beautiful plants.hanna-montana-1

greenhouse-hanna-montana-2-800-x-600During construction she repurposed windows for maximum light.  hannah-montanss-greenhouse-08a-800-x-600A few stained glass windows add a nice touch to the natural “feel” of the shed. Hanna wrote a blog about her shed and shared it with the website I helped moderate at http://www.daycreek.com   We are hoping she will update her blog and let us know how things are progressing.

Should you wish to learn how to build a cordwood cottage, cabin or home, please visit www.cordwoodconstruction.org   While you are there, click on the pictures, read the brief articles, check out the latest workshops and newsletter and if you are interested click on the Online Bookstore to see all the cordwood literature available in print and ebook format.Cordwood Construction Best Practices Front_Cover_-_CC_Best_Practices small pixelsIf you have questions that aren’t answered on the website you can email me at richardflatau@gmail.com  

Readers have requested a brief bio, so here goes:

Richard & Becky Flatau built their mortgage-free cordwood home in 1979 in Merrill, Wisconsin. Since then, they have written books, conducted workshops, facilitated the 2005,  2011 and 2015 Cordwood Conferences and provided consultation for cordwood builders.  Cordwood Construction: Best Practices DVD,  Cordwood Construction Best Practices (print) and Cordwood Conference Papers 2015 are the newest publications available from their online cordwood bookstore.   www.cordwoodconstruction.org

DVDandPrint

Here is a picture of the print version and the DVD label in one composite.

For more information on Cordwood Construciton, click on the picture or visit www.cordwoodconstruction.org

 

Cordwood Warming Shelter

We built a cordwood warming hut at the Merrill School Forest that gradually morphed into a public school classroom along the way. The goal was to create a natural building using materials from the surrounding woods for students to warm up in on their winter hikes.
The result is a state code-approved, public school classroom that boldly demonstrates “best practice building” using sustainable methods.  Many of  these techniques can be used with other alternative building methods like strawbale, cob, earthen plaster, adobe and cobwood. Cordwood Education Center Richard Flatau highresjpeg with logo

The building started with architectural drawings and blueprints. These were sent to the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin to be assessed for code compliance  We were pleased when they were approved. [Note:  In the future this tiny cabin may become a care-takers cottage and so “knock outs” were made during construction to provide for plumbing for a kitchen and a bathroom.]

The wood for the entire building (posts, cordwood, window boxes, paneling, trim) was cut within 1000 feet of the building site.  We used tamarack (larch), pine, spruce and balsam. Crews of community volunteers from ages 4 to 80 turned out to help. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A Wood Mizer cut all the posts, beams and one inch lumber. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For planning, we started with an architectural drawing.

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A rubble trench is much messier in reality.  This poor soil is called “goose nuggets.” sfwh5

A 4″ perforated drain tile surrounds the foundation and carries the water away. sfwh12

In order to satisfy code requirements, we topped it with a Frost Protected Shallow Foundation (FPSF).  Five million of these foundations have been built in Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland and they are now approved in the USA and Canada.  They work very well in cold climates, keeping the heat in the building and most are outfitted with radiant-in-floor heating systems.  This type of foundation saves money by reducing materials and excavation costs.

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The building was framed using heavy timbers of pine and tamarack (larch).  The roof truss was built with a 14″ Energy Heel so that  starched cellulose could be packed to the outside edge of the top plate, giving the roof an R-value of 53.

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The high school construction classes and middle school students came to work and learn.  They wanted to live and work here all semester.

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Everybody pitched in.  We had 90 volunteers and 180 folks who came to “have a look/see.”  So, doing the math,  for every one who worked, two supervised :0)

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The split faced blocks are needed in this area because of the high snow depth (70″ per year) to protect the cordwood.  The double posts allow for a 16″ wall, which not only provides an excellent thermal mass, but also an R-value of 24.

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The sawdust mixed with lime provides a thermal break.

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As the walls began to rise, the community came together to help.

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Building the Big Dipper wall with seventeen volunteers.

Below, ready for the windows and doors as Autumn approaches.

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The cup end of the dipper points to the North Star.  “Follow the drinking gourd” was what Harriet Tubman sang to her escaping comrades.

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The dedication was planned and celebrations took place.  The Cordwood Education Center is now used every day by the students of the Merrill Area Public Schools. It is also used as a Warming Shelter by weekend skiers and hikers.

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The students celebrate!

Watch a brief video about beavers at the Cordwood Education Center .  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xh6uW663R88

Even the media found this little classroom in the woods appealing.

The local and national media payed close attention to the project.  Many other cabins, homes and cottages have been built using the Cordwood Education template.

Cordwood has a tremendous amount of “thermal mass” which means it has the capability of taking and holding and then releasing the warmth or coolness that has been introduced by passive or active means.   In other words your warm building will stay warm and if you cool it, it will stay cool:0)

Ready to welcome the students!cordwood-education-center-with-summer-small-pixels-for-new-pioneer-sample

We host an annual Solar Tour of Homes and Businesses. solar-tour-cordwood-education-center-2015-with-logo

Best Practices used in this building.

