Dear Santa, What knife do you use with Reindeer?

17 Dec Handles5

Here at RR we often use knives more than pens or pencils.

As Christmas and the  Holidays approach, we find our thoughts drifting from Corten to brightly wrapped goodies that make us giggle with delight!

What? Old Montana Miscreants can giggle! So what if it sounds like Elk’s coughing and snorting! :)

Living in Montana has taught me many things. When we’re not welding on boxes or pouring pilings, we don’t linger on the couch. We live outdoors. Our trucks and horses are our transportation to the places where we hunt, we fish and we work in one of the most beautiful and challenging environments in the United States.

We’re tool users.

And one of the most essential tools in Montana is a good knife. To live here (or in any other challenging environment) you need a high-quality, do-everything-you-throw-at-it hunting knife. If you or yours hike, hunt or fish, you’re in the same boat, rowing against the current! We don’t have to wander far from our porches to see Deer, Elk, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goats, Antelope and even Bears. The broad variety of all that game requires that we carry a knife with several key abilities.

Add the rigors of Bushcraft (the lost art of thriving in the wilds) to that and you’re looking for a very special knife indeed.

As a result, we’re always on the hunt for a really nice Hand Crafted AMERICAN MADE blade at a really good price that is purpose driven and ready for bird or beast.  In our opinion, the right hunting knife is designed to tackle many tasks; Hunting, surviving in the bush and even tactical duties right down to it’s handle.

First, a great hunting knife must be sharp and it must be easily resharpened when you get back to camp.

Second, it better be “Tonka Tough”. A great hunting knife has to be tough enough to handle use and abuse.  If “Sharp” is it’s first name, “Strength” has to be it’s middle name. A great hunting knife  must be strong enough to power through elk sockets and agile enough to skin a deer without making it look like you killed it by tearing it apart with a sawed off shotgun.

It’s ergonomic handle must allow multiple grip options to accommodate any task at hand. A great hunting knife has to be easy to handle in the gloom and doom of dusk and dark, as well as in the snow or cold pouring rain. A great hunting knife will be nimble and quick when it’s covered in elk blood when you’re elbow deep, trying to get the carcass processed before the bears show up to eat somebody…

Well, after a lot of searching (and a lot of knife education) we found a blade that we really like and we’ve been putting it to the test on beast and bird, elk and turkeys with great success.

Long-time readers know that we’ve had some bumps along this road. It forced us to learn a LOT about blades AND their makers. But it doesn’t mean we quit.

We kept looking and then the clouds parted. Okay, actually, we found this guy on the Internet. When we discovered him, it was lust at first sight. This guy crafts blades that make you proud even before you strap them on.

It's CHOPPER time!

When we spoke to him (at length) and gave him our wish list, the discussions started in earnest. We traded literally a thousand emails and PMs back and forth over weeks. We told him what we wanted, he told us what we DIDN’T want… and then he started working to produce a blade that he even named in our honor;

He calls it; “The Bitterroot”

We call it; “The ‘Root”.

Frankly we nicknamed it so that we don’t spill beer out of our mouths trying to use 4 syllable words when we try to talk about it during supper… :)

The knifemaker’s name is Kieran Klein (no relation). He runs a Custom Knife Shop called the “Hammer Down Forge”. His claim to fame is that he builds “high quality, affordable, purpose driven blades for the common man”. And he doesn’t just “talk about it”. He actually DOES it. Man, does he do it…

Take a look;


He became our blade building hero seemingly overnight because… not all of us can afford $1,000 Collector EDCs that never see the light of dawn in the field. Kieran told us that from day one, his goal was to build affordable, high quality EDCs, Skinners, Hunters and Camp blades for “us little guys”.

And stuff like THIS...

Kieran really builds for “us”. You know, the kind of guys who use their lunch money and what’s left of their paychecks to buy great gear, one piece at a time after weeks of saving up…

He’s dedicated his trade to that. I hear that he even has a ‘Hawk in the works.

And this...

Now as disclosure, I have to reveal that I personally own one of Hammer Down Forge’s blades now. It’s handled every test we’ve thrown at it. It’s powered through game (large or small) with ease. It’s strong, light and fast. It’s wicked sharp. We really couldn’t be happier with it. Several of us have fielded this blade to test it’s steel. All of us are smiling. Well, most of us are smiling. Some guys scowl when they have to give it back. Me? I’m grinning like a Cheshire Cat.

In fact, I have Kieran making me another one for delivery early next year.

