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Building an underground home

 
                                            
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Hi

I am planning to build a mike oehler tyle underground home, in the middle of nowhere, without machines.

He uses trees, but those are too heavy for me to carry, so I would like to cut lumber from trees and use that.

I need cheap, lightweight saw and maybe other required tools to cut the tree into lumber poles and planks.

What do I need to be able to do this?
 
Len Ovens
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selfsufficientlivi wrote:

I need cheap, lightweight saw and maybe other required tools to cut the tree into lumber poles and planks.

What do I need to be able to do this?


A saw pit? (takes two people, but quiet  )

You can get extensions for a chainsaw that gives you a handle on each end and drag it through that way... don't know how safe that is and it would waste a lot of wood with the width of the chain (and still need two people). Most "portable" lumber mills use a large bandsaw for that reason. They are neither cheap or light though...

The more I think about it... it still seems easier to cut boards in one place, not where ever the tree falls. Do you have access to a horse? Can you just look for smaller trees? How straight do your cuts need to be? Are you trying to build without attracting attention? (your own land? public land? whatever?) It sounds like you are hiking in? ATV? In other words how light is light?
 
                                            
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No chainsaws, just a regular saw. I saw a video of 2 people using a big saw, 1 on 1 end and 1 on the other end (indeed, 1 person in a saw pit) however I would like to be able to do this by myself.

Yes, I will be hiking into public land and don't want to use machines. No horse either. So yes, I want to cut down the tree and where the tree falls down I want to be able to cut it into lumber (so a saw pit isn't an option..)

I guess it would make the most sense to then saw the tree horizontally in the middle, but how can I get even lumber when sawing it like that? Take off the bark, then use a pencil to draw a line? Ar there any tools to get it more even ie lock the saw into place?

And what (DIY) tool can I buy or make to take off the bark?


Len wrote:
A saw pit? (takes two people, but quiet  )

You can get extensions for a chainsaw that gives you a handle on each end and drag it through that way... don't know how safe that is and it would waste a lot of wood with the width of the chain (and still need two people). Most "portable" lumber mills use a large bandsaw for that reason. They are neither cheap or light though...

The more I think about it... it still seems easier to cut boards in one place, not where ever the tree falls. Do you have access to a horse? Can you just look for smaller trees? How straight do your cuts need to be? Are you trying to build without attracting attention? (your own land? public land? whatever?) It sounds like you are hiking in? ATV? In other words how light is light?
 
Len Ovens
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selfsufficientlivi wrote:
Yes, I will be hiking into public land and don't want to use machines. No horse either. So yes, I want to cut down the tree and where the tree falls down I want to be able to cut it into lumber (so a saw pit isn't an option..)


Ok, I would suggest you will have to live with less than perfect lumber. Probably the best way... is to go back before saw pits... and use a number of splitting mauls... the Vikings made boats this way... of coarse they had lots of practice too. It starts by picking straight trees with as little twist and knots as you can find.


And what (DIY) tool can I buy or make to take off the bark?


Draw-knife.
 
Steven Baxter
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Use this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxbGtW8YeKA

Just search all over youtube you can find tons of videos. Seems you only need

1 person
chainsaw
frame
trees
 
                                            
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Thank you for responding. Please read my post again.

"No machines" - So also no chainsaws.

They are a) not made of natural materials 2) are too expensive 3) make too much noise 4) are too heavy to take with you on a hiking trip 5) rely on using petrol 6) break more often then a regular saw 7) higher chance of getting an injury can't be repaired with duct tape 9) i think you get the message
 
Sam White
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forest garden trees woodworking
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Here's a video of a bloke called Ben Law building his ecohome. While it isn't an underground house, he is working in the middle of a wood with no mains electricity and few petrol powered tools (he uses a chainsaw to fell trees and probably uses a mill to make planks/floorboards). He does however use a lot of hand tools for shaping timbers and creating joists. You might find it interesting.

Does anyone know what the tool for peeling bark is called at about 19-20 minutes in?
 
                                            
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Sam wrote:
Here's a video of a bloke called Ben Law building his ecohome.


"The uploader has not made this video available in your country.
Sorry about that."

Can you maybe download and upload it for me, using a tool like downloadhelper for firefox, and then post the link where I can view it? Thanks!
 
Sam White
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selfsufficientlivi wrote:
"The uploader has not made this video available in your country.
Sorry about that."

Can you maybe download and upload it for me, using a tool like downloadhelper for firefox, and then post the link where I can view it? Thanks!


Ah yeah, I was hoping that the channel that makes Grand Designs would be a bit more open minded than the BBC when it comes to opening up their content internationally.

I'll see what I can do.
 
Fred Winsol
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Len wrote:
Ok, I would suggest you will have to live with less than perfect lumber. Probably the best way... is to go back before saw pits... and use a number of splitting mauls... the Vikings made boats this way... of coarse they had lots of practice too. It starts by picking straight trees with as little twist and knots as you can find.

Draw-knife.


