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Monday, August 2, 2021
  • The Sketchbook. A builder’s journal: #34 The Boys in the Boat
    The summer of 2010 I was in one of Come Boating’s pilot gigs with a men’s crew. We were chatting and adjusting foot braces. Someone made a joke about retirement and another joined in, saying how that wasn’t ever going to ...
  • The Sketchbook. A builder's journal: Diagonals
    A few years ago in the paint aisle of a lumberyard I came across three women huddled over a tape measure. Two were explaining to the third how measurements were broken into smaller pieces. It was a math tutorial and fractions ...
  • The Sketchbook. A builder’s journal: #32 Cut List
    Some tasks just aren’t flashy. After weeks of steady, yet not visibly exciting progress, my inner diva needed some sparkle. I’ve been working on framing a large porch and came to the point where I could start setting posts. The 17 6x6" ...
  • The Sketchbook. A builder’s journal: #31 Pounding Rocks
    This past week I needed to create a passageway through an existing foundation for a new sewer line. The foundation is mortared stone with a masonry skim coat. Lacking X-ray vision, I had no way of telling what was below the ...
  • The Sketchbook. A builder’s journal: #30 Dig It
    Shark Valley, located in Florida’s Everglades National Park, has a great 15 mile bike loop. Two things make it great. The abundance of wildlife and that it’s flat. Flat terrain is my idea of a perfect place for a bike ride. Wildlife includes turtles ...
  • The Sketchbook. #29 A builder’s journal: Post Father’s Day
    My father wasn’t what you would call “handy.” He was a city kid. I’m sure he would have been happy renting and having a landlord take care of repairs, but that didn’t mesh with my mom’s plans. Instead, he took on the task of keeping ...
  • The Sketchbook. A builder’s journal: #28 Power
    The other day, strange sounds were emanating from throughout the house I’m rebuilding. It was a mix of pitiful mewing, dove-like cooing, and quiet hooting. At times it came from upstairs, at others from the basement. I did what ...
  • The Sketchbook. A builder’s journal: #27 Clarify
    My current project is the rebuild of an existing house. I’m fortunate to have a local historian passing along photos of the house from the early 1900s. Not only are they heartening and fun to see, they’re also a great help in determining ...
  • The Sketchbook. A builder’s journal: #26 Redwood or Red Wood?
    Ten years ago, I needed to present a sewer and water application at a meeting of the town’s Utility Board. I’ve been to my share of meetings. This one was memorable for two reasons. First, I was totally beguiled by how the meeting ...
  • The Sketchbook. A builder’s journal: #25 Decisions and TSP
    Given the current out-of-control building material prices, I’ve shifted my work focus for the coming year. I was going to build a new house on speculation. Instead, I’ll turn my attention to another of my projects. The rebuild of a large wreck of a house
  • The Sketchbook. A builder’s journal: #24 Get the Lead Out
    In 1994 two members of Led Zeppelin recorded and released “No Quarter,” a live acoustic album. It was subtitled “Unledded” and was an immediate success. In 1978 residential use of lead-based paint was banned. The Environmental ...
  • The Sketchbook. A builder’s journal: #23 Sticker Shock
    2021 is my 37th year as a solo builder. In many ways I feel like I’m at the top of my building game. I love the whole business of creation, from envisioning to facilitation. I’ve spent the past 18 years focused primarily on smaller homes....
  • The Sketchbook. A builder’s journal: #22 Code Caulk
    A friend invited me to move to California a few years ago. It was a tempting offer. I declined for two reasons; strong community connections here, and burdensome trade licensure there. Perhaps it came down to unease on my part ...
  • The Sketchbook. A builder’s journal: #21 A Different View
    On a recent cold and wet morning, I was walking to the post office. I came across a robin exhibiting what seemed to me un-robin-like behavior. It was on a paved parking lot next to a fairly busy road and didn’t move as I walked by....
  • The Sketchbook. A builder’s journal: #20 Jig
    Between house projects in 1985 I worked for Karpy, of Karpy’s Custom Kitchens. He was having a house built and I was a floating spare set of hands. I helped the electrician, cabinetmaker and plumber when needed. The rest …
  • The Sketchbook. A builder’s journal: #19
Adapt
    Two years ago at the age of 95 my mom had a stroke. In the course of a few minutes she went from being active and completely independent to wheelchair-bound and entirely dependent . . .
  • The Sketchbook. A builder’s journal: #18 Well, Well
    There are two basic types of electric well pump; jet or submersible. A jet pump is surface mounted. If you have a well pump in your basement, that’s a jet pump. Jet pumps pull water from a well. Submersible pumps are set inside the well ...
  • The Sketchbook. A builder’s journal: #17 Shocked
    This past week I shocked a well in anticipation of a water test for potability. Shocking a well is when you chlorinate it to kill bacteria. You do this with all new wells or ones that have been opened and worked on. To shock a well ...
  • The Sketchbook. A builder’s journal: #16 Magnetic Attraction
    I build my own kitchen cabinets. They’re relatively simple; basically a sturdy box. No complicated joinery or hardware. I’ll use either jelly cupboard–type hardware on the doors or a round knob and magnetic catch. A magnetic catch ...
  • The Sketchbook. A builder’s journal: #15 Underfoot
    This past Thursday night I put the first coat of finish on the floor of my current build. The house is built on a shallow frost-protected foundation, commonly referred to as a slab. The slab serves as foundation, heat sink for the infloor ...
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