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Taking the job home

Jack Ivy is a sales manager for Cabot Stain Products in Toronto. For the last 30 years, he has owned an old hunting cabin on 63 acres adjacent to Algonquin Provincial Park in Madawaska, Ontario, about a 3-1/2 hour drive from Toronto. Three years ago, Ivy decided to demolish the cabin and begin a new project. He says it was time “to live and learn.”

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“We decided to build a new cabin, 800 sq. ft. on the main floor and a loft of about 300 sq. ft.,” Ivy explains. “It’s rather small, but we are now on the grid, have electricity and right now are using the river for a water source. It is winterized and there is heat in it.”

So how does a weekend warrior, self-taught DIY guy who sells stain for a living, gain the knowledge to build a two-story structure with confidence?

“I’ve done woodworking as a hobby for the past 20 years; more seriously over the last 10 years. And that was really precipitated by talking to a master craftsman at one point. The other thing I did was read, read, read, read — publications like yours; I’ve got more magazines than Carter has pills. And if you don’t do it as a labor of love, you’re probably not going to be happy doing it.”

During a three-year period, Ivy spent his weekends and vacations working on the cabin. He began with 30 concrete piers, built the floor structure, studded the walls, and had help putting up the trusses and asphalt shingles on the roof.

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“We were fortunate that there were major lumber sawmills in the area so just about all of the materials were sourced locally within 10 miles. The floors are red pine, the ceilings are all tongue-and-groove white pine, the trim work is all locally sourced as well; I ran it all myself using pretty rudimentary stuff — routers and table saws to make all the material.”

Ivy used Eastern white cedar shingles, stained them all with Cabot stain, of course, and admits if he had to do it again, he would use a factory-finished material.

“I used Cabot products through the whole thing,” says the stain salesman. “Everything we used has been a waterborne product, though. Not that I wanted to by choice on the floors, I would have rather had oil on the floors. I typically prefer the oil stuff, but it seems the way to go was waterborne products.”

The biggest challenge was building a wooden spiral staircase, something he had dreamed about for years.

“It worked out OK; it’s up, it’s sturdy, it’s navigable, you can get up and down it all right. The stairs are made of spruce, the posts are turned material — spruce also. There is an iron bar running through the center of the wooden blocks running in between.”

Now that the cabin is done, one would think Ivy would sit back and finally enjoy his new digs. But that’s not the case.

“Like most woodworking people, it’s real nice to come to the end of a project and start dreaming about the next one. We’re building a four-season home to go along with the cabin as a companion building.” Contact: Cabot Stains.

This article originally appeared in the May 2009 issue.

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