  • Rubble Trench
  • FPSF  (Frost Protected Shallow Foundation)
  • Natural materials built up (off grade)
  • 16″ cordwood walls (R-24)
  • Post & Beam Framework
  • Energy Heel Truss
  • Large Overhangs (2′ and 6′)
  • Gutters to prevent splashback
  • Metal Roof (to shed extreme snow load)
  • Energy Efficient Windows and doors
  • Passive Solar Design
  • Natural materials sustainably and locally harvested (posts/sawdust/cordwood/lumber)
  • Random patterning of well dried softwood
  • 200 recycled bottles/stones/momentos placed in the walls from the volunteers

Let’s be clear. Not everyone has to use all these best practices.  They are simply listed for the owner/builders consideration.  The choices you make will be based upon your time, talents and treasure.

Should you wish to learn how to build a cordwood cottage, cabin or home, please visit www.cordwoodconstruction.org   While you are there, click on the pictures, read the brief articles, check out the latest workshops and newsletter and if you are interested click on the Online Bookstore to see all the cordwood literature available in print and ebook format.

If you have questions that aren’t answered on the website you can email me at richardflatau@gmail.com  

Cordwood Construction Best Practices Front_Cover_-_CC_Best_Practices small pixels

Readers have requested a brief bio, so here goes:

“Richard & Becky Flatau built their mortgage-free cordwood home in 1979 in Merrill, Wisconsin. Since then, they have written books, conducted workshops, facilitated the 2005,  2011 and 2015 Cordwood Conferences and provided consultation for cordwood builders.  Cordwood Construction: Best Practices DVD,  Cordwood Construction Best Practices (print) and Cordwood Conference Papers 2015 are the newest publications available from their online cordwood bookstore.”  www.cordwoodconstruction.org

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Here is a jpeg of the new Cordwood Construction DVD cover available at http://cordwoodconstruction.org/

Tiny Cordwood Cabin in Colorado

Peter Debenham and Ann Linquist built a lovely tiny cordwood cabin in Colorado. Their original practice building was a wood shed, but this is going to be a multi-use cabin. They are 10 miles from Estes Park in Drake, Colorado.  peter-debenham-ann-lundquist-5This is a 15′ x 8′ post and beam tiny home, cabin, shelter, shop, studio, etc.  120 sq. ft. with 10 inch cordwood infill. peter-debenham-ann-lundquist-1The generous use of bottles has made it even more attractive (just like the handsome couple).  The bottles are colored both inside and out (not clear on the outside). peter-debenham-ann-lundquist-2The wood is “pine beetle killed” lodgepole pine.  If you’ve been to the west you will see this is a great use of an insect destroyed resource. peter-debenham-ann-lundquist-6The Tiny Cottage nestles nicely into the mountains, forest and streams.  It is what I feel Frank Lloyd Wright would call Organic Architecture. peter-debenham-ann-lundquist-3Ann proudly displays her tuckpointing skills. Notice (again) that the bottle bricks are colored on both sides. peter-debenham-ann-lundquist-8Peter stands on top of the outstanding framework happily enjoying the sturdiness and a refreshing breeze. . peter-debenham-ann-lundquist-7Under construction.  Note the well placed log ends, the clean mortar joints and the colored bottles.  The roof is a living roof. peter-debenham-ann-lundquist-4The Grade Beam is such a good way to save on material cost (both excavation and concrete).  A Rubble Trench can be used if you are worried about heaving, but this is mostly a sandy subsoil.

Here is the wood shed and “come along” that started it all.peter-debenham-3peter-debenham-2peter-debenham-1

This is the practice building that endowed Peter and Ann with manifest confidence to tackle the Tiny Cordwood Cabin.

Should you wish to learn how to build a cordwood cottage, cabin or home, please visit www.cordwoodconstruction.org   While you are there, click on the pictures, read the brief articles, check out the latest workshops and newsletter and if you are interested click on the Online Bookstore to see all the cordwood literature available in print and ebook format.Cordwood Construction Best Practices Front_Cover_-_CC_Best_Practices small pixelsIf you have questions that aren’t answered on the website you can email me at richardflatau@gmail.com  

Readers have requested a brief bio, so here goes:

Richard & Becky Flatau built their mortgage-free cordwood home in 1979 in Merrill, Wisconsin. Since then, they have written books, conducted workshops, facilitated the 2005,  2011 and 2015 Cordwood Conferences and provided consultation for cordwood builders.  Cordwood Construction: Best Practices DVD,  Cordwood Construction Best Practices (print) and Cordwood Conference Papers 2015 are the newest publications available from their online cordwood bookstore.   www.cordwoodconstruction.org

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Here is a picture of the DVD label on the best selling Cordwood Construction video.  It has been getting rave reviews for its incredible detail, clear instruction and how it breaks the cordwood tasks into manageable sections.  There are 30 menu items from foundation, framing, electrical, plumbing, wall building, materials, special effects, bottle bricks, best practices, drone views of outstanding cordwood and so much more. Order yours today.