(The reason should be obvious. It’s because this blade will probably disappear before then… my co-workers are thieving, coveting miscreants and they’ve all flat told me not to leave it laying around where it might grow legs and walk off.) :)

BubbaBlade1In fact, THIS is my blade. And, I couldn’t be happier with it. I wear it daily. I have to. People keep picking it up and carrying it off! LOL!

I’m not kidding. When the box arrived from Virginia, I had to go track it down. The knife had already made the rounds of the shop and people were trying to hide it. Apparently, I work with a group of no-good, disloyal, kleptomaniacs… LOL!  :)

Beyond being a high quality blade that will make you smile from ear to ear right out of the box, your ‘Root will look almost the same as mine. There are a few little differences.  The finish on your blade will be “antiqued” and not “satin”. That means that it’ll be slightly darker and much more durable than the finish on my blade. It’ll make that Central American Cocobolo handle really pop! In fact, when I saw his “new” finish, I was disappointed that it wasn’t on MY blade! LOL! Guess what finish is going on the new blade he’s building me?

Say it with me; “ANTIQUED”.  LOL!

The Central American Cocobolo handle will be slightly different because after all, Cocobolo comes from a tree and not a printing press! The pattern will be very similar. It’ll be rich and lustrous and  sexy. And, it’ll be as smooth as a baby’s butt. :)

The leather on your sheath will be scribed with a cool border pattern that outlines it and highlights the kydex sheath. I asked for “Something sporty” so he scribed mine with a racing stripe. He did it because “I’m Special”…

Oh stop it! I know it’s true. My mom used to tell me that every day before she crowbarred me into that “little white bus” and then fastened my football helmet on my pointy little head before I departed for that gulag they called a school. In fact, if my mother was still alive, she’d probably forbid me from playing with a knife this sharp. :)

FYI: I’ll warn you up front that I’m not kidding. This knife came to us out of the box wicked sharp.

BubbaBlade2Kieran just told us that he has just (1) ‘Root left available for Christmas and he wanted to save it for one of our lucky readers.  He’s building it right now, just for us.

“The Bitterroot” Blade
Shallow Drop Point Hunter
Full Tang Knife
15n20 Steel – Antique finish
1/8th” thick blade with Jimped Spine
Full Flat Grind with .012 behind the edge
4″ blade – razor sharp
8.5″ overall length

Palm Swell Contoured handle
Central American Cocobolo with G10 Liners
Carbon Fiber pins and lanyard tube

Kydex/8-9oz Shoulder leather sheath (with border scribing) and Chicago Screws

It skins like there’s no tomorrow and it slices like a pro. In fact, around here, it’s an EDC of dreams… :)

This is a $400.00 knife, all day. Knives of similar quality by other knifemakers will cost you upwards of $600.00.

The first $300.00 will put it under your tree for Christmas.

He’s included Priority Shipping and insurance via USPS in the price. Buy it before Monday the 22nd and it’ll arrive Priority Mail in time to find it’s way into your present pile!

You can contact Kieran at Hammer Down Forge by sending email to:

Or call him direct at:

HE lives in some strange country called “Virginia”… He speakee good Engrish, so it’s probably not even a toll call… :)
Tell him Bubba sent you.

What? You thought Santa was going to do everything? :)

Ho ho ho!

RR Avatar

May your Corten be Merry…

11 Dec ISBU1

In the beginning, there was Corten Steel…

ISBU (Intermodal Steel Building Unit) homes, also called “Corten Container Homes”, also known as “Shipping Container Homes” are often called much more…

(And most of it is even printable!) :)

When you talk to your neighbors about ISBUs, they immediately envision Apocalyptic Sci-Fi fantasies painted with a canvas of burning oil drums in the street, wrecked vehicles in the distance and Zombies crawling toward you  to eat your  brains.

When you talk to your brother-in-law (you know, the one that works in Construction) about ISBUs, he’ll tell you that they’re unsightly, complicated and expensive.

When you talk with your architect about ISBUs, they’ll usually tell you that they have a drawer full of renders and floorplans, but they’ve never built one.

Despite  the fact that we’ve been building ISBU Homes and Buildings since 1977, less than 1% of Architects and Builders have ever constructed one of these Corten Clad beauties.

When you talk to your local planning and zoning office about ISBUs, they’ll either embrace you with open arms, fascinated that you’re  about to build  a Corten Ark for your tribe… or they’ll slam the door in your face and race to the water cooler as fast as their fat little legs will carry the, trying to try to knock back the rapidly forming sweat over their eyebrows.

