Monday, December 31, 2012

The Honesty of Time

I want to make a New Year's resolution, and I want to still be in the same frame of mind 5 months and 29 days from now. After that, one could say the year is not new anymore, being half old and getting older by the day. I'll deal with that reality when it comes, but for now it's about the New side of the year. It seems to me that New Year's Eve and New Year's Day get too much credit or at least too much focus. I've made resolutions before but somehow lost sight of the usually singular direction of each attempt after a few days. You could say life gets in the way.

This time I'm going to keep it simple. "This is a New Year" will be my mantra. Not a new day or a new week, but a new year. Stuff happens in a year, or should I say stuff can happen in a year. In a day it's easy to be forced off course. For me it might be a snow storm; 8 to 10 inches in a night means everything else is put on hold and the snow blower, tractor and snow shovel take precedence. Recently I took a fall off of a roof. That really shook things up. For over a month, every day was about the basics of getting healthy again. But today is a New Year again. All the little pieces of time have collected and become more than they were.

Notice, I haven't made any grand promises of what I will accomplish in my New Year. This time it's going to be about optimism, letting the glass refill again when necessary, and especially letting the honesty of time frame the collective days and weeks into a positive life view; looking forward with support from the past.

And if you ask me, that is about as 'Smarter Than The Wood' as I'm likely to get. Happy New Year everybody!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Timber Frame Renovation

Remodels are always interesting to say the least. You never know what is behind a wall or under a floor until you tear into it. The job we are working on now also has an addition to the existing home. To make it even more challenging, the original home is a timber frame design. For those who are not sure what timber frame really means, think of a building with only a skeleton of large vertical posts, horizontal beams and rafters. Think of this 'frame' as a finish detail of the project, to be left uncovered as a strong visual element of the final product.

Timber 'Frame'
Now build another standard stud framed wall and roof outside the 'timbers' to carry the plumbing, electrical and insulation required for a modern residence and you get a feel for this style of building. This 'post and beam' construction goes back many centuries because of it's ability to accommodate the fairly crude framing members demanded by the tools available at the time. The term "barn raising" is appropriate here. With good organization, a weekend work party was often used to assemble a complete frame in one long weekend.

Fall Progress

But enough about timber framing history for now. This post was supposed to be about the challenge of a good remodel/addition. Partly because of our late season start our first priority was to complete any roofing details. In most modern timber frames the visual ceiling is made with 2x6 tongue and groove material nailed on top of the rafter timbers. A frame of 2x rafters is then built up from here. The main purpose of this sub-structure is to hold rigid insulation and provide the base for plywood sheathing, roofing paper and finally the roofing itself. For us this phase meant removing the metal roofing from above the two covered porches we were converting to living space and filling the hollow cavities with insulation. Considering the relatively small areas we were working with it was more cost effective to install sheets of 'Thermax' foam insulation (polyisocyanurate) instead of the spray foam used in the original construction. With an insulation value of about R-7 per inch this material rates as high as any material available, in our case allowing an insulating value of about R-38 (a little above code for cathedral ceilings in our area). Once the new insulation was in place we covered the joints with foil tape and sealed the edges and any gaps with spray foam. After reinstalling the plywood sheathing we replaced the outdated tar paper with a self sealing rubberized asphalt material commonly used in our area. The version we are now using (Titanium PSSU-30) has a fine grid embedded in the surface that provides excellent protection as well as a non slip surface durable enough to work on without damage.

Converting Covered Porch
For safety and efficiency, the siding on the second floor walls needed to be installed before the lower level roofing was reinstalled. The existing siding was cedar shingles but the birds, especially wood peckers and flickers, had been having fun destroying portions of it for years.

'Tasty Meal'
After considering many options we settled on replacing existing shingles with a hybrid product based on high quality natural cedar shingles pre-installed on a plywood backing 8 feet long and 7 5/8 inch tall allowing a 7 inch finish cover. Though much more expensive than regular shingles the savings in installation time and the unique construction of the panel itself made the decision easy enough.

Cedar Shingle Panel

In a standard shingle installation the layering of one course of shingles over the next leaves a small gap between adjoining shingles. This gap creates a protected pocket, hidden from view, but accessible to over-wintering insects. Birds can sense this available food source and are more than happy to remove any wood separating them from a very tasty meal. The construction and installation  of these shingle panels eliminates this hidden food storage pocket. I would be surprised if the developers of this labor saving product had bird damage in mind but we are happy to take advantage of this reality. Smarter than the wood. And very nice to look at as well.

