$100 Cabin made of Black Locust and an Old Billboard for the Roof

“See an example of a cabin made from black locust wood and an old billboard that is around 300 sq. ft. and costs right around $100 to make. This cabin will be a great three season home or can be insulated later with straw bales to make a comfortable place to live. All resources sourced locally for minimal gas use to get them. The main cost is in the Black Locust ‘slabwood’ from a local mill (waste, or offcuts of wood) at $75 in total for three $25 truck loads, and ~$25 in high quality #2 square driven PGP screws (2.5″ mainly, and some 1.25″ for roof battons and side wall batton fastening.)”

Edible Acres.org

10 thoughts on “$100 Cabin made of Black Locust and an Old Billboard for the Roof”

  1. He has a great can-do attitude and some good ideas for light timber framing. Billboards, however, will leach chemicals. Old truck tarps might work better.

    • If someone mounts the billboard tarp with the ink printed side down, the chemical leeching will be minimized. (Not eliminated to zero, but it will be minimized.)

      That said, there are much better roofing options than billboard tarps. I guess a billboard tarp might make sense for a very temporary quick and dirty solution, but that’s about it, in my opinion.

      With all that wood he has access to, the guy in the video might want to invest in, or make his own froe so he can make his own roof for next to nothing. Using one can be almost meditative and blissful once you get the hang of how to use it and learn the tricks for exactly what to use it on. That would be a great way to take advantage of bad weather months and still make progress on a construction project. You can “froe away” some time and get a roof out of the deal.

      Hey… there’s a possible idea for a blog post, Owen.

      “How to grow your own ‘froe.'”

      Yeah… I know… lame jokes, but the double entendres were right there, and I went for it. It’s always good when someone “shakes” things up and helps people “rive” with laughter now and then, as long as the “splitting” laughter doesn’t cause a health rash, like “shingles.”


      Did I do it again?

      In any case, there are a ton of YouTube videos about making, using, and mastering a froe. Perhaps you might want to feature one or two in a future blog post.

      I found this video particularly very enjoyable. Anyone who watches this craftsman practicing his skill without grinning from ear to ear and wanting to pat him on the back needs a heart transplant.


      Here is a much shorter video that gives someone a little taste of froe work, but it doesn’t share much in the way of details like the first longer video does.


      It’s more brains than braun. Even a pretty lady can do this kind of work. We all should learn from those that know what they are doing.


      Making a froe

      YouTube is “overfroeing” with videos on the topic.

      Thus ends my running string of lame jokes for the day, but hopefully there is some quality information mixed in there some might find useful.

          • Whew. It took almost a week to respond. I had to wait until the blog was moved onto the new server.

            My concern was roof leaks if the shakes don’t lay flat. It’s hard to tell exactly how flat this particular roof is, so I’m just making a general comment.

          • First, and most importantly, WELCOME BACK.

            As far as a flat roof goes, it’s not that critical that a roof be flat to shingle it. Yes, a flat roof is easier to shingle, but not entirely necessary.

            Consider how many eyebrow windows have their roof overhang shingled. When done properly, those eyebrow roofs are extremely watertight. That’s a situation where a roof is intentionally unflat.

            If someone is building a roof out in the woods such as indicated in this video and is using natural poles for rafters, it’s going to be difficult or nearly impossible for a roof to be perfectly flat. So what? I would dare say that a perfectly flat roof with straight lines of orderly shingles on that roof just wouldn’t fit into the environment as nicely as a naturally undulating roof with squiggly lines of shingles.

            As long as the roofer follows the simple rules of making certain that each shingle overlaps the gaps between the previous course of shingles with appropriate margins, the roof should not leak. A very eye pleasing random effect without any straight lines will make the roof fit into the forest setting much better than any perfectly flat straight lines of shingles. It can be made to look like the roof almost grew out of the forest right there in place. That would be extremely appropriate in this circumstance.

            The key is to make certain that the roof ALWAYS has at least a 4:1 pitch or greater in every portion of the roof. If one of the undulations has an area where the pitch may be less than 4:1 the risk of water not running off the roof fast enough in a downpour might cause puddling on the roof in some of the undulations causing water to back up underneath the shingles. Obviously, this needs to be avoided. Assuring enough roof pitch addresses that issue.

            Of course, this all assumes that proper underlayments and flashings are installed correctly, proper roof and eave venting is installed, and all the other important details involved in building a quality roof. Each detail is important. Attention to details is what makes quality construction, regardless of preferred building material and/or construction technique.

            Yes, a flat roof makes it easier to make nice orderly lines, but why does our culture make such a fetish about straight lines in the first place?

            Well… here is one guy’s very awesome explanation of that linear fetish… well worth reading. I guarantee you will love reading this, Owen. If you read the whole thing, it cuts right to the heart of many of your favorite issues using a perspective that you will find fascinating and funny at the same time. GREAT READ.


          • Yeh, glad to be back. I agree, was just referring to large bumps that would create gaps where blowing rain could get in. I realized it wouldn’t be perfect. It doesn’t have to be. I think if he chainsaws off the biggest bumps he should be okay. And just to be clear, we encourage the rustic look that utilizes the inherent properties of natural materials.

            I love Orlov. I’m sure I’ve read that already. A new favorite is Zero Hedge for economic news: http://www.zerohedge.com/

          • It’s key that the bumps and curves are in the right location.

            On a heavily curved roof like this they must custom fit lots of narrow shingles, no?

          • Lots?
            That’s a relative term, and I’m not sure what your frame of reference is.

            It all depends.

            The location of the bumps and curves usually isn’t the biggest issue, it’s how tightly curved the convex or concave portions are that is the biggest factor.

            When I was a youth, my Grandfather used a home made steam box to steam bend some shakes to fit some extremely tight curves on a few spots on my aunt’s house. Worked beautifully. This was an extreme situation, though. (My aunt had a very quirky house. Grampy and I spent a lot of hours each summer working on her house. Over several summers we turned a rickety shack into a very comfortable home for her. I learned so many techniques and time savers from him, and miss him greatly.) My Aunt had a strange cupola that had a very tight compound curve roof. Sort of an isosceles tetrahedral a Hypar, but not exactly. I’ve never seen another cupola like it anywhere. I think the original builder just used whatever he had leftover and built it without any plans. A very distinctive feature of her house. That cupola actually was not just a decoration. It was an important vent with a working damper, acting like a stack effect chimney to cool the entire house without a fan. The facets of the tetrahedron were oriented to maximize draw from the prevailing summer breezes. Very ingenious design and attractive in a quirky kind of way that fit the house.

            Getting back to shingling…
            Grampy steamed a few of the most critical and fiddly to fit shingles to make them flexible, and then nailed them into position while still hot and placed a big 25lb bag of lead buckshot on top of the shingle to make it warp and fit itself into the shape of the underlying roof. Once the shingle cooled the bag of buckshot was removed and the shingle held it’s shape, even after it got rained on.

            Usually just careful selection and placement of the right shingles and sometimes tapering them so that the exposed gaps don’t get too wide is sufficient. A good sharp roofing hatchet is a great tool.

            Keep in mind that anyone that is cutting and splitting their own shakes probably is willing to take the extra time to fit the shingles into place too. Anyone in a big hurry is probably going to buy some shingles or metal roofing instead of trying to fiddle trying to fit shakes.

            Everybody has different tastes and priorities. The best anyone can do is offer options for a builder to chose from and explain the advantages, disadvantages, and various ramifications of each possible choice.

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