When you talk to families who have actually “coveted the Corten” about ISBUs… families that have actually built Corten Castles for their clan, you’ll hear stories about sustainability, affordability and a monumental strength that usually only come from textbooks or Grandparents  as they remind you about the pioneering stock of Americans who expanded and then built this great land. They’ll tell you about determination and dedication and hope and dreams…

And, if you listen to them ALL, you’ll start getting an idea about  what the road to “Corten Coolness and a life lived within ISBUs” is paved with.

Are there potholes along the way? Sure.

There are always bumps in the road less traveled. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it! The key to navigating these roads is to have a goal, make a plan, involve the right people  and then communicate your project clearly and concisely with all the participants.

We teach our Corten families to push their boundaries by integrating well thought out and proven architectural and interior design disciplines  into construction practices that implement affordable, space and time saving techniques that fortify and protect a family’s building budget.  By re-using, reclaiming and repurposing cast off materials, we’re  building incredibly efficient affordable homes while actually “acting on green initiatives to promote wellness both within and without our own yards.

The goal isn’t to simply build a metal structure, or even to publicly reclaim or repurpose old cast off materials…

… the goal is to build a HOME where wellness and comfort thrive as “person and place combine” to create an environment of sustainability and positive growth.

You’re building a “Corten lifestyle” where that ISBU “home and hearth” participate in your lives on a daily basis, symbiotically.

You’re  building a low maintenance, high efficiency, sustainable, (even – GASP!) GREEN home that works with you to shelter and cradle your family securely as you face the pleasures and perils that life brings to our porches.

If this idea, if this “lifestyle” interests you, you might just want to stick around. We’ve been “sticking around” since 1977. We didn’t “re-invent ourselves” to explore another niche as the economy drop-kicked us. We didn’t just suddenly shift gears to embrace an emerging trend on TV. We saw (early on) the potential for these “weathering steel beauties” and we started exploring the road with our own hands (despite the nay-sayers).

It’s funny… when we started this trek, we were “young, foolish, simple idiots helping hippies”.

Few actually saw the merit in the road we were traveling. Now, 35+ years later, we’re suddenly “Green Gurus, Geniuses and Pioneers”. In all that time, you want to know what’s changed about  us  (besides the position of our hairlines)?

Nothing, except that the tools have gotten better.

We’re working with the same kinds of families – with the same concerns and the same kinds of care.

Our mission remains the same. Every family deserves a safe roof over their heads.

In three decades, we’ve built a lot of them. We have a lot to share on the subject.

Stay tuned as we introduce some of our newest projects;

  • A 900 square foot 1BDRM/1 Bath Corten Cabin in the mountains…
  • A 1,200 square foot 2BDRM/2 Bath Corten Cottage perched by the sea…
  • A 1,600 square foot 3 BDRM/2 bath Corten Castle sailing the prairie of Kansas…
  • A 2,250 square foot 4 BDRM/3 bath Metal Meadow Manse fit for a King and Queen…
  • A family owned and run ISBU Island Destination Resort so cool that you might not ever want to come home…

…and a few more projects that you might find pretty interesting.

ISBU Farmhouse 440 Concept - web
All of these ISBU projects share something in common;

In every one of them, we’re going to push the boundaries of “normal and expected” to places rarely imagined. We’re talking about homes where energy efficiency, integration and affordability combine to create monuments to families dedicated in living out their days cradled firmly by Corten comfort… by creating a new style  of “lifestyle luxury” for demanding families with small budgets.

Stay tuned.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Santa says… SPOOL TOOL!

7 Dec Spool Tool

Here at RR, it’s not just about Shipping Containers. It’s about building better lives. It’s about building and living sustainably. It’s about having the BEST tools, so that you can do the best job.  In the field, on the job, around the house… we’re known and even judged by our tools.

And today I’m going to share one of my favorite tools with you. It’s going to surprise some of you.

Are you looking for that perfect stocking stuffer for your Outdoors oriented guy or gal?

DO you have a Paracord crafter in your family merrily churning out bracelets and lanyards?

Do you need a quick gift that won’t break the bank? :)

Seriously, do you want to keep your gift budget for “crazy uncle Al” under “fast food prices”?

Or…  do you like your family and  friends  so much that you wanna rock their Christmas?

I can meet every one of those criteria with ONE tool;

Spool Tool.
Spool Tool3This is truly one of the most valuable tools in my pack.

Spool ToolKeep one in your ruck.

Spool Tool2Keep one in your shop.

Keep TWO or even THREE n your packs.

Spool ToolsParacord. It’s the “Outdoorsman’s Duct Tape”. It has a million uses, once you untangle it from that mess of a bundle you just retrieved from under your truck seat.

