Log to Lumber to Finished Project

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray

An A-Frame house provides very little room for closet space with the slanted roof. The 45 degree angle where the floor meets the roof has been modified and used for clothes storage by building benches with a hinged top in that difficult to reach and otherwise unusable area. That required getting down on my aging knees each time I needed a clean pair of socks, T-shirt etc. In a prior blog I reported on using our dead standing trees to mill out lumber for several proposed projects. In our semi arid area I had waited a sufficient period of time for the lumber to air dry. When it was workable lumber and reached equilibrium moisture content with its surroundings I made a stand up closet to alleviate that getting up and down each day. Now I have all my clothes in one specific area and can reach them by just opening a door.

Preparing Rough Lumber

To make finish grade lumber I first ran the boards through my planer to get all pieces of lumber a uniform thickness and then edge jointed each piece to have straight boards that I could glue together without gaps in the woodworking joints. The top half of the closet is where I keep hanging clothes and the bottom half consists of two shelves that have a lower door that opens on the opposing side of the closet. Having access from two sides makes greater use of space and makes it easier to access stored clothes.

Prior to building the closet I had to level and cement 1/4-inch plywood to the existing concrete floor to insure a level and uniform floor. I then attached the back of the closet to the wall for stability. Doing one section at a time I constructed the remaining walls of the closet and anchored them together with a brad nail gun along and my pancake air compressor. For an exterior finish I used a high grade oil and wax finish rubbed in that gives the unit a semi gloss seal on the exterior. I previously made a trip to the hardware store where I bought a bottle of Gorilla glue, two sets of hinges, two door pulls and two magnetic door closers. Total cost for the closet was $22 in materials, not including the exterior finish which I had on hand from an earlier project. The lumber all came from the standing dead trees on our property.

While I would like to share my plans for the closet I am unable to do so because I don’t have any plans. I sketch out the design I want to achieve and determine with a tape measure what dimensions I can work within and I start building. I have been utilizing this technique for so long that I rarely encounter a problem during construction. It also gives me the creative freedom to make changes as I progress on the project without rigorously following a specific set of plans.

Sense of Satisfaction

The beauty and uniqueness of this project is the minimal cost to build it and knowing which specific tree the project came from and having had the satisfaction of milling the lumber ourselves. Cutting the dead tree down, trimming the limbs, cutting the remaining log to the length needed for the closet and then dragging the log to the mill site and reducing it to lumber sounds like a lot of work but it is all very rewarding. Waiting a suitable time period for the lumber to air dry and then putting that lumber to use in a project like the one in the photo generates a satisfaction that is hard to beat. From log to finished project generates a level of satisfaction which is rarely experienced and goes to demonstrate that not all lumber has to come from a lumber yard.

This closet provides sufficient space to handle all my shirts and winter coats with room to expand if necessary. The shelves are sufficiently deep enough to hold all my socks and underwear which I keep in plastic containers which we already had on hand. By using plastic containers I can keep my underwear organized so I no longer have to sort through stacks of clothes to find what I am looking for. This will be a functional addition for our home and it also is an attractive piece as well.

Time and Cost

My rough estimate of time to mill the logs into lumber is approximately four hours. Time from start of the closet until completion was 11 days working on the various aspects approximately two hours (plus or minus) per day or about 22 total hours. Therefore the total time expended on the project was roughly 26 total hours. The final project cost is $22.00 for hardware and wood glue. This project demonstrates the advantage of being able to mill out your own lumber and the considerable savings realized by producing your own lumber from dead standing trees.

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their projects at their mountain homestead go

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