Jeff Waldman is a builder, a tinkerer, a designer, and over the course of several years, he and his partner Molly designed and built a beautiful retreat in the Redwoods with lots of help from friends. Unfortunately, it was lost in a 2020 wildfire. In this conversation, we will talk about the benefits of building with your community and involving your friends in your builds. We also discuss the importance of getting started with something small. Maybe not starting with a tiny house first, but with a chicken coop or a picnic table. Jeff is also the author of a best selling book called Tools The Ultimate Guide and we talk about why he wrote it and who it's for. I really enjoyed this conversation with Jeff and I know you will too.

In This Episode:

  • Building in the Redwoods 🌲 : Jeff discusses the process of building and designing a retreat in the beautiful Redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
  • The Impact of Wildfires 🔥 : How losing property to a wildfire in 2020 affected his mindset and future plans.
  • Building Projects with Friends🚶‍♀️ : The sense of community created when involving friends in building projects.
  • The Power of Workshops 📚 : Jeff encourages listeners to take workshops to learn new skills, challenge themselves, and build relationships with like-minded individuals.
  • Design in 3D 🖥️ : The value of using programs like SketchUp for designing and visualizing builds before working with physical materials.
  • Starting Small 🌳 : How starting with small projects helps build confidence and make larger projects more achievable.
  • The Community Aspect 👥 : Jeff emphasizes the importance of community in their building projects, sharing the joy of creating together.
  • Tools and their Intersection 🛠️ : As an author and tool expert, Jeff explores the intersections and applications of different tools in building projects.


Links and Resources:


Guest Bio:

Jeff Waldman

Jeff Waldman

Jeff Waldman is a designer, builder, and author of a book on tools. He sells building plans and has a newsletter where he writes about both construction and community building and where those two practices intersect for him. His property in California's Santa Cruz mountains burned in the wildfires of 2020 but lives on as a canvas for new projects.


This Week's Sponsor:


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More Photos:

Home in the woods with outdoor dining space


Gathering space in the woods


Tiny Outbuilding


More Photos:

Firewood Storage


Outdoor deck


Tiny home


Raised camping tent area

Jeff Waldman 0:00

We've got food and snacks. And even though like, until we had a bathroom up and running, people were pooping out in the woods and there's no hot showers. We're doing what we can to provide, like, a pretty nice environment for our buddies. And so it was fun for them, they would come out and they would be giving us you know, labor but it was a really enjoyable build

Ethan Waldman 0:25

Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast The show where you learn how to plan build and the tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and this is episode 271. With Jeff Waldman. Jeff is a builder, a tinkerer, a designer, and over the course of several years, he and his partner Molly designed and built a beautiful retreat in the Redwoods with lots of help from friends. And unfortunately, it was lost in a 2020 wildfire. In this conversation, we will talk about the benefits of building with your community and involving your friends in your builds. And also how to do that so that it actually helps you rather than slows you down. We also talk about the importance and how to just get started on something small, maybe not starting with a tiny house first, but with a chicken coop or a picnic table. Jeff is something of an expert on tools. He's written a best selling book called tools, The Ultimate Guide and we talk about why he wrote it and who it's for. I really enjoyed this conversation with Jeff and I know you will too. I hope you stick around.

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Alright, I am here with Jeff Waldman No relation. As far as I know, Jeff is a designer, builder and author of books on tools. He sells building plans and has a newsletter where he writes about both construction and community building and where those two practices intersect for him. He's property in California Santa Cruz Mountains burned in the wildfires of 2020 but lives on as a canvas for new projects. Jeff Waldman, welcome to the show.

Jeff Waldman 4:29

Thanks for having me.

Ethan Waldman 4:30


Jeff Waldman 4:30

Are we sure that we're not related?

Ethan Waldman 4:32

No, we haven't. We haven't played this game yet. It's quite possible.

Jeff Waldman 4:38

Most of my Waldman lineage, I think is all West Coast.

Ethan Waldman 4:42

Okay. Yeah, I think mine's all east coast. So all right,

Jeff Waldman 4:46

so now let's go back a few generations Yeah, some

Ethan Waldman 4:48

some pioneers. Some some German European pioneers. So, I first kind of I watched a video tour. It's kind of a montage of, of you and it looks like lots of friends building this just incredible little cabin in the redwoods. And it was on like my, you know, invite this person onto the show list. It somehow fell off my radar, because this is years ago, obviously at this point. Yeah. But it kind of resurfaced for me. And I just I rewatched the video and I was like, I gotta get I gotta get Jeff on the show, because this project is so just sweet. And and there was something about it that just made me want to be there. Yeah. But I guess maybe you could start with like, telling us a little bit more about about you. And just kind of your background in building in general.

