Author Archives: robert - Page 2

Solar Ivy?

I saw this link about the SMIT Solar Ivy project over on the Jetson Green site, and I thought it was quite clever.  Little solar ‘petals’ rather than one big panel.   I was thinking that while I don’t have huge walls to cover with something like this, I do want to add a sun shade/rain catchment sail over the container and deck area of the build, and having something like this on top would be a nice way to break up the surface and enhance the potential shade provided, while also producing power!

Anyway, check out the SMIT Solar Ivy site for more on this interesting idea.

Another thought on shutters

I’m spending an awful lot of time thinking these things through, but I would really like to get to a design that, once in place, works nearly right the first time (I’m still somewhat of a realist), and hopefully is replicable by others that want to do the same sort of thing!  I mentioned previously the idea of welding the fram on to the wall of the container, and then cutting out the shutter (now welded to the frame), and doing this on the inside. Today I was fiddling with doing the same thing from the outside, and while I think that would work just fine (and the 1″ or so shutters sticking out aren’t going to make the containers so far out of ISO compliance as to make them un-moveable, at least by land), I think the interior route still is a better solution.  If for no other reason than the baffels created will also provide to properly enclose the closed-cell foam insulation that will be applied after the shutters and interior studs are in place.  The shutter barrier being inside also means that there’s a flat square surface onto which it should be possible to mate the window/door units as well.

I still like the original model of cutting through and then edging the shutters in, which would still provide a flat surface and a baffle for the insulation, but I am not convinced I can work at the tolerances that requires in the field while learning to weld… Oh, and I am taking a class on how to weld in the near future :-D

For those interested, here’s a view of the new baffel shutter (in an exterior location) where you can see the baffels before being fit snug up against the wall.

How about shutters “inside” the building?

My current shutter design requires:

1) Cut out the shutter interior material (~4″ less than the final opening) out of the wall itself

2) Cut out the actual shutter space (this will create a 2″ wide “O” cutout from the wall, with the shutters already removed from the interior)

3) Weld 1″ wide by 2″ deep steel tube around the opening, and the shutter (after cutting the shutter in half and removing another 1″ from the new cut sides of the two shutter sides).  This is trick, and needs to be square

4) Insert the shutters back in the opening (tubing to tubing) and weld on the appropriate hinges.

I still think this will make a very nice shutter, but it is complicated by the fact that the shutters need to be cut out and then trimmed.  Keeping everything square is the big trick in this, and that’s where an alternate idea has presented itself.

We had dinner with friends Chad and Anna (and their charming daughter Nimue) this evening, and as we were discussing this particular component of the container process, Chad suggested just welding the frame to the interior of the container.  I thought this made a lot of sense, in that you can build the frame, add the hinges, make sure nothing binds (perhaps even add some cross bracing), and then weld the shutter frame to the wall.  You can add a baffle of either 1/8″ thick steel plate, or just add an appropriately cut out 1×1.5″ tube steel insert, which will fully connect the frame at the top and bottom of the shutter. If you leave an appropriately sized gap (1/8″ should be adequate) around the shutter frame and its mounting frame, you should be able to:

1) Weld the frame up on a known flat surface and weld on the hinges

2) Check for and remedy any twisted hinges, or areas on the frame that bind (which should be ok with the 1/8″ gap).

3) Weld the frame to the sidewall of the container

4) Drill through the container wall to mark the actual location of the shutter gap (between the wall frame and the shutter frame) on the exterior

5) cut through the exterior, either with a cutting torch, plasma cutter, a cutting wheel on a rotary grinder, or even a reciprocating saw (like a sawzall)

Using 1″ tubing would still take a small amount of the interior space away, but this would potentially be masked by the interior walls anway. The biggest benefit is the ability to attach the shutter to the frame prior to cutting out the shutter, and being able to make sure the frame isn’t binding prior to cutting out the shutter!

Now, with a 3.5″ metal stud set all the way to the “outside” of the corrugations int the side wall, there is stil a 1″ gap between the shutters and the wall edge.  This isn’t enough for the doors I’m looking at (5″ framed width is in the spec sheet), but perhaps I’ll look into some custom doors instead.  They’ll stil be thicker than 1″, but if I can get them down to 3″ rather than five, then they don’t stick so far into the interior as to look odd.

