Photos of Reconstruction of Notre Dame Cathedral by Yogan

From our good friend, French carpenter yogan. yogan’s work has appeared in four of our building books.

A few months ago with my friends Martin, Thomas and Orso from CopeauXcabanA, we went to the workshop where the new frame of Notre Dame de Paris was being built. All of the framing was done with oak that was 60 to 200 years old.

All the wood was squared on two sides by a sawmill and the other two by axes, following the wood fiber. They used 60 new axes that had been made by master blacksmiths.

In this workshop, 5 months of intensive axe work was necessary to square all the wood for making the framework of the choir and the apse.

Almost 800 trees were used for this part. The longest tie beam was 35×45cm (14″×18″), and 16m (52 feet) long. The largest rafter was 12 meters (40 feet) long.

In the workshop they tested all the frames before sending them to Paris, so we had the chance to climb and see this fabulous framework before it was installed in the cathedral.

Originally (900 years ago) they made all the frames in 12 years; this time it was accomplished in 1½ years.

The reconstruction of Notre Dame de Paris will be finished next summer.

Ten years ago, my friend Menthé and I sneaked into the cathedral, climbed up, took some crazy pictures before the fire!

From these experiences in this magic cathedral, we learned how to square wood with axes and we made our workshop, in CopeauXcabanA with these techniques.

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Taylor Swift’s Concert Film

I went to see Taylor Swift’s concert film out of curiosity yesterday, and was, excuse the expression, blown away. What an immense talent!

The songs are good, the singing is good, and there’s joyousness and friendliness throughout.

She’s adorable, slyly sexy, wholesome, and having a ton of fun. You can see why her fans relate to her.

Notable is her rapport with her dancers and the band; they obviously love each other. And the dancers are not of the usual lithe and buffed and perfect variety, but rather normal looking people of all body types.

I didn’t expect to stay for the entire 2½ hours, but I was riveted.

And seeing something on a 50-foot screen (as opposed to these dinky little phone images) is a treat.

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Alex Writes About the Influence of Shelter on His Life

It’s kinda mind-boggling to me how many people are writing us these days about the influence of our building books on their lives — at least once a day.

Hi Lloyd,

My name is Alex, born in France 30 years ago,

In 2017 my then girlfriend and I were farming a small piece of land in rural Portugal, living in our van. Our neighbors, two Swedish friends who had recently moved in the country too, were getting started with a sandbag dome project and we’d committed to dedicate a few weeks to helping them. It was the peak of a very hot summer so the four of us would work early every morning until the sun slowed us too much to keep going and would go to the lake or chill in a hammock until the evening temperature drop allowed us to carry on with the build.

 It’s during one of those hot afternoons, sheltered from the sunrays by an olive tree, that my friend Karl handed one of his books. I read it like a novel over a couple of days putting it down only to eat work and sleep. The read had a big impact on me. That book was filled with hope, history, nostalgia, knowledge and stories and all of it fueled me, my imagination, my motivation. That book that may have looked like an other beautiful book about buildings turned out to be a magical collection of archives, thoughts, projects, experiences and dreams you’d gathered early in your life, a book unlike any other, Shelter.

When I visited my family in France a couple months later, my aunt who often goes to local garage sales told me she found an old book in english she thought I might like, Shelter landed in my hands for the second time and now sits on my bookshelf.

After having lost the mental battle against drought and wildfires in Central Portugal we moved back to France and after years of many jobs I am now studying to better myself as a builder. I got a scholarship to enter a program for conventional builders transitionning to eco friendly practices. I had no prior official building education but managed to convince them to have me and I now learn masonry, carpentry and other coating and insulation techniques.

 I think Shelter made me see in construction the same thing I was seeing in agriculture. It looks ugly the way it’s done in our modern societies but if you do it with a bit of awareness curiosity and creativity it can be noble, artistic. It helped me see how culturally, ecologically and politically important building was. Growing up no one was a builder around me and I wasn’t especially destined to dedicate my time to this, when I was asked about where my interest for this field came from during my enroling interview I mentionned you as my distant mentor.

My life has been made more interesting by a lot of books, Shelter definitely hangs with the ones at the top. I know you’ve been getting a lot of similar messages and letters since the 70’s, your book Home Work displays some of them, I can’t say it was vital for me to write this but it feels right knowing my admiration might reach you in person.

For some time I was planning to send you a letter and a photo when I finished my house but I currently live on a friends couch and my dream house has remained a dream house and is still only drawings on the pages of my old notebooks. The reason I’m writing this today is more practical. My school has me schedule four three-week internships this year. I get to choose where and with whom I want to work. I started exploring my options but the other day I wondered if Lloyd Kahn would have someone to recommend in France or Italy or wherever in Europe.