Jeff Waldman 5:49

Sure. Well, first, just to mention, I guess, I think the reason that part of the part of the reason that that video kind of struck a chord with you and doesn't have a lot of people is just a big communal aspect to it. So you know, a bunch of friends having a good time. And I think that just resonates for a lot of folks. And it's why in the intro, you're talking about my newsletter, or stuff that I tend to write about is like that intersection of community building and doing projects, because it's just more fun with friends. But I'll get a round of that. And the ethos of the property, I guess, and a bit better. Yes. So for me, I don't know, I'm 41 years old now. I've always built a little bit. You know, like skate park, as a kid, dirt jumps out in the field, a fort or whatever. But I mean, nothing. All that professional. I was more like the guy that you know, if your kitchen sink was broken, we're friends might call me over to help you fix it. And not because I know anything about kitchen sinks, but you're like, I don't know, maybe you can figure it out. I had that kind of scrappy, I'll pick up various skills, kind of attitude. And then yeah, into adulthood, I've just started making things a little bit more and more, but really just in my apartment, you know, little projects, small woodworking, I went and did a timber framing workshop out in New York, actually, in 2015. It was pretty formative. And then at some point, it was I can't remember it was right before that workshop or right after. But my partner Molly and I, we've been together for 13 years now. We've been living in San Francisco, and we were just kind of ready to leave our apartment for more space. You know, we're really craving like house yard projects, build a thing. And we just couldn't get that in the city. So we thought about leaving. I mean, we considered moving to New England a little bit. We talked about, you know, what about around the Great Lakes, she's got family in Chicago, we looked at the Pacific Northwest, I think we actually took a trip up in Washington or Portland and looked around. But ultimately, we decided that our community around San Francisco in the Bay Area was just too strong. And if we really looked at why we were kind of happy and content in our day to day, it was the people when we didn't want to like give that up so easily. So as a placeholder, because we could not afford to buy a house with a yard space and room for projects in San Francisco or even the area right around here. We bought some land in the Santa Cruz Mountains, which if you look on a map is a strip of land that's south of San Francisco, near San Jose near Santa Cruz. Surprisingly wild and undeveloped. And if you go like dead center to the middle of it, where you're kind of the furthest away from the beach, and from San Francisco, you get into some land that's it's not super affordable by US standards, but it's very affordable

Ethan Waldman 8:47

by San Francisco, San Francisco standards.

Jeff Waldman 8:51

And especially if you do what we did, and this I don't mind that this happened. But like the reason part of the reason that our property burned, is we bought what we could afford him what made sense at the time, which was a scraggly bit of 10 acres of land on a on a slope at the end of like just the rowdiest of dirt roads really in the middle of nowhere. And it's the exact type of thing that if a fire comes through is definitely going to burn. You know, the people that can buy a big parcel that's sort of connected more to the mainland and the fire department knows about it and it's a nice flat defensible space. Yeah, that's a lot less likely. So we bought what we could, which is fine. And we did that with the intention of saying, Okay, we're going to be here for a while. We're not going to get a house with a big yard and big plot of land. We're not going to build something where we're living. This will serve as kind of our weekend getaway and the communal space that we've kind of always wanted to have with friends. It'll be a place and a reason to gather and somewhere that we can kind of exercise some, you know, creative muscles and designs and things and build some things and just like have that. Yeah. And so that's how it got its start. That was September, maybe a little bit earlier, but 2016

Ethan Waldman 10:13

Okay. And so you started in on it and 2016 and, you know, the the video, which, which I'll definitely put in the show notes for this page, so people can you know, where it's a podcast, so obviously, you know, it's a very visual thing you have to you have to go watch the video. You know, it certainly seems to encompass a long time span, because you go from chopping down trees at the at the beginning. And then at the end, you're seeing little clips of other structures like outdoor bathhouse and, you know, a pergola with a clear roof and all these different structures that, you know, certainly didn't sprout up overnight.

