We need an outdoor kitchen and this is the place.  I’m tired of the barbecue blowing off the porch and the bears slapping it around. Besides, fish cooked in a one room log cabin leaves a lot to be desired..  I stake out the four corners and get to work digging the foundation.

Digging foundation

My cup of tea–hard work.  We have to chainsaw our way through roots–went through a lot of chains here.  This is the same saw I built my Jackson Hole log cabin 40 years ago.  It sat in my sunken tugboat for a week in the Fraser River estuary and still starts on the second pull–it’s a Stihl and I now own three.


Here the forms are assembled using everything from old plywood to broken pool-cues.  Everything is ‘available materials’ here on Kupreanof Island.  The art of recycling is honed to perfection.

Lituya Offload

But before we can pour cement, we have to haul it.  A 60# bag of pre-mix concrete in Seattle is $2.87.  By the time it’s offloaded here it’s over $15.00 and it still weighs 60#.  We used 280 bags (some were 80#) which weighed about 18,000 lbs.  And all moved by hand. Here the Lituya unloads 8 pallets; split to accommodate the crane and our dock.


All our neighbors show up and we hauled it all up to the building site before the Lituya left the beach.  Now, I say ‘we,’ but in truth, I can’t haul with my bad back and broken leg–now 6 months healed.  Now these are good friends!


The last load!

Foundation Pour

Now the big pour–three pallets go into this hole in the ground.

The gang

Thanks guys!  Leland, Tim, your’s truly and Tibo

Foundation poured

Voila!  A renaissance of rebar!  The triangled corner is for a fireplace. I added rim-joists which I embedded into the concrete to carry the floor.  This isn’t going to budge a bit.


The boardwalk now extends to the floor and granite corner boulders are added for the log corner posts.  And meanwhile, we begin hauling native rock off the beach–21 boatloads full. I help out with this part and nearly do in the other knee.

Getting to work

The first corner post is in….

First wall

…..and now the first wall….  I tie in the logs with large spikes–lots of them.  The integrity of the finished building will stabilize everything–keep scrolling…..

More rockwork

…..then the perimeter in stone.  Note my rubberized knit gloves.  Don’t use these as the lye gets inside and burns fingers….

Cement burns

Use kitchen rubber gloves or an industrial version that don’t leak.  I need to take a week off now….and can’t even pick my nose.

log yard

So it’s peeling logs.  I reluctantly cut spruce off our property.  I don’t like to fell trees; it’s dangerous and a lot of work.  These were about 27 years old and some were nearly 100′ tall–amazing what a rainforest can produce.  Spruce is one of our best woods–very straight and very strong.  We’ve clear-cut most of the Pacific coast and sold this valuable wood to Japan.  Read this very interesting article about Sitka Spruce here.

Stone perimeter

OK–back to construction.  I’ve got up all the corner posts up and secured.  We’ll continue to add spikes up each side to tie into the rock & mortar.


Now the fireplace.  I build a form out of an old formica countertop, flex it 180 degrees and build the rock face with a nice keystone in the center.  Firebrick lined with a dry layer added later.  Got to have a fire when you cook.

sink floor

Then the concrete sink bottom is formed up.  Got to have a sink too.

sink 2

This plastic tub will be the sink–I simply pour 2 1/2″ of concrete in the box form below it and lay this on top, add a couple large rocks to keep it from floating up and fill in the sides–works perfectly.  A flexible pipe is connected to the outside back wall so water doesn’t drain on the floorboards.  Slick!

building firebox

Up we go!  This is a workout–I lose 15 pounds along the way and can now wear my 34″ pants again!  And I eat 3 big meals a day and sleep 9 hours every night.  This is what America needs.  John stands behind me–he’s the guy who does the heavy hauling.  When I was his age, I built a log home with a chainsaw and a horse.  That’s John’s dream also.

Rooftop John

Here, Rooftop John drives  7″ spikes through the rafters into the purlins.


I’m attaching the barbecue–got to have a barbecue in an outdoor kitchen.  The concrete counter came out great!   Good work,  John!


Here’s the final product–we have a fire on opening night–exactly 25 days later.

Devils Thumb Analog

I’ve kept the rock walls at half height to let in light and heat and our marvelous views.  This rock I found is a granitic contact with the local shale–in a perfect metaphor of Devil’s Thumb.


My plan was loosely copied from a book of all the NPS’s CCC plans: Albert H. Good’s Patterns from the Golden Age of Rustic Design (originally titled Park & Recreation Structures from the 1930s).  This book is available online here.


The shakes arrive next spring.   Stay tuned!

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