natural materials (212)

Lloyd and Louie Visit 02 Artisans Aggregate in Oakland

Tucker Gorman is an artist/woodworker that I recently met through Foster Huntington. Tucker is one of a group of builders, artists, welders, sculptors, and gardeners that operate out of a number of large buildings in the industrial part of Oakland, Calif. I’d been there last week and took my friend Louie with me to see it all this week. (BTW, Louie is 92 years old and still rides a 500-foot zip line across the Garcia River in Mendocino county to get to his house.)

It’s an amazing setup, with a group of ultra-competent people engaged in all kinds of activities. There are a number of dimensional sawmills — the largest can handle a 5-foot log — and the yards are piled high with stacks of sliced‑into‑slabs logs and stickered lumber of all sorts. In one building, there’s Joinery Structures, a custom sawmill with mills, planers, joiners, sanders, and other milling tools I’ve never seen before.

There’s a greenhouse in which seaweed is dried. There are chickens, guys working on making chicken feed out of food byproducts, a nursery, tanks containing sturgeons, and Soba Ichi: a very cool-looking, fresh noodle restaurant. More photos of it here.

Central to all this is Paul Discoe, a Zen Buddhist priest who studied under Suzuki Roshi at the San Francisco Zen Center and then spent five years studying with a master carpenter in Japan. He’s published a beautiful book, Zen Architecture: The Building Process as Practice.

I don’t have a lot of time (one could spend days writing this place up), but here are a few photos:

Brilliant use of shipping containers

This mill will handle a 5-foot log. With these mills, the blade housing moves on tracks; the log is stationary.

Paul Discoe’s collection of Japanese carpentry tools

More pics to follow when I get time.

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Nepenthe Restaurant in Big Sur

209790

The inn was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright student Rowan Maiden some 70 years ago and is still lookin good. It was built by brothers Frank and Walter Trotter in 1948. It’s unique in that it’s framed with local 1×12″ redwood, interwoven and sandwiched together. There is no 2″ lumber in the framing at all.

You can sidestep the expensive dinners by getting a draft beer and an “Ambrosia burger” at the bar.

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Bruce Baillie’s Timber-Framed Bridge in British Columbia

Photo from Godfrey Stephens

From Bruce Baillie, who rode his 1969 Moto Guzzi motorcycle 28,000 miles to Central America in 2012-13. His story is on pp. 130-31 of Tiny Homes on the Move. Now he’s back in British Columbia, and just sent us this.

…my latest building which I framed up last summer. It’s a log structure that’s built on an old logging bridge at the zip line I helped build 10 years ago. I felled the trees on site, limbed them, bucked them to length and yarded them out of the bush with a big truck using blocks hung in trees for lift. I then framed it all up and put a bright red tin roof on it. It was all very exciting as the drop to the river below was about 45 ft. from the rooftop.

The guy ran out of money at that point but we’ll finish it this summer. There are 6 separate zip lines on this site; the last one runs under the bridge where this building is. Goofy (Godfrey Stephens) has a picture of me standing inside the building with my Harley chopper parked nearby.

Last fall I worked for a guy in the city; while I was there I bought a steel sailboat 34 ft. long that was supposed to be scrapped. Long story short: I traded straight across for this custom Harley chopper that I rode for a bit and then sold to pay for a trip to Cuba last month. It’s great to have grown up around guys like Bruno (Atkey) and Goofy while young: being around interesting people in turn helped cultivate my lifestyle into what it’s been. Life is good. I still ride my old Moto Guzzi.

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Stone Cottage on Scottish Island

This is a restored “blackhouse” on the Isle of Eigg, off the west coast of Scotland, where we spent a week in May, 2016. Some time in the future, if I can get time off, we plan to go to Scotland and visit several of the islands. The Scots are the nicest, most friendly people I’ve encountered anywhere in the world.

Blackhouses were the dwellings of “crofters” or farmers on Scottish Islands, in the Highlands, and Ireland.

From Wikipedia: “(They) … were generally built with double-wall dry-stone walls packed with earth, and were roofed with wooden rafters covered with a thatch of turf with cereal straw or reed. The floor was generally flagstones or packed earth and there was a central hearth for the fire. There was no chimney for the smoke to escape through. Instead the smoke made its way through the roof. This led to the soot blackening of the interior which may also have contributed to the adoption of name blackhouse.…”

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Mortise and Tenon Cedar Cabin

This mortise and tenon cabin out of yellow cedar was built by my dad and stepmom about 30 years ago. Its design was taken from my stepmom’s grandfather, who was a carver and builder named Dudley Carter.

A few other versions of this building stand along the West Coast. The first one was built in the ’30s in Big Sur, although the design is North Coast–inspired. This is one of my favorite little buildings, with its timeless look, glass walls, and timber joinery.

We have made a few small sleeping cabins inspired by this building, but not truly mortise and tenon like the originals. Hopefully one day we can.

–Marlin Hanson

Note: See book Small Homes for “Timber Home Along Canada’s Sunshine Coast,” by Marlin Hanson

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