Playing with Plasma… cutters.

5 Oct

Welcome back!

To another exciting episode of;

“What’s that Shipping Container idiot up to NOW?”

If you’ve arrived here by another link or blog, looking for information about a home that we’re building for the young family of a US Marine killed in Iraq, I invite you to click here:

Cathy’s Container Casa

… for the most recent information on this family, and our goal to get them into a safe, secure home of their own… as fast as possible.

This post… (the one you’re on right now)  “Playing With Plasma Cutters” covers the origins of that build if you’ll just scan down to the next headline in RED.

(I do this because someone… we’re not gonna point any fingers or name any names… HEATHER… accused me of being “too wordy”.) 😉

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program…  🙂


Followers of this blog already know that my family needs a home, and we live in “hostile territory.”

NO! We don’t live in Baghdad, or Somalia, or even the Bronx…

(No offense to you guys in Baghdad…) 🙂

My family lives on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi – The Land of Hurricane Hysteria!!

The Reader’s Digest Condensed Version goes like this;

Hurricane Ivan eats house in Florida. Insurance guy hands out checks. Family moves to Mississippi! Hurricane eats house in Mississippi! Oy Freakin’ Vey! Insurance guy goes into hiding. Family needs home. Family needs CHEAP home. Family sees steel boxes everywhere. Steel Boxes vs. severe weather = Safety. Family starts to build Steel Box house. Locals go nuts. And, not in a good way…

It’s been one bizarre week…

What do you get…

… when you cross a plasma cutter with several damaged Shipping Containers?

NO! You don’t get scrap metal to sell to the salvage yard!

With all that “Cash for Clunkers” nonsense, the price of steel has dropped, and nobody wants it! Bad for them, but GOOOOOOOD for Ronin!

A while back, a guy offered us the keys to the gate of the place where damaged Shipping Containers  go to die. It’s a place where the boxes that get folded, spindled, and mutilated go, to slowly disappear into the weeds. And, he said that if we could find anything that we could use, we could haul it off.

Now I was curious as to HOW containers get crunched. I mean, they’re steel. And then, I saw this;

I’ve  shown you stuff like this before… remember? What have we learned from this? Never put the buffet on an “outside” wall of a ship.

Now, I get it…

Okay, now that I’ve given you something to have nightmares about…

(I bet you’ll see this picture in your sleep, the next time you take that Carnival Cruise, huh?) 🙂

Now, where was I? I get sidetracked so easily, these days… Oh yeah… we’re in cahoots with another guy, who has a hunk of wooded land, on the Gulf of Hepatitis.

I’ve told you about this before. You remember, right? Well? 🙂

So, in the “Spirit of Experimentation”, we’re gonna build some modules out of these hulks, to show people what you can do with them. The thought is to allow other people that are thinking about building a house out of ISBU’s the chance to actually work on one, before they jump into their own build.

I started thinking about it, because I’ve got a build up in the Carolina’s, that will go the same route, if all goes well. She’ll get labor help, and the guys helping will get experience working on the boxes. One hand will wash the other…

But… (there’s always a “but”, huh?),  somebody needed to figure out who does what, and what to let the rookies play with. After all, you’re not working with wood. Those boo-boo’s will get hard to fix, if you’re not careful.

So, I drew up several modules, consisting of bedrooms, play rooms, offices, utility rooms, laundry rooms, kitchens… you name it. Just to figure out what was possible, of course.

And a plan was hatched to build several modules, and then connect them all together, using one common room as the “bridge.” So, “The Corten Community” was born…

The theme was “treehouses.” However… We’re not gonna connect the boxes in the traditional sense. You’re gonna have to actually GO to each module.

ISBU-tree-houseIs this a “Treehouse” or what? Ronin like!!

We’re inspecting the carcasses in the “dead zone”, and it looks like we’ll get several 16′, 20′, and 24′ sections, if we plan and then cut… carefully.

So, we’re gonna use several 16′ sections to form the Modular “Ewok Village” (we’re building on pilings)  and we’ll build the modules out of steel, concrete, and wood.  And, we’re starting to actually cut ISBU’s up, to make those modules, as I write this.

Now all this got me to thinking. Building a bunch of outbuildings out of bunch of trashed boxes is fun  and all, but…

Instead of connecting all the independent modules together with wooden decks and bridges, what if  you assembled them to form one big box? (I mean, we do it with full-sized containers, right?) Then,  all you’d have to do is put floor joists in the center “room” you created, and slap a roof over the top of it, and you’d get a free room!