It’s an indispensible multi-tool so simple that even a dolt could invent it…

… and that’s exactly what happened.  :)

Seriously, you’re  going to take one look at it and then ask yourself;

“Why didn’t I think of that?”

The Spool Tool is the all-in-one multi-tool solution for storing and working with Paracord. Paracord is the outdoorsman’s Duct Tape. Paracord has 1,000 uses. From building homes, working around the house, making repairs in the shop or doing disaster response, Spool Tool has earned it’s place in our gear bags with flying colors.

We’ve personally carried Spool Tools into places like the earthquake-ravaged Philippines and tsunami-stricken Japan (Fukushima). It’s seriously a tool that you  shouldn’t venture out… without. It’s without question the best tool under $20 we have EVER bought.

Spool Tool is an uncomplicated little device that holds up to 100′ of 550 Paracord. Spool Tool features everything you need to measure, cut, and heat-seal the Paracord ends as you build your lines or rigging.

Say good-bye  to tangled line, missing tools and hot melted gobs of goo burning your finger tips and sticking to your gear!

The Spool Tool is “Tonka Tough”. It’s molded from glass-filled nylon for strength, lightness and durability.

The replaceable blade is the best available. The Spool Tool guys use Lenox’s patented, shatter-proof, bi-metal alloy blade with a titanium-coated edge.

The Spool Tool can also securely hold a mini BIC lighter (not included) for heat-sealing Paracord.

Plus, securing a small lighter to the tool gives you yet another fire source in your gear!

At 6” long, 3” wide, and just over 1/4” thick, the Spool Tool is small enough and light enough  to easily carry in a cargo pocket or backpack pouch.

Better still it’s got an attachment hole for a carabiner so you  can hang it off your pack or belt.

And you’re going to need to use a sturdy carabiner to attach it to something or it’ll walk off by itself. I swear, if you put them down, they’ll grow legs and walk off.

Best of all, it’s made in the USA by a miscreant we know down in Southern California…

Wait… California is still part of the United States, right? I mean… the way they act you’d think… um… er… never mind. :)

If you’re interested in just about the best stocking stuffer ever, contact GINO. Tell him Ronin sent you.

And, Gino has given me a special discount code that will get you 25% off of your Spool Tool purchase AND free shipping!

Go to:

Just include;

RenRon25″ in your order.

This coupon code will expire on January 5th, 2015.

I suggest you shop fast and hard. A quick trip around Google this AM revealed to me that a lot of his vendors are already sold-out.

I know this cat. Big shoulders, big heart. Gino Rocks!

(… and Spool Tool rocks HARDER!)

Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


Would you like a Corten Cathedral?

7 Dec

As you can probably imagine, we get questions about Shipping containers and “tasking”.

“Can I bury one?” they ask.


“Are you sure?” they plead.

“DO I need to beat you? I said NO.”

“Can I stack them up in a tree?” they wonder.

“Yes, but it better be one helluva tree.”

(We’ve built “treehouses” out of containers. It’s the very definition of “Corten Coolness”. It usually takes more than ONE stout tree.) :)

“Can I really insulate ISBUs using special paint?” they ask. “I’ve seen it on the Internet so it must be true, right?”

“Have you read my page on Ceramic coatings? Please email me again when you have  located your brain…” is my usual response. Actually, that’s not true. I deleted the extra words because this blog  is a family show. ;)

They send photos. You know, “Can I do this or that?” kinda photos.

After a reader sent me some photos of some metal roofing material “turned sideways”, I followed the links and saw these little steel cabins on the web.

They’re produced by a company called (what  else?) “Arched Cabins” out of Texas.

They wanted to know it this “style” of cabin construction could be incorporated into small ISBU cabins. They loved the way that it looked.

What's not to like?

What’s not to like?

Well, I love the way they look too.  Essentially, it’s just an insulated metal shed. But it made me think about HOW we build our cabins out of 20′ Shipping containers.

What if you built out your boxes and them towed them to a site where you’d then erect this arched “roof” over them?

3It’s really nothing more than a stylized metal A-Frame.  We’ve actually built A-Framed ISBU cabins and homes in the past. We insulated the roof shell instead of the boxes, using the roof to envelope the ISBU  cabin structure.

Can you mount containers on pilings supporting a deck?

Absolutely, if you use good design practices and good materials.

A “hybrid” home combining ISBUs and this arched roofing frame built in a manner similar to this would still sit up on pilings off grade, so it would shed well. If you built a “roof” like this that went almost all the way to grade, you could really have some fun with your ISBU cabin. Incorporating windows would be fun and fairly straight forward. They’d look terrific inset into that framing.  You could easily encompass any crawlspace height you desired as long as you provided a “landing place” for your roof framing.  That means you’d still have semi-protected storage areas under your cabin.

