Top Navigation  
U.S. Flag waving
Office Hours Momday - Friday  8 am - 5 pm Pacific 1-800-835-2418
Facebook   YouTube   Twitter
 Home Page
 Current Issue
 Article Index
 Author Index
 Previous Issues

 Kindle Subscriptions
 Kindle Publications
 Back Issues
 Discount Books
 All Specials
 Classified Ad

 Web Site Ads
 Magazine Ads

 BHM Forum
 Contact Us/
 Change of Address

Forum / Chat
 Forum/Chat Info
 Lost Password
 Write For BHM

Link to BHM

Letters and email from readers about Backwoods Home Magazine and the BHM website


Archive for the ‘Building/Tools’ Category


The Art of Living in Small Spaces

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Hi Claire.

Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your article about designing for, and living in a small space.

I live in a “shoebox” apartment in San Francisco, about 400 sf, but I fantasize about moving to a remote or “unusual” space and living in a very small home.  Maybe even in a motorhome.

But your ideas certainly apply to both urban and backwoods environments.  I look forward to exploring the links at the BHM website.

I wanted to add something to the rack-mounted computers you mentioned:

When I had a “desktop” computer, I bought a strap device to hang it from under my desk.

The straps are $18 on Amazon for a basic type, to $40 for the kind I had — it allowed the computer to be slid forward, and spun around to access cables in the back.  But I agree with you that a good laptop makes more sense these days.

Thanks again for the interesting article,

Jim Lee


Error in article

Monday, March 28th, 2011


I have recently discovered your excellent magazine and will subscribe as soon as finances allow. I have two comments about your March/April 2011 Issue.

First as a long time handyman I couldn’t help but notice an error in the article by Len McDougall [Drive your own freshwater well]. The author refers to joining two pipes with a nipple when in fact you would join them with a coupler. The nipple is any length of pipe shorter than one foot with external or male threads on both ends. The coupler is a length of larger pipe with internal or female threads. I know this is nit-picking but if a novice would go to his local hardware store and ask for a 4-inch nipple he would not get home with the required parts.

My second comment is on the editorial concerning local government to which I say “hooray” You were right on the mark. I have visited your community and thankfully had a wonderful experience, but I am very familiar with similar situations.

The answer you seek is to get involved in politics at some level. You believe that the Chief of Police works for you as a citizen but in truth he answers to the local elected body of government, they are after all the people that can and will fire him.  They in turn answer to the voters. But only every two or four years or whatever your election cycle is. This has the effect of the Chief acting in the manner that he believes will keep him employed as long as possible.

An unfortunate scenario that often occurs is that a well-meaning new comer runs for office, is elected and promptly begins to try to change things to the way it worked where he came from. Or someone with a particular axe to grind attains office to get his way on an issue. The only way to affect the actions of your Chief is to become active in politics at some level.  You may run for office or actively support someone running that has a like mind as you. Write letters to the editor of your local paper and attend meetings of public interest. Never let someone run unopposed, even for positions such as school board or water commission, it gives them the attitude that they are untouchable. In Short political apathy is the tool that politicians use to run over the common citizen.


Neal J. Ward (ex-Chief of Police)

Mr. ward is correct about the misnamed pipe connector. It is generally called a coupler or coupling.

I’ve updated the online version with the correct part name.



Praise for Jackie Clay’s books

Thursday, January 13th, 2011


I must write to tell you how much I have enjoyed Jackie Clay’s books.

I just finished reading “Starting Over.” It is a wonderful read, very entertaining but also very educational. On every other page or so, I learned something new. She didn’t just write that some project was accomplished, she explained how it was done, in detail! I expected to enjoy reading about her life and how her homestead unfolded. I never expected to learn so much or be so encouraged by her words.

I also just finished reading the Self Reliance book “Recession Proof Your Pantry“. I thought I knew about all there was to know on the subject, and still learned more. The same with “Growing and Canning Your Own Food.”  I would recommend all of these books to anyone interested in homesteading and self reliance.

“Starting Over” should be required reading for any woman attempting to homestead (or farm) on her own.