I think this model makes even more sense than the original, even if it means sacrificing an additional interior inch of space on one wall.

Welding with no power?

When building a house on a metal frame, eventually you are going to have to deal with the need to weld something.  No, really.  It’s the most logical solution. And unless you are building your container house out where you have a nice power supply (a 6+KVA generator would help), you’re going to have to figure out how to weld without the unlimited power we city dwellers have come to expect.

MIG welding headCertainly one solution is the generator->standard 220V welding setup.  But there’s the first rub.  You need a sizeable generator to power a welding rig (usually ~5+KW minimum) if for no other reason than to get the 220V plug which most MIG welders need. This might be fine if you already want a large generator as backup for your place, but most people would do fine with a 1-2KW generator, rather than the much more powerful 5KW scale generator. In addition to the size, there’s the fuel consumption. Going from hours per gallon to gallons per hour between the two ends of the spectrum.  There’s also getting the generator in place (again, not an issue if you plan on keeping it in/near the cabin), especially if you decide to rent one, where a good road makes this easy, but if you’re like us, where we don’t have a good path to where the containers will be, it certainly adds to the challenge!

One potential solution, given the fact that we’re looking at solar as a key energy provider for our studio, is to weld with DC.  It turns out that welding systems are DC anyway, but usually there’s a large AC/DC conversion along with start control and other fancy bits within the box that the welding head is attached to.  So why not just run direct DC?  Well, that’s just what’s avaiable, either with built in batteries (something like: or standalone with your own batteries (as in:  But since these systems are fairly straight forward, and if you can get away without the shielding gas supply, you could build your own (as shown here:!

I’m going to look at the build your own route myself, as I already have the equipment for a fairly sizable solar platform, and as long as I can get away with fluxed welding wire, this should work out really well! Interestingly enough, there’s a “solar golf cart welder” instructable as well (  which at least based on the commentary leads me to believe that I’ll have plenty of power for small welding jobs, though not perhaps for the behemoth job of building out the metal shutters. It does make me wonder about solar plus a generator->battery charger setup. As this might be an interesting “hybrid” setup. As the comment went, you might draw 150A for welding, but only for a short time.  And if you can feed in 30-50A (plus whatever the solar provides), it might well be that the batteries act more like a big capacitor rather than managing the longer term power storage that batteries are known for.

Clearly, there’s still a lot to learn about how much actual power is required for welding, and what the best methodology will turn out to be, but we’ll experience many of these options soon enough!

Forums are live!

Hopefully this will simplify the process of learning about containers.  Have a question? Post it. Have an answer? Please respond! Check them out here:

Also, I have a newsletter set up now, so if you want to get an updates via e-mail, sign-up! I am only planning on sending out a newsletter once a month or so, highlighting the progress on the containers.  The easiest way to sign up is either use the widget to the right of this post (on the site), or register an account on the site.

Welcome to the conversation!

Steel Studs rather than Wood?

I’m hopeful that the ground will dry out enough over the next week (given that it looks like we’ll have good weather at least through this coming Sunday) that we can actually move the containers to their final destination.  Even if not, we’ll have them close enough that I hope to be able to drag them the last ~100 yards in the April timeframe when the ground really will start to turn back into the concrete that it resembled last August.

In the interim, I plan to continue to flesh out the interior of the containers so that they can become living spaces, even if that occurs prior to their final location change.  That effort would be a good test of the road-worthiness of these boxes, especially if we have to drag them any appreciable distance.

To fill out the interior, I’m planning on framing out walls ~2″ from the interior of the side wall waffle.  The extra space will be filled with a closed-cell spray foam insulation, and the walls will then be clad either in plywood or standard gypsum.  I actually like the idea of using marine grade plywood, which would make for a truly robust space that could handle any potential interior condensation, but cost may be a limiting factor.  One interesting shift from most housing, which may help manage costs to a certain extent, is that the interior sheeting has even less of a structural component than it does in a stick built house, not that it provided all that much to begin with. By placing studs on 2′ centers, and filling the void with spray foam, it should be quite reasonable to use a thin, 3/8″ plywood, rather than a thicker gypsum board.  I think that a nice varnish or even an oil finish will really provide for an interesting interior.  And if we don’t oil the walls, we have the option of painting as well.