Is there anything about it I don’t like?

Okay, in the “high country” I might think about turning the orientation of the ribs of the metal siding to vertical so that they ran up and down instead of horizontally. That way water and more importantly snow would shed easier.  I wouldn’t want ice loading up and holding on all those horizontal rib surfaces. It would also allow for some really cool water retention surfaces.

Extend your arched roof out beyond the boxes and you get a really nice, sheltered and sturdy covered porch.

This is an intriguing idea and it’d go up pretty fast. If you built your boxes remotely and then trailered them to the site, you could erect this roof over them in a few days, with just a few friends helping out.

I also like the idea that if you put some thought into it, you could reclaim the created cavities for storage and even mech space.

Reclaimed Space

The yellow outlined areas could easily be reclaimed for use by the homeowner. I’d put a loft at either end, open up the middle creating a modernistic “vaulted ceiling” (complete with chase and track lighting or ceiling fans) and then use the areas on each side for storage. I’d even use it for protected structural storage of gear and perhaps a canoe or kayak.

You could easily get almost 500 square feet out of this design, if you thought it through.

Stay tuned.

RR Avatar

I hate Crafters. Really, I do…

4 Dec

Building and living sustainably means recycling. The coolest thing I do is to take something that is cast off, something that others deem worthless…  and then turn it into something useful.

That said… I hate Crafters. I hate ‘em!

You know… as winter rolls in, many of us are forced to stay indoors staring at our hovels, thinking about how we had planned to do some “freshening up” in the “Fall that never came”.

Meanwhile my little boy, who has just started public school (he was homeschooled until now) is coming home from his new friend’s houses, complaining that HIS house doesn’t smell like “Christmas and Pine cones and other sparkly crap”…

Okay, in an old farmhouse with poor ventilation the house smells more like “feet and farts” most days. You know… a “Manly House”.  It’s not an issue. The smell of wood smoke and burning food usually covers up most of it.

We don’t eat crumpets and drink tea, we practice Kung Fu and eat meat (and that’s after we kill it in our own yards).

But where was I? Oh yeah…

It’s not just a “birthday party” thing. You know, those events that sound of raucous noise and squeals and smells of little kids feet, vomit and band-aids.  And I can’t avoid this because, for the first time,  Joshua is (a) living in town, and (b) getting invited to birthday parties at other kids houses. As a result, he’s being exposed to this  double  overload of “criminal Christmas”  activity.

I swear that there’s something sinister happening at those homes. He’s getting brainwashed by Moms decked out in blinking LED Holiday sweaters who deck the halls until they’re ready to burst as they throw birthday bashes for their young’uns in multi-tasking feats that are maddening to those of us who..well… you just never mind!

I mean, it should be one or the other. Pick a theme, pick a party and then stick to it. Nobody like a show-off. I mean… really. I wish they’d just stop it.

Apparently while the Thanksgiving Turkey was cooling, they were already throwing trees up in their living rooms like a freakin’ reforestation project.  The “pumpkins chucked” (the evidence of that is on rooftops all over town), they were already dragging Santa out and harnessing him into positions of bondage in the front yard with poor inflatable reindeer forced to witness the December  degradation of their beloved master.

(High winds and snow = “Santa Bondage”. Deal with it!)  :)

I hate these “ho ho ho!” types. They make the rest of us slackers look bad. It’s one thing to see it and know you can just drive by rolling your eyes. It’s another when your kid comes home and convicts you of “Holiday Hooliganism” as you try to convince him that Santa just won’t land in the yard of a hunter for fear someone will shoot and then eat Rudolph.

And that’s just on their yards! Cross their thresholds and it gets worse! There’s treachery afoot, I tell you…

I’ll admit at this point that my version of “Christmas” is more like just tossing a festive candy cane into my cup of hot coffee to kill the bitterness of the triple portion of caffeine I just threw in there.

But there’s an enemy among us, folks. There’s a group of devious terrorists out there called “Crafters”. They sit in their sewing circles armed with ammo cans filled with glue guns and sparkles, plotting and scheming, making a list and checking it twice… filled with the names of people they’re going to shame with their “St. Nick Nonsense…”

Case in point;

We just had to move at the last minute. Weather, finances and circumstance have delayed our farm project  and we’re still in town. Between illness and travel, we haven’t even managed to unpack yet. Due to the fact that we’re not going to be here long, I see that as a “remodeling or refinishing would be a waste of time” excuse waiting to happen.

