Monday, July 2

Building a Cabin for Cochise

Cochise is an American Bulldog who is staying with us on a foster dog program through the local animal shelter.  He has health issues that require one-on-one care and observation. You can read more about that at Rescuing Cochise.  We built a quickie sleeping shelter for him the day before he arrived, but it was a temporary arrangement - made more temporary by his habit of leaping atop his wickiup trying to get a better view of things when he hears a noise.  It's time to build Cochise a proper house.

As with all projects, we start by pulling lumber.  In this case the lumber we're using if from a 100 year old barn we bought and had torn down.  We thought there would be a market for this lumber... we were wrong.  But it should make an attractive abode for this American classic named after an Apache chief.

While I'm pulling boards out and carrying them inside the shop, Marie is stripping the cover and supportive fencing from the wickiup so we can re-use the door panel an the base for the new cabin.  This should have been a fine summer shelter for him but repeated mashings weakened the wire fencing to the point that I could not reform it properly.

Construction begins with breaking the long boards down into rough-length pieces on the chop saw (compound miter saw).

Then I use the jointer to flatten one wide face of each board. With the wide face flattened I flip it up and run the jointed face along the fence and let the cutters straighten an edge and make it square to the flattened face.  That's two sides, smooth straight and square.

Then I run the boards through out surface planer, with the flattened face down on the bed. The cutter-head (above the board) skins off the rough wood to smooth that face and make it parallel to the jointed face: three sides smooth straight and square to one another.

On the table saw I remove the last edge to make it straight and square to the two faces and parallel to the jointed edge.  Now we're ready to start assembling parts.

First up it's back to the chop saw to trim the dressed boards to finished lengths.

We make panels out of the individual boards my arranging them in pleasing patterns and trimming an edge board to get the exact finished height. The front & back panels are long, three short panels will make the sides and inside baffle.  I'll use plywood for the roof.  I use some 2x2 stock (sort of) for the corner cleats, clamp the face boards together and just nail them to the corner cleats - using a framing square to square up the end and as a guide to get the nails into the cleat.  One nail at each end where I can see the cleat end, then make a line with the square between them to start the rest of the nails.

Yeah, I know: nails - shudder!  But this isn't fine furniture and time is short.

I needed to add a batten inside the long pack panel to help keep the boards aligned. I drove nails through and clinched them to hold the batten tightly to the panel.  Here's a good way to clinch nails so they never snag anyone:
Bend the end of the nail over with a plyers, then hammer the nail over flat to the board, burying the sharp end of the nail back into the board. The only problem with this method is that these nails are a BEAR to get back out again should you want to dismantle the component.
I use a Kreg jig to drill pocket holes on the lower, inside faces of the corner cleats.  These will be used to attach the walls to the floor.

When the front panel is complete I lay-out the door using the framing square and a home-made beam compass.  Then cut out the opening with a saber saw.

Cochise looks on as we work, but is unimpressed at this point.  I don't blame him, we're just making big boards out of little boards so far.

I cut a plywood baffle to go in beside the doorway.  This will help keep the winds out in the winter. I brace it top and bottom as well as screwing it to a center cleat. The braces will (hopefully) keep him from breaking off the baffle if he gets rowdy in his cabin.

Then I can begin assembling the panels into the basic structure.

I decide to use a piano hinge to attach the roof to the cabin so I can lift the roof for cleaning, and to allow for some air circulation in the summer.  Spacer blocks atop the back wall will hold the roof up 1" to allow warm air to flow out. These will be removed in winter to keep the cold air out.  If the plwood roof decides to warp I'll have to add hook & eyes to the back to draw it down tight in the winter.
We decide to use up some left-over shingles we have laying around to put a proper roofing on the cabin and make sure the roof stays weather tight. TO avoid injury from roofing nails protruding down through the plywood roof panel (and because I don't have any roofing nails) I use heavy duty staples in my staple gun to affix the shingles to the plywood. I lay the shingles in runs and staple the runs where the next run will cover them and prevent rust. Just like laying a real roof.
Done!  Now it's time to take the roof off, separate the four walls and move it all out to Cochise's pen.  The floor panel is already out there, blocked up and leveled.
The walls are screwed to one another and then attached to the base using face frame screws in the pocket holes I drilled earlier.  I also put a screw through the angle brace at the bottom of the baffle.
Finally I attach the piano hinge to the roof panel with lots of small screws.  That roof panel got pretty heavy with shingles on it!
I flip up the roof, add some straw and cedar chips, install teh spacer blocks and it's ready for Cochise to do a walk-through inspection.  Of course, when we brought him out to his pen, he refused to have anything to do with this new thing that has invaded HIS space.  He may be afraid that if he goes in we'll close a door and trap him in there.  Once we leave and he has some time to explore on his own terms I'm sure to settle in.

And that's it.  I think it's a fine lil cabin for our classic American Bulldog guest.  It is by no means a furniture grade project, but it was fun to build, it serves a useful purpose, doesn't look half-bad, and it cost us nothing.  At least not now.  It was built entirely from materials we had on hand, so there was no out-of-pocket expense in it's construction.  Of course, we bought all that stuff earlier, so it's not entirely free, but close enough.

Hope you enjoyed following along.  Come back again soon, I'll be starting on Marie's headboard.


As time passed, Cochise became a house dog and had no need of his cabin.  Several other foster dogs used it until I decided to move it out into our big new play yard to be used as a play house by all the dogs.  I also spiffed it up a little by adding a covered porch. We ARE in the ountain, after all and all proper mountain cabins have a proper porch.
Blondie Bear is especially fond of sitting on the porch on a warm summer afternoon.  It also makes great shelter if a pop-up rain shower catches them outside. 

This cabin has been in service for 7 years now.  I have made repairs now and then, but the basic structure (including the roof) is original.  I'd say it has held up really well for something we put together in a hurry.

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