Jeff Waldman 10:50

Yeah, um, well, on the one hand, so that video spans see. I mean, I don't even think that video spans three years and alone. So it spans a mess, a certain amount of time, for sure, but also a lot of what you see, like, I think that video that I stitched together actually only had our cabin when the exterior was closed down, it didn't include the finished interior. And we just went so hard and fast, because we were very excited. We had a pretty big network of friends around here. But also, people in the city are just really excited to work on projects, to get their hands dirty, to get out into the woods to build some stuff in some trees very romantic. Yeah. And Molly and I were very intentional about creating a space that felt welcoming and open. So we hit the ground running. And I mean, when the first projects that we did were like, I don't know picnic table, I had to download some instructions off Instructables and had to go out and buy a drill. You know, we're working real bare bones stuff yet, um, you know, the next weekend, another project and the next week and another project, we're making leaps and bounds, kind of jumping off from what we were doing before, you know, as we're building that confidence and competence. And when we're doing it, we're inviting friends out. And something that I think she and I did really well is we would do a lot of project planning, making sure that the stage was set for them, having all your materials and making sure everything was gonna go smoothly, there was no last minute runs to the hardware store. And we've got food and snacks. And even though like, until we had a bathroom up and running, people were pooping out in the woods and rain, Oh, hot showers doing what we can to provide, like, a pretty nice environment for our buddies. Yeah. And so it was fun for them, they would come out and they would be giving us you know, labor, but it was a really enjoyable build. And word of that was kind of spreading. So what started out, as you know, half dozen friends who are eager to come if we became a dozen, and you know, they would tell their friends because it was just the it was the type of thing that really beckon to a certain type of person. And I think within a few years, like, our email invite less from when we were doing weekends out there was like 60 or 80 people or something. It was really big. You know, it's just one of those, like, build it, and they will come and type things. Like if you're doing cool shit out in the woods, you might have folks come out to join you. Yep. So obviously, this is all like, very exciting for us. And we've got people that are very interested in contributing. So we went pretty hard. And I mean, shower, out house, the pavilion, a couple of little structures, a big part of the motivation. wanting to do something out in the woods is just like you walk village Treehouse stuff. tree houses. Yeah, love the elevation, super exciting. So we started doing that I was actually just today, writing up a newsletter thing about the evolution of those projects in the trees. Nothing comes out in a couple of weeks. But, you know, we started small, like little platform, but that little platform is so exciting. Like you're having dinner on it, and you're sleeping on it, because it's a thing and it didn't exist before. And we kind of kept evolving in that way. When we did our outhouse build. We'd never built a tiny structure before. You know, we'd read a lot about tiny homes and tiny cabins. You know, both like the quote unquote tiny homes on wheels and then smaller structures. We'd read a lot about the theory of homebuilding even on a small scale, but we've never done it. And we knew that we wanted to do a cabinet at some point. So when we built our first outhouse, we tried to do it, like really well, way better than you should never build an outhouse. We tried to make it his practice for like, Okay, this is a house build just you know, that's, it was I think nine by nine feet or something. Yeah. which was great. And that baby step gave us enough confidence were like, Okay, we're going to break ground on this cabin. And the cabin build, I think all told from groundbreaking to like the last bit of interior stuff was maybe a year. And when I cut that video together that you saw, I think it was what we had finished the exterior closing man. And, you know, that was a very exciting accomplishment. It was like, Alright, no matter what happens on the inside of this, we have a shelter now.

Ethan Waldman 15:29

Right, right a place to sleep inside dry

Jeff Waldman 15:33

So yeah, I mean, you know, a good number of years elapsed in that video, but also, I, when I look back at the record, as I was just doing today, putting together that post, we do a lot in like three years time. Yeah, just, you know, just fun.

Ethan Waldman 15:50

Yeah. It's funny, because, you know, I, I built my tiny house now, over 10 years ago, it was like a, it was a year and change back in 2012. And I remember, I didn't have a lot of big group build days, I think there was, maybe the biggest group I put together was, I framed the sub floor assembly off of the trailer on the ground, which was, I'll never do that, again, if I ever do another tiny house on wheels. And it was, you know, 24 feet long and had sheet metal on the bottom. It was it was quite heavy after it was all built. And it was kind of floppy, you know? Because it's like, yeah, that floor. So I kind of assembled a big crew of family and friends to help kind of pick the thing up and put it onto the trailer. But that I remember that, that took like, a good half day of planning, you know, ordering the pizzas, making sure there were work gloves for everyone, all that stuff. And it strikes me that like, once you get into the swing of things of having people help you on projects, you can get a little bit faster with it. And it's almost like, at some point, the balance tips and it goes from being kind of like a pain in the butt to have someone help you you're like, Oh, is it actually help? Or is it gonna be more work for me to have you helped me?