But try to explain that to a kid who comes home asking if you’re P.O.’d at Santa.

(Before you start frothing and sputtering, know that while Dad is Jewish, we run a multi-observant household. I want Joshua to feel everything and then… when the time is right, he’ll decide which path his heart leads him to walk. I don’t want him to miss out on anything. His life is challenging enough.)

So, with a straight face, you just look at him and smile while you try to change the subject with a mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows in it.

But he’s tenacious. He’s like a Great White when he locks onto something.

He asks again; “Dad, WHY are you mad at Santa?”

So, I asked him WHY he thought I was mad at Santa.

“Dad, we don’t have a sleigh in the potty.”


I almost burst out laughing. “What? What are you talking about?” I asked, trying to keep a straight face.

“Kohl’s mom has a sleigh in the potty. It’s for Santa,” he says as he crosses his arms authoritatively.


I think he’s pulling my leg, but he’s quite insistent.

Now… My “Spidey sense” is tingling like Athlete’s foot. I mean, it’s gone off like an alarm bell at a fire station. Gotham is in trouble and I’m the only one standing between treachery and tranquility. Kohl’s mom has become the enemy. I’ll teach them something about making lists… Muwahahahah!

Okay, this I gotta see. Punching in numbers on my cell like I’m entering nuclear launch sequences, I’m determined to get to the bottom of this.

(“Potty?” “Bottom?” See what I did there! Huh?) LOL!

Sure enough, Kohl’s mom describes (while texting images in “Multi-tasking Mom” mode) 8×10 glossy pictures covered in circles and arrows… that demonstrate that she does indeed have a “Santa Sleigh Potty Room”.

That’s just demented. I mean, they make medication for these kind of situations. ;)

At this point, I’m thinking that she is making the whole thing up as “torment piled on the shoulders of yet another poor defenseless single dad”.

And then… she sends me a link.

“I got the idea from this place. It was easy. You should do it… but wait… you can’t, because you don’t speak ‘crafter’! You need to possess the creative passions of a woman with kids to pull off something this cool.”

Again, WTH? I mean, I’m thinking that over the course of my life I’ve been forced to get up in the middle of the night (moonlight, rain or snow) so many times to go buy tampons and other assorted feminine hygiene products that I should have gotten those skills by osmosis. :)

So I clicked the link.

And then, Santa used that “Crafting Siren of sleigh-bending”  to smack me right between the eyes;

recycled sleigh-shelf-7343Some sinister soccer mom of a siren with way too much time on her hands cruised the neighborhood in her mini-van and robbed somebody’s garage and absconded with a precious family heirloom… Grand-dad’s beloved sleigh.

It mattered not that an entire lineage remembered the legacy of that poor sleigh as Grand-dad risked life and limb to chase after little joey and stop him before he crashed into that big tree in the yard. In fact, Uncle Joey still walks with the limp he earned that terrible day in December…

And then… shamelessly, she hid that sleigh in the potty.

Not satisfied to just use a PVC or cheap Chinese tubing rack over the toilet, she took that sleigh of precious memories and turned it into a purveyor of butt-tape and murdered tree branches.

Because nothing says Christmas like pine needles dropping onto your head while you’re  trying to poop out a fruitcake that was baked  in 1934.

Apparently, it was pretty easy to do. The sleigh mods… not the fruitcake elimination. Pay attention huh? These posts don’t write themselves.  Jeez… LOL!


First, swipe a piece of siding off your neighbor’s old barn. Heck, they won’t care. It’s Christmas, right? :)


Secure the barn siding you pilfered between the runners to form shelves.

Secure your butt-tape with some cordage. I'd have used Paracord, but this one was made by sissy girls... LOL!

Secure your butt-tape with some cordage. I’d have used Paracord, but this one was made by sissy girls… LOL!

Secure shelves to wall by using wall anchors and screws.

Secure shelves to wall by using wall anchors and screws.

You know what’s even worse? I have one of those sleighs hanging from the rafters in my storage shed. Maybe they’re right. Maybe I’m just jealous.  Maybe I need to start dating again… Oy. That’s a trainwreck waiting to happen…

To all my Gentile friends, Merry Christmas! May the holidays surround you with love and laughter and bring you joy.


RR Avatar  All images owned by: “Funky Junk Donna” In the world of Crafters, I suspect she’s royalty. .

Surf’s UP! Where’s that Shack?

2 Dec

One of our readers forwarded this video to me and asked for an opinion.

Derek “Deek” Diedricksen of gives us a tour of a Shipping Container Surf Shack built and designed by Hartman Kable. Located south of Seattle, this container home is ultra-modern and employs some very clever transforming and space saving techniques.

