Carpentrix

Tools, sweat, building, also books and sometimes sex

30 notes &

The designs for the deck bring to mind paper folded fans, a portion of a seashell, the golden spiral. This is the before.

Today, dismantling what was there, installing flashing, eight feet up on the ladder, arms above the head, lugging twelve-foot pressure-treated four-by-tens across the yard until my forearms screamed, gave a physical introduction of what the next month will hold. And it was all optimism, the freshness of a big new project. We talked of how strong we’ll get, and how beautiful this deck could turn out to be.

It exists now in the imagination alone, like the cool air from a folded fan waved in front of your face.

Filed under carpentry decks I didn't know four-by-tens existed architecture before new deck

22 notes &

Her white apron had a little bit of blood on it, and a belt made of chain slung low on her hips. A metal holster hung from the chain holding half a dozen knives, a tool belt like I’d never seen. Cara Nicoletti is a butcher at the Meat Hook in Brooklyn. Her beautiful blog Yummy Books looks at the intersection of food and literature, and her own book Voracious about cooking and reading is due out next summer. We met ten years ago, on my family’s back porch, when Cara was seventeen, and in Brooklyn this weekend, my brothers and I stopped in to the Meat Hook to say hello.

She took us through a heavy door into a dim cool room full of animal parts. “There’s a cow’s head,” she said pointing into a dark corner. It glistened, white and red. “That’s a lamb,” she said pointing to a bin on a low shelf, a pile of cut up parts. She said she thought of something Jonah had written every time she sliced prosciutto. The room didn’t smell the way I remember the butcher zones of grocery stores to smell, a combination of freezer and stale metal, a sticky smell experienced at the back of the throat. This smelled dry, savory, so appetizing, like walking inside a salami.

Cara talked of the dudes she’s worked with at the butcher and in kitchens, always bragging about their scars and burns. They forget, she said, that all those marks mean that they’d fucked up, that they’d gone too fast, that they weren’t doing it right. But they brag anyway. I’ve seen the same with some of the guys in the trades, usually the younger ones, sharing their scar stories as though they’d been in a battle. The sense of pride arises, I think, out of doing a job in which bodily harm is a reality. You don’t get burned in front of a computer screen. You don’t slice your finger to the bone sitting at a desk.

Cara, so sweet, her long black braid slung over her shoulder, sent us off with two chewy sticks of beef jerky packed in brown paper, and went back behind the counter to continue cutting meat, carpentry of flesh.

Filed under meat carpentry Cara Nicoletti Yummy Books Voracious The Meat Hook butchery tool belts scars

58 notes &

eatdrinkdie:

My grandfather didn’t eat much fruit. But every evening of summer, after dinner, with the sunlight passing slowly at diagonals through the trees, he sliced a peach into a wide tumbler and poured in his red wine. But Bruno, they’re not ripe yet my Nonna protested, knowing the peaches might need a day or two in a paper bag on the countertop. Doesn’t matter he’d say. The wine ripened and plumped the fruit, whose sugars softened the sting and fizz of the homemade wine. I remember the parties of late summer, the Labor Days when smoke from a cinderblock grill whirled in the air, and there was always a glass bowl of someone’s red wine with slices of perfect soft summer peaches bobbing in it. Young kids would ladle cups full of the wine and peaches, in full view of their parents, because it wasn’t a drink. It was a dessert.[Photo: Summer Peaches by Nina MacLaughlin, 2014]

eatdrinkdie:

My grandfather didn’t eat much fruit. But every evening of summer, after dinner, with the sunlight passing slowly at diagonals through the trees, he sliced a peach into a wide tumbler and poured in his red wine. But Bruno, they’re not ripe yet my Nonna protested, knowing the peaches might need a day or two in a paper bag on the countertop. Doesn’t matter he’d say. The wine ripened and plumped the fruit, whose sugars softened the sting and fizz of the homemade wine. I remember the parties of late summer, the Labor Days when smoke from a cinderblock grill whirled in the air, and there was always a glass bowl of someone’s red wine with slices of perfect soft summer peaches bobbing in it. Young kids would ladle cups full of the wine and peaches, in full view of their parents, because it wasn’t a drink. It was a dessert.

[Photo: Summer Peaches by Nina MacLaughlin, 2014]

Filed under peaches summer Jonah James Fontela eatdrinkdie recent peaches have made me yell because they're so good

11 notes &

anmorrigan asked: Hi There, As a 37 year old aspiring Carpenter in London (England) I have been really enjoying your blogs, and am inspired by your achievements. Do you know when your book is likely to be available in the UK? I do look forward to reading it. I am currently doing some Green Wood Working courses to keep me connected, and to nourish my soul, whilst I find the courage and direction that will lead me to full-time Carpentry. Thanks for your blog, it gives me hope. Abi White

Ah, Abi, thank you, thank you for this note. Cool that you’re doing some green woodworking courses — nourishment for the soul indeed, and good to keep learning and honing the skills. I’d love to know about some of the stuff you’re doing and making. And here’s to summoning the courage and direction to move towards carpentry full-time. It makes my heart swell to know that the blog gives a little dose of hope in that pursuit.

