Do it yourself (DIY)

Salvage yards (RW17)

In the 1960:s when they were tearing down Victorian houses, they just threw everything into the garbage. Later they realized that they could resell leaded glass windows or brass lighting fixtures as well as old growth beams, original furu or oak floors and other period details that people would buy to put in their restored homes. Salvage places were popping up with old kitchens, old appliances, and wooden floors from bowling alleys or basketball courts. Sometimes they have things from old schools, like giant roller maps. John bought one that had five different maps from the elementary school he went to when he was a kid and the other day he discovered that they had torn it completely down.

Interior work (RW17)

If John has the material and the motivation, he would have the ability to put up a wall. There are hack carpenters who only measure one time and if it is 1/2 inch or 1/4 inch too short, they just put it in there and try to make it work by using extra nails or screws and then the whole thing can't be made square and looks just shabby. John is someone who measures meticulously three times and he always makes his cut slightly longer than it needs to be, tries to fit it and shave off a little bit until it is right. He is too meticulous to work as a carpenter because at the end of the day he would still be working on his little project and his boss would come over, telling him they don't have time to make it perfect because they have to make money. At home when he has the time and can afford to be over-detailed, he enjoys it a lot!

Things like dry-walls and hanging doors is a lot of fun. John likes hanging doors because all his meticulousness comes into play during shimming and framing. If John looks at a door, he can really feel the lack of square and there is a doorway in his house where the doorway itself is just not square, but is a total trapezoid. When he wanted to hang a door there, he had to plain it to fit this trapazoidal doorway. He worked on that for a long time and it filled him with joy. Another thing he hates is when people install wall-to-wall carpeting and cut two inches out of the bottom of all their doors so they swing easily over the carpet. You are not supposed to install wall-to-wall carpet, you should go fuck yourself! That happened a lot in the 1960s and 1970s and of course when they were restoring those old houses and pulled the carpet out, there was good wood flooring under there, but all of the closet doors were hovering above the ground.

John does minor plumbing, too, but it scares him a little bit. Leaks happen inside walls and cause slow but lasting damage, whereas if your electrical installation is wrong, you are going to know it and can trace it back. John's mom's house was built in 1902 and it was still plumbed for gas lighting. As they took the walls down, it took them a while to realize that it was for natural gas.

Electrical work (RW17)

Back in the 1990:s John installed all the wiring in an old warehouse to convert it into a living space. They finished the floor and built lofts in little rooms in the space. When it was time to put electricity in, John decided he can do this and bought a conduit, a pipe bender, big reels of wire, electrical boxes, outlets and light fixtures. He spent quite a while stringing all this stuff and learning to use all the wiring equipment. It beats the shit out of your hands, it is hard work and physically harder to do than you might think. John wired this entire place, had all his friends there for the big debut, flicked the switch and it was like fireworks everywhere. He must have gotten some of it backwards, but then he looked what he had done, re-did it and then it worked. As far as he knows it still is the power for that building. That was a dramatic experience.

There is a lot of shabby electrical work, in particular if you had a knob and tube house and somebody added modern wiring to it. Knob and tube wiring had fabric-covered wire wrapped around porcelain knobs, like old-fashioned power lines. The porcelain knobs were the insulators. If you encounter knob and tube wiring, you want to just leave it alone. It works fine, but if you want to add some stuff to it, it is always better to just replace all the wiring, because the way you burn your house down is to inexpertly add modern wiring to knob and tube wiring. If you do a poor job, you start a fire. Hack-electricians often don't ground stuff properly, meaning you have a lot of ungrounded outlets which is just bad form. Another common mistake is using switches that are not rated for the power you are using, like putting 10 100W light bulbs after a switch that can't handle that load and then the switch goes hot. That's another way to burn your house down!

Masonry (RW17)

The thing that amazes John the most is that at some point in his life he took on masonry. A friend of him had purchased an old funeral parlor at a time when you could get one for $30.000 and turned it into a theater space. There were two garages behind it to house the hearses. He turned one over to John to turn into a band practice space and they knew they couldn't just put a couple of mattresses over the garage door. Together with his bandmates he took the garage door out, bought the necessary cinderblocks and cement and proceeded to build a cement wall that enclosed it completely. It was a on a slope, so they had to plumb the wall, but they just did it. They built this wall that created a usable practice space that is still in use 20 years later. This project gave him masonry skills, so every time his mom needs some minor masonry, she just trotts him out and tells him to get busy and fix this fireplace or the crack in the floor.

Getting Things Done (RW17)

Since John bought his own house, he had been planning and re-planning to build a front path. First it was going to be a stone path, then a crushed gravel path, then a cement path and back to a stone path. He had been planning this thing for 7 years and in those 7 years he has been walking up to his house through dirt and mud. He just never did the thing he used to do: go to the store, buy the stuff needed, get it delivered and begin working on it. As a consequence he has this dirt path that adds a rusticity to his house, but he is also frustrated every day that he hasn't just gone ahead. Back in his early 20:s when they needed an airplane, well let's just build an airplane! John thinks he has got this attitude from his mom who is undaunted. A lot of the handiest peolpe he has known were all woman. John misses this can-do spirit and now he purchased his GMC RV and there is just no way he could pay to have all the work done, it would cost 10s of thousands of dollars, not because it is hard, but because it is time consuming and mechanics get payed by the hour, no matter if they are rebuilding your motor or adding some caulck to your windows.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License