Has anyone done this?  I mean really?  Any idea how much HARD work is needed to fell, debark, etc.  Chain saw kits for plank sawing are a pain to work with... but if you're remote and have plenty of gasoline for your chain saw... it might work...

underground homes tend to leak - witness the 1970's and 80's.  It's after about 5 years that ANY waterproof membrane eventuall develops cracks, etc.  Or else they'd be a lot more common... excavation is one of the cheapest forms of construction.. so why isn't everyone doing it?

Personally, I am trying out Dr. John Haitt's PAHS type design for a tiny guest house...
http://www.norishouse.com/PAHS/UmbrellaHouse.html

I like his take on thermal mass and using the soil between seasonal swings.  brilliant!  but water intrusion IS the issue.
 
Len Ovens
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winsol3 wrote:
Has anyone done this?  I mean really?  Any idea how much HARD work is needed to fell, debark, etc.  


I have seen a blog entry somewhere that someone tried it. Their planks where not to straight. But on a walk with my son I noticed about one in four logs that looked like they had a straight enough grain to even try. However. for someone who doesn't want the sound of a chainsaw... or to use two people with a hand saw, it looks like the only way. I think he needs poles first... 4x4 to 6x6... just small enough to be able to move on his own. So twisted but straight might be ok. A spoke shave or bigger draw knife could make flat places for nailing where needed.... after the post was installed. I think he would have the time to pick and choose what logs he fells/splits. I would suspect one metal maul and a bunch of wood wedges would be a lot lighter to carry. I think he would already have an axe which could be his hammer.

Splitting planks is a lost art, but used to be the way things were done. Many of the first saws where ok for cutting ends.... but not for long, wide, planking cuts.

I have assumed that this house will be built on public lands and the builder would like to keep its where abouts and existence unknown. No judgements on the validity... just how. I may one day feel the need to do something clandestine like this too. So I would like to know how he makes out.
 
ronie dee
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Len wrote:


I have assumed that this house will be built on public lands and the builder would like to keep its where abouts and existence unknown. No judgements on the validity... just how. I may one day feel the need to do something clandestine like this too. So I would like to know how he makes out.


I get the same impression.

Perhaps selfsufficientlivi should look at the tread on debris hut;
http://www.permies.com/permaculture-forums/9104_0/green-building/debris-hut

If you might have to abandon the place on a moments notice, it might not be great idea to put months and years into building the place..
 
Fred Winsol
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A few years ago, someone got caught doing this somewhere around Alamo Labs in New Mexico.  The guy had built a total log cabin way in... on national forest land... had lived there for 20+ years... and then i guess he started his fireplace on a clear cold winter day, and someone noticed the smoke!  damn... guess he got to comfortable and over-confident.

I'd use google earth to survey places and get to know locals around and find out where people DON'T go... the BIG problem these days are the air surveillance/satellite and infrared sensors... so i would presume you gotta go under a thick canopy of trees or inside a rock wall/cave.  Anything close to a river/creek is no good... fishermen, hunters, etc.  So for remote  rainwater harvesting you gotta haul in lotsa pipe sections or galvanized steel roofing (non reflective). 

I'd love to try this myself  - maybe we should have a contest and see who can build the biggest and keep it a secret the longest

 
Len Ovens
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winsol3 wrote:

I'd love to try this myself  - maybe we should have a contest and see who can build the biggest and keep it a secret the longest


Don't plant tomatoes.... on infrared from the air it looks a lot like illegal hemp. The problem is... too many people do this and it will attract attention.

 
                                
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I just saw an episode of Modern Marvels on the history channel a couple weeks ago that showed what I think would be the best thing to do for what you are describing. It's called Hewing. I could not find a video demonstrating this, but this is the Wikipedia entry on it:

One can hew wood by standing a log across two other smaller logs, and stabilizing it either by notching the support logs, or using a 'timber dog' (a long bar of iron with a tooth on either end that jams into the logs and prevents movement). The hewer marks a line along the length of a log, usually with a chalk line, then chops notches to a short distance (10 mm for example) from this line into the log every foot or two using a chopping or scoring axe. The hewing can be done on the sides with a broadaxe by standing over or to the side of the log and chipping off the sections of wood in between the notches. This results in a rough surface pared down just shy of the marked line. The notches remove a fair amount of wood, make chipping easier and prevent long shreds of material being removed, only smaller chips. Hewing occurs from the bottom of the stem upwards towards what was the top of the standing tree, reducing the tendency of the broken fibers to migrate inwards towards the eventual beam.[1]
An adze was used to chip or plane the top surface in the same manner. Further smoothing can then be done using a hand plane, drawknife, yari kana or any other established or improvised means.


In light of this being my first post on the forums (I created an account just to tell you this) and because of my amazin helpfulness, allow me to illustrate... poorly.

Cut your log and you will need to probably prop it up (here is your log)

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Cut the log with dips just like this

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Cut sideways along the now lower areas to cut off the raised areas, with your adze or make due with another axe if you can't get an adze and get:
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                                               (note that his 'log' is one line less 'thick' as the first 'log' I presented... pretty clever)
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