Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I'm Busy. Here's A Picture Of A House.

I've built a lot of different things over the years.

The term "built" is nebulous. The owner of the house builds it, but doesn't do anything except write checks until their hands bleed. The designer usually stops after the lines are on the paper. The general contractor generally rides herd over the whole mess, and is often a framing contractor around New England. The rest is subcontractors, or "specialty" contractors, who don't know very much about everything, but know a great deal about what ever it is they do.

I used to work at large commercial contractor, and there were people there that had been working at "building" things their whole lives, and had never seen one of them. They never left the office.

I make furniture now, and like it. But we were out on Christmas Day, visiting for the holiday, and we went to the house in the picture. It's perhaps the best expression of whatever talent I have at building my favorite thing to build - a house. And if anybody can claim to have "built" a house, I can claim this one. I paused in the driveway, and for a minute I remembered the scratching on the paper, and the spreadsheets, and the permits, and the framing, and the painting, and trim, and ... well, I remembered all the effort I put into that place; remembered all at once. It might be a better example of the most gratifying work I've ever done than even my own house. It still looks neat as a pin eight years later.

In three hundred years, that house might still be there. Someone might find the business card I pitched into the space between the stringers just before I nailed the stairtreads home. Will they think: "I wish that guy was alive today to build me another house"? Or will they wish I was there to get a scolding for a missed nail, or a crooked stud I should have burned instead of nailed?

I don't know. But I do know I wouldn't have thrown my name in there, if I didn't care about what I was doing.


Internet Ronin said...

You're not dead yet and, after looking at a super-sized version of that photo, I'm already thinking, "Good craftsmanship always shows" and then, "They don't build them like that any more." But they do, don't they? My compliments to "they."

Ruth Anne Adams said...

They'll google your name on the business card and find this post. You just left a trail of cyber-breadcrumbs back to the craftsman.

Care to come build one in North Carolina?

Editor Theorist said...

Nice posting.

SippicanCottage said...

ronin- Thanks for noticing that. Everybody, if you click on the picture, it goes large and you can see why all the people in town call it the "gingerbread house."

ruth anne- The commute sounds... formidable.

editor t likes my posting. How about my beaming?

Anonymous said...

If I drove past that house, I'd think to myself, "Now there lives a homeowner who has meticulously maintained his home for many years."

It's classic and timeless.Compared to the big vinyl boxes built around my county, this looks like it could have been built before the Depression (when more builders were craftsmen) and lovingly cared for.

My great-grandfather built homes like this and his grandson continues the tradition. Their clients seek them out.

That house could be dropped into any older neighborhood and fit right in.
-Deb in Madison

SippicanCottage said...

Deb- Your comments were very interesting to old Sippican.

this looks like it could have been built before the Depression

It's based on a sort of 1910-1920 style of carpenter gothic-ish. Good call.

That house could be dropped into any older neighborhood and fit right in.

I purchased the last lot in an old neighborhood, that had been used as a sort of dump by all the neighbors, and forty years ago, by the developer. It does fit right in. I win!

I bought the lot from through a realtor. He says to me: I'll take your offer and put it through the drawer for the owner's signature.

Me: The drawer?

Realtor: Yes, the owner is in maximum security prison for murdering his wife. I have to put documents in a drawer and shove it through the bulletproof glass wall.

We dug very carefully in there.

Anonymous said...

Wonder who ended up with the money from the sale of the property?

The boat (posted above) is exactly as I expect from you. We buy Gougeon glue here by the barrel.

Growing up over a strange sort of boat factory, I've inhaled the wood dust of many championship boats. No epoxy back then, just big ambered drops of Weldwood spattered over the floor.
-Deb in Madison

SippicanCottage said...

Hey Deb- What a funny confluence of interests we have. That is indeed Gougeon Bros epoxy, about two gallons of it.

Wisconsin and thereabouts have a long and fine tradition of mahogany lake runabouts I'm familiar with. I've used Weldwood too- that's old school. Around here, they used to use that with big bronze drifts in transoms and so forth.

There is a law in Massachusetts that a criminal cannot profit from his crime. We had to get a lawyer to contact all the murdered wife's relatives to see if it was OK to sell the property, as he owned it with his wife. They all signed. I never met the guy.

The realtor that sold it to me purchased a million dollar scratch ticket shortly after that, and then dropped dead a few months later.

God, I should write a book. Would anybody believe it?