Thank you to Backwoods Home and to Jackie Clay,

Mary Hartsock


Ok…if you can do it I can at least try

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

Ms. Ainsworth,

I’m writing a fast note to you while I’m getting dressed to go explain to the county engineer that I want to build my own house out in the country. I have no clue what to expect but judging by the phone conversations, perhaps he’s going to gently try to guide this 54 year old woman to pulling a mobile home on the property or just contracting a builder. I’ve been studying & drawing up my plans & using your dreams are goals with deadlines motto to push through just a little bit more every day. By the end of the month I think I’ll have all the kinks worked out. Today’s visit to the permit people is asking them specifics and for guidelines.

I’ve read everything you’ve written that I can get my hands on and wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your stories. Since 1980 I’ve wanted to build my own place but  have found excuses not to move forward. Finally I have the land and thanks to stories from you and Dave Duffy, am beginning to believe that I can pull this off. Personally I don’t subscribe to being a victim thus gotta keep going forward.

You need to know that I’ve enjoyed every article you’ve written and if you have any books out there point to them!  I’ll go after those too!

I’ll write more later but wanted you to know that your motto of ‘if not me then who, if now now then when’ was the catalyst that woke me up.

Thank you.


Marylynn Brooks


Eric’s House

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

Among your other fine articles, I’ve been following the construction of “Eric’s House” with interest. It appears that he will have a beautiful house when finished, at a fraction of the cost of hiring it done.

Of course, the pride of doing it yourself is inestimable.

Since I bought an old farmhouse on 145 acres in rural West Virginia in 1989, I have had to learn all of the skills involved here. While I have formal training in commercial carpentry, nothing in that prepared me for working on these old “Jenny Lind” houses.

I’ve done plumbing from the well, wiring from the service connection, gas piping from the wellhead or city meter, and septic systems from where you don’t want to know.

When severe summer or winter weather knocks out the power for weeks at a time, those less prepared can visit me for a hot shower and some TV, because I’m prepared for that.

I have also acquired four rental properties, and have had to replumb all of them, rewire most of them, and fix roofing, windows, doors, and things too numerous to mention.

I love where I live, and also your magazine. I have only one question.

Uh…What’s a “Building Inspector?”

John Dillon
West Virginia


The Art of Living In Small Spaces

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

How does one buy a copy of this book?   It is not listed on Amazon.



The Art of Living In Small Spaces” is not a book but an article that was published in Backwoods Home Magazine.

Click the title to read it.



Nice bridge!

Monday, March 29th, 2010

It appears Jim Duke read Claire Wolfe’s article, Build a trail, and sent along a photo of a bridge he built.

Nice bridge, Jim!


Pouring concrete

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Reading the article on pouring concrete for the home owner [Issue #121, January/February, 2010] there are a couple of points that I think need to be brought up.

1. Safety, wear rubber gloves and boots. Concrete is a thousand times acidic than water, it can cause severe chemical burns to unprotected skin. If you do get a burn, flush with vinegar, it neutralizes the acid. I’ve found applying olive oil helps the healing.

2. Bull floating should be done perpendicular to your screed rod. This flattens the ridges that your rod may leave. Bull floating helps flatten and seals the top of the concrete, this should be done right behind the rod to keep concrete from drying out too quickly.

3. If you haven’t run a power trowel, hire a finisher. A power trowel used incorrectly will screw your floor up in seconds. The average home owner doesn’t have the skills to fix it. The power trowel pictured doesn’t have the correct blades for wet concrete, those are finish blades for use when the floor is about done. For most work you want Combo-blades, that is what will come on most rental machines.

4. Curing and saw cutting. The fact is concrete cracks, it needs to have relief cuts put in it so you don’t end up with a cracked up mess. Sidewalks should be done cut every 6 to 10 feet depending on how wide it is, a 2 foot wide walk will need less joints than a 4 foot walk. Slabs should be done every 10 feet maximum 12, this both directions length and width. Joints can be either tooled in when you are placing the concrete or saw cut the same day it is poured with a SoftCut saw or after the concrete is cured with a wet saw. Your concrete needs to be cured, by either chemical or water. Depending on the weather and your pocket book either works, if in doubt ask your ready mix salesman.