Jeff Waldman 17:09

Yeah. I mean, there's that old adage with, like, contractors, where it's like, if you want to help it costs extra, right? Yeah. Well, I think there's two ways to look at that. I do agree with you that if you flex that muscle more, and you kind of get into the swing of things, you can figure out how to delegate and work. More bodies can be helpful. Yeah, definitely. Yeah. But at the same time, I don't know I work. So well solo or just with another person. And so there it comes down a little bit to values. So many of the projects we did were not necessarily because we really needed to have that structure. It was just an excuse to do a project with friends. Yeah, there was a big tree deck that we put up that I just did, because my friend Drew was coming into town and I wanted to work on a thing with him. Yeah. And you know, that was a reason to gather another half dozen folks and do it. It wouldn't have gone... Like, did it go? Eight times faster? Because we had eight people? Probably not. I mean, definitely a few hands on some big heavy beams helped a little bit. But yeah, I think for us, a big part of the experience has been, and hopefully will continue to be the community aspect of it. I mean, when we did the wall raising for our cabin, I think there was like 30 people there. We definitely didn't need that many people to raise those walls. It was, you know, it, it felt fun. Yeah. So it's, I don't know, there's definitely two sides to that. Cuz I mean, there also is, it's hard to delegate, that's a whole different thing, managing an operation and figuring it out. I think that's what separates, I know a lot of very talented builders who work like crazy fast and while on their own, and it just doesn't come intuitively to them. And not always to me for how to really delegate tasks and make use of bodies. What I tried to do, both to make it fun for our friends, and also to kind of make things happen quickly and to respect like, sort of the manpower and time they were giving me is I would show up for a project maybe a couple days in advance or both Molly and I would or something. And we would do all the foundational work, which might literally be putting down a foundation or laying out and marking wood or cutting it and, you know, marking it for how it's gonna get laid out. Yeah, and when the day comes for assembly, it goes really fast and everybody has a really good time because they're basically just putting up Legos. And it is making use of their manpower and they're not all standing around while I'm like figuring out what the layout of the rafters are because they've already been cut labeled. like they're ready to rock and roll. Yeah, I also, I mean, and I think that this hasn't always been good for me. Part of the reason why so many of these builds have gone off as well as they have, as far as our friends could tell, is cuz my mind is just like a little bit too obsessive. And I've been disassembling and reassembling that model in SketchUp 1000 times I've been lying in bed awake at night going through the process in my head, like when we did the wall raising on the cabin, which was wall raising rafters loft beams, temporary loft floor, the plywood over the top of the rafters. We did it all in a day and a half, I think when we did all that, and these are some really big pieces to move around on a very small site. I obsessed over that dance of like, what goes where? Who does what what piece do I need? In terms of like, hours invested. It's not great. Like, I'm lying awake, it's costing me sleep. You know, but the payoff is on that weekend, everybody's got a job to do. It goes off pretty well, because there's almost nothing I didn't think of and raise like, wow, that was really fun and amazing. Like, yeah, I mean, it only cost me six night's sleep. It was good. Like my superpowers being sort of broken and obsessive in that way.

Ethan Waldman 21:22

Well, it leads to some beautiful buildings built with friends.

Jeff Waldman 21:27

Yeah, I suppose so would you? I mean, in putting that sub floor up with a handful of friends. Yeah. Do you find that experience rewarding? Where you're like, I wish I could do stuff with people more often? Or was it too much of a hindrance for you?

Ethan Waldman 21:41

No, it wasn't, it wasn't a hindrance for me. And it was it was rewarding. Because, you know, in 2012, the idea of a tiny house on wheels was way more fringe than it is now. You know, and I was just happy that my parents and my girlfriend at the time, who's now you know, now we've been married forever, like that they were in support of the project. But then having friends and family, friends and other family members come and kind of lend a hand, in a way made me feel supported by that whole group of people like, oh, all of these people believe in this vision of a tiny house. And so that's, you know, you're getting something there. That's more than just a set of hands to help you lift something heavy.

Jeff Waldman 22:27

Yeah, totally. I mean, they're showing their support, right? Meaningful ways instead of just saying it,

Ethan Waldman 22:32

right? Yeah, like someone brought a pickup truck to move, you know, we actually ended up picking the thing up, and then they back to the trailer, under wherever it was standing.

Jeff Waldman 22:42

It feels like a very tangible connection to your community. Yeah, I think the Amish are onto something with their barn raising.

Ethan Waldman 22:48

So I think that I was gonna bring that up, which is that I think that for probably most of human history, building shelter was a community endeavor. It's probably only in the last 100 years or 200 years that we've kind of outsourced the building of our homes to and not been involved in it. Really.

Jeff Waldman 23:12

Yeah. Yeah, that's interesting. I mean, we've definitely have lost that connection. I think the thing that I always point to whenever we build, we've only had the pleasure now of building a few things that you would call shelters, but a lot of other stuff. Decks and you know, a lot of flat surface which on on on our hilly terrain is very prized. And every time we've built something flat wall, whatever. We've had dinner on top of it with our friends that day, that helped us build that. And that that's a, that's an old world community connection, like the folks that you're close to helping you build the thing that you're going to live in, and then sharing a meal on it. It's a very specific and special kind of reward that I just I don't get from like getting together with friends for a coffee or lunch date or whatever. You know, it's much more impactful. Yeah. Do you get having been involved with teaching? You said you were teaching some tiny house workshops with Yestermorrow.

