EV – come home!

10 Jan Broon F8 Electric Car for kids

Here at RR…

Many of us strive for “lives lived sustainably” while deep in the bowels of our garages, we harbor lusty thoughts about Harley’s, Hot Rods and other acts of “motorized mayhem”.

If you’ve read my books on sustainability and alternative housing, you know that I’m on record as saying that “if you have a Tesla Roadster in your garage… I’m probably not the guy you want to talk to about building your sustainable home…”

I mean, a Tesla Roadster never saved anybody any money and it’s not exactly spewing carbon credits out of it’s “mock exhausts”. It’s anything but “sustainable” right?

TeslaRoadster-frontWell, after Tesla announced that they were migrating their new battery technology as upgrades to the Roadster (an EV – electric vehicle – that they no longer even produce) the Tesla Roadster became capable of trips from Los Angeles to San Francisco, nonstop. That’s 400 miles, folks.

Now… I have to eat my words. Elan Musk has officially bitten me on my big Corten butt…

After five years of poking fun at Tesla, I’m eating a little EV crow. I’ve found that if you put enough ketchup on it, you can gag down almost anything…

(I said “almost”… some things remain unpalatable… like McMansions and McDonalds Jalapeno Cheeseburgers… for instance!) LOL!

It’s a sad day, folks…

It’s time I started getting my young son ready for a world where vehicles carry him to and from at high speed – without that throaty exhaust that gave us goosebumps and made us giggle with delight…

Behold, the Broon F8 EV (electric vehicle)!

Broon F8 Electric Car for kidsThe Broon F8 is a “child -sized” masterpiece of sports car engineering and features all the things that you’d expect from a modern day sports car.

The Broon F8 sports slick design, a top-of-the-line power-train complete with an optional dual-motor all-wheel drive, Bluetooth compatibility and a touchscreen tablet control panel. According to CES rumblings, I hear that there are plans to allow you to get it with SIRIUS Satellite Radio. I bet that you can plug your flash drive or iPod into it, too!

I’m also told that the Broon F8 has a governor that limits speed to just under 10mph.

(I’m guessing that a little bit of tinkering will change that to a more suitable speed, as you chase your kid down from behind on your bicycle, or heaven forbid, your Nike’s…) :)

Now, I have a little bit of experience with an earlier evolution of child-sized EVs. Back in the day, when my daughter was little, We cannibalized a pair of those kid’s (mostly plastic) electric trucks you can buy at Walmart and turned a “Barbie Hauler” (custom painted bright pink metallic, mind you) into a 4wd electric hot rod capable of chasing me around the block as I went on morning runs. The local thrift store has gotten a pair of them and we scooped them up, thinking that we’d play “Mad Mr Tesla”… many years before Elan’s time…

It took us about two days to figure it out.

Living next door to an Air Force base had it’s advantages, Our rural neighborhood was filled with AF geeks who, when they weren’t manning underground bunkers defending our freedom… were some diabolical SOBs intent on watching little kids teach their dear ole’ Jarhead dads a lesson or six about playing with voltage.

The AF had spent millions of dollars teaching those geeks to “twist” tech into stuff that would make MacGiver look like a simpleton…

Jarheads are always taught to realize the potential of their assets and then “go where no fool has brazenly gone  before…” so we just figured out what kind of beer those geeks drank and the rest was history, as they say…

In fact, we convinced our kid’s moms that we were doing ti to honor automotive history.

I mean, the US Automotive industry was started by electric cars. I’m not even kidding. Until Henry Ford perfected the assembly line, EVs were “the norm” and not “infernal combustion engines” powered by gas or kerosene… The first US auto race ever conducted was won by an EV.

Yes, it was. Look it up.

But I digress…

Rewrapped electric motors to provide a little extra “uumph!”, bumped batteries to feed the beast, a new wiring harness, some paint, leather and custom vinyl decals proclaiming the pink terror to be the fastest “Armed Barbie Truck” on the planet…

Yes, we’d “hood mounted” a paintball gun to it so she could fend off a pair of obnoxious farm dogs down the road (plus a roll cage in case she actually tried to flip the beast) and she was all set to terrorize the neighborhood.

We even let those geeks put their own special squadron insignia on the truck, just to give them a little bit of “street cred”…

By the time we were finished, the lil’ battery powered terror had cost us about $300 in recycled junk and scrap parts (and a case or five of “girly” imported beer consumed by those geeks as we tinkered with my daughter’s new ride). No, we didn’t share our Guinness with them. It would have been wasted on them. They didn’t drink “real” beer at “Aluminum University”.  I know it’s  true. I’ve been there…

Seeing as how the truck (storebought from the local Walmart) would have cost us about $300 new, we were pretty proud of ourselves – as idiot fathers often are.

