Building a Wood-Framed Panelized Yurt

When most people hear the word “yurt,” they think of one of these.

Nomadic tents known as Yurt at the Issyk Kul Lake, Kyrgyzstan

Or maybe one of these.

Yaks in the plains of Mongolia

While it’s true that most yurts are constructed with wood framing (or sticks) and covered with animal skins (like yak) and/or canvas, a more solidly built yurt is also a traditional building design, such as this one.

Wooden Mongolian yurt

I built and/or consulted on several wood-panelized yurts of various sizes in the years before I retired in 2011. I decided that a fun retirement project would be to build my own version of a wood-framed panelized yurt on our property. Here’s one of the yurts I built in recent years, with help from a team of strong arms. Mine is a similar design.

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Yurt under construction near Eugene, Oregon

For my yurt, I began by building a foundation.

CompleteFoundationYurt

Then I built 12 floor panels.

FloorPanelPlywood24

Then I built 12 wall panels.

WallAss-done

Then I built 12 roof panels.

roofpanelplywood

I cut and finished 12 rafters.

raftertops

I constructed a huge wooden ring, which houses the skylight dome. All of this work spanned many months, between other projects. But with all the pieces done, it was time to put it all together.

ring

This week, our neighbor came over to help install the floor panels. It took us about an hour.

yurt2

The walls are next, and then the wall cable, and then the tower….well, there are a few steps to get to completion, and it will take however long it takes. I will keep you posted.

And FYI, we are writing a book about the entire process so we can share how to build this yurt with anyone who is interested! Stay tuned as we progress, and be sure to watch for news on the book. Here is the tentative cover, designed by Robin Koontz. That’s a yurt that I built in Florence, Oregon.

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Building a Wood-Framed Panelized Yurt
by Marvin Denmark and Robin Koontz
ISBN-13: 978-0692957370
ISBN-10: 0692957375

Thanks for stopping by! The first three photos are owned by istock.com, the rest were taken by Robin Koontz. Cover design by Robin Koontz, copyright 2017.

 

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Floating Mantel Shelf

cherry treesOur house has posts, beams, and siding made from Douglas fir milled on our property. I decided to employ another kind of wood for a fireplace mantel. Bitter cherry, also called Oregon cherry (Prunus emarginata) is a native tree that popped up in our woods when it was replanted in 1988. I wondered what the grain and color would look like when it was milled. It has an interesting bark, that much I knew.

So I picked a tree I liked and thinned the woods by one cherry tree. I parked it in the barn to dry for about five months, then had it milled to about a five foot 5-1/2″x7″ with bark edge on the 7″ width. mantle-sawmill

As control against splitting, I scored slices on one side in varying depths, the deepest being the middle cut over the tree center at about 1-1/2″ deep. Then I primed the sawn sides and left it to dry, standing up, for about 3 more months.

frontgrain-joint
I was hoping to preserve the bark, so cutting and fitting the corners was tricky. I sanded down the precautionary slices (which were on the bottom) and cut the pieces. I sanded, splined and glued it all together, then applied a clear finish. The bark is threatening to peel, but underneath looks pretty cool so I really don’t care.

barkless

de-barked Oregon cherry

I used a bracket system to install the 35+ pound mantel. I hollowed out two slot holes at 9/16″ depth on the backside that corresponded with metal brackets that screwed to the wall studs.
wallbrackets

Metal straps, which were recessed so that the mantel would fit flush with the wall, were screwed across the hole slots. Taping their location on the mantel top,  I could line them up with the marked brackets.

backconnection

finetune
hammer

A bit of hammering with someone else holding on, and the mantel was up.

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I have 3″ metal posts that I had intended to install on either side, not for support just for looks, but for now we’re seeing if we like just having a floating mantel. Eventually there will be a wall sculpture underneath. I’m just waiting for my spousal unit to come up with something…
finish

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check out our bridge book if you’re thinking about a DIY suspension bridge. Here is the link: Building a Small Cable Suspension Bridge with the Cable Locking System

Images, diagrams, and text copyright 2016 by Marvin Denmark unless otherwise noted. Please do not copy and post my content anywhere without my permission. Thank you.

Building a Stainless Steel Shower Stall

showerI decided that I wanted a stainless steel shower in our new house. I’d installed enough tile and fiberglass showers over the years to turn me off both applications forever. Stainless steel would be long-lasting, worry-free if you don’t mind water spots, and cool/different. The house has a few industrial touches in it and this seemed like a fit.

As it turned out, we don’t see many stainless steel showers in the U.S. other than in jails and vintage travel trailers. The price for a standard size stainless steel stall made in the U.S. is about $8,000. Choke. Meanwhile the option for anything standard was out since I made the space extra wide and tall and the drain slightly off-center for reasons I won’t go into here. The price would be even higher!

So I drew up a plan and took it to a local metal fabricator: Mid Valley Metals in Eugene, Oregon. After all, it’s just three walls and a base, and metal isn’t that expensive.

They would manufacture the walls and base from 16-gauge stainless steel with a mill (factory) finish. The wall tops would extend to the 9-foot ceiling and the base edge would be flush with the tile floor. Trim for the top and sides would also be provided. Mid Valley would plasma cut holes for the fixtures and suggested they also cut holes for the screws so that I wouldn’t be wearing out drill bits on that hard stainless steel. The extra cost was nominal and saved me a lot of time and frustration. As it turned out, the price would be $1,600. That was less expensive than a good quality fiberglass unit, plus it would be my custom-sized stainless steel shower!

