The roof on the shop is done.  The walls are going up.  The roof and walls are the same material.  It will rust to a nice brown.

Yes – I am tied in.  No – I did not drop anything on Terrence’s head.

Welding fun

Spent part of today welding in the diagonals that support the 5 feet of the truss that overhangs the east side wall.


And… I forgot to add the pieces of plywood that reinforce the plywood joints so I used my rope access equipment to get it done.  Always fun hanging from the ceiling.

Shop roof

All the trusses are in their final position.  In the photo below I’m welding truss #7 into position.  Number 8 & 9 were then pushed into their final position and welded.  As of today 30 of the 50 sheets of plywood have been screwed in place.  I still need to add some angle steel to the side edges before I can place the remaining 20 sheets of plywood.


To finish up the welding on truss 8 & 9 I had to switch from the scaffolding to a ladder since these two trusses overhang the front of the shop where is no concrete floor thus the rolling scaffold doesn’t work.   I used a trolley from my rigging kit to roll the welder along the truss.  The trolley is made from 2 inch angle and skate board wheels.


Shop trusses done!

All 9 of the 40ft trusses for the shop are done and up on the cross beams.   Next I will be adding another 20ft cross beam to each side and then sliding the trusses into their final position.

The trusses slide much easier with some spray canola oil normally used for cooking.

I can’t roll the scaffold any further to the left (end of concrete slab) so I had to attach the hauling rope off center.  To keep the 350 pound beam level while lifting it into place I tied 140 pounds of weight to the right end.    I need to do the same thing on the other side and then the trusses can be slid into place.

Beside truss work we pulled wires from the breaker panel to the well so now we don’t need the generator for any power needs.   Somehow we managed to get a get a rock in the electrical conduit about half thru the 150ft of 3/4 conduit.   Needed to dig up the conduit (3 feet deep), cut the pipe, remove the rock and glue the pipe back together.

I’ve also been doing some blacksmithing work for clients.  It will be nice to have a full shop – soon!


APS installed a new metal pole to replace the old wood pole and a ground transformer.   No more running the generator!   We can now have heat at night!  A couple weeks ago it was 47 degrees inside the trailer.

Time flies when you’re having fun

The past two weeks have seen zero construction activity.  We were a host studio for Hidden In The Hills Studio Tour.  This takes place every year Thanksgiving weekend and the weekend before.  This year there were 44 studios (all in the Cave Creek/North Scottsdale area) and 170 artists.  We had 5 guest artists who have been with me for several years.   Even though no buildings were up they appreciated being on concrete slabs.  Just under 1,000 people visited out place with much excitement about the artwork and the home project.   I posted the following description on the kitchen container so folks could get a feel for what we are doing.  Now back to construction.

Our Desert Nest – A shipping container home

Our goals: low energy use, low water use, minimal impact on the desert, using recycled materials as much as possible.

Paul Diefenderfer and Maggie Sacher, his wife, designed the house and are doing all the building with help from a few friends.

The big space between the six 8 by 20ft containers will be framed in at both ends with steel beams and glass. This will be the great room. As you enter the house it will get wider and taller. The first container on the right will be the kitchen. Most of the side wall will be removed so that the kitchen flows into the great room.   The far right container will be the laundry room and guest bathroom.   The first container on the left will be the bedroom. The outside wall will be pushed out 5 feet to make the room 13 feet wide. The far left container will be the office. The two upper containers will be closets/storage.

There will be a staircase that goes up the wall of the far right container with a bridge and catwalks for access to the upper containers. The stairs, bridge and catwalks will be made of perforated steel so you can see through them and will have forged iron vine railings. The roof of the office and guest bathroom containers will be mezzanines inside the building.

The primary roof will be flat with exposed trusses. We will be using recycled blue jean scrap insulation by Bonded Logic.   This insulation will be exposed so the ceiling will be a light blue color. There will be a secondary shade roof over the entire house. We will be installing bat habitat between the two roofs because you can never have too many bats.   During the winter the lower sun will come through the south windows to help heat the house. The east and west walls of the house will have rock gabion walls about three feet out from the containers. These walls will have openings for the door and windows and will keep the building in the shade. Keeping the building in the shade will make it much easier to cool.

The tile covered concrete floors will have tubing in them to circulate hot water in the winter and cool water in the summer to provide most of the temperature control. The hot water will be produced with solar panels and the cool water with a heat exchanger in the ground.

Other than the space in front of the house that has been dug up for the septic tank and leach field you will notice that the desert has remained untouched just a few feet away from the house. This has created many challenges as the space to move materials and equipment is limited. The end result will be worth it. This area over the leach field will become our courtyard.

The 26 by 30ft concrete pad just west of the house will be the garage. The 30 by 30ft pad west of the garage will be the shop. The 40ft trusses you see sitting on the wall frame are built on the floor and raised up using the rolling scaffold and rescue rope winch. It takes just one person to raise and place the trusses. This same system will be used to install the 52ft long trusses for the house.


I got the first two horizontal beams up and started on the trusses.

Making the first of 7 trusses for the shop.

Using a rolling scaffold and my rescue rope winch the truss is raised.

Once it is above the support beams the scaffold is rotated to above its final position.  The truss is built and raised upside down as the top cord is longer thus heavier.

The truss near its final position.  A few scoots with a pry-bar and all will be good.

Welding the truss in place.  Note the OSHA approved knee lock to secure me to the outside of the scaffold.

Steel rising

Started erecting the steel today for the shop roof supports.  The two corners of the container along the outside wall got a vertical post (5x5in box) welded onto the load point.  Back is 66in tall, front is 76in tall to maintain a 1/2-12 slope for water runoff.  Next I will put a 20ft beam (also 5x5in box) on top of the two posts.   These pics show how I got the beam on top of the container using a come-along.  The beam weighs 350lbs.  Tomorrow I will set it on top of the posts and weld it in place.  Might get another strong back to help with this – we shall see.

Using the front post to lift the beam.

Once I got the end of the post on top of the container I switched the come-along to the back post and proceeded to put the beam on to the container.


Shop & carport containers moved

Friday was a big day.  The shop and carport containers got moved onto their slabs.  We had to empty the contents prior to moving them – and then put everything back inside before it rained.  My BigBlu power hammer, which weighs 2,000 pounds, also got moved onto the slab.  I can move it into its final position by rolling it around on steel pipes.

The pile of debris is a packrat nest that was under the shop container that was just moved.  Recovered 10 of my socks, a BBQ lighter and a knife the rats had previously “borrowed”.

Jaime & Matt helping guide the carport storage container into place.

Looking forward to having my power hammer running again soon.

Dirt & concrete

What a busy week!  The hole for the septic tank and part of the leach field were excavated so we could use the dirt to back fill the shop and carport stem walls.  Today we poured 40 yards of concrete for the shop and carport floors.  Progress!

Septic tank being lower into its hole.

Spreading the dirt from the septic tank and leach field holes.

Using a “jumping jack” to pack the dirt.  This 200lb machine literally jumps up and down to pack the dirt.  4 inches of aggregate base was then pack on top of this.  Followed by a grid of 1/2 inch rebar.

Took a quick break from construction to forge a branding iron for a client.  This is how you work when a proper anvil is not available.  I sure do miss banging on hot iron.

5:30 this morning waiting for the concrete and pump to arrive.

These guys make it look easy.

40 yards of finished concrete.   I will keep it wet for a few days so it cures harder faster.  Next week we will be craning the last two containers in place.  One for each slab.