Finished End Wall

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Rusty Metal Plant Stand

My daughter Rhetta has been my right hand since the beginning of this blog back in April. We talk about every post and she is the main reason that people can understand what I'm trying to say, using her amazing editing and writing skills to keep me on the straight and narrow. When we saw how well the rusty wainscot story was being received we started thinking about other ways to use the techniques I practiced to get that wainscot project up and running successfully.

"Let's make a plant stand. It's small, many people might be interested and we can work together on it. You know, the father daughter project we often talk about but don't find the time for." I made most of that up but hopefully you get the point; a fairly simple undertaking and a great opportunity to work together on something. In our case we even had the perfect base to start off on: an underused stool that was just the right size to hold the plant we had in mind.

I first went by my favorite metal workers shop ( The Slag Works in Winthrop, Washington) and asked Barry if I could buy a piece of cold rolled steel from him. The stool we wanted to work with had a 14" square by 1" thick top so I needed a piece at least 16" square so that when we bent the metal at 90 degrees on each of the 4 sides the thickness of the stool top would be covered.

Tools of The Trade

With a tool called a nibbler, the cutting of the basic square was fairly simple. We then used an old framing square to mark out the perimeter of the stool top including the tabs we would leave to help seal the outside corners of the finished pan that we were fabricating. With a couple of lengths of steel angle iron and the two vise grips that live in my tool box we made a primitive 'brake'. This is the tool used by professional metal workers to create the sharp edge we hoped to get.

Corner sealing Tab

So far so good. The newly formed inverted pan fit snugly over the stool seat. Next we needed to abrade the steel so that the acid we planned to use for our "we want it rusty, and we want it now" procedure, would 'bite' into the smooth surface of our metal. I first used a diluted muriatic acid (with gloves and protective eye wear, of course) which did a great job of cleaning the metal and removing the existing partly rusty look from our piece. Thinking we were good to go, I mixed up a small amount of Ferric nitrate to give us the quick rust patina we were after. I chose to use this material because of its subtle golden rust tone, but there are many other ways to produce rust quickly including vinegar & salt.

'Washable' Patina
It looked great after a few minutes, but when I went to rinse it and stop the rusting action, all the beautiful rust color washed away. This was not what I was expecting. I've done this ONCE before so now I'm an expert. This should have worked! Back to the drawing board. This time I tried sanding the metal surface with my orbital sander, which looked like a good answer. You want rough, I'll give you rough.

Old Hand Sanding

Again the Ferric nitrate, again the beautiful patina in just a few minutes, again the whole thing washed away when rinsed. Now what? In a twisted sort of 'Smarter than the Wood' manner we added the rust enhancer one more time but didn't wash the piece. Instead we decided to let nature in on the deal and left it outside for a couple of days, even letting it be rained on one night. As a final step to preserve the finish, we coated the rusted metal top with a matte spray sealant. You be the judge. Rhetta and I think it came out great, even if it didn't go completely as planned.

Smarter than the metal? 
A note from the editor: When my Dad suggested we do a project together using rusty metal, I was all for it. I love the mix of wood and metal elements used in industrial style design and I have a passion for anything old. I am drawn to the fantastic imperfections found in barn wood planks, folk art, flaking paint, antique hardware, wavy glass and of course: rusty metal.
Working with my Dad is always an opportunity to learn. He brings extensive knowledge and his overall "can do" approach to everything he does. Not only does he have ideas, but he has the constructive thinking skills to figure out a way to make them happen.
Everything went smoothly with the bending of the metal top, which is where I expected us to have difficulties. So it surprised me when we had issues with the rusting which I had assumed was going to be the fail-safe, "easy" part. After our second try, I told my Dad that "we might be smarter than the wood, but it didn't look like we were smarter than the metal."

Monday, October 29, 2012

Not A Bad Way Of Life

As we wrap up another completed home, it feels like a good time to insert a little company philosophy. No, it's not a 'smarter than' moment, but it feels fitting to stop and recognize an important passage in the life of a construction company such as ours. During the course of the project some of who and what we are gets rubbed off onto the new entity we have created. It can be something basic like the blood Brandon left from his table saw injury or maybe the sore back I gained from trying to lift that 'perfect' stone for the fireplace. I like to think we leave a little more than our blood on a board but who's to say? It's just a house...