Okay, not free… but a cheap space, to be sure.

The plot thickens… Muuuwahahaha! 🙂

I’m in talks with a guy who wants to barter some land in exchange for help building an ISBU home of his own. He’s even got an old pick-up truck that he’ll throw in to sweeten the deal.  It’s located across state lines and in a place  where the Planning and Zoning Nazis are far less militant and even open to the idea of building a  steel house out of perfectly good steel boxes. How do I know this? Well, the guy that I’m bartering  with IS the head Planning and Zoning Nazi for that area. Whaaaa? Am I dreaming?

P & Z Nazi  LOVES the idea of ISBU construction.

Now, we’re talking!

So, again with the thinking. Oy Vey! I thought so hard I think I pulled a muscle! There ain’t enough  Matzo Ball soup in the world to make this headache go away, but if this works out, it’ll all be worth it!

So, here’s what I’m thinking. We’re gonna build a “test” house on 5 acres he’s willing to let go of, in exchange for my help building his dream box. Seems he has a daughter (named Cathy) that needs a house. She needs a house bad! Her US Marine Corps hubby was killed in Iraq, and she (and their three kids) are living with the grandparents while they try desperately to figure something out.

Now, readers here know that Ronin is an old warhorse. And stuff like this really, really pisses Ronin off. In America, you can fight and die for your country, but if you do, your family is basically screwed. There’s something terribly wrong with that. These kids don’t have a dad, anymore. This Mom doesn’t have a husband anymore.

But, she got a couple of bucks and a really nice condolence letter from somebody at the Department of Defense.

Color Ronin mad as hell…

Now, “Grandpa” offered US the land, in exchange for help. But, my wife is in cancer treatment, and the treatment she needs isn’t readily available where the land happens to be.

Char needs to be close, close, close to a hospital. Lately we’ve been testing that theory…

So, that won’t work for us.

But, it’ll damn sure work for Cathy and her kids. So guess who’s getting a house?

The acreage in question already has a good well on it and it’s got enough cleared space to allow for a house, an outbuilding for a garage/shop, and “some trees to use for firewood.” Now, I’m not sure that she’ll need much firewood, because if I do this right, the house will be plenty warm “all by it’s onesies…”

Besides, I just gave my woodstove away to another build. She’ll have to settle for a “firepit.” Hey, that’s just a “S’Mores” opportunity waiting to happen!

Stack of S'moresWhen WE make S’more’s… we don’t kid around!

I’m going to take (1) 20′ HQ ISBU section (it’ll be the kitchen/laundry room module), and (4) 16′ HQ ISBU sections and use them to build an almost 1200+ square foot home, with a few lofts thrown in, just to keep the neighbors guessing…

The house will have three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a family room, a home office, a big island kitchen, and even a laundry room. It’ll have three decks, and most importantly, three lofts…

… so that we can use the space under the gabled roofs for something besides storing the bats that fell outta Ronin’s belfrey… 🙂

(Don’t you love it when I talk about myself in the third person, like I’m… ah, never mind. Why should I give you ammo?) 🙂


Now, this isn’t “the house anybody always wanted.” It’s not a McMansion, to be sure.

But, it’s a house that will house a family, and it’ll go up fast. It’ll be a small “farm house” and if you count all the loft spaces, you’ll get about 1400 square feet of actual living space out of it (a little bit over), by my calculations.

1400+ square feet outta scrap metal and recycled crap… Sounds pretty tough, for a bunch of tiny boxes, huh? Well, just you watch and see…

You’d be surprised what you can do if you put your welding helmet on (auto darkening, please), and your nose to the grindstone…

In fact, it’s gonna be way easier than here, because some of the issues don’t exist. Because it’s not in a flood zone, I can shoot some simple pilings into the ground, and build the house a few feet off the ground, instead of in “nosebleed city” like you have to here in Mississippi.

After we iron out the details, I’ll tell you more…

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance RoninAnd, if you want to volunteer to help us build it, we’re accepting applications. THIS is a good cause, and a chance to get your hands on a plasma cutter…

13 Responses to “Playing with Plasma… cutters.”

  1. Andy in Germany October 5, 2009 at 8:30 am #

    Thanks for this post- firstly it’s great to see a house designed for a family, as that’s what we’re thinking about.