They sent out a guy to verify the measurements, which agreed with mine but it didn’t hurt to double-check. I indicated where the fixtures would be and ordered an extra face plate for the shower handle, as the one it came with was cheesy looking.

To note, we found the fixtures on Amazon and eBay from reputable sellers who charged about 1/3 of retail. Fixtures, including light and plumbing, seem to be some of the most overpriced items you’ll contend with for a house project. I encourage you to shop around, even look for used stuff. It can take patience, but if you have a tight budget and the extra time (or a spousal unit who loves bargains), you can save a lot of money.

While Mid Valley Metals built the parts, I did the prep work. My shower space is 42 x 36 inches, the insulated walls are 2×6 framing with a vapor barrier and 1/2 inch sheetrock. The floor is concrete slab. I installed a layer of 1/2 inch thick cement board and a 1/4 inch thick fiber cement board. Both were preventative measures in case water gets behind the sheet metal, which is unlikely, plus they provided a firm base for the wall panels to bond to.

The building code requires a 1/4 inch-per-foot drop for a shower base, which was accomplished in the manufacturing process by creasing the metal in the base from corners to drain.

BasePhotosMy walls weren’t perfectly plumb, so the metal would not lay as flat as it should. I made a fairly elaborate shimming system using felt paper, 30 and 15 pound, that was bonded using a super flexible sealant. By the time I was done, the walls were plumb in the corners and for the most part had a flat surface on all three sides for the metal to rest on. I used leveler to bring up the floor a bit and make sure it was level. Then I used more shims to account for the drop.

Now it was time to put it all together. The base went in first. I had Mid Valley Metals make 4 inch walls for the surround edges. That’s more than needed, since the step out of the shower is just 1 inch, but it’s what I did. Note the drain is dimpled. This was because the only shower drains I could find, locally and online, were for tile application. They set up higher than necessary for sheet metal. The dimple made it so the drain would set down low enough not to puddle.

panelsMy neighbor helped install the back and walls. First I applied the glue, then we fit the metal into place. I bought some heavy duty locking suction cups that worked great for the chore. But beware, they can fail sometimes, so don’t have a foot under the metal while depending on them to hold it up!

We installed the back wall first (which was the heaviest) and used pressure sticks to hold it in place, allowing the glue to dry overnight. Then we installed the two walls and applied pressure sticks between them, as shown. The sticks had foam on each end to keep from scratching the metal and to create a snug fit. Finally, I put in the screws and trim pieces, then installed the fixtures.

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I hope this article will assist you in building your own stainless steel shower. I didn’t find much information out there so this was pretty much done on the fly. I’m pleased with the results and all the money we saved!

showerextra

showerThanks for stopping by! Be sure to check out our bridge book. It includes some cool ideas that apply to other projects, like how to put a really tall post into a deep hole when you aren’t that tall. Here is the link: Building a Small Cable Suspension Bridge with the Cable Locking System

Images, diagrams, and text copyright 2015 by Marvin Denmark unless otherwise noted. Please do not copy and post my content anywhere without my permission. Thank you.

Photographic Journaling

I’m not exactly someone who keeps a formal journal, but I keep a lot of records. They are for reference or just as a way to look back and remember what I did that day, that month, that year.

One of the many helpful advantages of digital photography is the ability to take and store photographic records. It’s easy and virtually free, once you have the device, to document and store the process for any project. Publishing the book Building a Small Cable Suspension Bridge was an afterthought after I finished building my bridge, but luckily my spousal unit had recorded most of the steps, using our first digital camera. That old beast used 3-1/2 inch floppy disks (remember those?) and the photos were low resolution. But with some computer magic, we had enough photos to chronicle the steps I used to construct the bridge. Many photos were taken just for fun and our own life journal, but others were for reference.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASince my first bridge was a “Golden Gate” style suspension bridge, the stringers were of varying lengths with obvious repeats on each side. I installed the connection “eyes” to the stringers and organized them using a numbering system. That way, when I attached them to the two main cables, it was an easy chore to sort and install, using cable clamps.

I assembled everything on dry land. Then I just attached the two cables (with stringers attached) to the four posts. I could then easily install the cable locking system components and the decking.
StringersPasture
My more recent project is our house. I put in a lot of blocking so that there were plenty of places to connect cabinets, towel racks, grab bars, whatever. Then I photographed all the walls before covering them. That way, when it was time to hang cabinets, I referred back to the photos to recall just where I put the blocking.

This photo shows the backside of the kitchen wall with blocking for the cabinets. My only regret was that I didn’t write exactly how far the blocks were from the ceiling or floor – large lettering would be easy to read in a photo – but I was able to locate them pretty accurately using my electrical boxes for reference.

blocking

Thanks for stopping by! If you want more information about my bridge, you can view a video and also read through the archives of this blog. If that’s not enough, be sure to buy my book! Here is the link:

Building a Small Cable Suspension Bridge with the Cable Locking System

Images, diagrams, and text copyright 2013-2014 by Marvin Denmark unless otherwise noted. Please do not copy and post my content anywhere without my permission. Thank you.