Saturday, December 28, 2013

End table Christmas project

This is a last minute project for a Christmas present for my wife.

It started with a "stepping stone" project that my daughter did in 7th or 8th grade art class, about eight or nine years ago. It was a concrete disk with glass chips imbedded in a design she came up with of a flower and a butterfly.

It sat on the floor in my office for many years and I always thought it would somehow become a part of a project like this. It occurred to me that now might be a good time. Being sort of last minute, the design had to be simple and I think that worked out well for it. Simple is usually the best anyway, so I went with it.

I hadn't realized that the pile of Walnut I had was so clear. I wanted the most "figured" wood I could find so I was actually going through my pile looking for the gnarliest pieces I could come up with.

Here are a couple pictures that my daughter took when she was home for Christmas. I had a couple pictures too, but not as nice as these. She did a good job of catching the sunlight playing on the wood.

Custom table, built by John Huisman, walnut, knotty

Custom built walnut table, end table, John Huisman, Ely, Minnesota


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The tree...

I guess we are not one of those homes where you see the tree up right after Thanksgiving. We don't have a set time for getting the tree and putting it up... it just sort of happens somewhere along the way. ...but it always does happen.

So, this past weekend we put up a tree...

If my count is right, I believe this is the 27th Christmas tree we have cut off our land here.

We have never had to walk too far to find one. Some years were better than others. Some years trudging through knee deep snow, some years snow was not an issue. Some years the two of us with with four small children looking for just the right one, some years the two of us just going out and picking one quickly.

Many times we have ended up with what we call a "Charlie Brown" tree... something slightly less full or properly proportioned than we might like but always in the end, once the lights and decorations are on, they always look just fine.

This one was actually quite full and balanced and, despite a rather dramatic kink in the trunk, came out looking pretty straight. A little short and wide, but not bad.

We spent some time looking at artificial trees in the store this year... I think we do that every year, but this year we did it a little more... but it seems like part of the "fun" is bringing it in and setting it up and just seeing what we end up with. That's the theory anyway.

Usually my part is done after it has been cut and dragged in and set up. My wife takes it from there and I have to confess, on this particular Saturday afternoon, I was taking a nap while she did her thing...

We have a good amount of snow for a wintery Christmas this year. Feels like more of a "normal" Christmas, as far as weather goes, than it has in a few years. It came hard and was quite a shock initially, but now it is just here. The shortest day is already behind us and spring should be just around the corner... right after January, February and March... and maybe April.. and possibly a little of May.

But right now it is winter. And Christmas.

pen & ink drawing, John Huisman, Ely Minnesota, winter, snow, trees

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Grandpa's Saw...

When I started building things 28 years ago or so, I had very little in the way of tools, or money to buy them. I remember when taking a hundred dollars and buying a tool required a long discussion between my wife and I.  The first raised panel cabinet doors I ever made where on a cheap $100.00 table saw I got from sears. It's really amazing what you can do with very little, especially when you have more time than money. But that is probably the topic for another day...

One of the tools I had in those early days was a Craftsman circular saw that my wife's Grandpa gave me. He was still water skiing at 80 years old but I think he felt I might make better use of this tool than he would at this point in our lives. I think he thought I was a decent enough kid to be marrying his granddaughter... I regularly attended a Catholic church and I built stuff... that's probably about as good as he could have hoped for... Except for maybe a guy who could afford to buy his own tools...

I used this for many years. It was a simple saw, a wing nut for the depth adjustment and another knob for the angle adjustment... Very little plastic. It was heavy, to be sure, but solid and, except for the repair of a severed electrical cord occasionally and a new blade, it was as dependable a tool as a guy could ever need.

Eventually it got dropped a few too many times and the base was no longer flat and square with the blade. I replaced it with a Porter Cable but I know if I needed this saw, I could dig it out of the shed and it would still run strong as the day it was built.

...Stuff that works...

It seems odd drawing machinery, but often the light and shadows make for an interesting story.

John Huisman, pencil drawing
I say "circular saw" but we all know them as "Skillsaws". "Skill" being another
brand of saw, I thought it might be inappropriate to say "Craftsman Skillsaw".

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Blue sky and cold...