My little one would rise at 0500 and don her firesuit (yep, we had her a padded driving suit custom made to match the truck complete with “Barbie” name tag as a concession to her angry mother, who knew where we slept and threatened to kill us in our sleep if her little baby got so much as a stone bruise) before she’d climb in, put on her helmet and safety belts and then throw dirt roostertails into my face for several blocks of mostly dirt roads as we ventured out into the countryside in the name of early morning PT sessions the neighbors quickly began referring to as “the silent death”…

We simply called it “chasing health”. :)

It was so efficient and so quick that I found I was often the one chasing HER down, all the while eating her dust as she giggled  with glee. I quickly figured out that the damned thing would do 20mph, flat out. I quickly abandoned trying to run her down on foot and switched to my mountain bike.

Luckily, it was so inefficient that it’d run out of power within a few miles and I’d limp into the garage behind her, spitting out mouthfuls of dust as she giggled wickedly at having avoided getting lapped by dear ole’ dad…

When she finally outgrew it, we sold it to a rich neighbor down the road (who should have known better) for a considerable profit.

I’d later heard that he had a heart attack while out jogging behind his grandkid a few years later… but luckily, I’d already moved out of the area, redeployed to “meaner pastures”.

I never liked the guy anyway He was a mean-spirited “smart-assed know-it-all AF corporate cowboy/desk jockey” who annoyed us on a regular basis – usually about the loud noises coming out of our garages as we started our Harleys to ride to work at 0630 each morning…

What? So I’m speaking ill of the dead. Big deal! It’s not like he’s gonna come back from Hell to try and whoop me in my front yard… and I never said I was “nice”… ;)

Fast forward a little more than a decade…

Enter the “new millennia” of pint-sized electric motors…

I give you the Broon F8.

Broon F8 Electric Car interiorOf course, as stated before though, it’s not a real car — it’s a toy for kids. And you better save your pennies as it’s for rich kids. It is quite expensive for a toy — with the laundry list of options putting the estimated price tag between $900 and $1,200 or more. It’s been pointed out that you could actually find a decent used, gas-powered car for that kind of cash.

Okay, so it’s not a $300 “father killer”, but it’s still pretty cool. In my part of Montana we’d have to at least throw some “camo paint” on it and add a brushguard in case the kiddo hits a deer in the driveway…

Now all I need to do is figure out how many more photovoltaic panels I have to add to my array to keep the damned thing running! :)

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Corten Cats. Who knew?

5 Jan

Sometimes life lived in Corten brings the need for problem solving.

For instance;

Got cat?

A pal of mine has cats in his Corten Cabin. In fact, when we talk about him being “p***y whipped”… we’re really talking about CATS!

(Oh stop it. We’re all adults here… Well, most of us, anyway…)

It’s easy to tell he has them too. When you walk into the house, the smell hits you right in the face.

And worse, a trip to his “powder room” comes with a “POW!” as the litter-box smell beats your senses like Mike Tyson on a bad day…

Now, several of us have suggested that he teach his cats to live in the barn, but…

… he just called us bad words and pouted like a kid peering into the bottom of an empty “Happy Meal” box…

So for “after-Christmas” we’re giving him THIS:
cat cave
We got the idea from Claire Armstrong, over at Flickr.

It’s as easy as; “1, 2, 4…”

  • Assemble a cheap Ikea storage cabinet.
  • Cut a hole in the cabinet door for said cat to enter.
  • Frame hole with molding.
  • Insert litter box inside cabinet.

Wanna get “geeky?”

Put a fan in the back of the cabinet venting to someplace outdoors.

(A small CPU fan connected to a Radio Shack power supply will work.)

No muss, no fuss. And, you don’t see the cat doing his/her business anymore, either.

That’s goodness.

Oh Magic 8-Ball – What will cities look like in the future?

2 Jan

Here on RR, we talk about “sustainability” a lot.

“Sustainability” is the act of  meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It’s a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony.

A blog contest asks what will occur due to changes in energy, transportation and water technologies, and how will they transform how you live?

What makes up a “sustainable” city exactly? How can a city provide for itself and its citizens in a sustainable matter? That is to say, in a way that doesn’t rapidly invalidate itself, through the exhaustion of the resources that it’s dependent upon.

sustainable city

That’s the question that was posed recently by the Masdar 2015 Engage Blogging Contest — and it’s one worth considering. Despite the outward language used by many in the renewable energy and “green” industries, the question of true “sustainability” is not one that’s often truly broached in any meaningful way (to my mind) by representatives and proponents of said industries.

