Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

Posts tagged “carpentry


It’s been a week. We got a buyer for the house, we lost a buyer for the house. We painted, we shingled, we dug.

No, we’re not done, but we are mighty close. Paint notes this week by one of my crew, I’m back on Friday, maybe install some more window wells, maybe just move more stuff out.

This was my view while I painted the north side of the house.

Green goes RedRooftop canyon. All that green? It went red. You can see, perhaps, that my neighbors’ gutters squish into my house. Yes, we’re that close. It made some of the painting on the north face pretty tricky.

Which didn’t stop Tim.

Climb, wriggle, wrangleFor the record, there’s just slightly less than 24″ between the houses. That Tim, he’s a good guy.

Next up, me and Farty the Dog take a road trip to the in-laws to unload some of our stuff from Milwaukee and to hang out a bit. But first – a relaxing holiday weekend.

Happy 4th!


Systems of Knowledge

Technology introduces new systems of knowledge and destroys old ones.

It doesn’t mean to, it just does. Plaster, for example. Plaster is harder to work with and more time consuming than drywall, even though it is arguably a better material. However, drywall is easier to work with. On the other hand, plaster lets you create coved ceiling, which is harder to do with drywall, especially on smaller scales (no matter what these guys say – though it’s still an informative video).

I know how to work with cedar shingles, but instead of doing a shingle-by-shingle, 5″ exposure, I’m installing them in 8′ panels. The stuff that we’ve now ripped off the house, as bad shape as it’s in on the surface, those layers of shingles are still solid on the bottom. They’re still doing their job. Essentially the way traditional cedar shingle work is through two layers of overlap. Each shingle is approximately 15-16″ long. The second layer leaves the bottom 5″ of the lowest layer exposed, leaving 10″ underneath the second layer. The third layer covers 10″ of the second layer and 5″ of the first. The fourth covers 10″ of the third and five of the second. And so on. So there’s a lot of protection. It’s also very, very time consuming. And if you paint or seal only the exterior face, you can encourage warping in the material.

The stuff I’m using is stained on both sides, then attached to a sheet of plywood with a layer of fiberglass matting in between. I love this idea. It goes up faster. The shingles will last longer. And the more people do this, the fewer people will know how to install regular shingles.

It’s not the shingles themselves that are the problem. Honestly, there isn’t a problem here at all. It’s only that I’ve never been a first-hand witness to one system of knowledge (panels) encroaching upon another (shingles). As the guy who bought and loves the panels, I’m a little sad to see how fewer people will know how to do the old stuff that led to this innovation. They’ll co-exist for a long, long time and there will be places in the world that still only do shingles, blah blah blah.

I know. It’s not a big deal. It’s a little deal. And it’s just a little sad.

and up and up

double u double u double u dot dot dot

Work. Weather. Weary.

The house is looking smashing. It is on the market. These are good things. My crew of irregulars is beginning to dry up. This is not so good. Alvaro’s off to Houston. Brooklyn is teaching. Josh might be getting a Real Job. There are many things I can tackle solo, but standing up a 40′ extension ladder is not one of them. I can’t take it down by myself, either.

Shingles!For the record, that’s just an A-frame ladder up there. Not a 40′ extension ladder, which is what we use to get to the peak of the gable.

The interior of the house is done, which means that all of the rest of my work is weather-dependent. The 10-day forecast? Rain. Except for thunderstorms.

I’m living up in Milwaukee six days a week right now – I generally pull half days on Saturday so that I can get home, do three loads of laundry, and spend my Sundays paying bills and crunching numbers for how the job is going. Lisa’s working in the ‘burbs 5 days a week with a 70 minute commute, so last week and this I’ve got the dog with me.

Smelly puppyThis is her on our drive to and from Chicago on Wednesday, after she’d farted herself to sleep. In my truck cab.


This is her taking the wheel after I’ve been dawdling too long.

All of which is to say – the whole family is pretty freaking tired, even though we’re fairly excited and pleased with how everything is moving.

And! I got back comments from my latest beta reader, so I’m going through edits (sloooowwwly) on A Watchful Eye. I’m hoping that picks me up enough that I can think about going back to writing on the next one again, at some point.

Those Are the Breaks

Speed is of the essence, but there are only a few factors over which I have control – namely, what I can have my crew do on any given day. I can’t control their availability. I can make sure that they’re not stepping on one another, job-wise. I can’t control the weather.

Stormy weather

Spring in the upper midwest means that the forecast changes on a 6-12 hour timetable. As useless as a 10-day forecast typically is, a 2-day forecast currently suffers that same unpredictability. It rained 2 of my 6 work days last week, and winds gusted up to 45 mph on another day, so I didn’t get up on a ladder. This week’s forecast began with sun on Memorial Day, sun on Wednesday, and thunderstorms every other day. Bit by bit, the forecast has edged away and today is the third straight day of sun. The front of the house is primed and today we start the first coat of actual paint – thus getting rid of my strawberry-shortcake-tinted primer. Phew. It looks tasty, though.

My crew continues their good-natured work (yesterday this involved regular invocations of a “shellac-attack”), and in spite of my high subconscious stress level (as evidenced by the absurdly early hours at which I awake every day), when I’m at the house doing the work, it’s generally a pretty good time.

Plus which, the weather this week is breaking my way.

I can see my house from here!

The master builder (with no apologies to Ibsen).

Nice work.

Week one. I brought up clothing so that I could go running if I felt ambitious. I brought up writing in case I felt ambitious. I neither ran nor wrote.

It’s not so much that the list of things to do on the house is immense – it’s big, sure, but a lot of things are small, such as adding the final 10 3/8″ of trim in the dining room, running the rest of the base shoe, hanging the doors on the built-ins. All of this work requires some degree of preparation, and most of that I did over the autumn and winter. I’m contracting with my former company, so no worries on the getting-stuff-done front. But the weather is killing me. Everything that requires either warm (above 40 degree temps) or dry is being stymied by Wisconsin spring. I’m getting a lot of the indoor work done, though.

I’m also screwing up my shoulder.

I’ve got a great crew of people helping me out, none of whom I ask to climb up to the peak of the gable, although I do require them to help me set up the 40′ extension ladder to get up there.

Look! Ants!Those shingles down there at the bottom? That’s the roof of my neighbor’s house.