For more information on Cordwood Construciton, click on the picture or visit www.cordwoodconstruction.org

 

Tiny Cordwood home in Nova Scotia

Michael Fuller is in the process of building a tiny cordwood home in Nova Scotia, Canada.  He has incorporated delightful twists and turns to make his design elegant and intriguing.

michael-fuller-nova-scotia-flying-art-cordwood-cabinThe large gable end overhangs add protection from the prevailing wind and rain.michael-fuller-west_wall_with_stack-nova-scotiaThe stone foundation provides protection from snow, rain and moisture.michael-fuller-flying-art-stackwall_front

The “swoosh” in the walls gives the feeling of a wave cresting and rolling into shore.

michael-fuller-flyingartseasidehighspeed-com-nova-scotia-small-pixelsThe curved porch post, the hand-made door, the decoratively cut fascia and the attentive canine,  all give a homey feel to this delightful little cottage.  Coming in at less than 500 square feet, it has all the rubrics for an attractive, sturdy tiny home.

Should you wish to learn how to build a cordwood cottage, cabin or home, please visit www.cordwoodconstruction.org   While you are there, click on the pictures, read the brief articles, check out the latest workshops and newsletter and if you are interested click on the Online Bookstore to see all the cordwood literature available in print and ebook format.Cordwood Construction Best Practices Front_Cover_-_CC_Best_Practices small pixelsIf you have questions that aren’t answered on the website you can email me at richardflatau@gmail.com  

Readers have requested a brief bio, so here goes:

Richard & Becky Flatau built their mortgage-free cordwood home in 1979 in Merrill, Wisconsin. Since then, they have written books, conducted workshops, facilitated the 2005,  2011 and 2015 Cordwood Conferences and provided consultation for cordwood builders.  Cordwood Construction: Best Practices DVD,  Cordwood Construction Best Practices (print) and Cordwood Conference Papers 2015 are the newest publications available from their online cordwood bookstore.   www.cordwoodconstruction.org

DVDandPrint

Here is a picture of the print version and the DVD label in one composite.

For more information on Cordwood Construciton, click on the picture or visit www.cordwoodconstruction.org

Moveable Cordwood Cabin

Usually a cordwood cabin’s mortar is prone to cracking if it is moved.  Ernie Burgener has figured out a method of moving a small cordwood cabin (for short distances). He has devised a set of sturdy skids on which he built the frame.  Then he has applied “stay in cross bracing” into the actual walls to stabilize them for an eventual change of scenery.  ernie-burgner-14-new

This 10′ x 12′ cordwood cabin has been lovingly built out of cedar this past summer.  ernie-burgner-10-new

Ernie is a northern Wisconsin horizontal log cabin builder and knows a thing or two about how to make a cabin warm, sturdy and safe.

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Ernie is going to sell this cabin, so if you are interested please send me an email  richardflatau@gmail.com 

ernie-burgner-2Ernie farms, logs, hunts, fishes, builds and gardens.  He is 80 years old and still going strong.  ernie-burgner-4

The inside shows how the bracing extends all the way through.

The viewer can see from the inside and out that the cabin is well braced.   Since it hasn’t been moved yet, we are not sure how it will hold up.  When that happens I will report back to the Cordwood Construction Blog page.

Should you wish to learn how to build a cordwood cottage, cabin or home, please visit www.cordwoodconstruction.org   While you are there, click on the pictures, read the brief articles, check out the latest workshops and newsletter and if you are interested click on the Online Bookstore to see all the cordwood literature available in print and ebook format.

If you have questions that aren’t answered on the website you can email me at richardflatau@gmail.com  

Cordwood Construction Best Practices Front_Cover_-_CC_Best_Practices small pixels

Readers have requested a brief bio, so here goes:

“Richard & Becky Flatau built their mortgage-free cordwood home in 1979 in Merrill, Wisconsin. Since then, they have written books, conducted workshops, facilitated the 2005,  2011 and 2015 Cordwood Conferences and provided consultation for cordwood builders.  Cordwood Construction: Best Practices DVD,  Cordwood Construction Best Practices (print) and Cordwood Conference Papers 2015 are the newest publications available from their online cordwood bookstore.”  www.cordwoodconstruction.org

DVD label cover yellow

Here is a jpeg of the new Cordwood Construction DVD cover available at http://cordwoodconstruction.org/

Cordwood Mermaid Cottage in Colorado

Did you know there is a cottage filled with mermaids in southern Colorado? KimAnna16 with logoKimAnna18 with logo Even though it is a thousand miles from the nearest ocean, this B n B has a bevy of seafaring sirens. It has gorgeous views, breathtaking skies, wonderful structures. The Mermaid Cottage is available via AirBnB at  https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/685335KimAnna9 with logoBuilt by KimAnna Cellura-Shields and her husband Michael, the Mermaid Cottage is a testament to the possibilities of building with log ends, glass and mortar.KimAnna14 with logoThe shower is an entire glass bottle wall. KimAnna17 with logoThe surrounding countryside is beyond compare. KimAnna13 with logo If perchance, you are interested in moving to Colorado and starting a business, the Peace of Art Cafe in Del Norte, Colorado is FOR SALE  The details are available at http://www.organicpeddler.com/peace-of-art-cafe.html  KimAnna11 with logoThe kitchen sign says “The Mermaid is in.”KimAnna10 with logoThe bedroom is vibrant with color.KimAnna15 with logoEven the bathroom will bathe you in light and beauty.