Bruce Wright,finisher


Jackie Clay’s cabin add-on article

Monday, November 30th, 2009

I appreciated Jackie Clay’s Building an Addition Onto Our Log Cabin article [Nov/Dec, 2009] as that is just what my wife and I intend to do next spring.

My main question in the process, however, was not addressed:  How do you attach new framing to an existing log structure?  I mean, lag screws or bolts, sure, but how do you adapt the shape of the wavy log profile to the straight shape of the new framing?  What kind of weatherproofing at that joint?

Thanks for any help.

Joseph Yon
Kila, MT

A slot was cut through the face of the logs’ profile to receive the dimension lumber. We fit the “store” lumber into the slot, caulking on the underside and both sides.  The inside and outside sheathing also slides into that slot.

When we put log siding on the outside, we’ll notch the logs to receive a tenon cut into the log siding end, which will also be caulked well to prevent air infiltration.

Hope this answers your question.

Jackie Clay


Repeating mouse trap

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

I normally don’t do this but, in this instance, am willing to make an exception! This repeating mouse trap is simply genius.

My thanks to the author for sharing it!




Raccoon Trap

Monday, July 20th, 2009

I just wanted to thank you for this article.

I built a trap just like you said yesterday and last night I caught my first raccoon out of 6 that keep hanging around our house. I saw one of them charge our cats so I knew I needed to do something. So I just wanted to take the time to thank you.

Doug Paske


Door/gate hinges

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Good morning!

Some time back you had a two part article about how to make any door with hinges from scratch (not Dorthy Ainsworth’s article, though hers was also excellent.)

I had been wanting to make these wooden hinges since I picked up that issue and have finnaly finished a pair of lattice gates using them.  Wooden hinges might seem like too much trouble to some but I had a great time making them and they work and look great.

Pictures attached.

Thanks for the great magazine!

God bless,

Calvin Martin Stevens


Building steps

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

I appreciate your article on trail building. How did you make your steps? You mention stakes in the article but I’m not sure what you mean. I can’t tell from the photos how the steps were constructed, and that aspect of the trail is not addressed much.

I would like to build a path down an extremely steep slope and will need to negotiate around several retaining walls.


William Schmieding

Steps are very simple (unless your ground is particularly rocky or your soil iron-hard). Just cut the basic shape of a step in the ground, then place a ground-contact treated 2 x 6 or 2 x 8, cut to the appropriate length, along the vertical edge or “riser.” Secure the board with two stakes driven into the ground until they are firm.

If you plan to gravel your path, let the wood stick up far enough over the soil to contain the gravel.

If your soil is very loose, you might use more stakes or drive them deeper.

That’s it. Of course you can make your steps much more elaborate if you wish — for instance, making them out of flagstone. But this method is simple, inexpensive, and do-able by almost anyone.



Good news for would-be loggers!

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

Dear Dave,

Something good might come out of this recession after all:  Good for do-it-yourselfer log-home builders that is. Because lumber prices have fallen so drastically, logging companies are NOT bidding for areas to log. It costs more to log than they can sell the logs to lumber mills for. It’s a sad state of affairs, but this may be a window of opportunity for ambitious hard-working people to go get their logs to build a house with because the competition is temporarily out of business.

I called around today to several USFS Ranger Districts and BLM Districts (entirely separate branches of the federal government), and found out that here in southern Oregon there ARE stands of trees (Lodge-pole Pine and Douglas Fir) that can be cut with a permit and the cost is minimal (5 or 6 cents a linear foot I was told). The trees vary from 6″ to 8″ diameter, which is sufficient for house-building (6″ at the small end).

Dave Orban  at the BLM office in Chemult Oregon said he can be contacted  at 541-618-2200.  Would-be loggers seriously interested in cutting trees down for enough logs for a medium-sized house can make an appointment with him to check out his area of Douglas Fir stands. He mentioned the Plumb Creek area near Shady Cove, Oregon as another possibility.

Gina Duggins at the Prospect Ranger District didn’t have any cutting areas open for sizable poles in her district but she was very helpful and gave me numbers to call for several other districts who might have trees to cut, namely lodge-pole pine (desirable because they grow straight and tall and have very little taper).