Ethan Waldman 24:20

I've done some teaching with Yestermorrow. And then I also teach my own courses through, you know, online, and I do a lot of teaching.

Jeff Waldman 24:28

Do you feel like there's community building that emerges from that since folks are kind of sharing over that labor?

Ethan Waldman 24:33

Oh, yeah. I mean, I know that people I've seen it at Yestermorrow students become really close and I think keep in touch and then maybe end up even helping each other out on their tiny house builds. Yeah, I mean, Yestermorrow is cool, because they, you know, they they have for at least for the tiny house courses, that they'll have a client so you're building a tiny house for someone. And oftentimes, the both times that I did it the client was some But he who had previously taken the course. And they were now kind of returning as the client and letting other students kind of build their tiny house.

Jeff Waldman 25:08

Yeah, that's cool. I feel like those those types of workshop relationships, they remind me of like camp friends, you get you get very intimate very quick, like working alongside somebody. No. I've done some timber framing workshops, and then just a variety of like, other workshops. So it was found them to be very connected in that way.

Ethan Waldman 25:32

Yeah, yeah. You, you mentioned that you are going to be writing about, you know, the value of going to workshops, but also in our correspondence. You know, before the interview, you kind of mentioned that, you know, starting small,

you know, as you said, with like building a picnic table, I think I built a chicken coop with my dad before I built the tiny house. But but that workshops are a great way to connect people put their hands on a project or get some skills, can you can you speak more to that?

Jeff Waldman 26:06

Sure. Both those things actually, I sell some building plans online, and mostly from projects from our property and a few other things. You know, folks reach out all the time and talking to you. Usually big dreams of like, I want to build this cabin, or I'm afraid to build this cabin. And the thing I'm always advocating for is just like, build something, start tiny, like, it doesn't matter what it is, don't get bogged down under the weight of like some big project that's probably never gonna get off the ground. Learn by Doing and just, you know, figure it out on something small and build from there. So start on picnic table, get a little bigger, build a bench, whatever it is, and chicken coop. And yeah, I think there's a lot to be said for all of the little ancillary skills that you build, just by getting comfortable with that process and with tools and stuff. And I've seen that in workshops. Yeah. My friend Tom teaches some timber framing workshops as I met him when he was instructing a timber frame workshop, and I've helped him on several since. In timber framing is pretty niche. Most of the people that have taken those workshops are never going to do anything for framing again for the rest of their lives. But I saw them benefiting immensely from just like learning how to work on a jobsite, collaborate with others figuring out how to measure Mark saw chisel do so without cutting themselves, if there's a lot of capability that just sort of emerges in that setting. And so even if you're not necessarily going to, you know, go to timber framing afterwards. Now, you might feel a little bit more emboldened as I was to go buy a few tools and try your hand at a picnic table or whatever it is, right? I'm just such a big advocate of it. Because I think, especially in this internet age where inspiration is so readily available. There's a lot that's inspiring. But when you start digging in on like, boy, I'd love to have this tiny house. Well, when you start reading about the proper way to build a roof structure, or how to ventilate that roof, or how to attach something to a trailer. And the more that you come to realize, the more you realize you don't know, it just it's such a bottomless well, the inability or the feeling that like to do this right, feels sort of imaginably difficult and so you just don't really do anything at all right? I think that's really common. I think people have all kinds of stuff on Pinterest, and they're never going to do it because it just feels like too much. But if you know, break ground on a chicken coop, all of a sudden, like the next iteration of that starts to feel a little bit more attainable.

Ethan Waldman 26:13

And with a tiny house, too. It's like you do you need to figure all that stuff out, but not all at the same time.

Jeff Waldman 27:35

And that's the problem, I think, when you're looking at a project from afar, and it's feeling very daunting, is you're figuring all that stuff out at once and you're like, This is too much. I can't It's like no, no, you can just, I mean, when we started on our cabin, even though at that point, we built up enough confidence to like, figure that we could start on it, I really only committed to putting down a foundation and joists and a sub floor because I was like, if nothing else, we've got a yoga deck. Like that's it. Yeah a platform for tents. And then we'll see how the rest of this goes. I think that that's big. especially, you know, this is a podcast that's talking about tiny homes. It's not to say that they're all cheap, but we're not talking about really big projects here. Like not only can you start small with other projects that you're cutting your teeth on, but like you can start down the baby steps of some sort of tiny house type thing. And it's not A monumentally like, daunting financial prospect. Right? You know, just like ease down that road a little bit. Hopefully,

Ethan Waldman 29:27

well, we will definitely link to elevated spaces so people can look at at the different plans and different structures that that you have plans for. They're really beautiful. Thanks. Yeah, really nice designs. Appreciate it. I'm curious, you know, I want to kind of talk about the loss of all of this. Because you know, you you've, it's clear that this was such a pivotal and meaningful experience for you and your partner, and for your friends who, who kind of put all this time and love and energy into this project. Was it? Was it in your head the whole time? Like, okay, if a wildfire comes through here, this would be in trouble, or was it? You know, was that always in the back of your mind? Or was this kind of like a surprise?

