Rustic Cyberpunk

Coffee & Cabins

Cabin Life: Building Walls

6 min read

Between work tasks and copious sprouts of inspiration, I finally managed to put together the basic structure of the cabin walls. This is my first update on the cabin design in almost three months as I'm slowly making my way home from the work site.

The sturctures will be built on the previous foundation design. This is the overall direction I want to take, the details of which will be decided as I have access to more information as well as a building site. Because so much has happened this year, I don't know when I'll be able to begin, but I want to keep walking as long as I can see the path.

Cabin wall framing
The overall cabin wall framing.
Utility structure
Multi-purpose structure wall framing.

There are probably going to be many revisions to the final cabin layout from now until construction. And there might be revisions during construction as well, but I'm satisfied with this arrangement so far. It gives me the most amount of flexibility should things change.

The wall framing itself is fairly conventional and will use 2 x 4 studs for the most part. While this is smaller than a typical house framing, the sizes are matched to the overall smaller interior of the structures and expected snow loads with the relatively steep roof angle I'm envisioning. The stud spacing will be 16" on center as is typical for the U.S. and Canada.

Depending on the land I'll eventually be able to procure, the longest continous wall and the end wall without cutouts or openings will face the direction of prevailing winds on the building site. This will both improve longevity of the structures and reduce interior temperature swings.

Continous wall interior
Longest continous wall with blocking in-between studs. The blocking layout might change in the final version.
Continous wall exterior
Continous wall outside view showing ample room for insulation.

I decided against standard insulation like rock wool or fiberglass for the most part and will probably stick to two layers of "bubble foil" separated by an air gap for the walls, following the same scheme as the foundation. This will probably be eschewed by seasoned builders for various reasons, but my specific use case isn't a traditional building. My decision was based on time, effort, and cost involved when considering long-term viability in a highly weather-variable area with frequent intrusions from local fauna.

Insects and rodents love all manner of fiberous materials, especially in the woods, and I'd like to limit fiber insulation like rock wool only to the area close to the eventual location of the wood stove.

I may also have to move these structures at a future date and this will be a lot easier without the additional weight of fiber batts. Removable anchoring to the ground should suffice to keep the sturcture stationary in the winds expected in the area I've researching. Naturally, a lot depends on how the climate will change in the coming years, but there will be plenty of metal anchoring for the studs, foundation, and roof rafters as well.

Wall end stud
This is called a "California Corner", also called a 3-stud corner, and it's meant to provide a surface for the interior siding when two walls are joined while saving buliding material. The assembly should give enough structural rigidity and still leave enough space for insulation.
Wall blocking
The horizontal blocking between studs will have to be individually cut to fit the end studs, but this is a minor on-site adjustment.
Continous end wall
The end wall also has no cutouts for windows or doors so the final iteration will likely be centered on the middle skid for proper load-bearing
End wall length
The end wall is cut to fit in between the two longest walls of the structure

The walls will have horizontal blocking between studs to add resistance to shear forces. Traditionally, this was done with diagonal bracing, but since the studs are only 2 x 4, I didn't feel comfortable cutting into them to add the diagonals. This does add a bit more weight to the walls, but I feel that's an acceptable compromise.

End wall blocking
The end wall will also have blocking to add rigidity and will likely follow the same spacing as the longer continous wall
End wall and continous side wall joined
Once joined, the shared structure will add to the rigidity of the corner. The blocking will be installed on each wall before raising either one.

The one aspect that I'm still debating is the size of the door. Having a smaller door on the smaller structure template would make sense if I don't plan on bringing in larger equipment. But it adds to the surface area of the cutout, which is a problem when trying to maintain interior temperatures. I have to balance the aesthetics with practicality in this case, but for now, I settled on a 27.5" door opening for both structure types.

I may end up making the doors from scratch as the location and circumstances permit. This will also likely change in the final version or even during the build itself.

Door wall
The door shares a king stud (yellow) with the wall layout to avoid adding more lumber and is load bearing on the bottom skid. Only the jack studs (pink) are additions to the door cutout.
Door wall length
The door wall is the same length as the end wall, which has no cutouts. I'll be raising the door wall and end wall after raising and securing the two longest walls in their final location first.

The importance of nautral light wasn't lost on me during my camping trips and other outdoor frolicking. Even when living in a borrowed cabin, I noticed how quickly I missed the view, despite having ready access to it all the time. The main cabin will accordingly have two windows while the utility/multi-purpose structure template will have one window. I feel this will give me enough light and access to nature to enjoy, even during foul weather. The doors themselves will likely also have a window to ensure I have light coming in from two directions.

The headers for windows and doors are two pieces of 2 x 6 or 2 x 8 with three pieces of siding in between and insulation between the gaps. The roof won't be that big while it has adequate slope so even with heavy snow, this structure should be more than enough to transfer the load to the ground.

