Hooray! Dean is back! Due to the demands of physical therapy and doctor’s appointments for his knee, he will often have to work short days, but it is thrilling to be moving forward again. Also, when it’s just he and I, the pace is slower, the pressure is less, and he can take the time to teach me small carpentry skills. I’m very happy.
When I built the barn back in ’06, I simply followed the directions. Dean understands the whys of the kit and is constantly eyeing boards for crowns, bows, crooks, and wanes, double-checking for level, and pulling them until they are, in his mysterious phrase, “butter.” Hitting the mark exactly. Before we nail anything he always calls out to me at the other end of the board: “You satisfied? You happy?”
“Carpenters don’t want it good enough,” he often says. “Carpenters want it perfect.”
Yesterday we spent our five hours putting up the rest of the apartment floor joists. (Jon has been biking in to town every day, job hunting, and he stopped by on his return and took these photos.)
Dean loved the come-along set-up that Gary had devised last week when Gary and I had done the first half of the floor. The come-along pulls the building together, making it much simpler to lift each board to its correct spot and have it tightly held for nailing.
I think the teasing and jokes are at least half what I love about these jobs.
(I happened to mention yesterday that I am always the driver when our family goes on long road trips. Dean, an old-fashioned male, was shocked. “I think some of your chromosomes got mixed up,” he told me cheerfully.)
When Dean had to leave for an hour I spent the time nailing up joist hangers. Joist hangers each require twelve nails. It’s tedious work, perfect for unskilled labor, but not without its own small tricks — as I’ve learned.
Gary discovered last week that I had put up sixty joist hangers in the barn without ever knowing that each one has small points to be hammered into the wood to secure it for nailing. Instead I’d held each one, with its stiff sharp metal edges, in my hands and bent it into position. (A note I’d written in ’06: “I stood on a ladder putting up joist hangers all day by myself. I got half of them (30) up. My knuckles are swollen and stiff today: yesterday they were scraped and bleeding from a dozen cuts from the raw metal.”)
Nailing up joist hangers the way they’re meant to be hung is simple and does not involve bloodshed.
This is the sort of thing I run into all the time. Joist hangers do not come with directions because anyone building something large enough to have a floor obviously must have the basic skills to put up a simple joist hanger. I think it also may be a guy thing, as in my observation most men on a construction job are impatient with written instructions and will barely glance at a picture.
I, however, am someone with a great (perhaps too great?) faith in the written word. The original Joy of Cooking, with its famous opening directive, was written for people like me: “Stand facing the stove.”
So I’m clueless and make many mistakes. But with so many teachers I’m learning every day. And though I often feel stupid and inept, the learning is more fun than you can imagine.