Tag Archives: building

Tour De (HFH) ReStore

In congruence with my idea about using as many re-used, recycled, and repurposed materials as possible in The COMET before purchasing newly manufactured eco-products, I have decided to visit every Habitat For Humanity ReStore (PLUS the magnificent EcoBuilding Bargains store) in Massachusetts in search of materials. I’m calling it the Tour de ReStore and it began today! I went to the HFH ReStore in West Roxbury. Though I didn’t find anything I could use in the COMET, it was still a fun trip. I’ll have to post some pictures of the turqoise linoleum tiles and cork flooring I found at the other ReStores recently.

Of course I don’t have to explain how much I adore the ReStore and what it stands for. I think I mention it often enough! On my Tour de ReStore adventure I’ll be specifically looking for things like countertops, wood material to build a kitchen/dinette table out of, and other surfaces. Of course, I always find something I didn’t even know I needed, like textured glass in the exact size of the broken window in the COMET! You just never know.

Tomorrow I’m going to try to go to another ReStore that’s pretty close by, just to see what they’ve got. I’m also open to using weird materials from their free pile or other unusual things and modifying them into what I need. I’m always wondering, how can I make that door into a countertop? How can I use that window in the bumper greenhouse/garden?

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Guest Post: Celina Dill Pickle, 16 year-old Tiny House builder, talks about keeping your eyes open and finding what you need

Today is our first guest post here at The COMET Camper blog, and I am really excited about introducing Celina Dill to you all. I mentioned her and her blog in an earlier post here, and we immediately started talking about guest posts and sharing ideas. She’s got an incredible eye for finding amazing second-hand building materials and interiors. Her frugality and style is impeccable! Also, Celina is 16 years old, and left traditional schooling to start building her own tiny house, something I strongly endorse and think is downright awesome.

So here it is, our first guest post. Thanks Celina for sharing!

Eyes Wide Open

by Celina Dill

Who am I?  “South Whidbey teen builds tiny transportable house” This just appeared in our local paper – check it out – http://www.southwhidbeyrecord.com/news/139133434.html

In our culture everyone seems to want the newest shiniest things. This attitude tends to create a lot of waste, because every time a new product comes out on the market the older one’s worth decreases. The trick is using this fact to your advantage. For example – If you use your computer to check email and listen to music, you don’t need the newest mac book air, with the speediest operating system. I am writing this on my trusty five year old mac book that I got off of craigslist for under $400. I do high level photoshop and image editing, and it does everything I need and more.The question to ask is what do you need (but never forget the wants). Then keep your eyes open wide. Question. Look at things for their possibilities. It is amazing what a coat of paint and a little effort can do!

My dad is working in a friend’s barn refurbishing/customizing a 1956 Airfloat trailer (EveryoneCanDance.com) but that is another story. One day we pull up to work on the trailer and saw a pile of large Douglas Fir logs. We questioned the owner, who said they were going to be fire wood. After talking to a few knowledgeable people in the wood world, I worked out a trade to get four of the logs. With the help of a good friend, they along with another log given to me by a student of ours (we teach dance – EveryoneCanDance.com) are now milled up in to beautiful flooring, siding and trim. My cost $0. Yes it took a lot of work, but what I got out of it is much more.

When you are searching for something specific, it is rare to find it at a low price. Unless you are willing to live with a few dents or scratches. I had been scouring craigslist for the perfect sink for months, when I found it. A beautiful 30′ cast iron enameled farmhouse sink, plus it happened to be just down the road. The only reason they were selling this sink is because they were getting a bigger one, plus it had a few little scratches. So $175 for a $1000 sink is ok with me!

Or how about my new Kohler Memoirs toilet? My dad and I were in Restore is Seattle just looking around when I spotted it. The beautiful lines of this decorative toilet, caught my eye and the price tag said $45. I couldn’t believe it, it looked perfect – so we went inside and asked. The catch? The toilet bowl is 3/4 of an inch tilted sideways. It was a manufacturing defect. But I figure my house will be a little off skew, so it will fit right in.

I found my Carrara marble counter top for $100 in a wooden crate behind a granite and marble place in the industrial area of Seattle. The key word is found. I was out there looking and asking and digging and measuring.

Another good strategy is to find people who collect things. Because at some point they will likely get rid of some of it. I got over half the wood for the studs of my house from a guy who had had it for 20 years. It was time for it to go, so I stepped in and did him a favor.