Window wall
This is the most complicated layout of all the wall assemblies. There's one king stud (right yellow) that is shared with the wall layout, but in the final iteration, I think I can share two for each window. The jack studs and cripple studs (pink) will come from cutoffs and extras left over from the rest of the structure, so this will likely be built after the rafters and other walls are built.
Window wall length
The window wall is the same length as the longest continous wall, spanning the entire length of the cabin. The utility structure will also follow this scheme for its window wall.
Window wall and door wall joined
There will be blocking between the studs in the final iteration to add structural rigidity.

There are a multitude of on-site considerations even with this overall plan. The actual placement of the structures will depend significantly on the ground conditions and weather. While I'm specifically looking at snowy areas, I'm hoping to avoid any locations with flooding. But this isn't always possible and there may be other issues with permits and easements.

I still haven't given up on building in New York since I have an affinity to the state. My family lives here and if at all possible, I'd like to be withn a day's drive to see them. Time will tell if this is a practical consideration with my potential budget in the coming years.

Onward to the roof structure.

Cabin Life: Building Foundations

4 min read

The dearth of work lately has left me ample space to wedge in design exercises for my cabin. While I haven't finalized the design on the main living structure, I'm getting closer to finishing the others. I've found a good balance between space, cost, and building practicality since I'll be doing most of the work myself. I eventually decided that I'd like to standardize on just two structural sizes.

The main living cabin will remain 8 x 12ft as a base. I feel this is the largest size I'd be comfortable with to spend most of my non-outdoor, waking moments. All other structures will be 8 x 8ft including the library and solar power shed. This size was very carefully considered after looking at cost and space. I was considering under-cabin space, but decided against it due to maintenance concerns and the possibility of having to deal with critters building nests under the structure.

I realized that having larger spaces will mean entertaining the possibility of having more things than I will actually need. This is counter to what I hope to accomplish in the end. There's a difference between having "possibly necessary" things and "I may want that later" things. Extra space for "storage" will attract detritus and I want to avoid it if at all possible.

I was working on the design with OpenSCAD, the same as my wood stove. With it, I found getting the exact cut lengths for each piece of lumber a lot simpler than manually doing the calculations. I don't know if I'll continue using it for other aspects of the structures, but it has worked very well for me so far.

base foundation
Base foundation design. Aspects of this will be shared among all structures.

The structures will be at most just 1 - 2 feet above grade. This is probably variable depending on flood conditions, but that too can be dealt with when the time comes.

foundation skids
The structures will be built on three 4" x 4" treated lumber skids with a treated plywood base on top

I settled on creating a sealed underside for all structures. The treated lumber skids or rails will keep the structure off the ground while the plywood, which binds the skids together, will close the bottom to rodents and weather.

foundation skids
Above the skids will sit a treated plywood base, separating the ground from the floor structure.

A skirting around the foundation is still probably necessary either way, but I won't be running any utilities under the structures. This will give me the fewest number of problems should I need to move any of them in the future.

foundation structure
The foundation structure will be made of 2" x 6" treated lumber joists with staggred blocking in the middle. These will be anchored through the bottom plywood to the skids below with screws.

There will be "bubble foil" insulation strips stapled between the floor joists, leaving a small gap between the bottom treated plywood and the top surface. These are a tad controversial in the Tiny House and Cabin building community, but I believe that is due to a fundamental misunderstanding of how it works.

The insulation value is measured as part an assembled unit with an air gap between surfaces. This provides ample heat retention in the winter and, more importantly, doesn't attract rodents or insects unlike most other insulation materials. This is a bigger concern when building in a rural area as I plan to do. Even in rural New York, rodents like mice and rats are still prevalent. I prefer to make my home less attractive to them in the first place rather than having to hurt them later, once they become a problem.

I'll be adding another layer of the same material on top of the joists as a continuous sheet, taped together. I may follow a similar arrangement for the walls and roof since this solution is also significantly lighter than other types and that will be advantageous if I have to move or raise any of the structures at a future date. Since this continous sheet is on the warm side of the structure, I'll be gaining the benefit of a vapor barrier in addition to a thermal break.

foundation top
The final subfloor will be 3/4" plywood or other composite product, and will have a layer of bubble foil directly underneath to act as a vapor barrier and provide a bit of additional insulation value. The walls will be built on this assembly.

I decided that the entire structure will be built with screws. While the shear strength of nails is greater, that's only one parameter in the whole assembly system. The disadvantages of nails far outweigh the advantages for me when taken overall. Besides, the shear strength is not as applicable in a fastening system that's less likely to work its way out of the structure. Screws are also more convenient when building alone as the material comes together more tightly while being fastened.

The main cabin foundation will also be a variation of this, just adapted to the 8' x 12' size.

main cabin foundation
Main cabin foundation

I hope to have the walls and roof rafters designed soon.