Someone was telling me the other day that I need to post some shots of these projects from the lake side rather than the driveway side. Once I got over the shock of realizing that there is actually someone who might occasionally read my blog or parts of it, I realized that that is true. I generally think about taking photos as I am getting in my truck to leave and so they become more of an afterthought. But, like I say, I never thought it really mattered, I am just trying to fill some space in a weekly blog and talking about the weather gets old...

So, yesterday I realized another reason I don't take many pictures from the "front" or lakeside, (there is often confusion about what the "front" of a lake cabin is. On most homes the entry side is the front, but, to me, the lakeside of a lakehome is the "front" and the entry side is usually the back).

...anyway, here are a couple shots, the best I could get from the front. It is a walkout basement and starts sloping to the lake from there. If you try to get far enough to get a decent look at the place, there are too many trees to even see it, but at this distance, the upward angle makes it hard to see the cabin very well at all. In this case I was trudging through the 14" of new snow, stumbling and slipping around...
timber, frame, lake, house, ely mn, huismanconcepts
Once again, the incredible blue sky that typifies so many of the pictures I take around Ely, (possibly because I don't venture out much in the inclement weather).

Minnesota, blue sky, huisman, custom home.

Steffes boiler, ely mn, custom home by John  Huisman
For the more technical minded, here is the core of the heating system, a Steffes "off-peak" electric boiler in the basement. It is piped now to the hydronic tubing in the basement floor slab and will later be piped to the tubing that will be laid in the main floor for in-floor heating throughout.

As I was implied earlier, over the course of this past week winter came hard and fast. I don't know what the official total was in snow accumulation but I would think 14-16"... not as much as Duluth or the North Shore, but still... and it wasn't a big dump, it just persisted for about three days steady. Just snow and gray windy days. I took the snow-blower out every day for three days just to try to keep the road coming up our hill passable but after you put the blower away and turn around there was already 2 more inches...
snowfall, december 2013, Ely area, Minnesota, huisman
As always, after a snowfall like that, the sky clears and the temps plummet.  We had a low this morning of -18 degrees and a high today, (12/7), of about 6 below zero. But at least that constant accumulation of sugary powder has stopped for the time being. Everything now is hard and crunchy.

Burntside lake froze over on Thanksgiving night. I was out near the lake on Friday late afternoon as the sun was setting and took these pictures. It was about 6 below and dropping at that time.
Burntside lake, december 2103, Ely, Minnesota

Burntside lake, december 2103, Ely, Minnesota, winter,


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Some snow... and...

Just some pictures of the progress on the recent project.
We have most of the windows in and the house wrap on.
timber frame, SIP walls, tyvek, Ely mn,

Ely Minnesota, integrity window, log beam, timberframe

Ely Minnesota, integrity windows, SIP walls

SIP wall, timber frame, Ely Minnesota, Huisman
 Here we have the screen porch roof built:
Screen porch, tyvek, timber frame, ely mn huisman

These pictures were taken over a week ago.
This week was a bit slow with the holiday and all.
As of right now, we have a few inches of snow that appears to be staying. We have had a couple slightly below zero mornings and the ground is pretty well frozen at the surface.

The larger parts of Burntside lake froze over on Thanksgiving night.
That is usually a significant event. Winter is here.


I've heard something about a lot of shopping going on today and yesterday and some parades. I don't know what that is all about. It seems like just another winter coming in Ely, albeit just a tad early.

There are, of course, lots of places to shop and hang out in Ely, but one place that intrigues me greatly is a new store on Central called Legacy Toys. I have been driving by every day watching it go together and there is some part of me from way way back that makes me want to stop and take a look.
 Here is their facebook page.
I like to see good folks starting new business here in Ely, (and there are lots of them). That one looks fun. I hope they do well.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

A completed project, pencil rendering, "The Catcher"...

Some projects are like a good book... you can't wait to get it done bit it leaves you not knowing where to turn next...
This is a snapshot in time from the 2013 Ely Minnesota VFW baseball season. A classic pause between batters, a warm sunny summer day, an adjustment of the face-mask and helmet, wipe a little sweat from the brow... Next batter...
pencil drawings, renderings, John Huisman, baseball, Ely MN
"The Catcher", a moment in time from the Ely VFW 2013 season. 16"x20" pencil on paper.
Stories in renderings by John Huisman

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Shots from the past, Ely bandshell construction in Whiteside park, Ely MN

I was going though some old pictures the other day and came across these. They are some shots someone took of the Ely Bandshell in Whiteside Park as we were putting it together.