When the time comes to walk away from a completed project the feelings can be bittersweet. The construction phase of one of our custom homes takes around 9 months to a year on average, but before the onsite work begins there are months of planning and preparation. For me this process brings many highs, and maybe a low or two, but always the growing sense of substance and presence as each new dwelling sinks its roots into the land.

Building a fully custom home is never boring. Each day brings new challenges and new perspectives  for my crew and I. One day the wind will try and blow us into hiding while the next will be so beautiful that it makes us think: "They pay us to live in paradise." When the clients come to the jobsite, it is always exciting. Though I sometimes am a bit anxious that all our hard work will be well received, they typically bring a level of enthusiasm that is contagious. It reminds us that what we're doing is not just a job and it reinforces that the effort and commitment we give our work is valued. We are creating something that the owners, along with their family and friends, will celebrate for generations to come.

As with anything we experience on a daily basis, it's normal to become a little jaded to the process. That all changes during the last few weeks of the project. With masking tape and Visqueen plastic on the doors and windows, protective coverings on the floors and 3 or 4 different sub contractors plying their trade on any given day, it can be difficult to visualize the finished product. After months of looking at it as just a job, it quickly turns the corner into a creation, that long sought after place where one's vision becomes fully realized.

Standing back to take a long look on that last day can be an amazing reward, especially when sharing that moment with the proud new owners. But there is something more rewarding than this last look, something that I never expected when I first started in this trade: the building of friendships. Many of the people I've worked for and with over the last 20 some years have become my friends. A few have grown into great friends. Together we have loved many homes into being, shaping wood and nails into a celebration of the qualities in life that we strive for.      

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Pretty Pictures

Oh oh! I promised myself I would do two posts a month and already I've let it slide. Back to work Donny boy! Here's a quick photo update, on the cabin we're just completing, to hold you while the next 'real' post simmers a little longer.

Back in May I posted a couple times about 'Big Bessie', our one of a kind statement fireplace stone. It was a great challenge getting her into place. Later in the Summer that challenge continued with the sculpted recycled fir flooring around her base.

 As we moved up the fireplace walls to the Loft area careful scribing was required for the second floor fascia and railing detail.

Nick 'massaged' each wood element around the stones in a near perfect manner creating another 'wow' factor in this already amazing center piece of the project.

In the kitchen, the chiseled edge granite became the match maker and unifier for the rest of the color  and texture elements already in place, especially in the joining of the Hickory cabinets with the recycled flooring and Tamarack trim.

Outside, the cabin and garage also were magnified by the final detailing. The garage facade was especially impacted by the finishing touches. The Tamarack (Western Larch) garage doors, rusty corrugated metal wainscot and rust finish lighting combined with the cedar board & batt siding to make a powerful overall statement.

Further unifying the cabin and garage is the gable trim installed to soften the garage elevation and mimic the beam support detail of the Living room porch.

Monday, September 17, 2012

'This Old Wood'

Once thought of as inferior just because it wasn't 'new', recycled wood has become highly sought after. A dilapidated barn, a train trestle, even a downtown warehouse can be a source of great building material.

Big Bessie putting her love on the 'old wood'
Old wood has a lot going for it. It's stable; years of seasonal humidity cycling have brought it to a point closer to equilibrium than new wood can replicate. It's very 'green'; no trees were cut down to make use of it and usually it isn't shipped from worlds away. It has a story; "This floor came from beams used in the old Yakima hardware building" is an example we can call up.

Note the stocking foot. Since we don't plan to sand this floor, keeping the material clean is critical.
With the logic that 'they just aren't making it anymore' recycled wood demands a premium in today's marketplace. One use of this material that is very cost effective is flooring. My crew and I have developed a formula for producing beautiful wide plank floors at a price competitive with the engineered flooring available 'off the shelf ' from any floor covering or design store.

Newer, old wood in the foreground, finished flooring in the background
We start with 1" rough sawn boards, cut from 8x timbers and purchased from Havillah Shake in Tonasket, Washington. The wood is then stacked with wood spacers (stickers) and dried until a moisture meter shows 8% or less. At this point we can either take it to a local millwright to turn into tongue and groove flooring or mill it ourselves with a portable planer and a couple of 1/2" routers. 7" wide boards are the most cost effective from both the price of raw materials and the efficiency of custom milling. We have laid random width floors with planks up to 17" that are to die for, but the cost for the finished product rises significantly from the 7" starting point. Probably the most important factor in achieving a quality installation (besides moisture content) is the quality of milling. If the boards are all the same thickness and width we can skip the sanding phase and still produce a smooth, professional result. Because the wood is recycled and it's character is to be celebrated, a small amount of inconsistency is accepted. To be 'smarter than the wood', any rough areas are scraped with a utilty blade (razor) instead of sanding, which helps to produce a more uniform penetration of the oil based sealer. Three coats of water based floor polyurethane are then applied, making this recycled flooring ready for years of enjoyment.