As an example, while photovoltaics are certainly of great utility and no doubt have a place in the energy infrastructure of many regions/cities throughout the world, there’s no doubt that their manufacture and use depends heavily upon complex supply/trade chains, cheap international shipping, and relatively rare/expensive resources, amongst other things.

Wouldn’t true sustainability be based around simpler, easier-to-implement approaches/technologies — good passive solar building design for example — with more complex technologies perhaps as more of a complement than a foundation?

Read the rest of this great post, HERE.

Say goodbye to cheap Solar Panels…

22 Dec seia_logo

If you live in the USA, your Solar Panels just got more expensive.

Jennifer Runyon is chief editor of RenewableEnergyWorld.com and Renewable Energy World magazine, coordinating, writing and/or editing columns, features, news stories and blogs for the publications. She also serves as conference chair of Renewable Energy World Conference and Expo, North America. She holds a Master’s Degree in English Education from Boston University and a BA in English from the University of Virginia.

This article content was originally published on RenewableEnergyWorld.com

This is too important NOT to pass on:

Yesterday the U.S. Department of Commerce announced its final findings in the 3-year long trade war between the U.S. and China. Additional tariffs will be imposed on modules from China and Taiwan. Although this is good news for SolarWorld and other American solar PV manufacturers, many in the U.S. solar industry are not celebrating and the decision is expected to further divide an already shaken solar industry.

solarworld-solar-panels-lgSpecifically, Commerce determined that imports of certain crystalline silicon PV products from China have been sold in the U.S. at dumping margins ranging from 26.71 percent to 165.04 percent and that imports of certain crystalline silicon PV products from Taiwan have been sold in the U.S. at dumping margins ranging from 11.45 percent to 27.55 percent.  Finally, Commerce determined that imports of certain crystalline silicon PV products from China have received countervailable subsidies ranging from 27.64 percent to 49.79 percent.  Named in the suit, Trina Solar (TSL) and Renesola (SOL)/Jinko (JKS) received final dumping margins of 26.71 percent and 78.42 percent, respectively. Commerce also found that 43 other exporters qualified for a separate rate of 52.13 percent (PDF of fact sheet here lists all 43 exporters beginning on page 7.)

The China-wide entity received a whopping final dumping margin of 165.04 percent — this is for companies that did not cooperate with the investigation.

Image Credit: Gintech.com

Image Credit: Gintech.com

In the Taiwan AD (anti-dumping) investigation, mandatory respondents Gintech and Motech received final dumping margins of 27.55 percent and 11.45 percent, respectively. All other producers/exporters in Taiwan received a final dumping margin of 19.50 percent.

In the CVD (countervailing duty) investigation, Commerce calculated a final subsidy rate of 49.79 percent for mandatory respondent Trina Solar. Mandatory respondent Suntech and five of its affiliates (see final subsidy rates chart at the bottom of this article) received a final subsidy rate of 27.64 percent. All other producers/exporters in China have been assigned a final subsidy rate of 38.72 percent.

Next, U.S. Department of Commerce will investigate if the dumping injured U.S. manufacturing. If injury is found to have occurred, the tariffs will stay.  If no injury is determined, the investigation will be terminated. That decision will be made on or about January 29, 2015. However, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will immediately begin to collect cash deposits equal to the applicable weighted-average dumping margins. If injury is not found, the money collected will be refunded.

The solar petitioner in the case, SolarWorld (SRWRF), applauded the decision. The company said that by comprehensively addressing the unfair trade practices of China and Taiwan, Commerce has paved the way for expansion of solar manufacturing in U.S. market.  Makesh Dulani, U.S. President of SolarWorld Americas believes the tariffs set the stage for companies to create new jobs and build or expand factories in the U.S. Last month, SolarWorld announced that it was expanding its Oregon factory and adding about 200 jobs.

seia_logoRhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), said the ruling is “ill-advised” and feels that it will harm many and benefit few. “We remain steadfast in our opposition because of the adverse impact punitive tariffs will have on the future progress of America’s solar energy industry.  It’s time to end this costly dispute, and we’ll continue to do our part to help find a win-win solution,” he said.

The Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) thinks the decision will raise prices and kill jobs and believes the decision is in direct opposition to the pledges recently made by the U.S. and China to work together to curb global warming. “Hundreds of megawatts of solar projects remain unrealized due to deleterious solar trade barriers in the U.S., China, Europe and globally. Eliminating taxes in cleantech trade represents the lowest-hanging fruit in the global fight against climate change,” said Jigar Shah, President of CASM.

