One Tree Woodwork

Custom woodworking and art

This Old House (re-mixed) version

Old houses. Old ways. Old secrets. Old voices. Old memories.

Our projects are varied at Artisan Builders as they have always been. Among the new projects we are building we have started work on the restoration of an old house. For the last 10 years we have not done many restorations but 15-20 years ago its one of the things Artisan Builders and more specifically my father was known for. At one time we took care of a complex of 19th century building for the Center of American History in which the University of Texas theatre program would perform Shakespeare in a re-purposed barn during the Summer evenings. We have worked some pretty rough old houses. When I say rough I’m not talking about the” charming Victorian home down the street  that needs a little tlc ” I’m talking rough: the kind of homes that may not have been lived in for the last 40 years by humans. The kind with poison ivy vines as thick as your wrist growing in and out between the siding boards and honey bee hives that take up the inside of the wall of an entire gable end. The sort of house that has several inches of rat shit between the joist in the attic…yea that’s right not an exaggeration it ended up being several contractor bags worth of the “shit” I counted because I was young enough to care about such things. In the end though we restored it and in many ways made it better than it was when it was built while respecting what it had been. It makes me wonder if some of the million dollar homes we have built that were designed with the modern aesthetics that many architects seem to have will be restored 100 years from now. I think maybe not and that bothers me though it won’t be because they weren’t built for the long haul. We have learned so much about building from these old homes and many great books have been written on the subject but those books speak mostly of the romantic side of old homes they usually leave out the snakes,rat shit,vulture nest,tetanus,old rock wool insulation,lead paint and etc. I say all this with a deep love of old houses I grew up in one and my first house as a homeowner  was built-in 1865. There is something undefinable about old homes that can really only be felt. So it begins. Again.




7 comments on “This Old House (re-mixed) version

  1. Crystal Jackson
    December 10, 2013

    Speaking of rat shit, here’s a fun fact. If a rat dies in the wall of your kitchen when it’s at/near freezing at night and not much warmer during the day, the decomposition (smelly) process takes three times longer. At least we haven’t had any company the past few week or so.

    Assuming the house you’re about to start working on is the one in that photo, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Can’t wait to see the finished, much TLC-given, product.

      December 11, 2013

      Unfortunately I know more about the life and death cycle of rats then I wish to. That is the house in the picture and I tried to take it from its most photogenic angle. I’m going to try to post every once in awhile with progress pics.

  2. diydad
    December 14, 2013

    I LOVE old houses. While I was in college, I had the opportunity to help restore a house from 1912 in Denver (Across from the zoo). If I wasn’t in college, I would have bought it and restored it myself. It had the coal chute and everything! My favorite part was discovering that the ceilings in the entire house had been dropped to 8′ from their original 10′ in the 70’s. Beams were in tact and in pretty good shape. It also had a 3rd floor 360 degree viewing room that was circular. You just don’t see that kind of stuff in our new houses. Try to remember how cool this stuff is when you are shoveling the shit 🙂

      December 14, 2013

      Wow sounds like a cool house I love circular rooms although I bet its a pain in the ass trying to find a circular couch. Good advice we should all remember to enjoy and be present in our life even amongst shoveling shit. B.T.W enjoyed the “dress up” area you built,I have thought of building something for my little girl she goes through more outfit changes then a Shakespearian play.

      • diydad
        December 14, 2013

        The circular room didn’t seem all that practical but you could have easily set a single chair in the room and stayed up there and read all day.

        Lol. I have 2 girls, so imagine 2 Shakesperian plays going on at the same time that compound each other. Glad you like the dress up area… Solved a nagging problem and was very quick to make. I am sure you can make something a little nicer than I made with a little more artistry.

  3. The Trailer Park Cyclist
    December 16, 2013

    I know more than I like about rats in the walls and also the tomb-rot at the sill and the lower parts of the walls. Also there is a deep satisfaction of fixing these things and making it right and strong. The beauty and hardness of old rafters cured in the attic over many years, rafters hewn from trees that no longer grow on this continent except in remote abandoned places. Here in Florida it is the original old-growth long-leaf yellow pine that we discover when they break down yet another hundred year old dwelling. The roof framing (gray with age and rock-hard from baking the resins inside the wood over the decades) has, when planed down and split, a golden-orange glow that is available in no lumber yard anywhere; it is old and otherwise unavailable and too holy, to me, to use for anything other than art.

    Enjoy your project, Tohner.