The timeliness of coming across these pictures now is interesting... Over this winter or in the spring we will be doing some needed repair work on this building as well as the other two log buildings in the park so the bandshell had been on my mind a bit lately.

I don't know the exact year, must be mid to late 1990s... All I know is that is a much younger me in those pictures...

Bandshell, whiteside park, ely minnesota, huisman concepts,
That is Richard Howe on the loader. He was one of the few guys with a loader truck that was crazy enough to do some of the things we asked of him. This project was fairly simple though, middle of town, flat ground all around the building and no snow. All of these things are rare for so many of the projects I have worked on over the years.
Whiteside park, log bandshell, ely MN huisman
Mike in the foreground, me on the far end, setting the log in place and getting it seated properly.

Log homes, logs, ely, mn, whiteside park. Huisman
The top logs with the beam going across. I'm sure we were pausing to discuss something important here.

John Huisman, loader, logs ely mn whiteside park, bandshell
Richard was a great loader operator, but I'm not so sure I would be getting that close if this were happening today.

Whiteside park, bandshell summer 2013, ely mn , Huis
The building as it stands today. Needs a new roof and re-staining. There are some logs that have begun to rot because of the lack of protection from the weather. I don't know anything of the design process on this building, I think I was actually subcontracting the construction from Bissonnett Log Construction who had the main contract with the city... I can't really remember. There has been some controversy I have heard about the positioning of it looking in to the sun in the evening, (that is the reason for the tarp hanging in front), and getting the brunt of the weather blowing in from the south west, but at that time I was not involved in any political stuff in Ely so I really don't know... Looking back from where I sit now... well, let's just say I'm not surprised things didn't happen quite the way they should have. It is the nature of humans to form councils and committees and boards that seem to have no real purpose other than to insure that things don't go quite the way they should... But enough of that. The bandshell has been heavily used over the years. I have sat in the grass on many occasion listening to music there on beautiful summer days that can only happen in Ely... Whiteside park continues to be a beautiful place in the middle of town.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

...the SIP panel installation...

Here are some pictures of the structural  insulated panels, (SIPS), going on to the timber frame:

Timber frame, Ely MN, john huisman
They are not extremely heavy but most of them are a bit much for three guys to handle efficiently... a crane makes the process much easier.

Structural insulated panel, SIP, cranes installation, Huisman
The wall panels are all in place here

Huisman, custom home construction, Ely, MN, minnesota,
Swinging the roof panels over with the crane...

Crane installing SIPs on a timber frame home near ely mn, huisman
...and setting them in place...

John Huisman, pictures, timber frame home, Ely MN
The panels are all in place here, ready for sub-fascia and roofing...
Feels like winter is setting in now with the change in the clocks... darkness starts setting in about 4:30... Today was another exceptionally nice day, high in the mid 40s, but we all know what is coming...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Timber frame progress...

Slow progress on the Timber frame project... the structural insulated panels, (SIPs), have finally arrived. They took a lot longer to get than I had anticipated.
A SIP is basically an inside and an outside layer of OSB, (oriented strand board), with foam insulation sandwiched between. They are commonly used, as in this case, as a "skin" on the outside of a timber frame home.

First we have put on the tongue and groove pine paneling for the ceiling over the timber rafters.
In this case the walls will be drywall, so we will do that later from the inside, (drywall is a little less tolerant of the weather), but with the wood paneling we decided that doing it from the outside before the SIPs go on would be easier and quicker.

Huismanconcepts, timber, frame, ceiling paneling
Timber frame with the ceiling paneling in place ready for SIP installation.

john Huisman, pine ceiling paneling, tomber frame
Pine 1x6 tongue and groove paneling over the timber rafters to make what will be the ceiling of the cabin.