I think I mostly like carpentry but I’m happy to discover most things, I’m still at an early stage of my building story and would probably be happy learning with most skilled workers willing to share their knowledge. I really like Linda and Ianto’s Oregon cob that I discovered thanks to you but I failed to find people who work in similar ways around here, I guess building regulations are hitting creative builders pretty hard worldwide. This is just a message in bottle, I’m already happy I wrote this, happier even if you find it, infinitely grateful if you got that far. But if you happen to have an idea or some quick guidance for me I’ll take it, whatever it is. Mostly I know bottles don’t usually come back with an answer and I’m not stuck on an island either, so thank you for what you did, and I hope you feel happy looking back at your experience and achievements.


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Obituary for Robert C. Kahn

Note: I am posting this here so people who read the shortened obituary in local newspapers can see a more complete version of Bob’s life.

Robert C. Kahn, a native San Franciscan who had a multi-faceted careering — insurance broker, rancher, farmer (and athlete) — passed away of natural causes peacefully at home, surrounded by family, on October 16, 2023. He was 86 years old. He is survived by his wife Sharon, their four children, seven grandchildren, a great granddaughter, and his brother Lloyd.

Bob was born at Mt. Zion hospital in San Francisco on October 28, 1937. He attended West Portal Elementary School, Aptos Junior High, and Lincoln High School, where he was on the city’s championship swimming team and won the all-city diving championship three years in a row.

He then attended Stanford University, where he was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji) fraternity. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in pre-architecture and art in 1959. He was the number-one diver on the Stanford swim team for four years, and he won the Pacific Coast Conference springboard diving championship in 1958 and was named as an honorable mention All-American.

After graduation, he became an officer in the US Army Transportation Corps. In 1962, he married Karen Jacobsen, a Stanford classmate. They had two daughters, Abigail and Cameron.

In 1960, Bob went into the family insurance business with his father, his uncle Charles G. (Chili) Bertoli, and his brother Lloyd. In 1968, he co-founded Kahn and Nippert insurance brokers, a prominent San Francisco brokerage firm, and sold the agency to an international insurance company 20 years later. During his insurance career, he was on the board of directors of the Western Association of Insurance Brokers.

Bob, along with a partner, bought a 32-foot double-ended Monterey fishing boat — the Pelican — in 1972, which he had for over 50 years; it was moored in Tiburon. These are the picturesque boats, based on the the design of Sicilian feluccas that are synonymous with San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. Bob was a member of the San Francisco Yacht Club for over 50 years, and in 1977 was the commodore of the club.

Bob was an avid skier and was a patrol leader on the National Ski Patrol at Squaw Valley for over 25 years. He built a home in Squaw Valley in 1965 that the family still enjoys. He also was a wind surfer in the early days of the sport and he and two of his friends were the first windsurfers to sail on San Francisco Bay. They would frequently sail under the Golden Gate Bridge out to the Point Bonita lighthouse and back. On one occasion Bob was out there alone and broke his mast. He tried to paddle back in, but the tide was coming out of the Gate and he was getting swept out to sea. Luckily he was spotted by a fishing boat and rescued.

Read More …

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Tintype Portrait

Photographer Jenny Sampson shot this, along with portraits of other skateboarders last week at the Bolinas skatepark, using an 8″ by 10″ view camera and the tintype process — a 19th century procedure called wet plate collodion (invented in 1851).

I had to hold perfectly still for 20 seconds, during which time the shutter was open for 3-5 seconds. She then developed the plate in a portable darkroom she set up on site.

I’ve always felt that people in those photos from 100 years ago looked piercingly realistic, due to the shutter being open for a relatively long time, and getting more of the essence of its subjects.

More on Jenny and her books and photos (many of skaters) at

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Moonlight over Middletown

Moonlight over Middleton (California) last night.

I got a 24-hour camping pass to Harbin Hot Springs yesterday and this was on my way into Middletown last night to hang out at the town saloon and get a great Mexican meal.

In my next post I’ll describe the pros and cons of Harbin, which has been slowly and surely rebuilding after the disastrous fire of 2015.

Spoiler alert: The pools are still fantastic.

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Yes, yes, I know. But in my defense, I was left unsupervised.

So far, my bike falls have been at very low speeds. This one was on a steep downhill with loose rocks and I was fiddling with the seat lowering lever and tipped over. Need to set up the lever so I can activate it while still squeezing on brake pedal.

Brings to mind the idea of propulsion: those of us who love to propel selves through space — cycling, surfing, skating, snowboarding, running. An important part of our lives. Falling is gonna happen. Surfing has the huge advantage of not falling on a hard surface.

I wear knee guards, and in closing barn door after horse has bolted mode, I just ordered elbow guards.

I continue to love my Specialized Turbo Levo pedal-assist bike. It never fails to be a thrill when I take my first pedal stroke and the bike jumps ahead as if I have super powers.

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