Here is the list she gave me:

USFS Ranger District in Chiloquin:  541-783-4001
USFS Ranger District in Chemult: 541-635-7001
USFS Ranger District in Diamond Lake: 541-498-2531
USFS Ranger District in Klamath Falls: 541-885-3400
BLM District in Klamath Falls: 541-883-6916
BLM District in Roseburg: 541-440-4930  (lodge pole pine mentioned)
BLM in the North Umpqua area: 541-496-3932 (lodge pole pine mentioned)

I suggest also checking out Butte Falls, Rogue River, and the Applegate BLM and USFS Ranger Districts, and districts near where YOU live in Oregon or any other state. I have found that sometimes if the USFS doesn’t allow any cutting in a particular area, the BLM might have an area nearby where they WILL allow cutting. It doesn’t make any sense to me, but you must try BOTH sources. Don’t give up just because one of them says no.

Good luck!

Dorothy Ainsworth


Designing and living in small spaces

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Dear Claire,

I loved your very insightful yet practical article: The Art of Living in Small Spaces. I have been pondering down sizing to a mobile mini cabin since the first time I saw one on the Internet.

I am currently down sizing from a 2,300 sq ft home to a 1 bedroom apartment. I want to visit one of the mobile cabins to see how it feels inside.

I live in Phoenix, AZ and it’s hot as hell here, so I haven’t yet located anyone living in one that I could visit. I have seen cottage/mini cabin packages for sale at Lowes Home Improvement that look very similar to the cabin pictured in your article. If I purchased one of the cabin packages and attached an under carriage with wheels, added insulation and what’s needed for living, could this realistically suffice as a place to live, similar to the cabin pictured in your article? Please give me your thoughts on this.

I can send information on the cottage/mini cabins from Lowes if that would help to explain what I’m conceptualizing. The best part is, if I could make this work, I could help other people to replicate mini mobile housing at a low cost.

Considering all of the Boomers and people losing their homes, this could help a throng of people if it’s feasible.

Thanks for your thoughts on this. I appreciate your time, wisdom and insight.

Renee Friedman


The idea of a tiny house built on a flatbed or other mobile platform is a great one. In fact, the first of Jay Shafer’s Tumbleweed Tiny Houses (the houses that illustrate my article) was built exactly that way. Because the local building code wouldn’t let Jay construct a house as small as he wanted on site, he just put it on wheels!

I’m familiar with the Lowes “Katrina Cottages.” The smallest of those would still be too big to go mobile, and would be too expensive even if you could manage it. (A trailer would be more exonomical.) However, if Lowes or any other source has a shed kit or cabin kit small enough, I don’t know any reason you couldn’t build one on a mobile platform. Or design your own.

Of course, just as with trailers and boats, the key to comfortable small-house living is having tons of clever storage — which is going to add both weight and cost as I’m sure you know. Still, with the right materials, the right size, and the right wheeled platform, your idea could be nicely workable, though probably not as economical as you’d like it to be.

Thanks for the thoughts, and good luck.



Old tires article

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009


Great article on using old tires.

Here in California I have seen them cut creativly and used as play equipment, cut and turned inside out and hung on chains for swings made to look like animals, and they make a great sand box for the little ones.

In south america I saw them used as fences with rebar uprights.

Thanks for the great article



The house that Dorothy Ainsworth built!!!

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

This article was one of the most inspiring I have ever read.

I just had to write to tell you that I had lost my capability of believing in my dreams and goals. But after reading this, I am back to believing again!!

I must say, I am extremely impressed with what Dorothy has accomplished. She had great determination, fortitude and a hard working attitude. It is amazing what a person can and will do when they have a positive attitude and a dream. Not only did she conquer her dream, she lost it in a fire, but she did not give up, she started all over again.  Wow, what does that tell you about a person? DETERMINATION AND COURAGE!

I love your magazine as there are great articles to read.

Thank you,



Small space living tips

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Thanks, Claire, for some sound advice on getting psyched up to really “walk the talk” on small space living. I especially enjoyed the tip for making a whole wall into storage. I’m inserting that into the plan for my little 16×24 barn.

Pamela Callaway



Copyright © 1998 - Present by Backwoods Home Magazine. All Rights Reserved.