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ROLLIE’S CABIN: What 3 old guys (and a kid for muscle) did when they were looking for something to do

By on November 27, 2018 in Featured Homes with 1 Comment

The work is about done on Rollie’s cabin — designed to have the flavor of the National Park lodges of the Depression era.

By Rollie Schmitten

photos by Donna Cassidy

Two old guys (ages 72 and 82) were discussing retirement and what to do with their spare time.

Ski season had passed. They didn’t golf, fishing was closed, and both were worn out reading. So what can we do? One (72) said, “I have always wanted to build a log cabin.” The second (82) said, “Count me in.”

The first old guy was me, Rollie Schmitten. The second was my longtime friend, Jerry Duffy.

2015: Step one was to select a building site, and we chose a bluff overlooking Nason Creek along Highway 2. Next was to attend the Onalaska Log Home Construction School. We then selected 170 Lodge Pole pine trees from land that we owned, fell them and cut them into 33 foot lengths, which allowed for a 30-foot by 30-foot structure.

The design, with the aid of my architect daughter, was to fashion it after the Old Faithful Lodge in the Yellowstone National Park and the Glacier National Park Lodge. Both were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the 1930’s Depression with lots of ornate burled logs with Indian and fish and wildlife art.

But there was one thing missing — someone who actually knew how to build structures.

After an exhausting search, we talked to one guy (age 70), who was a recently retired contractor with 42 years experience. He is Dennis Clemmons and he liked the challenge and agreed to join in the project. Now there were three with 224 accumulative years of life.

2016-17: Over the next two years, the logs were peeled and racked to dry for a year. The foundation, well and septic system were installed. The logs for this two-story cabin, (who said about building anything small?), were put up using antique wooden barn pulleys in tandem.

Over 2,000 16-inch log screws were used to fasten the logs. By the end of 2017, we had floors, walls, windows and a roof.

In 2016 however, it quickly became evident that something was missing that the three didn’t have: MUSCLE.

So my nephew, Nick Tarver, age 22, attending WSU’s Architectural school and a weight lifter, was added.

Now there were three and the kid.

Nick quickly became our chief “chinker,” installing over 3,000 running feet of chinking in the inside and outside walls plus doing all the tile and hardwood flooring.

Rollie and his front door, with its “speakeasy” peep hole: Some of the joy of building the cabin was finding fun and challenging projects, such as the rounded door.

2018: As we moved towards completion, we could see the light at the end of the tunnel and it wasn’t another delivery truck.

The custom cabinets, made from a white pine log found floating in Lake Wenatchee and milled, planed, and stained with white vinegar and tea bags were installed.

The internal doors came from a recycled telephone pole. The fire hearth came from flat rust colored stone from Sears Creek up the White River drainage.

The interior burled logs came from an old Entiat Ridge forest fire.

The Nordic style wood-burning stove was encased in two-and-one-half inch soap stone to retain its heat.

The Speak-easy front door was custom made from alder. The granite counter tops are called “black stain leather” and have a live — that is, unsmoothed — edge.

Oh, I conveniently forgot to mention that we are 3.2 miles off the grid and require a generator for power which will later be supplemented with a solar system.

Our (the 3 Old Guys) wives, who served as our sounding board and quality control team, couldn’t decide if this was a good thing to keep us busy or if we are just a bunch of old fools. We prudently did not call for a vote.

Fall 2018: Virtually, our project is completed. We are ready to enjoy our beautiful log home. Even with builder bias, it is spectacular.

What have we learned, other than a lot of new talents that we will likely never use again, is to NEVER ASK ANOTHER OLD GUY WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR SPARE TIME!

Project heroes: Onalaska Log Cabin School, Dickinson Construction, Plain Hardware, One Way Electric, Precision Water Jet, Permachink Log Cabin Supplies, Leavenworth Plumbing and The Fireplace Guys.

Rollie Schmitten is a forth generation upper Valley resident who after his family sold their lumber mill, resumed work in the fish and wildlife arena.  He served as the Washington State Director of Fisheries, and later as the Federal Director of Marine Fisheries. He worked for two presidents and five Secretaries of Commerce traveling to 64 countries on fisheries and whaling issues. He and his wife Barbara live at Lake Wenatchee.  

Nick Tarver applied 3,000 running feet of chink between the logs.

Rollie rests after cutting the logs on his land for the cabin.

Rollie incorporates masks he has collected over his years of working with Indian tribes on fishing issues into the decor of the cabin.

The cabinets were made from a white pine log found floating in Lake Wenatchee, and then milled, planed and stained. Troy Bassett of Precision Waterjet designed the unusual island top, which is black pearl leather granite with a live edge.

Natural burled limbs and poles are used widely in the cabin.

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  1. Deanna says:

    Beautiful! I would love to see more photos. I also took Onalaska’s class and tagged my trees to harvest in NFS area.

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