Shelter Masthead

Home Work:
Handbuilt Shelter


Table of Contents

About the Author



Sample Chapters:
Look Inside Our Book

Louie Frazier
The Inspiration for Home Work

The Yurts of Bill Coperthwaite

Natural Buildings
Photography by
Catherine Wanek

Bill & Athena Steen
Cob Houses of Mud & Straw

Michael Kahn
Sculptural Village in the Arizona Desert

Mongolian Cloud Houses
How to make a Yurt & Live Comfortably

About the Author

What Led to Doing This Book

1947 12 years old, helped Dad build concrete block house in Sacramento Valley, Calif. My job: shoveling sand, gravel, cement into concrete mixer. One morning, got to nail down roof decking. This I liked!

1952–1954 Teen years, worked summers as carpenter, San Francisco docks; rough carpentry shoring cargo on outgoing ships. Learned what I could from other carpenters.



1960 After two years running USAF newspaper in Germany, returned to Mill Valley, California, went to work as insurance broker in San Francisco. In spare time converted old carport into a post/beam sod-roof studio. Did all cutting with hand saw. Shallow-rooted succulents planted on roof, white blossoms in spring. Liked building process, smell of wood, creating with own hands.

1963 Next project more ambitious. Used-wood, timber-frame house designed by architect friend — Japanese/Bernard Maybeck influenced. Post/beam frame, some 10'-high poured concrete walls. In over head, but got started and learned on job. Owner/builder perspective in learning to build. Have tried to maintain this outlook in reporting.

1965 Hitchhiked across country, learned I had more in common with younger generation than my own, came back and quit insurance business, went to work as carpenter.

1966 Moved to Big Sur to work on job building large post/beam house (30' long, 8’ x 22" used-redwood beams) on 400-acre ranch. Lived in chicken coop on ranch.


 The ’60s Magical cultural revolution that changed world going on. Mostly misunderstood these days. Artistic underground in San Francisco, early ’60s. Beats fading artists of old world/hippies joyous, open, sharing/entirely different mindset. Wonderful few years (before “summer of love”). Non-conformity, dropping out, experimenting, searching, expanding awareness, looking for better ways to do things. Loving, exciting community on Haight Street, San Francisco, world headquarters for a few years.

All these things not so much new as being discovered for first time by millions of young Americans:

astronomy • astrology • meditation • Gurdjieff • Ouspensky • Zen Buddhism • Tarot • Kabbala • I Ching • dolphin consciousness • Dune & Strangers in a Strange Land • building your own house • organic gardening • ecological awareness • political activism • self-sufficiency • poetry • rock and roll • the blues • Native American culture • Ali Akbar Khan • Beatles/Stones • Dylan • domes • LSD, marijuana, mescaline • Monterey Pop Festival • Rolling Stone • Whole Earth Catalog • The Owner-Built Home • The Tassajara Bread Book • viewing earth from space • Edmund Scientific catalog • L. L. Bean catalog • chickens by mail from Murray/McMurray and on and on . . .


1967 Built post/beam homestead Big Sur. Developed water system 600' from uphill spring, built house of recycled 2" x 14" DF beams, 8" x 12" railroad ties for posts, shakes split from deadfall redwoods, terraced one-acre hillside, grew fruit/vegetables.

1968 Buckminster Fuller influence, started building geodesic domes in Big Sur.


 part 2