Cabin Life: The Wood Stove

5 min read

Last year, I was taking time off in the afternoons and evenings to work on the wood stove design. I've finished the first iteration and uploaded it to Github as part of my ongoing Cabin Life project.

stove front view
Front profile view of the wood stove showing the door and interior fire grate

The overall stove size is 24" (~61cm) wide, 20" (~51cm) high to the cooktop, and about 14" (~36cm) deep including the stovepipe flue attachment, 4" (~10cm) in diameter, at the rear. This is the largest volume I'm comfortable utilizing for the stove alone in my cabin. Github now has 3D view rendering of .STL files so it should be easier to visualize the individual components. The final dimensions may change slighlty as I assemble the components.

I opted to design the entire main structure in 1/4" steel plate with the top cooking surface in 1/2" plate. I feel the thicker top plate should resist buclking under the heat and retain a more even temperature for consistent cooking.

I looked at a myriad of other stoves of similar size and came to the realization that they use a lot of valuable internal volume to enhance the fire display through the front glass. That's great for appearences, but I'm looking at this from a more utilitarian and practical standpoint. I may add a glass front at a future date for aesthetics and lighting, but this isn't a priority. It's also an additional expense that I can't afford in an experimental prototype.

side view
Side door view with the door hinge.
rear view
The top surface is as flat as possible to maximize cooking area without interfering with the rear flue pipe, when installed

The choices I've made best reflect the anticipated heating and cooking needs of my cabin life, once I've established a foothold. This stove is intended for the main living cabin where I'll spend most of my time. There are neccessary alterations, I'm sure, but this is reasonably close to the final iteration of my stove.

damper mechanism
This assembly controls both primary and secondary air flow on either side of the stove with a single lever each. The half-circle offset makes it more inclined to close than remain open, which adds to the stove's safety. The friction between the plates is what allows it to remain open.
damper installed
Damper mechanism installed
air inlet cutouts
Cutouts for the air on either side mirror each other

The design is intended to minimize the time spent with the door open when the fire is being started. Once the flue is warm and the dampers are lowered, the fire should last a good while. The embers should also be warm enough in the morning that adding a fresh log would start the fire again without adding more kindling.

door handle
A single piece of bent steel rod with a spiral wire handle to reduce heat transfer to the hand

A lot of stoves also use a series of pipes with drilled holes to heat and introduce air for secondary combustion, but I'm not sure if I'll follow something similar. I thought this can be done simpler with just a horizontal channel, but until I make the prototype and fire it up, there's no way to make sure this was a good call. For now, I'd like to try the "slot" arrangement in the prototype to see if the burn characteristics are acceptable as-is.

The stove promotes internal circulation where the primary air is aimed down from the top of the fire, and the secondary air is aimed upward from behind the main combustion. This should create a horizontal vortex which should aid in drawing out the gases out of the rear flue. It's a downdraft type with the exhaust products exiting lower than the combustion point. I haven't seen it being used as often, but I think it should work in this arrangement.

grate placement
Location of the fire grate within the stove in relation to the flue and front door
air baffle and secondary inlet
Location of the rear baffle and secondary air inlet in relation to the front door and flue
primary and secondary air
Primary and secondary air intake cutouts in relation to the front and rear baffles

I opted not to have a separate ash tray. In my experience with wood stoves, I've found these to be cumbersome and messy to operate, especially in smaller stoves, while introducing an additional point of failiure. The steel grate should provide adequate airflow underneath the fire, while allowing enough ash to accumulate and protect the bottom surface. Every day, I can scoop out some of the excess ash. This will be part of my morning routine. The grate is a tad overbuilt for its purpose, but this is a simple matter to rectify during actual construction. I may end up increasing its height to give additional clearence below for better airflow

Some of the design choices stem from reducing the cumbersome, tiny log sizes needed in other, similarly sized, wood stoves. I dislike the idea of waking up at 4AM just to stoke the fire because the stove couldn't handle typically larger logs which burn longer and fit just fine in bigger stoves. I also dislike having to further process wood once they're of manageable size to bring into the cabin. The stove is designed to handle full 16" logs. I feel this is a good compromise between a large-enough fire to cook and stay warm, and a long-burning one.

The side air inlets also allow me to reduce the distance to combustibles. A smaller cabin won't have the luxury of extra side space and the addition of extra heat shielding will also detract from the aesthetics of the interior. The inlets, in effect, add side heat-shielding. I want to make this space-efficient while remaining safe.

exploded parts view
All of the components of the stove in relation to each other in exploded view

My welding skills have improved somewhat, but I haven't tested them in practical use. That goal seems unrealistic in the midst of this panedmic, but I hope to get in some more stick time and collect resources for tests once the fog of war has lifted.

I'm considering whether I should build more of these if the design proves to be effective. Although I'm not nearly as familiar with welding as I am with carpentry, I'm sure I can practice enough to turn making stoves into an additional source of income. Even if that isn't viable, it's good to have a few spares in case I'll need to give them away during emergencies. Being able to cook and stay warm with availble natural materials is a good fallback option either way.

Winter is only a few months away.