Jeff Waldman 31:01

It was, and I think, my partner, Molly, I think she was a little bit bothered by how often I would mention it. Yeah. And I was like, oh, you know, when wildfire happens? Just because wildfires have always been a problem in California, and especially over the past decade or so it seems like every wildfire season has been getting worse, and when you look around at the thick tinder that is our property and the way that it's laid out, just unless you clear cut the entire mountain side, there's really no way to do it as defensible space, because you're on the slope, and the trees are sort of looming over you for higher neighboring property. So it's just like, if a wildfire comes through here, boy, is this gonna go. And even though we knew that, and we were accepting of the risks, because I didn't want to minimize the amount of money that we spent, but of course against like, I don't know, buying and building real houses, it was a fairly trivial amount. We were just, you know, we were accepting of the risk and the cost and the consequences, but at the same time, you still kind of think that it happens to somebody else, not you, you know, yeah. So there's a surrealness when it actually does occur. Yeah, it's funny, the last didn't hit me at first. Because it was just stuff. And it's just projects. And I get really excited about projects, I really want to see them through, I want to have the experience of creating a thing, conceiving of how it can be put together and doing it with friends. And then I don't actually need to own it that much afterwards. So that didn't bother me too much the loss of that work. But the wildfire happened during COVID. And things were just really getting shaken up around COVID, you had friends that were leaving the city, we're at an age where a number of our friends were having kids, people were just less sociable for various reasons, then the wildfire happened. So our property as a social tool, as time went on, I was like, oh, man, this really took a hit. Because the truth is, it's we've rebuilt a little bit there, but it's not, it's just not what it was, you can't go back to like that really sweet time where, you know, everything that we had there. So that's been a bit of a bummer have definitely lamented that it was clearly a phase in time that was particularly sweet, and you can't quite go back to. The land itself has recovered pretty well, we've had to do a lot of work clearing trees that either fell in the fires or in the storms afterwards, or didn't quite get consumed. And we're just standing dead. And now like it's doing all right. We spent a couple of years without water, we finally got water back up and running, because all of the infrastructure for that burned. Yep. And then we've built a couple of new structures. We have an outhouse and the little tiny a frame and I think that's it. But both of those, the fire really informed their design, whereas like, Okay, I'm willing to build something else here. Because really, I just want to have a project I wanted to design a thing and make it but like, I'm only going to invest so much time and so much money into this. So where's the first iteration of some of our stuff with like, how nice can we make this and how much time can we spend on it making it Oh, so cool and perfect. The next ones were like, Okay, what's the most cost effective way I can make something that's still fun and attractive, but is going to really not put me out financially or put So you know too much time, which is a great design exercise. So we made this little tiny a frame that is basically a hard wall tent, and we threw it up in a weekend with some friends. I think it cost $2,200 or something. Our outhouse was less than that. I think it was like 1500 bucks, because I opt in for some, some siding looks a little bit nicer. But it too was, I think, a weekend or two project. So that's definitely changed the ethos of things a little bit. I'm tempted, we had a bunch of redwoods that came down. And we milled them with a chainsaw mill on the property. And I've been thinking about how to put that wood to use. And we've been tempted to do like a small cabin build where the old cabin stood. And there's that knowledge of like, this still isn't the type of property you can really defend against, there's still a chance that wildfire could come back through. You know, this is a fun design exercise. And it's great to be able to build a thing and, you know, maybe inspire others or sell some plans or whatever. But how do you how do you keep this like pretty minimal in terms of both effort and cost while still feeling satisfying? And so I haven't fully fleshed out a design for that yet. And I don't know if we'll ever do it. But yeah, potentially some of the redwood we will, that's what we'll kind of put towards. We're still hanging out there with friends and friends borrow it now, especially now that it took a couple of years for it to be more usable place. But now it's it's a lot different than what it was. But it's not a bad little retreat in nature. Nice if you visited it now having never been there before. You'd be like, This is great. It's like yeah, well, you think it used to be different.

Ethan Waldman 36:52

What are your current building projects? What do you what are you tinkering with right now?