I also just realized (after working on my model for a couple hours this evening), that I forgot to include the windows in the back side of the container.  The “front” wall will remain window free, as that will be one end of the bathroom, but there will be a window on either end of the bathroom, for light, and to add a bit of additional space to what will otherwise be a fairly cramped space.

I also need to add the interior wall, and add the raised bathroom floor.  So far (except for my weird header in this iteration of the model), this looks to be a good weekend project.  I think it’s realistic to think that I can at least get the walls framed in a weekend, and then plan on sprayfoam for the following weekend.

So, the only other point here, is that I think we’re going to go with steel studs rather than wood.  This lends it self to the studs being welded to the sidewalls where appropriate (not all studs are going to line up on the wall waffle, at least based on this model, but I haven’t measured the actual container waffle yet, so we’ll have to see).  Certainly the footer and header can be tacked on, and the cieling joists can also be spot welded into place.  This means that the frame will effectively be an extension to the exterior, even though that will also create a thermal channel from the exterior to the interior.  This may be a bad idea, and I’m certainly open to suggestions/reccomendations here as well.  One thought I had is to use 2.5″ channel, which is avaialble at Home Depot at least, and leave a 1/2″-1″ gap between the framing and the actual container wall, which will then be filled with the expanding foam.  This would provide a solid vapor/thermal barrier, but makes the interior shell free-floating until the foam is in place.  Could be interesting though, and it might be a simple matter of providing a few welded ties between the shell and the framing until some sections of foam are in place, which can then be cut out before the rest is foamed in (or left in place, given that the small pins won’t be much of a thermal conductor as the entire stud would be).

More thoughts, more concepts. I can’t wait to actually get this put into practice!

Welcome Tiny House Blog readers

I just wanted to welcome the folks from the Tiny House Blog, we’re glad to have you stop by, and hope that you find it interesting enough to stick around or at least come back and visit on occasion!

A model for the kitchen?

I was perusing the make blog, and saw this article on a kitchen for one’s bar-b-que adventures:

I like the grey-water capture concept, and the simple water input model.  The embedded burner isn’t a bad touch either.

I beleive we’ll end up witha slightly more “classic” model for the kitchen, with a bathroom and kitchen sink sharing a wall, and a shower as well.  The grey-water capture is something I still need to put together, and even if we do end up with a composting toilet, I’ll still want to have a design for a black water and grey water management system.  The black water would come with us when leaving the system to be dumped along the way home (there are still RV dump stations at some of the rest-stops along the way), while the grey water would be processed in an earth tank located near the grey-water output.

Flatbed delivery for Containers

If you want to know how a container will most likely be delivered unless you rent a crane or get someone to heli-lift your container into place (I’m looking into this BTW).

BTW, this works great, but you really need dry, or at least solid ground to do this on.  We’re renting a forklift this coming weekend, to get these moved closer to their final location, and if we’re lucky (and it dries out enough), we may even try to get them close to their final location (we’ll see….).

The moral of this story… Don’t ever expect things to go exactly as you might have previously planned :-D.

There might be a little problem here – Mud

We’re up at the property, trying to get ready to receive the containers (they’re on their way, delivery expected bright and early Monday morning), and we may have run into a bit of a snag. While I knew the neighbor had an issue with the dirt track that we are both using as a driveway extension from the easement (and very well maintained) driveway into the back area of the property, with 4 stuck cars and mud-ditches 3′ deep, I had been driving on the very area we expected to set the containers initially, and hadn’t noticed any potential issues. Seriously, I thought it was because of the heavy use of his property (he lives here full-time) that he had this particular problem.

Well, we learned differently today. I knew about it a little bit yesterday, but couldn’t get myself to believe it.  Sure enough, we had nice deep ruts on our property now as well, and right where our future driveway and container dumping grounds were supposed to be! I’ve fixed them somewhat for now, and as the ground dries out in the May/June time frame, we’ll finish the container moving process. In the interim, we’ve got another area picked out, that we hope the delivery guy can dump the containers on for the near term, and then we’ll get a large forklift to move them to their future home.  I think we can get a lot of the retrofitting done in the newly selected location as well, so this shouldn’t be a complete progress halting setback!