Tynan and William
Our buddy Tynan owns an island off the coast of Nova Scotia. Our other buddy, William, is a cabin-building machine. It just seemed right to introduce the two and take a week off to help build an epic cabin.
Photography by Mac Bishop @macthenife and Elliot King
First before we get into the cabin build, can you give us a quick intro, Tynan?
I write a blog and books, run a cruise agency called CruiseSheet.com, and coach people on things like habits and social skills.
You’ve been known to do some pretty wild things. How’d you get the idea to buy an island off the cost of Nova Scotia?
I’ve always wanted to buy an island, but always thought that they were way too expensive. But then a friend figured out that islands in Canada can be very inexpensive, so we decided to do it immediately.
So how did the purchase actually come together? (Lots of us have wild ideas like this, but don’t actually act on them!)
As soon as we found out that these islands were inexpensive, I sent an email out to 20 or so friends who I thought might be interested. Within an hour or so four or five were in, so I knew that it would happen. I put in an offer the next day and it was accepted. By that time we had a group of ten people, which was our final group.
Okay, so you have an island. Now what? What were the first few years like?
The first few years were sort of a comedy of errors along with some reasonable progress. We built a 900 square foot yurt, a dock, an outhouse, and a shower. But we also sunk our boat, got lost at sea with a dead motor, and endured many hurricanes.
Let’s talk about the cabin now. You were connected to William, the builder, via Mac at Wool&Prince. You worked with your sister on the design. You had a local material guy. What else went into the planning?
There really wasn’t much else that went into it. I knew what I wanted it to be like, my sister added her own input and drew up plans, and then William basically decided how to build it as we went along.
You make it sound so simple. The pictures from the build look great. Those obviously don’t tell the full story though. Any advice for the aspiring off-the-grid cabin builders out there?
Honestly — get someone to help you who knows what they’re doing. I initially thought that I was going to build this thing myself, which now seems hilarious. I would have built it way worse and wouldn’t have known what I was doing wrong.
Most memorable wins or losses from the build?
The best part for me was standing on the top floor for the first time. The view from the island is always pretty great, but I’d never seen it from so high up. Also, when the windows went in, it suddenly felt like a little house rather than a big viewing platform. We didn’t hit too many major hitches, but carrying the gravel and concrete the first day was exhausting.
How do you plan on using the cabin? Big projects remaining?
My main motivation for building it was to have a good workspace on the island.Before building the cabin I didn’t come here that often, because my productivity would suffer. Now I’m about one desk, chair, and power source away from being able to work like normal.The bottom floor is going to have a 9’x12’ tea room with traditional Japanese tatami mats. I have a 6’x7’ tea room in my home in Vegas, so I’m looking forward to having an even better one here with a much better view. I drink tea every day and like the idea of being able to make tea for all of my other friends who also own the island.But before I can get to fun stuff like that, I still have to finish the interior. I just bug-proofed the rafters today, and tomorrow I’m going to build up the raised portion of the floor on the first floor.
Last question for Tynan. What’s next? Another island? A sea plane? An eBook on tea?
No more islands! I love this one, but I can’t imagine doing all of the work all over again. I have a really great book about being a modern nomad coming out before the end of the year, and I’m probably going to do a group buy on a Tokyo place in 2018. And, of course, a million little projects on the island...
Okay, let’s shift over to William. Tell us about yourself.
I am a carpenter and contractor from southwestern Virginia. I currently live with my wife and our two dogs in Raleigh, North Carolina. I have been in carpentry for 12+ years. When I’m not working I’m hiking, kayaking, and fishing.
How did you get started in construction?
Pretty early on I knew that college wasn’t going to be the right path for me. I wanted to pursue a trade, one that allowed me to be creative and active throughout the day. Woodworking was a natural fit as my grandfather and uncle were both in the craft. I was pretty lucky to learn from them.
Any advice for aspiring cabin builders?
Get out and do it. Nothing like learning while doing.
Okay, so you’ve built an off-the-grid cabin in Oregon and now you’ve got an island cabin on your resume. Do I sense a cabin building niche for your carpentry/construction business?
I’d be pretty happy if Dickerson Carpentry takes that direction. Working off-the-grid can pose unique challenges (like transporting lumber to an island with a 16 foot boat), but you can’t beat working in a beautiful place surrounded by nature, as we were with both cabin projects. The greater idea of helping others gain access to the outdoors is pretty appealing as well.
What are some of the things you enjoy about building cabins vs. your traditional homebuilding work?
My cabin builds have taken me to great locations. You can’t really compare them to typical residential locations. Also, the build is usually smaller with cabins and progress is visible at the end of each day.
Do you have any other creative projects in the works?
I have another cabin-build set up for 2018 in the Shenandoah Valley. And I’m trying to expand my skills on a lathe.
What’d you think of your Wool&Prince shirts?
I’m hard on my tools and I’m hard on my clothes. Thankfully, Wool&Prince can keep up with lifestyle. My first W&P tee is still wearable, something I can’t say about any of my other tees from three years ago. I appreciate the breathability and odor resistance throughout the summer here in Raleigh. I’m the best smelling guy on the worksite.
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Tyler is an American guitar maker, building one-of-a-kind guitars out of his shop located in the heart of the Ozark’s. His passion for woodworking began 15 years ago when he started making furniture.#029