Man Caves of the Week - Incredible 1940's/1950's DIY Basement Man Cave!

Man Caves of the Week - Incredible 1940's/1950's DIY Basement Man Cave!

Every once in a while, we stumble across a man cave that goes so far above and beyond the limits of man cave design that we have to pinch ourselves to make sure it's real. Dennis, a friend of ours from Reddit, posted pictures of his basement man cave on Reddit and we knew we had to dedicate an entire Man Caves of the Week post to him. Dennis transformed his basement into a 1940's/1950's era cabin theme, and it's absolutely unreal - from the stone fireplace to the fake window to the shotgun cartridge light switch, Dennis' attention to detail in this man cave is unlike anything we've seen before. What makes this the most impressive is that the entire cave was built for only $107! Dennis found and scavenged all of the materials to build the man cave and did all of the carpentry and handiwork himself!

This post comes in three parts: Part 1 shows the pictures of the finished man cave. Part 2 shows pictures and details the six-week building process that led to this masterpiece. Part 3 is a short interview with Dennis where he gives us all some very helpful tips on how to build your own DIY man cave for cheap!

Part 1: The Finished Man Cave
Part 2: The Build Process
Part 3: Interview with the Creator

Part 1: The Finished Man Cave

The finished hunting man cave.
The first picture of the incredible finished man cave. Dennis made the walls and floors out of reclaimed crate wood that he aged so it carries that antique look.

The fireplace from a second angle.
Total building time for this project was six weeks and all materials cost $107. All the furniture/shelving was either handmade or already owned.

The fake window.
The man cave is actually located in Dennis' basement. So the window shown here is a photograph that is lit from behind and can be turned off to simulate night.

Another view of the shelves and furniture.
More of the shelves and furniture, all built with reclaimed wood.

Dry sink.
The dry sink was made with no exposed cuts to give it that antique look. Notice the jugs, cans, and bottles which were all from that time period.

The fireplace.
The fireplace was built from real stone and wood. While it doesn't actually function as a fireplace, there are burn marks in the wood and real ashes in the fireplace to add to the realism.

The bookshelf.
The bookshelf contains books and magazines from the 1950's as well as a WWII cot in the corner. Plus a pretty sweet bullet collection.

Another view of the fireplace.
Another view of the fireplace allows you to see the incredible detail in the stone construction and flooring.

Part 2: The Build Process

Dennis was nice enough to share with us the pictures he took of the build process. What stood out to us is the length to which he went to ensure the authenticity of the build. Alternating the corner overlap of the walls, wood aging techniques, weathering food labels, and even creating a hidden door!


The original basement space.
This is the basement space that was used originally for storage. Not seen in this picture are the furnace and water heater which still had to have access after the build. A perfect blank canvas!

The floor plan.
The floor plan shown here was really the extent of the initial planning. After the build was complete, the finished man cave stuck closely to the original plans.

The construction of the walls.
The free lumber for the build came in the form of 5 x 12 foot panels that were originally shipping crates for a local sheet metal company. To distress the wood, Dennis used a draw knife to remove the sharp edges and create a hand cut look. The pieces of wood for the walls of the man cave were overlapped to stack the boards like a real log cabin.

The roof.
The drop ceiling was removed in order to make room for the angled ceiling. The center beam was one of the few pieces of lumber purchased for the build and was cut with a draw knife, beaten with a hammer and chains, and then stained to give it the antique look.

The secret gun shelf door.
The furnace and water heater are located behind the fake window and needed to have access maintained. In order to accommodate this, the gun shelf is actually a secret door built on hinges that can be rolled out when needed.

The fireplace.
The stones for the fireplace were leftover from a neighbor's landscaping project and glued together using landscaping adhesive. The mantle is made from older barn wood. While the fireplace is fake, the wood in front was slightly burned and real ashes were added to the fireplace to add realism.

The shelving.
The shelving is made from newer pallet wood. In order to achieve the grayed look, a clever technique using steel wool and vinegar was used. Vinegar is boiled with steel wool and then painted onto the wood, which changes its color.

The bookshelf.
Great care was taken to only include items that were reminiscent of the period. The tin and bottle labels were printed and then individually distressed to give the look like they had been in the cabin for decades.

Part 3: Interview with the Creator

First off we want to thank Dennis for taking the time to answer some questions for us. For those looking to do a DIY man cave, he's got some great tips on how to keep your project cheap!