Should you wish to learn how to build a cordwood cottage, cabin or home, please visit www.cordwoodconstruction.org   While you are there, click on the pictures, read the brief articles, check out the latest workshops and newsletter and if you are interested click on the Online Bookstore to see all the cordwood literature available in print and ebook format.

If you have questions that aren’t answered on the website you can email me at richardflatau@gmail.com  

Cordwood Construction Best Practices Front_Cover_-_CC_Best_Practices small pixels

Readers have requested a brief bio, so here goes:

“Richard & Becky Flatau built their mortgage-free cordwood home in 1979 in Merrill, Wisconsin. Since then, they have written books, conducted workshops, facilitated the 2005,  2011 and 2015 Cordwood Conferences and provided consultation for cordwood builders.  Cordwood Construction: Best Practices DVD,  Cordwood Construction Best Practices (print) and Cordwood Conference Papers 2015 are the newest publications available from their online cordwood bookstore.   www.cordwoodconstruction.org

DVD label cover yellow

Here is a jpeg of the new Cordwood Construction DVD cover available at http://cordwoodconstruction.org/

 

Cordwood Countertop Turtle

Patti Brehler from near Roscommon, Michigan sent these gorgeous photos of the cordwood top she made on top of her husband’s corner cabinet.  You will notice a walnut turtle in the center. How creative and delightful! Thank you Patti for sharing your creation. I love these shares. Patti is editor at the “Voice of the Ausable.”

Patti Brehler 3 turtle Roscommon Michigan

Here are Patti’s directions on how to build one for yourself!  We bought your book several years ago after moving to northeastern Michigan from the Detroit area. I was interested in building a cordwood writing studio at the back of our 13 acres of hardwood forest, that butts up against a state recreation area. After figuring out how much work this meant, we kind of gave up the idea. But, I still had an itch to do some cordwood! My husband, Andy, is a nice woodworker. I’ve always wanted him to build me a corner cabinet in the kitchen as a “beverage” counter, with a lower drawer to house the dog dishes, and doors to put the dog food containers in. Well, he finally got around to it in 2015.

Patti Brehler 2 Roscommon MichiganFirst step, he build the wine rack at the top, then started on the bottom cabinet. He made a triangle template for me to make the cordwood design for the counter top. That was my job! I knew I wanted the center piece to be a slice of walnut from David Miller’s Sawmill in Mio, MI. The other pieces I pulled from our wood shed – ash, birch, maple and oak. Andy built a jig for his bandsaw so I could slice the wood pieces the same – 3/4″. I made my design on the template and the turtle just sort of came to life on it’s own. We did a few things to experiment. First, Andy glued a test piece on a board to see if just the glue would be enough to hold the wood slice on for sanding. That worked just fine. We decided on the dark grout and I went to work gluing the pieces to the counter top. Andy did an initial sanding and coated them with polyurethane to protect them from the grout. After grouting, he sanded again to clean them up and added another coat of polyurethane. We learned how to pour the epoxy on the lazy susan, so felt confident when we did the counter top. We did three pours on the countertop. The first pour was to seal and did not result in a flat surface. The second pour made it flat, but we made a mistake by adding “dams” at the edges. We weren’t sure about letting the epoxy run over the edges because we knew we wanted to add the decorative piece on the front edge. But, it was evident that we needed a third pour to let run over the edge for a more finished look. We’re very happy with the results! Here’s the photo of the lazy susan, which is a nice compliment to the cabinet.Patti Brehler 1 Roscommon Michigan

Here is the  15 1/2″ octogan Lazy Susan we built as a practice piece, so I could try out grout colors, and we could test the epoxy pour.

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Should you wish to learn how to build a cordwood cottage, cabin or home, please visit www.cordwoodconstruction.org   While you are there, click on the pictures, read the brief articles, check out the latest workshops and newsletter and if you are interested click on the Online Bookstore to see all the cordwood literature available in print and ebook format.Cordwood Construction Best Practices Front_Cover_-_CC_Best_Practices small pixelsIf you have questions that aren’t answered on the website you can email me at richardflatau@gmail.com  

Readers have requested a brief bio, so here goes:

“Richard & Becky Flatau built their mortgage-free cordwood home in 1979 in Merrill, Wisconsin. Since then, they have written books, conducted workshops, facilitated the 2005,  2011 and 2015 Cordwood Conferences and provided consultation for cordwood builders.  Cordwood Construction: Best Practices and Cordwood Conference Papers 2015 are the newest publications available from their online cordwood bookstore.   www.cordwoodconstruction.org