      December 17, 2013

      Old growth long-leaf pine down here too with a mixture of live oak and post oak maybe even aromatic cedar half logs. Depends on where the house was built and what the income level of the people building it was. Many of the houses built out in the country typically milled trees nearby which means in our part of the county it would have been aromatic cedar or post oak or live oak. My last old house which was built in town (very small village) was almost completely built from long leaf pine except for the clapboard which was old growth cypress. Of course it was built originally by a doctor with strong Masonic ties. Little did that fancy house know then it would go on (141 yrs) later to be owned by a young carpenter way over his head. I still remember my brother and I sitting on the floor in that house drinking a beer shortly after I had bought it. He was proud. So many memories that old home has and still making them today like rings on that old growth tree it was made from. Thanks for coming by for a visit as always.

      The other tj

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This entry was posted on December 9, 2013 by in Uncategorized.


Palo Duro Canyon and the Sorenson cabin is where we spend tonight. Dubbed the Texas Grand Canyon the second largest canyon in the United States. The first people to inhabit this canyon were the Clovis and Folsom people who hunted large herds of mammoth and giant bison. The cabin was built in the 30’s by the CCC. The first European explorers to come upon the canyon were members of the Coronado expedition in 1541. At that time, the Apache people called the canyon home. Francisco Vasquez de Coronado led 1,500 men in a Thanksgiving celebration in May of 1541, which is the real first Thanksgiving in America. The Apache were later run out by the Comanche and Kiowa tribes, who had the advantage of horses brought over by the Spanish. #palodurocanyon #txparks#getoutside#cabin#explore
Art and travel have some things in common and the more you see the more your mind opens. It was Mark Twain that said :Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime. And while Cadillac Ranch wasn’t exactly my kind of art I do appreciate it exists. It’s both ridiculous and iconic and in a way fits into its stark prairie background. It was moved to its current site in 1997 2 miles to the west right off where historic Route 66 once laid. I just hope when they moved it and reburied them nose-first in the ground, it’s still at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. #cadillacranch #amarillo #amarillobymorning #marktwain#noreservations
So after they shut down the entire San Juan Wilderness we headed north. We explored the Rio Grande National Forest. The pictures and video are from the South Fork Rio Grande. These high elevation creeks are where it’s at for me. Hard to wade,hard to cast,the fish are as spooky as they come. But the beauty is unparalleled. Oh and speaking of fish I caught an enormous rainbow.......well that was until he took a sky high run and spit the hook. No pictures just a single tear shed. I’ve got the memories though....
Made it to the top of the Continental Divide and spent some time on the CDT trail. At about 11,400 ft we even had a snowball fight in 70 degree weather with what was left of the snow. We were able to see all this before they shut down the entire San Juan Wilderness for wildfire concerns.#continentaldividetrail #wolfcreekpass#getoutside
Treasure Falls named after a local legend about “a treasure of gold” buried in the mountain the falls plunge from. The main drop is approximately 105’. Located in the San Juan mountains in the Rio Grande National Forest. It’s most definitely a treasure and it has nothing to do with gold. #treasurefalls #riograndenationalforest #sanjuanwilderness #waterfalls#dontgochasingwaterfalls #getoutside#natureisthecure
In the Echo Amphitheater inside the Carson National Forest we hiked to the face and let out our own rallying cry,listening for the returning echos ringing through the desert. A powerful place with an odd feeling of both being both alone but with a distinct sense of someone watching...... Legend has it that In the spring of 1861, some farmers who had come from Iowa to settle and farm in Northern New Mexico were set upon by a band of Navajo. The settlers were taken to the top of the amphitheater and executed. Their blood spilled into the amphitheater, staining its walls. Three years later, when the Navajo were being forced on the “Long Walk” to Bosque Redondo by the U.S. Army, ten Navajo men were killed at the top of the amphitheater in retribution for the earlier deaths. Once again, blood spilled down the walls of the amphitheater. The blood seeped into the pores of the rock and dried and supposedly is still visible today. It is said that in the echoes returned from the cliff’s walls one can hear the anguished cries of the dead, hence its name, #echoampitheater #carsonnationalforest #getoutside#explore#newmexico#walkinginthedesert #onahorsewithnoname
A long...long....long time ago dinosaurs left tracks in the mud of an ancient ocean. (Theropod and Sauropod tracks) we walked and stalked in those very footprints in the Paluxy River in Dinosaur Valley State Park. #dinosaurvalleystatepark #txparks#getoutside#texasparksandwildlife
Backyard bike ride.
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