This man cave is incredible and so detailed. What inspired you to "go all out" and really create something you can be proud of?
"Some of my most fond memories are hunting with my kids, hearing my grandfathers hunting stories, and even a yearly anniversary trip to a mountain cabin with my wife. I really wanted a space that captured those memories. So, I decided on a cabin design. But I wanted to really believe I was in a 1950s cabin. For me, it's all about the details. I'm inspired how Disney does things. They work hard making every sight, sound, smell etc really sell the idea of the fantasy. That's what I set out to do. That meant the construction had to look like it was done with simple tools by one person, using materials available in the woods. The furniture and interior items had to look hand made or repurposed and have years of use. The items in the cabin had to be what you might find in a real old hunting cabin. (which meant no TV!) The labels on the cans and jars had to fit the era. The photos in the album had to be 1950s. The books on the shelf are 1950s. The ammo on the shelf has to be in a 1950s box. Plus, the room had to smell like a cabin. I really burned the wood in the fireplace so I could smell the smoke. The guns are oiled so I can smell the oil. I light the pipe (even though I don't smoke) so the room smells like tobacco. The details sell it for me. And I think that's one reason so many people liked it when they saw the pictures."

What is your level of expertise in carpentry and construction in general? Did you have any help?
"I am a self taught carpenter. I work as a TV director full time. A long time ago, one of the stations I worked for needed a simple sports set, and I built it for them. Since then I have contracted dozens of jobs for TV stations, churches and others, everything from a 2 foot book shelf to a 40 foot portable mountain! So, I don't do it professionally, but I do it on the side, and have years of experience. Most everything I build I dream up and design myself."

How did you find your raw materials? What are some tips you have on how to locate these in any area around the US?
"I got the free lumber for this project from a local metal company. They receive their sheets of metal in huge wood crates, that they break open and then discard. I was interested in the wood because it was a full 1" thick, not 3/4" like a regular 1x piece of lumber would be. Plus, it was long boards, not too knotty, and of course free. I had previously used some of it for a storage shed in the back yard, so I knew it was good lumber. It involved a lot of work to break them apart and remove all the nails, but for the price, it was worth it.

Finding free materials isn't very difficult. Anyone can do it. It just requires a bit of exploring and watching and time. Visit local warehouses and industrial business parks in your area. Find out what companies are in the warehouses, and look to see what they throw away. Ask them if you can have the discarded material. Promise them that you will not make a mess when removing the stuff. Also, watch for businesses around you that are closing or moving. At some point they may fill dumpsters full of stuff they don't want to move. Check back often. They might not have something today, but next week it might be a gold mine! Also, watch Craigslist for free pallets, lumber and building materials. Here are some ideas based on my experience:

-A local professional shipping company throws away truck loads of 4' x 8' Styrofoam sheets and huge pieces of cardboard. Great for insulation, sound proofing, flotation, carving things out of etc.

-A local cabinet company throws out tons of removed cabinets, countertops, cabinet doors, hardware, wood trim etc. Great for workshops, playhouses, sheds etc.

-A local plastics company throws out tons of cut-offs of Plexiglas, Lexan, polypropylene sheets, PVC sheets, plastic rods, huge thick chunks of PVC, bullet proof plastic etc. Can be used for many things.

-A local alarm company discards lots of metal lock boxes (like the ones mounted to the sides of your house), sometimes working security cameras, unused alarm buzzers, rolls of wire etc.

-Local carpet and flooring installers discard tons of left over carpet, hardwood, tile and wood trim. Another flooring retailer dumps pallets of the stuff when new styles arrive.

-A local commercial roofing company discards all their leftovers after every job. This includes buckets of screws, nails, sheets of foam, rolls of rubber and plastic, sheets of metal, tools etc.

-A local marble countertops company throws away truck loads of broken marble everyday. Great for mosaics, pavers for walks or patios, art projects etc.

-A local window company discards hundreds of removed windows and pieces of glass. Great for sheds, playhouses, glass shelves etc.

-A local garage door company fills their dumpster daily with garage doors and hardware they remove. I keep a few of the pulleys and springs on hand in case one of mine breaks. I used some of these 16' interlocking aluminum panels to build a shed roof once.

-A local food manufacturing plant went out of business a few years ago. They filled dozens of dumpsters with industrial machinery, unopened boxes of parts, cabinets, entire Craftsman 12 drawer tool boxes full of hand and power tools, rolls of plastic wrap, entire walk-in coolers including fans, motors, sheet foam, sheets of stainless steel, desks, chairs, work benches, unopened office supplies...and on and on."

What were some of the major challenges you ran into and how did you overcome them?
"1) Access to the furnace behind the window wall. I built a secret passage behind the bookshelf.
2) Hiding the plumbing and ductwork. It took a while to figure out how to have a roof on the cabin, but still have access to plumbing pipes if needed.
3) The doorknobs. It was a challenge to make the doorknobs look vintage inside the cabin, but keep the regular doorknob on the house side of the door. It took a lot of drilling and grinding, but once I came up with a plan, I was tickled with the results.
4) Making it feel like a cabin in the woods instead of a basement. I included the window. Sometimes I play cricket sounds. I included "exterior" photos of the cabin. All these details sell the idea it exists outside the basement."

What factor makes you the most proud of your man cave?
"When people notice the little details and can appreciate the hard work that went it them."

We definitely notice the details and the hard work! A huge congratulation to Dennis on turning his creative dream into an incredible basement man cave! Thank you also for taking the time to detail the entire process!
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