All of this contention comes at the heels of a recent announcement that the U.S. solar industry is on track to install 41 percent more solar in Q4 2014 than it did in 2013.  In total, the U.S. is expected to install 6.5 gigawatts of solar in 2014, a 36 percent increase over last year.

If you’re planning Solar Panel Power Options… you need to keep an eye on this.

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It’s the Holidays. Would you like some free money?

19 Dec cash-back shopping

ISBU (Shipping Container Homes) often begin their lives as ideas passed back and forth across dinner tables. The people discussing these big metal boxes as housing are often rubbing pennies together to makes quarters to make it happen. I know this is true because it’s the way MY first “real” ISBU home happened. I’ve lived in “Corten Cabins” and even little “Corten Chateaus” before that, but we were eager to go “all the way” and live in a full-blown “Corten Castle”. That house was the predecessor to THIS house and it’s now been built by a dozen families scattered across three continents:


While we were trying to connect the dots, we spent a LOT of time trying to determine where all  the required nickels and dimes would come from.

We saved money every place we could. We didn’t go out to eat as much. We took lunches to work. We didn’t go to movies, we rented them. We found cool ways to celebrate family holidays without bankrupting ourselves. We didn’t go on luxury trips, we went camping. We just chipped away at the edges.

The “Happy Holidays” period was the worst. Between Hanukkah and Christmas, it just killed us.  (When our children were little, they didn’t miss a holiday, regardless of it’s origin. We figured they could choose paths later in life, when they began to form their own answers to hard questions.) I admit that quite often, everything we saved ended up in brightly packaged boxes clad with bows and candy canes, as we used them to build a pile under that tree that looked like a foundation.

If you’re like me, it’s that time of year when we give  Santa a jumpstart and order a ton of stuff on-line. While we watch our bank balance flow away like the current of the Bitterroot River, there IS a “silver lining”. You CAN earn some substantial cash back if you’re a member of the right “cash-back” sites;

cash-back shoppingWhat is cash back?

Cash back is money that you actually earn by making qualifying online purchases through participating retailers that participate in a rebate program through the use of an intermediary cash back website. What basically happens is that the retailers are actually paying you to stay home and shop online. The theory is simple; the more you spend, the more cash back you receive. With cash back being offered from 1000s of online retailers, you can get cash back on just about any kind of shopping imaginable.  We regularly see great rebates promoted from stores like Amazon, Home Depot, Lowes, WalMart, Kmart, Sears, Macy’s, and Target, just to name a few.

How do I earn cash back when shopping online?

There’s a method to “cash-back shopping”. Instead of going directly to the online retailer you usually shop at, you visit the cash back site they are affiliated with first and then click their link to your retailer’s website. This is important. By doing this first, your purchase will be tracked by the cash back site and they’ll keep track of what you spend. That means that you will end up receiving cash back after your successful purchase. Usually, you hit a target number/amount and they either send you a check or pay your reward money into your bank or Paypal account.

So, in honor of the upcoming Holidays  and all the sales that go along with it, here’s a list of the top 5 cash-back sites we’ve used:

Click the links to go to the sites:


BeFrugal offers a $10 sign up bonus, and you can request payment by check, PayPal or gift card once you have reached $25 in your account.


Ebates offers a $10 sign-up bonus.  Payments are automatically sent out, via check or PayPal, quarterly if you have earned over $5. If your account has earned under $5 that money is rolled over to the next quarter.


FatWallet  does not currently offer a sign up bonus, but it more than makes up for that in the generous percentages of cash back it offers. You can request a payment via check or PayPal once your account reaches $10.


Mr.Rebates offers a $5 registration bonus just for signing up, and you can request a payment via check or PayPal once you reach $10.


ShopDiscover offers many people’s favorite cash back program.  There is a catch. The catch is that you have to have a Discover card to join. Discover Cardholders earn serious cash back by shopping through ShopDiscover. If you become a Discover cardmember you can get a $50 Cashback Bonus with your first purchase within three months, and earn rewards on every purchase after that.


Top Cashback offers a $10 sign-up bonus and payment can be requested, with no minimum via check or PayPal.

How do I maximize my cash back?

If you want to really maximize your cash back potential, I recommend signing up for ALL the above cash back sites because there is not one clear-cut winner.

Every store has a different relationship with each cash-back site. So I suggest that you sign up with them all and then bookmark all the sites.

When you are ready to shop at a particular online retailer, check the cash back percentages offered at each cash back site and then shop using the one that offers the most cash back.

If you do this right, you’ll get the most possible money back. Add it all up and it can be several hundred dollars a year!

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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!

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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. .


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