Unloading SIPs in Ely,
Here we are unloading the SIPs. There is no way we could get the full sized semi truck and trailer to the job-site, so we had to unload them in town. The great guys at Voyageur Lumber helped us out... We unloaded them from the big truck with the forklift and put them on the smaller Voyageur Lumber trucks and they brought them to the job-site on the smaller trucks... about 5 trips I think....  I took this picture with my phone as I was standing on top of the load waiting for Mike to come back with the forklift. The load was packed on the truck in a way that maximized the load capacity but made the unloading a little frustrating...they needed to be unloaded one piece at a time. We just slid them each on to the forks... a somewhat tedious process that took half the day.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

a bridge...

We had a slight dusting of snow this morning on the decks and roofs and cars.
A hint of what is to come weather we need it or not.
It turned out to be a very nice day, high about 40 degrees and enough sun to be pleasant.

This is a little bridge over a small creek on a driveway leading to a home we recently built.
The timbers have started to deteriorate and crumble.
The deterioration  just started at one end, but they were all feeling a bit "soft".
They were Aspen boards, 2.5" thick, probably about 15 years old.
It was time to address this issue before winter...

Here are a couple "before" pictures:

I was able to find some treated pine timbers 3" thick and 12" wide, 12' long... So we re-did the decking on the bridge. Here are some "after" pictures on a beautiful Autumn day in October:


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Ely island cabin progress

The little island cabin is progressing nicely. The windows have been installed and the house wrap put up. It is ready for roofing and siding. The deck is framed and ready for the cedar decking to be installed.

lake cabin, blue sky, ely minnesota

island cabin near Ely Minnesota, huisman

ely minnesota, huisman woodworking, blue sky, ely construction, custom homes, island lake cabin


Anyone who has lived in Ely for any length of time realizes very quickly that most of the meaningful things that happen in this town are accomplished by the many groups of dedicated volunteers. One of the most amazing facilities is the Veterans Memorial Baseball field, where countless High School, American Legion, VFW and Vermilion College games and tournaments are played. I have visited may baseball fields across the state and I think it's a pretty safe bet that we would ran among the best.
A huge effort is underway to make sure that it stays that way. The article in last weeks Ely Echo talks about the renovations underway. Ely Ball park

Saturday, September 28, 2013

the simple island cabin

a couple weeks after the footings were ready, the walls and subfloor have been framed up and sheeted...
We have been having some beautiful September weather:
Framed up island cabin, ely mn,

ely minnesota clear ble sky
Here is the architects rendering of the cabin... it should look something like this when it's done:
ely minnesota, lake cabin, huismanconcepts, john huisman

Saturday, September 21, 2013


One that's been hanging on the wall for a few years...

"Grouse"... 4"x9" pen & ink on paper.
Pen & ink drawing of grouse by John Huisman, Ely Minnesota

Monday, September 16, 2013

back to the island project

Back to the small cabin project on the Island, footing piers are in at the building site:

Footing for lakeshore cabin, Ely,

Now floor framing can begin and then walls...


This is a great editorial in the Ely Timberjay this past week:
 I don't always agree with Marshal, but is this case he says it all perfectly. It sums itself up nicely with the last paragraph:

 "If folks in Ely are itching for a fight, copper-nickel mining can undoubtedly provide the ammunition. But if they’re looking for actual ideas to create jobs for residents living here today, there’s some real work to be done. Mining may eventually become a reality in the future, but it certainly isn’t the answer to what ails Ely in the present. And fighting about it won’t change that. It only diverts our energies from the real work that needs doing". 
-Ely Timberjay editorial Sept 13th, 2013

Saturday, September 7, 2013

An interesting timber frame project

The project we started a few weeks ago has progressed a bit.
This is an interesting project, a little different than a lot of projects in that the homeowner has had an active role in a big part of the project, the timber framing.
Last summer they took a class at the Northhouse Folk School in Grand Marais and, with a bunch of their friends, cut and shaped all the pieces for a timber frame home for their lake lot near Ely. The instructor overseeing the project at the School is Peter Henrikson. once we had the foundation in and the subfloor built, the homeowners, once again with some dedicated friends and under the supervision of Peter, came and assembled the frame on the site.

Here are some pictures:

ely timber frame, minnesota, john Huisman, timer frame lake home

timber frame lake home john huisman

ely mnnesota timber frame

timber frame, ely minnesota,


We filled the hummingbird feeder last weekend for, what appears to be the last time this year. We had a few of them come around early in the week, but I think they are all gone now. One of the early signs that summer is coming to an end...