Cordwood Restaurant for sale in Colorado

Looking to become economically self sufficient?  Want to run your own business?  Are you into organic and natural living? Here is an opportunity you will want to explore.Peace of Art Cafe 1g.jjpgThe courtyard (below and to the right) offers additional seating for parties, ceremonies and live music. Peace of Art Cafe in Del Norte, CO 2The cordwood Peace of Art Cafe, The Organic Peddler and a Hand Hewn Log Cabin Rental are for sale in Del Norte, Colorado at a very attractive, recently reduced price.   If you would like to learn more, please contact KimAnna.  She has developed these successful businesses for the natural, discerning entrepreneur.Peace of Art Cafe 1e low rezThe restaurant is both appealing and attractive Peace of Art Cafe 1c low rezBottle bricks, wooden timbers and all manner of beauty surround this cafe.

Below is the Mermaid Cottage which is a separate B & B that KimAnna has developed and runs through Air BnB.  This is NOT included in the original package, but it shows the creativity and attention to detail that is apparent in all her buildings. Mermaid cottage 1b low rezThe bottle walls KimAnna creates are stunning and spectacular Mermaid Cottage 1mEven the bathroom receives special attention.Mermaid Cottage 1l low rezFor information on how to rent the Mermaid Cottage visit http://mermaid-cottage.weebly.com/

The Peace of Art Cafe and the Organic Peddler attract customers on their visual appeal alone. KimAnna also lured them in with excellent food and a great staff. Organic Peddler Peace of art.jpg

There are four buildings available with this package.

  • Peace of Art Café
  • (2) Adobe buildings  used for business and rental.
  • Log Cabin (Active Hostel Rental)

For the all the details, all the included extras and  price visit www.organicpeddler.com

KimAnna Cellura-Shields
Organic Peddler / Peace of Art Cafe
www.organicpeddler.com

(719)873-7133

To view the real estate brochure https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1xNaOG-Oa2uMV9mUWdyaENwRzlkZkEtWWgyVVNOdk1iODhj/view?usp=sharing

 

 

 

Cordwood Sheds of Excellence

There are some very creative folks doing wonderful work. Here are a few cordwood outbuildings that are both functional, beautiful and built with best practices.Kinstone 28Above is the Kinstone sauna crew that finished the project.  There were three other workshops for framing and cordwood construction. All participates were appreciated for their attention to task and detailed approach to learning cordwood   Peter Debenham 1Peter Debenham and Ann Lundquist built this lovely cordwood wood shed in Colorado. Peter Debenham 2     An interior view of the woodshed with shelves and bottle ends.
Eric & Beth 2Eric and Beth Carlberg built the Rendezvous Cabin in Wisconsin for historical reenactments.

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Cordwood Shed Plans gives you the details on how to build a simple, inexpensive shed for your homestead. Kinstone sauna 2015The Kinstone cordwood sauna ready for floor, stove and benches.Becky tuckpointing at Kinstone SaunaTuck pointing before covering the walls at the end of the day. Kinstone sauna 4Note the grade beam, antlers and flower in the center of the picture made with red cedar. Ted Ammans sugar shack northern Wisconsin 7 Sept3 with logoTed Amman likes to put colored bottles on the interior and exterior of the cordwood walls of his Maple Sugar Shack.  He enjoys the double color they bring to the building. Ted Ammans sugar shack northern Wisconsin 7 Sept2 with logoThere are some very creative folks doing wonderful work out there. Here are a few cordwood outbuildings that are both functional and beautiful.Brian Bronaugh http instagram.com slash sambronaughBrian Bronaugh’s beautiful cordwood shed using the wabi-sabi approach (reveling in imperfections:0)Cordwood Chicken coop by Tasha Hall                          Chicken coop with curious chicken courtesy of Tasha Hall

Cordwood Shed with 9 foot walls

These pictures are from the book Cordwood Shed Plans available at the Cordwood Online Bookstore at www.cordwoodconstruction.org  These sheds with ladder pads for cordwood have 9 foot high walls for a larger garage door opening.  This is so larger equipment can be stored.  Cordwood Shed with 9 foot walls2

Treehaven shed frome and corwood

The top picture is a garden shed we built for Treehaven Campus near Tomahawk, Wisconsin (using red pine infill).  It holds tools and materials for the 6,000 sq. ft. organic garden on campus. The picture gives an excellent example of the post frame structure that becomes both foundation and framework (the posts are placed below the frost line).  Below is the finished product.

Treehaven shed complete

 

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This is the Novitch Maple Sugar Shack (with aspen infill)  made with the very useful  Cordwood Shed Plans.  Notice the Maple Syrup stove evaporator under the lean-to.