Jeff Waldman 36:57

That I mean, you know, been kicking around the, the cabin design, and thinking about that more and more as we've been milling that wood, you know what to do with it. I just got back. I was in Oregon for two and a half weeks helping my friend on timber frame up there. Okay. I've got a shop in Oakland that I share with a couple friends and I do a little bit of like, furniture stuff. They're not big, but kind of small. Okay. Yeah, that's a sort of the extent of it right now. Terms of life.

Ethan Waldman 37:30

And I wanted to ask you about about your book that it looks like it was published about a year ago. It's called tools, The Ultimate Guide 500 Plus tools.

Jeff Waldman 37:41

Yeah, I never really loved the subtitle, but I couldn't think of a better one. It feels a little bit pro wrestler, flyer or monster truck flyer, The Ultimate Guide. But yeah, it's basically a book that is trying to make a map of all the different tools out there and the ways that they kind of intersect, things that they share things that they don't, they tried to write it in a way that would have a little bit of something for everybody. So like, if you're really familiar with tools you read through there, and you're gonna find some esoteric variations you've never heard of, or some trivia or history or details where you're like, but this is new to me. Right? But for the person who doesn't really know anything about it, my hope is that it kind of demystifies a lot of it because I think a big part of the problem when you're first getting started is you don't have a language around this sort of thing, right? And so if you have a little bit of a roadmap that can start to plug those puzzle pieces together, right, it allows you to fill in the gaps more. We're like, Okay, I'm starting to see it all now. That was a fun project. It's it's done decently well, better than I thought it would. But it was my COVID project, which was great. Everybody was lamenting, like being locked down and not being able to do anything. And I was like, happily typing away. So it was nice.

Ethan Waldman 39:02

So it seems like you did quite a bit of research for this book.

Jeff Waldman 39:06

Yeah it was a two year process, start to finish. You know, a decent amount of the stuff I could write just from my head because I know about the tools, but of course, a lot of research has to go into it.. I think I whittled it down to probably 40,000 words, but it started at like 70,000 There was a lot in there, but it was too dense and to chip away at it.

Ethan Waldman 39:33

I think that it looks really cool. I'm actually gonna pick up a copy and we have like a little library in our tiny house of of Tiny House books, Lloyd Kahn books and other building books and I think it'll fit in nicely there

Jeff Waldman 39:47

I can't hold a candle to Lloyd.

Ethan Waldman 39:51

I mean, it's kind of the like the OG California. Like, just build something kind of guy.

Jeff Waldman 39:58

I feel very grateful that I have something of a relationship with Lloyd, I met up with him in his place in Bolinas a few times, I wish that I knew him a little bit better. I feel very privileged to even have met him. Yeah, he was writing books, back when you needed the books. I mean, the truth is, mine was very fun to put together, it makes for a nice gift... all that stuff you can learn on YouTube. But when Lloyd was making a book, you know, when he started, it was like, that was the resource or some of the resources for how to build certain things, or what was out there.

Ethan Waldman 40:34

He told me that like, because his first book was a book about building geodesic domes. And I think he was the first interview I did with him where he was like, Don't build one, they don't work. I don't recommend it. But like, People still write in and he just sends them the book, like the manuscript of it, because like, people still want to build it, but he's like, I won't sell it. But sure, if you want to go for it, go for it.

Jeff Waldman 40:59

He told me the same thing. Yeah, he had a realization at some point that nothing in our lives were dome shaped. So it was a bad fit. That's like your bed square, your you know, your dressers square.

Ethan Waldman 41:11

Yeah, everything square. I do think like, it's so helpful to not have to watch a 20 minute YouTube video. With ads. And like, you know, that's long enough to fill YouTube's content, like, guidelines, suggestions where you can say like, Okay, I'm in the I'm in the plier aisle at Home Depot, and there's like, there's like 20 Different kinds of pliers. There's, there's like locking pliers, there's vise grip pliers, there's like bent ones, straight ones. And it's just like, I could guess what these would be useful for. But it's also nice to know, like, this is, this is what this is called and this is what it is used for.

Jeff Waldman 41:54

And I think if you know, something that really informed how I was writing that book is, once you have that baseline, or somebody feeds you a few things like you now you know, some of the words and the terminology. Now you can ask the right questions. I feel like so often, when people first start out, they don't even know what questions to ask because you don't know what the thing is called. Yeah, that's, that's a real challenge, when you're just designing and building stuff is trying to figure out what the name of the thing is you're looking for? Once you figure out like, a name or an adjacent name, it really unlocks like, Oh, now now I know what to ask. I mean, it's, I think that there's a certain romantic quality to flipping through a book and looking for it. I just acknowledge that. You know, it's also all out there on the internet, too.

Ethan Waldman 42:47

Well, everything is out there on the internet.

