Looking back over my shoulder one more time

 

A bit more history…………

It may seem silly to gather bits and pieces of equipment and materials for a project that I hadn’t even identified or planned.  And, I suppose, in many ways it was.  But I was pretty sure the dream would eventually involve building a cabin of some kind.  Something quirky.  Or a nice big deck at the very least.  And it was likely to be on the property we had.  ‘Surely‘, I thought, ‘we’ll be building something there?!’

I mean, I hate tents.  And we no longer had a big boat and, basically, there was nothing there to receive us – not even a flat surface.  One has to sleep somewhere.  Right?  Wasn’t it obvious?

I’d have to build.

So, I gathered bits and pieces.  And tools.  It all made sense in that ‘buy-it-all-first, then-you-have-to-do-something’ way men have.  Like barbecues.

If you gather supplies in a goofy, whimsical, bargain-if-you-use-it-waste-of-money-if-you-don’t-kinda-way, you can save a lot of money.  Or lose it, depending.  I lucked out.  I went with the whimsy and we eventually used it.

Savings?  In the tens of thousands.

One of the things you can be sure you are going to use when building is fasteners.  And fasteners are something I know a bit about.  When living on a boat, (three different boats over a period of eleven years, actually) one becomes fairly familiar with fasteners, glues and big metal things like chain and pipes and such.  I knew we were going to need such stuff.  I just didn’t know exactly what or where.

Worst place to purchase such stuff?  Home Depot.  Best?  BC Hydro salvage yard (unfortunately no longer in operation).  Second best?  Normal, basic, junk and metal salvage yards.

And if you know you are going to need chain or pipe, you may as well get something big and strong enough to do anything you might need it to do.  Bigger is better.  Even if it seemed a bit much.  So, I jumped at the chance to pick up some 8′ lengths of 6″pipe.  I eventually got half-inch chain, some 3/8″ cable, lots of 3/4″, long, heavy galvanized bolts and tons of heavy, hot-dipped galvanized steel beams.  Not to mention hundreds of assorted screws and smaller bolts.  I even got a bunch of very heavy-duty, industrial grates about three feet square and weighing 200 pounds each.  “What was all that for?”

At the time of the purchase?

No idea.

When things began to fill up the driveway, Sal was not amused.  I really needed to get an idea.  Even getting a clue would help.

Of course, I had plenty of ideas but none of them would strike Sal or some other confidant as plausible or likely or, in some cases, do-able or livable.  Interesting?  Not even a little bit.  They didn’t even want to think about it with me.  Not really.  I was starting from a completely blank slate and quite ‘by myself’.

Which is good.

I contemplated a huge tree house – one slung from a metal collar on a huge tree with cables hanging down.  Kind of an industrial Robinson Crusoe-type thing.  A friend of mine in Oregon makes the hardware for that.  “No way!” said Sal (she didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it, either).

I envisioned utilizing shipping containers (I had this idea before the craze hit, I want you to know).  I was going to re-do the interiors and place three or four on foundations joined by a huge deck……..“No way!” said my closest neighbours a quarter of a mile away but in a direct line of sight.  They, too, didn’t hesitate with the nixing.  They just lacked the vision, I guess.

I thought about building a small 500 square foot building designed to incorporate an anticipated exact-sized extension.  And that building would have another natural place for a further addition and so on.  Sorta like a planned-expansion design.  A cabin concertina.  The idea was to be able to frame and close each ‘box’ in a weekend.  I called it the Weekend Warrior cabin.

I even had that one professionally designed.

John Robinson now has it featured on his website.  He has embellished the original idea and I am sure for the better.  http://www.robinsonplans.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=208&Itemid=126

But the more I dreamed and designed in my head, the more I realized how little I knew.

I whined and complained one day at dim sum (fitting, in a semantic kind of way, don’t you think?) to a friend of mine about how stupid I was.  “I  already know that!” he said, not in the least bit sympathetically.  “But I own Linwood Homes.  Did you know that?  Anyway, why not go to work there.  Learn.  Share some of your stupid ideas with my partner, B.  He’ll fire you pretty quick, I”m sure.  I hope.  But, in the meantime, you might learn a bit about building”. 

I worked there for a little over a year.  Bill was more than patient.  I just wasn’t useful.  Not really.  Too much of a learning curve.  But, for me, it was better than taking five years of the building trades at BCIT.  I learned a lot.

Linwood makes a great product.  They also provide a fantastic service to go with it and they are worth what they charge.  I am a big fan of Linwood Homes. 

But I didn’t buy one.  I wanted to do it myself.  I wanted to design it.  I wanted to do the organization and the purchasing.  I wanted to build it.  I appreciated their expertise and I borrowed from it liberally.  And it was generously offered.  But I wanted to do it all.  With Sal too, of course.

It was a primal kinda-thing, ya know? “A man should be able to build his own house-kinda-thing.”

So, the dream was taking a bit of shape.  It was primal.  It was building.  And it was all about me.

But it had some fits and starts.

I started by wanting to do timberframe.  So cool.  But a friend of mine in the timberframe design business, Nick Kokas, talked me out of it.  “Dave, if you are building all by yourself and doing so in the remote woods, you need to use pieces that you can lift.  Trust me, even 4x4s get heavy when carted up hill.  I love timberframe but if you do not have road access, workers and a crane, fuggedabout it.”

I learned a few years later how right he was.  I thought of his words with every 2×10, every 2×12 and every 6×6 I lifted.  I am glad he advised me to go ‘stick-built’ rather than timbers and I am even more pleased that I listened.

But I am ahead of myself.  All that was part of the learning process.  And there was so much more to come.

More history will continue after a brief interlude……………

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