Should you wish to learn how to build a cordwood cottage, cabin or home, please visit www.cordwoodconstruction.org   While you are there, click on the pictures, read the brief articles, check out the latest workshops and newsletter and if you are interested click on the Online Bookstore to see all the cordwood literature available in print and ebook format.Cordwood Construction Best Practices Front_Cover_-_CC_Best_Practices small pixelsIf you have questions that aren’t answered on the website you can email me at richardflatau@gmail.com  

Readers have requested a brief bio, so here goes:

“Richard & Becky Flatau built their mortgage-free cordwood home in 1979 in Merrill, Wisconsin. Since then, they have written books, conducted workshops, facilitated the 2005,  2011 and 2015 Cordwood Conferences and provided consultation for cordwood builders.  Cordwood Construction: Best Practices and Cordwood Conference Papers 2015 are the newest publications available from their online cordwood bookstore.   www.cordwoodconstruction.org

DVD label cover yellow

Kinstone Cordwood Chapel: Cordwood, Stone & Thatch

Kinstone Chapel: Cordwood, Stone and Thatch by Kristine Beck

  The Kinstone Chapel is the heart of Kinstone, our permaculture school near Fountain City, Wisconsin. The chapel building is a 12’ x 12’ hexagonal cordwood structure with a thatched roof … and walls full of story and magic!Kinstone in the Fall 2014 half size 2

It is a place for personal solitude and quiet time and can be rented for celebrations. The two handmade wooden doors weigh 260 pounds apiece. There are over 1,000 bundles of reeds in the thatched roof; mostly harvested just 10 miles down the road in the Mississippi River backwaters. Over 450 bottle-ends create a design in the walls entirely based on the beauty of the earth. Some highlights include the sun, moon, flowers, birds, a tree, a dragonfly, fireflies, a river, mighty winds, clouds, fire, starry night skies, the Eternal Flame and a rogue doorknob into the unknown. A special wood carving graces the doorway showing Native American motifs from tribes that wandered this land before the first of the four generations of my family settled here. The elegant stained glass windows allow in plenty of sunlight without distracting the eye.

http://www.kinstonecircle.com/wp-content/uploads/Kinstone_Chapel_Signs_and_Symbols_8_Master_pdf.pdf

Inspiration

Columcille Megalith Park in Pennsylvania is the life work of William Cohea Jr., now 87 years young. I have fallen in love with the place and the man. A beautiful hexagonal stone slate-roofed stone chapel was hand-built by dedicated friends working together over a season and is the inspiration for the Kinstone chapel as well as the approach to building it. The idea of cordwood and thatch originated with my good friend, Wayne Weiseman. Using natural materials is an important practice that I have been learning more about since 2010 when we started Kinstone using Permaculture principles. The selection of cordwood, stone and thatch has conspired to create a structure of wonder. Over 110 people helped build this chapel, and each one’s spirit permeates it still.

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Drone’s eye view of the Kinstone Stone Circle

Planning

The use of natural materials was paramount. We chose cordwood because of its suitability in our Wisconsin climate and because we love how it looks! We decided to build a 2’ stem wall out of a dark blue “hornblende gneiss” from Krukowski Stone in Mosinee, Wisconsin. Further, we decided to use local thatch for the roof. This roofing material is proven in many areas of the world; we thought we would give it a try here and document our results. With plenty of Phragmites australis water reeds found locally in the nearby backwaters of the Mississippi River, we thought this would be doable. It was quite an undertaking, as harvesting enough thatch took two winters to complete! The Department of Natural Resources is willing to allow harvesting of this reed, as they consider it to be invasive.

Kinstone framework

The framework on an insulated floating slab.

To make bottle ends, we started saving glass bottles, jars, vases and even bowls of all shapes and colors. As for the cordwood itself, we did not have wood onsite that we could cut, prepare and dry in time for our planned project start, so we took Richard Flatau’s advice and called on Rapid River Rustic in Michigan for help. We placed an order for several cords of very dry northern white cedar cordwood, twelve cedar posts (each 12’x 8” x 8”), thirteen red pine pole logs (each 24’ long and 8” to 12” in diameter) for the rafters, and several unique, center-rot cedar logs that we would use to inspire creativity in the cordwood walls. Once we had decided upon materials, we worked on plans for the frame. An architect rendered the initial drawings. We would use post and beam framing for 16” thick walls and set it up with a steeply pitched roof to support the use of thatch in our snowy region. Due to a last-minute design change, the walls are only 13” thick in some areas and 16” in others. This made for careful cutting to ensure we had the correct length cordwood available for each worker. In hindsight, simpler is always better, so plan carefully, right from the get-go!

Kinstone 20 Tension ring and circular metal roof bracket makes for a strong system

Collar tie and tension ring.

Synchronicity

Once we had a plan, we needed to determine its exact placement on the land. There have been many interesting coincidences as Kinstone has been built. The chapel itself was sited based on the idea that triple threes continue to spontaneously appear at Kinstone. We placed the chapel 333 feet from the Labyrinth and almost the same distance from the Stone Circle, creating a nearly equilateral triangle. My friend and neighbor excavated the chapel spot creating a nice flat circle of level gravel from which to start. A local concrete company poured the floating slab with a 16” thickened edge to support the 16” cordwood walls. ) The floor is 4” thick. The contractor’s term for this type of slab is a turned-edge, frost protected, shallow foundation or FPSF.