Jeff Waldman 42:49

It's true, everything.

Ethan Waldman 42:52

So when you, you know, approach designing something new, are you are you all SketchUp? Or do you start, you start with a drawing, you know, pencil and paper,

Jeff Waldman 43:03

I've been trying to do a little bit more drawing, but I am just terrible at drawing. And because I have to go through so many iterations, revising a thing. SketchUp is just proven for me to be the most valuable tool, I am really big on optimizing materials and trying to minimize cuts and just or minimize the amount of work that's needed, I guess, especially part of it just comes from a place of wanting a job flow well, but the other part is at this property, whereas it's fairly remote. Sometimes we can get things delivered or delivered close very often, we had to track it all in and hand carry it. So you're, you're really trying to think through exactly how much stuff you need. And I found SketchUp to just be the easiest way for me to kind of figure that out to tail. And then when I'm planning how a build is going to go together. Being able to examine all those little layers and connections and flesh them out in a way that I just really can't do with pen and paper. It's It's proven for me to be a really instrumental tool. Because you know, you're building a thing digitally, and I might do it a dozen times or more before doing it in real life. I wish I could draw that's I have a friend who kind of draws all of the stuff that he designs and it just feels a little bit like a superpower to be able to whip out a pad and sketch what you need, because I can do, you know what I'm creating in SketchUp is arguably more useful, but boy does it take me a lot more time to do it. And it doesn't look as cool. The drawings look look fun.

Ethan Waldman 44:45

They do look fine, but then getting to peel back you know, peel back the siding and show the framing plan is also a nice a nice thing.

Jeff Waldman 44:53

Are you able to draw well?

Ethan Waldman 44:55

No, I'm not. I'm not great at drawing and I'm also really slow and not great at Sketchup either so

Jeff Waldman 45:01

yeah, I would I don't even know that I'm great at SketchUp. But I, I can use it. And you know, I mean, I don't know being when you look at, like the number of iterations I might go through to arrive at a thing. Well, that would have been a lot of paper. So it's probably best that you're doing Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, totally. Well, it's been

Ethan Waldman 45:23

great. catching up with you and chatting. I'm curious. Is there anything that I didn't ask you about that you were you were like, feeling like you wanted to talk about?

Jeff Waldman 45:31

I don't think so. I think you've kind of covered everything. It was a real pleasure talking with you.

Ethan Waldman 45:37

Well, one thing that I like to ask all my guests, just as a closing question is just any favorite resources, books or things that you'd like to share with our listeners? And you can't recommend your own book? Because I already did.

Jeff Waldman 45:49

I wouldn't recommend my own book anyway. It's all on YouTube. I really enjoy a pattern language as book. I don't know if you're familiar, but you know, the book. I do. I am familiar. Yeah. I recommend that one to a lot of folks. Nice. Yeah, SketchUp. I mean, we just kind of talked about it. But they got rid of the free program that you could download. The 2017 version used to be free, but the web app is still free. And if you don't know, if you don't know how to design or build a thing, boy, is it a good place to start just because you get there's a hurdle to getting over designing and navigating in 3d, it's definitely not immediately intuitive if you've never done it. But if you can get over that hurdle a little bit. I feel like the ability to practice building that picnic table on your computer a dozen times before you go out. Saw your first piece of wood is totally monumentally helpful. Absolutely. And workshops I wrote about in my newsletter recently, it's something that's a big proponent of just skill building in general, I think taking workshops where you're, most of us are, at least, you know, most people my age are past being in school. So being in a situation where you're kind of challenging yourself, having to learn some new skills, work with some people that you don't know. Yeah, getting to intimately know some people by working alongside them, and perhaps building some new relationships with like minded quality individuals is obviously Nice. Yeah. Yeah, I just, I think that it's an untapped resource. Because as much as people might say, I enjoy baseball, or woodworking, or pottery, or plants, or whatever it is that they consider to be their hobbies or their passions. They don't really think like, oh, for fairly nominal fee in my city, I can, you know, probably go out and engage in some extra adult curricular learning on this. I think that it's a really cool resource, and I'd like more people to look into them. Awesome.

Ethan Waldman 47:57

Well, Jeff, Waldman, thanks so much for being a guest..

Jeff Waldman 47:59

Thanks so much, Ethan.

Ethan Waldman 48:02

Thank you so much to Jeff Waldman, for being a guest on the show today. And thank you so much to FOTILE for sponsoring this episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast. You can find the YouTube video that Jeff and I talked about, photos of some of the structures that Jeff has designed and sells plans for, and a complete transcript over at You'll also find the links to FOTILE and more info about the two in one dishwasher on the show notes page as well. Well, that's all for this week. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and I'll be back next week with another episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.

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