I can go on and on about what I have acquired for cheap, and thats because my eyes are open. I am constantly questioning, asking and searching. If you are doing something unique and interesting, people want to be a part of it and are willing to pitch in. But first and foremost effort is required.

Keep your eyes open,





Thanks so much Celina, your advice is so relevant today for DIYers and tiny house builders. Definitely check out Celina’s blog to see pictures of what she’s already found and what she’s still looking for. Celina and I have the same 1950’s Dixie stove (out of a camper), which is just a wonderful coincidence! Not to mention her father is restoring my favorite type of camper EVER – the Airfloat. And read the article about her that she links to…it has great pictures and talks more about her “unschooling” which I whole-heartedly agree with!

More later, so stay tuned! It’s good to be BACK!



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SOY-Gel Review

Soy Gel is a non-toxic soy-based stripper for paint, polyurethane, and other finishes. It’s made of 100% soybeans and works on wood, metal, stone, brick, and other surfaces.

Soy Gel

I first saw Soy Gel on Cool Tools (a really great site for gear/tools reviews, definitely read it if you don’t already). I used Soy Gel in the last camper that I restored. I used it to strip the wood that I was going to refinish with fresh polyurethane. I loved using it because it’s totally non-toxic and virtually odorless, so I didn’t have to be too careful about wearing gloves and I didn’t feel like I was going to pass out. When you’re working in a small space, such as a camper, with little ventilation, I think it’s essential to use non-toxic, odorless, and No-VOC products. The application process was easy: Soy Gel is a thick jelly that you spread onto the surface you are stripping. Let it sit for a while, just long enough to work it’s magic (I would say 2-10 hours) then use a plastic scraper to remove the Soy Gel and the finish underneath it. It’s really satisfying to peel the Soy Gel off in big chunks! It works great. The only thing is that you can’t leave it on for too long or you will have to re-apply the Soy Gel again and use it to remove the original finish AND Soy Gel application #1. I once left the Soy Gel on a surface for 24 hours, thinking it would be better to leave it on too long than not long enough. I was wrong, the Soy Gel basically became  a new layer of polyurethane and I had to start over. but if you leave it on for the right amount of time, you’ll be golden.

I would recommend Soy Gel because it is super safe and easy to use. It is especially awesome for working in tiny spaces, because it is so harmless. It’s also great for vertical surfaces because of it’s viscosity – perfect for camper walls and cabinets.

Soy Gel, $65/gallon

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Tiny House people: The future belongs to us!

Tiny Houses and campers/RVs are great because they can be awesome living situations for young people with a young-person’s budget and mobile lifestyle. Today I learned about a couple of other people my age (college kids and other early-mid twenties crowd) who are building their own tiny houses. This is fantastic! When I was a kid there was no way I thought I could ever afford my own house when I was 20. This really changes the way we think about independence, autonomy, mobility and opportunity. So I wanted to point out a couple of other people who are working on and documenting their own Tiny House adventures.

I would love to create some sort of network for connecting young people that are building their own (first-time) homes on a college-kids’ budget. We can really get creative with our homes.  Salvaged materials, free-cycling, DIY! It’s very exciting to see other people my age caring about the things I care about.

Also, I’d love to connect with other young people looking to live in a camper or RV (or other converted mobile situation) for the first time. I’m sure we could all learn a ton from each other. If you are living in a camper or on the road, or in the process of becoming a full-timer, I want to hear from you! Tell me about it in the comments and leave your website if you have one!

Here’s some other people building and documenting their Tiny House progress:



Kie's tiny house


AND I’d like to point you in the direction of 16 year old Celina Dill, a young lady beginning to build her own tiny house. Her blog is still just starting up, and I think she’s at the stage of gathering salvaged materials. Definitely one to watch though. She’s a beautiful writer and really inspiring. I wish I had started my tiny house 4 years ago!! Also, she has  salvaged the same 1950’s Dixie stove one of my other camper’s has. Her frugality and re-use is really great. Check her and her little house out at: http://mytinyabode.blogspot.com/


Here’s some other sites I stumbled on today! REALLY glad I did!




Let me know in the comments if you’d like to be in my “RESOURCES” list, if you’re building a Tiny House, or if you’re converting an RV or camper into a full-time living machine!

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