Materials

The cordwood, posts and rafters were delivered in one big load. At the same time, we also received our local sawdust and sand. We covered the pallets of cordwood and other materials with tarps to protect against the weather. We purchased Portland cement and Hydrated Lime on a “just-in-time” basis to ensure it was fresh. We hired a local contractor to erect the post and beam frame and raise the twelve red pine pole rafters to form the steep roof. The top called for a collar tie (also called a ring tie) to hold all the rafters together. This had to be custom made. In addition to the collar tie, the architectural plans called for a tension ring to be installed where the rafters meet the top plate of the building frame. This was also custom-fashioned by the same craftsman and made for a beautiful floating ring, centered between the peak of the roof and the floor, with spokes going out to the six corner rafters. The final touch to the roof structure was fastening the cedar purlins to support the attachment of the thatch.

 Cordwood Construction

workshop 37

Insulating the gneiss stone walls

In 104°F heat (July, 2012), Richard and Becky Flatau laid the first mortar beads and log ends in the Chapel as they taught the first Natural Building Workshop at Kinstone. This was the first of four cordwood workshops we held specifically to work on the chapel. We also held many volunteer work days and weekends that brought folks from all over to assist. We declared the cordwood finished in October, 2013. Workers instilled a piece of themselves into the wall by using their individual creativity to place logs and bottles into the grand design. Even now folks will come back and point out what portion they worked on and what they tried to convey in their own way.

The cordwood walls themselves have their own story; I have written more details about that in “Kinstone Chapel: Signs and Symbols,” found at www.cordwoodconstruction.org and www.kinstonecircle.com.

workshop 8

Mortar–Insulation–Log Ends (Repeat til you get to the top)

As I thought about this structure being a chapel, I felt it needed a theme, design or focus. During the first workshop, we had a massive session where we all learned how to make bottle ends for use in the walls.  Bottle-ends are just like log-ends when they are laid in the wall, except

they allow light to pass through. The resulting “stained glass effect” is stunning. One student, Kaitlyn O’Connor, took the liberty of laying out bottle ends on the Kinstone porch in ways that evoked certain natural phenomenon – like rivers, trees or the sun. This struck a chord with me and reminded me of Saint Francis of Assisi and his 12th century poem of praise to God for the things of the earth:  The Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon. This was the beginning of a process of designing the main elements of this poem into the walls of the chapel.

Flatau's Chateau Kinstone

A river runs through it

On day one of learning cordwood (and perhaps every day thereafter!), we challenged our teachers. The first course of mortar and log ends was progressing nicely until one group decided to place some large river rocks into the walls instead of cordwood. “It is the beginning of the river,” they argued. Richard and Becky scratched their heads and thought about it a bit and then gave the go-ahead to do it, with a caveat that they had not tried this before. The stones were stacked a few high, inside and outside, to represent the edge of a river. Blue and green bottle ends were laid out in a meandering line from this rocky beginning to represent water. This line of bottles goes across two walls of the chapel and now represents “Sister Water” in the poem, but is also placed to mimic the Mississippi River just a mile away.

Being our first cordwooding experience, we immediately found that just placing random cordwood log ends would be much faster than placing cordwood, bottle ends and stones to evoke a particular design. At this point, we realized that this effort would take much longer than originally expected, but oh, would it be worth it!

 Sketching the Bottle-End Design

I made a sketch on graph paper of each section of wall, trying to lay out the bottle-end designs in a way that would help us with placement of logs and bottles. This process was constantly in flux. I would walk around with this design in hand, critically reviewing each new layer of cordwood, ensuring that all groups working on the various walls were aware of what was coming next. When someone got close to a section requiring a “flower,” then I handed out appropriate bottle-ends for that feature. When the “river” was coming to a break due to the window, I directed where to start on the other side. When we reached the “skies,” I was there to direct where the “wind” would blow and where the “stars” would glow.

Workshop 1

Brother Fire in action

One of our students, Mike Fanslau, asked for permission to design a planned “fire” design and put it in the wall. Permission granted! He took the bottle-ends that I had planned (blue, red, amber, orange and clear) and arranged them around a fabulous Depression Era red glass fruit bowl that belonged to my grandmother. We had a difficult time making the bowl into a bottle end, but we finally made it happen using aluminum flashing, reflective tape and a lot of finesse. The opposite end of this bottle-end is a modern, clear, cut glass fruit bowl stolen from my kitchen cupboard. Mike added unique touches of his own. Using liquid nail glue, he took tumbled glass beads and fixed them to clear bottle ends making an ember-like effect. Further, he hollowed out a quarter inch of the ends of some thin, flame-like logs, filled them with the “embers” to create another texture to the overall fire. He spent hours working at this. We had to tear him away to come for meals, but he finally finished it before the course ended. This (and he) are now dubbed “Brother Fire.”