The glow of a recycled wood floor
A gorgeous, natural looking floor with a history. What more could you ask for?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Garage Door Redux

One of the most dramatic and pragmatic cultural changes in American homes over the last 100 years has been the evolution of the lowly garage. We started with a carriage house left over from horse and buggy days. It was often set behind or off to the side of our property, separated from the primary residence by space and design. Over time, as our vehicles became larger, this newly named building grew as well. When 'Mom' started working outside the home one car became two, and with the growth of the suburbs the separate garage became attached.

Lowly Beginnings
The garage is not lowly anymore. In some neighborhoods the garage has begun to dominate the initial impression of our homes. I've always felt something akin to negativity toward this kind of 'presentation' garage. To celebrate this big box and our ability to fill it easily with our possessions has never been a favorite part of my design mentality. Don't get me wrong, with our now two car families we need safe and secure storage. 

Start Somewhere
Given the opportunity to mask the reality of our storage needs, some new owners are opting to go back in time a little to the sentiment of the 'carriage house', often linking this renewed structure with a breezeway for convenience. What could be a better way to tie these elements of design and neccessity together than carriage doors?

Cutouts for Windows
There are many companies across the nation that are supplying this need. Shadowline, my design/build company, has developed a door set that can be built on site and customized to more truly reflect the style of the home and the owners' taste.

'Plain' Carriage Door with Natural Patina

We use a standard insulated 'blank' door that is purchased locally at a reasonable price. It is made out of wood which allows us to apply various materials over it, and comes with all the hardware neccessary for the functionality we all expect, including remote door openers.

Barn as Garage/Storage
Most of the doors we have constructed use Western Larch (Tamarack). Less expensive and harder than cedar, it has some of the positive weathering properties of cedar, coloring beautifully as it ages.

Colored by Nature

On-site construction allows us to make each door unique to the installation. Some are fairly simple, without crossbucking or windows, while others have the more traditional look of carriage doors of the past.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Rusting Perfectly Good Metal

Back in the day I remember seeing old buildings with metal roofs that were rusting and thinking how cool they looked. There was something about them that reflected an aura of gentle aging, of the graceful passing of time. Today, with a little help from chemical science, we can speed things along and have that 'aged in time' look in an afternoon. Corten was the first 'rusting' metal alloy that I remember and was quickly accepted as the material of choice for guard rails on highways throughout the nation. The logic of the Corten metal is to combine dissimilar metals into an alloy that produces a kind of self sealing finish, a rust that stops rusting.  A stabilized rust. It took a few years but that same technology has moved into the construction mainstream. The relatively high cost of this type of metal has helped to popularize cold rolled steel as a viable 'rusty' alternative. Allowed to weather in nature (or 'rushed' with the use of added corrosive materials) it produces a more organic patina than the very uniform look of Corten type alloys. The natural look of rusted cold rolled steel and it's greater cost effectiveness made our choice easy. Because of our climate (dry) and the wall wainscot installation (dry) we needed to speed Mother Nature along by pre-rusting the raw metal before installing it on the building.

Here comes the 'smarter than' part. You would think that just spreading on some muratic acid or vinegar would produce the desired effect. Wrong. Again, we are in a hurry here, time is money and all that. The process of cold rolling steel is itself an issue. The pressure necessary to produce the product seals the metal surface from the quick action we would hope for. Add to that the small amount of oil that is used to keep the cold rolling process running smoothly and you have another layer of protection against the immediate 'ravages of time' effect we are trying to produce.

New, untreated corrugated steel

In the past I have used a biodegradable but industrial strength soap to hurry along the etching effects we look for on galvanized metal, but with this material it seemed relatively ineffective. I had heard from others that sand was a key to help abrade the surface to receive the corrosive effects of the acid.  First I sprayed the surface with diluted muratic acid, then sprinkled on some sand, and with a medium soft floor broom proceeded to rough up the metal surface. This worked fairly well but I still had to spray on a second coat of acid and do more brushing to get anywhere close to the surface patina I was looking for.  