    And secondly, I’m not sure I could be that kind and selfless if I was in your situation.

    • renaissanceronin October 5, 2009 at 9:31 am #

      Hi Andy,

      The incredible thing about these boxes is the versatility. You can do almost anything that you can imagine, if you just think about it for a while.

      And, thanks for your kindness (it’s truly appreciated), but on my part… it’s not really kindness, or even selflessness… you see… we’re all in this together! 🙂


  2. Steel Cutters October 8, 2009 at 2:29 am #

    Hi, Thanks for sharing this fantastic article. The design of house is wonderful. I would love to read your next post.

    • renaissanceronin December 2, 2009 at 4:49 pm #

      Let’s just hope it’s “readable.”

      After all, I’ll be the one writing it… 🙂


  3. Plasma cutters December 2, 2009 at 7:06 am #

    Plasma cutters is new technology of cutting, plasma cutters facilitate the metal works industry to operate efficiently. cutting intricate designs from sheet metal or trimming thicker material. The optimized use of compressed gas, channelized to generate an electric arc, cuts through metal sheets.

    • renaissanceronin December 2, 2009 at 4:49 pm #

      Hey! No Fair! I already said that! Twice, in fact! 😉

      But you’re absolutely right!

      Plasma Cutters are cooler than a polar bear’s um…er… feet. 😉

      The use of a plasma cutter is one of my favorite parts about Container Home Building!

      They ROCK!


  4. renaissanceronin January 22, 2010 at 7:08 pm #

    Okay Campers,

    I posted this comment on the update to this build, but I’m going to post it here too, to insure that it isn’t missed by anyone:

    In the last few days (mid January 2010), I’ve gotten an email or two that basically reminded me of the death benefits paid to killed solders families.

    The commenters make it sound like having your husband or wife killed is like winning a government sanctioned lottery. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    I recently spoke to a Chaplain, who reminded me that although there are programs available to dependents of killed soldiers, they don’t happen overnight. In fact, it can take some time for them to start working thru to the families that need them.

    Additionally, with the increase in troop deployments, housing officers are pretty aggressive in dealing with housing, and this does convince some families to leave the base “early” only to find out that the housing allowance they’re entitled to won’t cover the actual cost of housing in the resettlement place of their choosing.

    He also reminded me that this is the last “paycheck” this fallen soldier will ever get. If he’s young, it’s nothing but a pittance when you consider how long he or she would have lived and worked, in Middle America.

    Nor does it take into consideration existing debt, like car loans, home loans, or credit card debt. Most enlisted soldiers and their families live at what is basically the poverty level. Credit cards become life rafts, until you can no longer make the payments, because Daddy is dead.

    And I’ll remind you that analysts are saying that the REAL unemployment rate in America is over 20% right now. Mom or Dad is gonna pay daycare while they look for a decent job, IF they can find one, and they have the skillset demanded for it. And then, they’re going to pay for child care so that they can work to fill in all the gaps.

    That “death benefit” money isn’t going to go very far.

    Regardless of what programs this family is entitled to eventually, one thing is certain, they won’t lack for a home, NOW.

    They already have enough to deal with.

    And if they get a decent amount of money later, the surviving parent can in sure that the kids will go to college.


  5. margie g January 23, 2010 at 2:29 pm #

    Okay mister plasma cutter, where do we get information on joining you for the “Cathy Casa Clinic?” Send me more info to my email address provided above.

    Lets see what “we” can get done if we all pull together.


    • renaissanceronin January 23, 2010 at 2:58 pm #

      Hi Margie,

      “Mr Plasma Cutter?” My, that’s awfully civil of you! 😉

      As the date for the build approaches, we’ll contact all the volunteers and then figure out who does what. In the meantime,drop me an email and let me know if you have any special skills we might want to exploit… um… er… utilize, as we build this cool little house for this family.

      Include a phone number as well, if you can, so that we can call to ask questions if we need to.

      Thanks for helping! This is truly going to be something great.


    • Tom Mullinax March 30, 2010 at 11:53 am #

      It’s been awhile but I haven’t quit planning and scheming. I live really close to Columbia and would be glad to help with construction as well. Let me know when and where and what to bring.

  6. David April 3, 2010 at 7:07 pm #

    Hi Ronin,

    Where do you stand on construction? If you mean Columbia, SC.. Count me in. When??


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