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February 12, 2013

Sashy Beauty
Filed under: Carpentry — Tags: — nedpelger

Lex sent me a website called Cabin Porn that showcases photos of rustic cabins. I love spending time in the woods (just got back from a dark turning to dawn walk in the woods a few minutes ago) and find these photos comforting somehow.

One of my favorites was a couple in West Virginia that salvaged window sash and scrap lumber for years. Doesn’t their cabin have a certain beauty to it?

I hope you get to build or design something today that causes you to stop and appreciate its beauty. Perhaps even the beauty of its efficiency. Take a moment to appreciate our opportunity to create in this great construction industry.


May 1, 2012

ShopBot: A Tool Looking for Opportunities
Filed under: Carpentry — Tags: — nedpelger

For $5,000 US, you can purchase a small CNC machine. This small Computer Numerically Controlled milling machine can do amazing work. The ShopBot cuts aluminum, plywood, plastic and lots of other materials. Google SketchUp can direct the cutter to make almost anything you can dream.

Here’s an excerpt from the Boing Boing article:

I work at Stanford’s design school — called the We designed and made much of the furniture we used in our new building space in Google’s Sketchup and machined the material using a 4′ x 8′ ShopBot owned and operated by Rob Bell. The process was very fast, and relatively cheap. ShopBot + Sketchup allowed us to do many cycles of design/build/test, which ultimately yielded some very refined artifacts.

This tool will create some great opportunities for some creative construction folks. If you think about the projects you do, then how a tool like this could change things. Then think about a way you could get paid to be the person that makes those changes happen. For someone, this will be a wonderful opportunity.

Do you have any ideas how this could be used in construction?


February 8, 2011

More Cool Stairs
Filed under: Carpentry — Tags: — nedpelger

I got my first ever email forward from The Beautiful Wife (TBW) this week with the subject, “Far be it from me to do this.” To begin to understand TBW, you need to recall Groucho’s line about not wanting to join any club that would have someone like him as a member. TBW refrains from putting herself out there, from getting into any position where she might appear ridiculous. Of course, almost everyone has a dose of this particular affliction, TBW has the full-blown disease. So when she sent me an email with a bunch of funky photos of stairs, I thought I’d better post about it. Not that she reads these posts, but still…

The curvy stair pictured below gives a kind of walking on a boat feel.

Looking across the stairs gives an even odder sensation.

The stairs below have a fun angular quality that combines with the wood grain to be beautiful. Wouldn’t it be fun to trot up these stairs to bed each night? Especially for kids.

Below are some stairs that probably shouldn’t be in a Dementia wing…probably shouldn’t be anywhere in a retirement community. In fact, maybe they just shouldn’t be anywhere.

And finally, I’m always a sucker for cantilevers. Defying gravity rocks.


January 28, 2011

The Adventures of a Carpenter Gone Primitive…or “Who is that Masked Crusader?”
Filed under: Carpentry — Tags: — nedpelger

I’ve written previously about Randy, the amazing former carpenter who sold all his tools and decided to go primitive. He lives on our 5 acres, trains the alpacas, cooks the best meals known to this man, cultivates the field, builds whatever pops into his head and generally just does what makes sense around here…at least what makes sense to him.

Recently he got a call from an alpaca breeder. She wants to sell her stud male, but he’d become so aggressive with her that he’d attack her whenever she got near him. She couldn’t sell him acting that wild. Randy’s animal handling skills are uncanny and he agreed to give it a try. After the first day, he came home spit on, bit on and butted. This was one big, mean alpaca. He had a bad case of Berserk Male Syndrome (BMS) which comes from alpacas losing their respect for humans. BMS can become severe and lead to putting the animal down.

So Randy is in Day 2 of the battle, though he created a shield to block the smelly spit and intimidate the alpaca. As you can see below, the shield has BMS with a line through it and the mottoes, “Death Before Dishonor” and “Don’t Spit on Me.”

Of course, the shield had to be made to effectively do battle with the beast.