Prepped with Acid & Sand

I next tried to use salt instead of sand and/or in conjunction with sand to speed things up. This worked fairly well but the early patina produced by this mix was not particularly attractive. Still not satisfied with the effectiveness of my attempts at instant rust, I went against my stubborn maleness and asked somebody who knows. Barry Stromberger of "The Slag Works" has been working in metal and metal patina for most of his not insignificant years. He had the answer, ferric nitrate: "Just mix with water in the correct proportions  and (after the initial roughening of the surface), spray it on and watch it go".

Perfectly Rusted Wainscot

 I love this stuff. If you have properly prepared the surface, with little effort you can  produce a gorgeous and natural looking rust patina that will range in color from a kind of yellow gold (short duration) through a very organic red, all the way to chocolate brown (just let it sit). Once you are satisfied with the rust tone, rinsing with water stops the action, or close enough. The reality of cold rolled steel is that in a wet environment you will have continued rusting. In our exterior wainscot  installation and semi arid climate this should not be a problem. The galvanized corrugated roofing we have used in the past is typically 26 gauge whereas the steel corrugated material is 22 gauge, much heavier to withstand the the reality of its use.

                         This is one time where 'instant gratification' has paid off handsomely.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Not To See, part 2

In my last blog post I tried to show the value of hidden fasteners in the design and construction of a covered porch. I had gotten as far as showing a completed log post base. It might work best to read this previous post first.

   Ever try to plumb a tapered log post? I promise you will find way too many different readings on your level to be confident of plumb perfect. Mother nature says throw away the level and stand back and use your eyeball. If it looks good it probably is. It would be smart to check that the prescribed measurements for the coming roof structure align with this 'good enough' philosophy.

Big wood, big saw
After plumbing up and bracing off our three log posts, we cut, plane and otherwise prepare the horizontal beams before lifting them into position. Once in place they will allow the roof load to transfer through the rafters and onto our posts.
All good posts deserve good beams
With everything we are doing exposed to view, the scale and proportion of the finished product is very important. We use 6x ( in this case 6x10 and 6x12) solid sawn beams for the horizontal support system instead of the adequate but lighter visual impact of a 4x beam or the less friendly, man made reality of engineered wood (glu-lam beam).
Nick setting a mitered corner.
The joinery in this installation may appear simple to the naked eye but is important to the long term presentation of this celebrated area of outdoor living. In this case we use a hybrid miter joint at the  corners where the beams come together at 90 degrees. This modification will minimize the eventual shrinkage to the inner faces of the adjoining beams. I'll plan to do a future post explaining 'shrinkage' of large scale materials but suffice to say that with this approach we will minimize the negative visual aspect of a standard miter joint opening over time.

Big hammer, big lag
Once the beams are in place over their respective posts we can add another element of our hidden fastener approach. Though this may not fly with some building inspectors we are able to use 16" lag bolts driven through each beam bearing location and into the post beneath. The threaded portion of the lag acts as a kind of 'ring shank' fastener as it penetrates the post end grain. Next comes the ridge post and ridge beam, here again we use a 16" lag from above and 8" Timberlock screws at the ridge post base.

Impact driver makes setting long screws 'No Problemo'
For the rafters we again use Timberlock screws to act as tiedowns from above so as to be hidden from view.
Ridge post with diagonals for strength and beauty
Once the rafters are properly secured we can proceed to the function of standard roofing methods as well as the further visual enhancement of the enclosed pine T&G soffits.

Monday, July 9, 2012

To See Or Not To See

Good design is as much about what you don't see as what you do. In this post I'm talking about hidden fasteners, using mechanical means to secure visual grade construction materials without drawing attention to the sometimes unattractive fasteners themselves. When working with log enhancements (in this case covered porch posts) the last thing your eye wants to see is the bulky metal fasteners typically required to secure the logs to their foundation piers.

10" concrete pier & 'Methow Valley' tiedown
My favorite means to this end is a concrete to wood tiedown that was developed here in the Methow Valley by a long time manager at the local lumber yard. By putting together two  3/4" bolts welded to the bottom of a 6x6 steel plate and an 2"x 8" steel plate welded to the top we have a perfect solution.

Joined to plunge cut 10" log post
 By putting a deep plunge cut into the bottom end of a log post we are able to join post to pier in a simple yet substantial way. The addition of a horizontal 5/8" lag or bolt penetrating the log and vertical steel plate completes the tiedown in an completely unobtrusive manner.

Equals clean, unobtrusive transition
Dipping an off the shelf plated bolt or lag into gun bluing gives a nice blacksmithed appearance to the required fastener without the rust stains from untreated steel or the chipped paint look inherent in a painted fastener.