Okay, time for the critiques;

I really hated the music score. Bleah! I nearly turned off the video a few ties just to get away from it. :)

I don’t see the GEORGE LUCAS connection at all (that some people have implied). George would have been more dramatic (that’s a good thing).

Not big on his choice of particle board/melamine cabinetry because it just doesn’t last. Save your money and use real WOOD cabinets and doors. You may hate me now, but you’ll love me later…

I understand that the builder was going for “ultra modern chic” but in my view, he took it a little bit too far. It’s too sterile. It looks like an art gallery or museum room. It needs COLOR!  I felt like I was looking at a Dental office. I never got that “warm fuzzy feeling” a home requires.

I kept hearing “OCD” screaming in the background.

I was relieved to see that the builder used “aluminum pipe” to simulate… say it with me… aluminum pipe. LOL!

I got a good chuckle out of how proud he was of that bar stock. LOL!

On a One to Ten, Ten being best, I give this little beach-side tiny house an 8.  Great use of space, lots of coolness (if you can get past the white and the fake wood) and well executed.


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Do they put MSG in Chinese Pre-Fab Homes?

30 Nov

Dear Ronin,

We’re seeing more and more advertising about Shipping Container Homes that you can buy in China and then have shipped to your own building site in the United States. These homes are running under $100 a square foot in some cases. After preparing your foundation, you literally have a home in one day.

It sounds ideal for us. We don’t want to participate in the ISBU Home Building process. We want to find a good deal, have the house built and then… move in.

I’m enclosing a link that we find interesting for your review.

Is this a good idea?


Eager and willing…


Dear “EW”,

Wow. That was foreboding. Your signature initials say it all. EW!

Anyone who reads my blogs or books knows that I believe that Shipping Container Homes offer a tremendous opportunity to provide affordable housing in a “Pre-Fab” environment, where modules are built in factories (or off-site) and then transported to your building site for erection and assembly into ISBU Homes.  This allows for localized and regional distribution of affordable housing, efficiently and cost effectively.

That said,  I’m not a big proponent of buying a prefabricated house in China and then having it shipped to the United States (or any other continent) for several reasons.

First, you’re NOT really getting a home for $100 a square foot.

Before those modules arrive, you’re going to do your site prep, install your foundation and sewer/septic and provide your water source. After your modules arrive, you’re going to pay for assembly costs and roofing. Once your home is “buttoned up” (secured against weather), you’re going to bring in your installation people to install your appliances, which are NOT included in the price of your Pre-fab modules as they arrived from China. Additionally, you’re going to bring in your HVAC guys to install your heating and air conditioning. This is going to add thousands of dollars in fees and services (and appliance purchases) to your build.

But wait, there’s MORE:

These are some of the difficulties that I have observed;

First, you have no realistic fall-back position should there be a problem with your Chinese Modules. They weren’t built around the corner, they were built across the ocean. The manufacturers aren’t going to fly teams of repair specialists to your site or provide you with “corrections” to resolve issues without a lot of difficulty.  WE often see these units with non-mating electrical and plumbing  connections. Those repairs and revisions have to be done on-site and it costs you time and money.  Remember that “Time is Money”. While you resolve those issues, your crew is standing around (on the clock), waiting to go back to work. In our experience, the broker or representative that sold you your Pre-fab (ISBU or otherwise) home doesn’t usually appear at your site to monitor and insure that everything goes well. If you’ve hired a contractor to do the work, he’s not going to show up for free. He’s on the clock, too.

Second, when your home is being built thousands of miles away, you have no control over the quality of the materials used to produce your home. It’s common for substandard materials to be used to product “export housing”.

Third, shipping a series of modified containers from China to a Seaport near you is expensive. Coupled with trucking or rail transport from that point of entry, you’re spending a pretty good chunk of change to get your boxes to your build.

The entire shipping process is hazardous to your build. Have you ever watched how container ships are unloaded? Those dockworkers don’t handle these huge boxes with kid gloves. They’re under a time crunch to get those boxes off the ship and then get it reloaded. Your boxes aren’t going to arrive from China with giant FRAGILE stickers plastered all over them. The union guys doing the offload sling them around and set them down at speeds (and impacts) that shouldn’t be watched by the faint of heart. After spending DECADES watching the boxes get unloaded (in places like Haiti or other disaster sites) it still makes me nervous.

Now, imagine that box is prefitted with your housing components. I’ve personally seen (and inspected) import boxes that have completely destroyed interiors, broken sheetrock, displaced jambs, and unseated flooring.