Do you think Randy has too much time on his hands? I’ll give you an update later on how the alpaca training went…because so far it’s BMS Alpaca 1, Randy 0.

Maybe carpentry as a profession doesn’t sound so bad after all?


November 23, 2010

The Adventures of a Carpenter Gone Primitive…or “Poppy, What’s that Guy Do?”
Filed under: Carpentry — Tags: — nedpelger

My good friend John Matarazzi likes to think he’s a real man. As a former Marine in Vietnam, now a bridge carpenter and formerly a construction supervisor, safety director and small construction company owner, I’d have to say he qualifies. Many years ago, when I was president of Consolidated Construction, John was the safety director from hell. He was the guy who thrived on conflict while I tried to finesse my way through it.

We hired Randy through some temp employment service and John told me about his amazing carpentry skills. Randy worked to a quality level that almost no one else achieved and he did it with a high rate of production. Randy also fought in Vietnam and was as hard headed as John. Randy refused to follow any rules he thought arbitrary or stupid (Hello OSHA). He and John scrapped on a regular basis. Other than annoying me, though, it really didn’t amount to much.

While building a small addition at our house, Randy and I got to know each other. He’d had a challenging childhood in Lebanon, was quite dyslexic and was, in his essence, an artist. I generally get on well with artists and grew to really like Randy. He had an idea for the little grass sideyard at our modest house and I told him, “Sure, whatever.” The next day I came home to see piles of dirt, huge rocks and holes all over the yard. I thought he was having a war flashback and building foxholes. As always, though, the final product was an amazing, a perennial garden and fish pond that has delighted us for the past 17 years.

Randy and I lost contact after I started my own business. He ended up working for most of the the local GCs. He’d stay for a bit, then move on. He never had a problem getting a job because of that mix of quality and productivity. At one point, he worked for Wohlson Construction and was lead carpenter building the award winning Alumni Writers House at Franklin and Marshall College, shown below.

He got tired of the aggravations of working for GCs and started his own construction business. While he made a go of it for several years, he was more an artist than a businessman. The Great Recession counted him one of its casualties. He lost his business, his house, his truck. He always wanted to work around animals, food and nature, but never took that road. He decided he never would give that life a try unless he took dramatic action. So he sold all his tools and moved to a primitive living compound in North Carolina.

While that move proved a bit extreme, he ended up living on our 5 acres. He trains the animals, cooks the best meals known to this man, cultivates the field, builds whatever pops into his head and generally just does what makes sense around here…at least what makes sense to him. A few of his projects are shown in the photo below.

So I plan to occasionally write about Randy’s Adventures of a Carpenter Gone Primitive. He’s an amazing guy and it’s fascinating to watch the creativity brew as well as to see the effects of a life lived off the grid. John Matarazzi still claims Randy is the best carpenter he’s ever seen.


May 4, 2010

Want to Build a Log Cabin?
Filed under: Carpentry — nedpelger

It seems most people that stumble into the construction industry (which is how we all ended up here, isn’t it?) have a secret desire to build a log cabin by hand. An Architect friend recently gave me a VHS copy of Alone in the Wilderness, in which a 50 year old guy films himself building this wonderful cabin in Alaska. He did the construction in 1967 and then lived in the wilderness until he was about 90 years old.

I loved watching this guy efficiently and effectively walk through the process of building a log cabin. It was doubly fun to watch it with my carpenter friend who is moving next week to the woods in North Carolina and will be doing that very thing. Of course, he bemoaned the fact that more detail wasn’t shown on exactly what was happening.

Here’s a portion of the video to give you a sense of the story.


Alone in the Wilderness clip

Dreams are funny things. I like the idea of holding onto that dream of building a log cabin, but am ok if I never do. I have other dreams that feel more important to me that I prefer to focus upon. This website and the phone apps certainly are one of those dreams.

I like to work at the smaller dreams too…a weekend away with TBW, walking in the creek with my grandson, practicing triathlons with my buddy and nemesis Cromer. Let’s all strive to fit our dreams and our work into beautifully woven life. Right now is the only time we have.