Finished post
I'll bring you along on the next phase of this covered porch in a future post.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Time Delayed Thank You

It seems like I'm going to have to fight to keep from having a 'time delay' aspect to this blog. It's been over a month now since our last job finished and we moved full time back into the Tareski/ Mazama cabin. Maybe it's just the aspect of getting up to speed on the whole thing, wanting to kind of fill in the blanks about 'Smarter Than The Wood'. And then there is the split personality of the early part of it's development. Much of the energy in the beginning came from the revitalized website.  Going forward, posts that relate more to the original smarter than the wood premise should begin to dominate. I'm looking forward to posts about the recycled wood flooring we'll be using in the "cabin" and the carriage style garage doors Nick and I have been creating over the last 10 years. Maybe a post or two about log posts and different ways to highlight them in a covered porch or even some of the wrought iron details we've been able to incorporate into our projects.

Anyway, I wanted to give a shout out to Jim & Kristi, owners of the beautiful home we recently completed near Winthrop. If all client/owners were as easy to work with as they have been everyone would want in on the action. If you're familiar with the portfolio page on my website, Jim & Kristi's home is the 'work in progress' icon (talk about time delay). I'll be moving them into their own spot soon so that the new Tareski cabin can begin being featured as well.

'another satisfied customer'

So, here's to you, Jim & Kristi. It's been great getting to know you and working with you to create one of the nicest homes in the Valley. Your considered way of allowing the place to evolve and grow to more than it originally was, made for a most positive experience for all of us. Thank you!

Monday, June 11, 2012

“Rock” Stars – Big Bessie part II

Over the past couple of weeks, the singular impact of Bessie and Billie Bob has been transformed by the addition of hundreds of brother and sister stones. The finely completed fireplace is now an even more impressive collaboration of stone.

"The Family Stone"
The quality of stone chosen by Dave “the ├╝ber mason” and his right hand man Luke has translated into an awe-inspiring work of high-level craftsmanship. There is no “rock jumble” here.

Dave and Bessie, proud papa.
The overall effect is of carefully selected and skillfully set stone with true lines and square corners. The rustic wood mantle harmonizes well with the organic nature of these beautiful river stones. The larger stones at the base anchor the fireplace, while the throat of the chimney tapers nicely as it stretches for the ceiling. Individual “statement” size stones decorate the chimney face as it transitions from mantle to roof.

Built to last
            I can imagine relaxing after dinner, my mind wandering as I watch the faces in the stone reflect back in the firelight.

            Thanks Dave and Luke, you absolutely did justice to this one. Years from now visitors to this mountain valley cabin will surely remark: “They just don’t build them like they used to.”

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Big Bessie

   So this is a big day on the jobsite. We've just started a new river rock fireplace. Not your average cultured stone production, but a made by Mother Nature big rock beauty. And not just a big rock but the biggest rock I've ever seen in a "cabin" fireplace. We talk about stone size by the man, with a one man stone being the norm and a two man stone being the normal limit, used sparingly and generally to make a kind of statement. On this job the owners said "we want some big boys". Our mason, Dave, offered that he had been saving one for his own use but that he would be willing to give it up for this job. Having known Dave for twenty years I was sure it would be something special.

"How are we gonna move this beast"

   Now a stone with this much presence deserves it's own name. We've been using 'Big Bessie' for now but something better may come along. Ideas? It took a forklift to get this bad boy inside the building and four men to roll it across the floor to the point nearest its final location. Here comes the 'Smarter Than' part. Have you ever heard about how the Easter Islanders got their stone monoliths stood up? It's all about leverage and fulcrum.There was no way we were going to be able to stand this baby up from the floor. We needed leverage.

"Everybody got their steel toe'd boots on?"

   We brought in an assortment of framing and beam scraps and with a 2x4 as a pry bar, started to lever it up. First a 2x4 scrap, then another, then a short beam end replacing the first pieces and to provide greater stability. Pry a little, add a block of wood, then pry a litttle more. We kept at this until we reached a kind of tipping point. When the weight of the stone on the floor starts to be greater than the raised end, it should be possible to man handle the stone into place. With five of us, two on each side and with me manning the pry board, then one last lift and push and we made it.


   Standing back now to admire our work, I am even more impressed with our 'Bessie' knowing what it took to give her such a good home.   More to follow....

Bessie's little brother Billy Bob on the left.