Okay, I’m also a huge supporter of homes built using 20′ ISBUs. It’s a part of the shipping container home phenomenon that I think is overlooked.

Fourth, in many cases (like the one demonstrated in the video you linked to) you’re talking about small 20′ High Cube boxes as a starting point that are already abundant in the US. A competent team of workers can produce a comparable structure here, on or off your site at a competitive rate and you’ll have a measure of control over the entire process. The boxes are actually small enough to be moved around using a roll-off trailer and truck. We’ve hauled pre-configured 20′ High Cubes ‘from city to country” into rural areas using old logging roads and forestry roads successfully with ZERO damage. I’ve hauled 20′ boxes into the woods on modified car trailers using F350 pick-ups and set them on pilings using forklifts, septic tank crane trucks and farm tractors.

And finally, IF you decide to purchase one of these Chinese “Prefab home units” you are totally at the mercy of the company providing it. Unless you are completely satisfied with this company and their work to date, you’re taking a huge risk.

Finally, I’ve yet to find an instance or example  where a domestically produced Container Home failed to be competitive with an imported one built overseas.  It’s good design and the attention to cost controls and details that will insure the quality of your produced home, not it’s originating address.  We regularly help families produce ISBU homes for under $100 a square foot.

Additionally, this is NOT an indictment of MEKA but a review of “import Pre-fab housing products” in general based on my own personal experiences.  MEKA is well-known in the Shipping Container Home arena. They’re really smart, creative guys and gals. Despite that, the only way I’d deal with them is if they could provide me with a domestically produced product.

Do Green Buildings really make a difference?

29 Nov

Creating ‘greener’ buildings will help address climate change… right?

Green buildings can make a difference, but only if we start asking the right questions. If we can start to see the whole story of how our buildings impact the climate then we can start to make strides toward real ‘net-positive’ change. The technology isn’t new, the strategies aren’t rocket science – the hard step is shifting our thinking about what it means to build ‘green’.

Bryn Davidson wears many hats. Sure, he’s a LEED-accredited building designer, sustainability consultant and small business owner with degrees in Architecture (UBC) and Mechanical Engineering (UC Berkeley).

But he doesn’t stop there. He’s also one of the co-founders of Lanefab Design / Build; a Vancouver-based design and construction company that built the city’s first laneway house in 2010. Since then, Lanefab has continued its specialization in energy efficient green homes and infill ‘laneway houses’ by completing over 40 of the small infill homes.

Bryn Davidson has been on the leading edge of the laneway house industry, and we don’t see him slowing down anytime soon.

 Thank you, TED. :)


I love the Irish… the sights, the sounds… the Containers…

19 Nov

You know, for years  when I thought about Ireland, I remembered times spent in my youth amongst those red-haired vixens with lilting voices who sang like angels.

(You thought I was going to regurgitate trips to famous architectural sites in Belfast of Dublin, didn’t you? Hello? It was in my YOUTH… Curvy red-headed girls who sang like choirs echoed from heaven easily trump St Pat’s Cathedral in Dublin or a legion of Norman or Anglo-Irish Castles…) :)

Now,when I think about Ireland, I think about a beautiful country filled with hard-working people, united in the task of rebuilding themselves.

Now please excuse me. This album of Celtic Women singing isn’t gonna listen to itself! Now, where did I put that Guinness? :)

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Walking Padded planks? NAY I SAY!

19 Nov

We’ve gotten several requests for additional information since we ran our post on and about Vinyl Plank Flooring.  We discussed it’s use as a durable, affordable, easily installed replacement material for hardwood flooring.

We also showed you a few videos that details the Vinyl Plank Flooring material and it’s installation.

While we battle weather-inflicted delays here in ISBU-ville (I’ve decided that I hate the Arctic – she can keep her storms), I thought that I’d take a moment to address them;

Most of the emails we’re getting point out the fact that we’d apparently forgotten to discuss the different pads that are laid beneath the vinyl plank flooring to cushion it.

There’s a reason that we didn’t discuss it.

You DON’T use a pad under most types of vinyl plank flooring. vinyl plank floors. This is due to the created potential for movement that a cushioned pad allows. While you normally use a pad under hardwood flooring, vinyl plank flooring has a small and flexible contact tongue and groove surface area that will actually separate under the flexing and movement of the pad.

If you choose to use any type of underlayment, it must be VERY THIN. The last thing you want is to spend the rest of your days repairing flooring that has separated.

Keep in mind that the surface of the concrete or sub-floor MUST be smooth to perform the best.

Man, I can’t wait for a good night’s sleep in my own bed! :)

Till next time…


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