Kinstone cordwood chapel interior

Ram’s Horns and Hollow Logs

Another center rot log turned out to be a near perfect heart. I found a beautiful celestite geode and a chunk of amethyst that felt just right for the center. Using denim insulation to stuff the middle of the log and then mortaring the two ends, we placed these two crystals in the wet mortar, one on the inside and one on the outside. It was intentionally placed in the “Night Wall” amongst the 160 blue and white bottles and “Sister Moon” (a crescent moon stained glass window) that represent the night sky. Just as the Kinstone Chapel is the heart of Kinstone, so this piece became the “heart of the night”.We were lucky to have several center-rot logs granted to us by Rapid River Rustic. These were cut into 16-inch lengths, debarked and the center rot was cleaned out by hand, chisel or chainsaw. Some we were able to keep whole, while others had splits or curls that resulted in half-sections of a hollow log – becoming what are known as “ram’s horns,” creating special places in the walls. One entirely hollow log end was used to make an “eddy” in the river. We placed two smaller pieces of cordwood, forming a wave pattern, in the middle of the hollow log, stabilizing them with recycled denim insulation. Once set the way we wanted, we mortared the ends and set a stone in the middle. This truly unique piece helps the “river” just roll along.

workshop 34b

Thin slabs of cedar became grass, bottles are flowers, a dragonfly flutters and a tree bears fruit.

Entrance of Distinction

The final wall we worked on was the doorway, the most ornate of them all. A whole row of our curly “ram’s horns” lines the top of the doorway wall. The arched doors and doorjambs were custom-made for this chapel. We had to leave a post between the two doors to support the frame and the cordwood. You can see this post on the outside; on the inside, the space between the two doors is filled with a carving of Native American symbols in a rich, deep, black walnut. A bow of rectangular cordwood pieces (each one shaped specifically for this) goes up over the doors, mimicking their arch. Above that is a bright arch of clear bottles with beautiful shapes and facets. Throughout the area above the doors, we have used the tiniest of log ends, which I call “cordwood confetti.” Richard Flatau lamented that at this stage, the final wall is one where the owner/builder just wants to “get it done” and puts in the largest log ends to fill space. But no, not me! I was adamant that each piece was slivered down to just a teensy-weensy fleck. I was certain that this cordwood confetti would leave us with a sense of celebration and an uplifting feeling as we enter or exit. Indeed it has.

The moon and stars wall low rez

Odds and Ends From Around the World

We placed many, many small stones in the walls. Every large mortar joint was a target. I have picked up stones from all over the world – including Columcille and Machu Picchu – and nearly all of those stones have found a home in the walls of the Kinstone Chapel, so it really has an international flavor. Besides stones, we have: beach glass from Fort Bragg; northern California redwood; dust from Chimayo, New Mexico; special chestnut log ends from a tree my father loved that died shortly after he did; a door knob from my childhood home; a tangerine quartz crystal; a bottle end full of marbles from my mother’s collection; a copper butterfly; 28 clear quartz crystals; a conch shell … and more! Visitors are fascinated by the variety of odds and ends that are hidden in plain sight.

 Kinstone mortaring crew

An Invitation

The Kinstone Chapel is so much more than just a cordwood building with a cool thatched roof. It holds within it all the heart and spirit of those that have come together to create it. It embodies what Kinstone is all about. Visitors feel it and become part of it, bringing their own energy to add to the mix. Come feel it for yourself!
by Richard & Becky Flatau  Kinstone Kinship

The process of building the Kinstone Chapel and the feeling of becoming kin was a significant moment in our lives. The atmosphere, the camaraderie, the feeling of soul-affirming work on a project of significance was overwhelmingly satisfying. Kinstone is a special place with wonderful people. “Big Rich” (overseer) and Clare (chef) told us when we first arrived, “Don’t worry, you will get pulled into the vortex” and a positive vortex it became; while walking the labyrinth, passing through the stone circle, sitting by the reflecting pool, eating Mona’s cob-oven pizza, and making merry around a campfire. All the while, the project was teaching us, in Wayne Weiseman permaculture-style, to observe and take note of all the natural phenomena. It is hard to define when an epiphany happens, and this one was gradual, but we feel that our work and play at Kinstone has been a defining era in our lives. Our gratitude could not be greater. One of the special challenges during the construction of the Kinstone Chapel was to simultaneously teach our students the proper cordwood techniques while arranging the symbols into the chapel walls; all the while endeavoring to keep the project moving forward. It became a balancing act to adjust and adapt as the walls took shape. We have fond memories of the people and how they took ownership of “their” wall section(s).

Kinstone smiles and friendship

Contact Information for the Flatau’s & Kinstone

Names: Richard and Becky Flatau

Email: richardflatau@gmail.com

Website:  wwww.cordwoodconstruction.org

Kristine Beck:  kristine@kinstonecircle.com

Kinstone:  www.kinstonecircle.com

For more information:  Kinstone Signs and Symbols (an additional article with pictures and explanations of the numerous symbols in the chapel and on the grounds of Kinstone.)