Thanks, too, for asking after the book. Hammer Head will be available in the UK on April 17.

Forgive the amazon link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hammer-Head-The-Making-Carpenter/dp/0393239136

Good luck, Abi. And huge thanks. I’ll be curious to hear what comes next for you.

36 notes &

The wood of the front deck steps was rotted to the point of being almost unrecognizable as wood. The lefthand post had decomposed straight through up and down. The paint itself provided the shape of the thing, a thin case for the salad inside. We pulled it apart without tools, taking handfuls of pulpy wet once-wood. If you squeezed hard enough, water ran down your wrist. Picture a two-by-four. Picture the fresh healthy trunk of tree. Imagine squeezing so hard water comes out. When we got lower, prying apart the first step and the skirt that rose up each side of the stairs, we met the ants, fat black ants who emerged into the sunlight from their wood tunnels. They grabbed their eggsacks and made a run for safer ground. At the top of the stairs, where the skirt met the side of the house, it was held together by a spiderweb.I had a dream last night that I walked into a bar and on the floor was a man dissolving, his guts, his whole core, a pool of pale flesh colored liquid, thick and shiny. His face was thin, and his pals spoke to him from their barstools. Short puffed sections of intestine lay nearby, the color of ticks swollen with blood. The wood, the disintegration, had infected my dreams. Or maybe it was the news these last weeks, what’s going on in the world, which feels like a bigger burden than usual, and harder to hold in the head all at once. It’s a small thing to say, but when the sickness and violence and fear and mind-bending injustice and the dark things of this human world rise at once, building a new set of steps, eradicating the rot with fresh cedar balusters and railings of strong fir is, again and again, a powerful antidote against the chaos, internal and external. When things look grimmest, when the ants are everywhere and the wood is crumbling in our hands and dissolving against the press of a pry bar, M. often says, with a chanty super-hero sort of conviction, “We can rebuild it!” And so we find small kernels of comfort, and hope.

The wood of the front deck steps was rotted to the point of being almost unrecognizable as wood. The lefthand post had decomposed straight through up and down. The paint itself provided the shape of the thing, a thin case for the salad inside. We pulled it apart without tools, taking handfuls of pulpy wet once-wood. If you squeezed hard enough, water ran down your wrist. Picture a two-by-four. Picture the fresh healthy trunk of tree. Imagine squeezing so hard water comes out. When we got lower, prying apart the first step and the skirt that rose up each side of the stairs, we met the ants, fat black ants who emerged into the sunlight from their wood tunnels. They grabbed their eggsacks and made a run for safer ground. At the top of the stairs, where the skirt met the side of the house, it was held together by a spiderweb.

I had a dream last night that I walked into a bar and on the floor was a man dissolving, his guts, his whole core, a pool of pale flesh colored liquid, thick and shiny. His face was thin, and his pals spoke to him from their barstools. Short puffed sections of intestine lay nearby, the color of ticks swollen with blood. The wood, the disintegration, had infected my dreams. Or maybe it was the news these last weeks, what’s going on in the world, which feels like a bigger burden than usual, and harder to hold in the head all at once. It’s a small thing to say, but when the sickness and violence and fear and mind-bending injustice and the dark things of this human world rise at once, building a new set of steps, eradicating the rot with fresh cedar balusters and railings of strong fir is, again and again, a powerful antidote against the chaos, internal and external. When things look grimmest, when the ants are everywhere and the wood is crumbling in our hands and dissolving against the press of a pry bar, M. often says, with a chanty super-hero sort of conviction, “We can rebuild it!” And so we find small kernels of comfort, and hope.

Filed under carpentry time rot goddamn these weeks comfort we can rebuild it

49 notes &

rachelfershleiser:

"Mixing wisdom from Ovid and Mary Oliver with practical descriptions of tools and varieties of wood, MacLaughlin describes the joys and frustrations of making things by hand, the strangeness of working as a woman in an occupation that is 99 percent male, and how carpentry changes the way one sees the world."
(via Hammer Head | W. W. Norton & Company)
I survived this week by escaping twitter and the news into Nina MacLaughlin’s beautiful, meditative, and soothing memoir of sawdust, kitchen tile, built-in bookcases, table-making, roofing, and the weight of wood. I’m only sorry that most of you will have to wait until March to read it.

This was such a good, unexpected thing to read today. It made me blushy and so happy. It feels good to know the book could be a balm during this fucking heavy week.

rachelfershleiser:

"Mixing wisdom from Ovid and Mary Oliver with practical descriptions of tools and varieties of wood, MacLaughlin describes the joys and frustrations of making things by hand, the strangeness of working as a woman in an occupation that is 99 percent male, and how carpentry changes the way one sees the world."

(via Hammer Head | W. W. Norton & Company)

I survived this week by escaping twitter and the news into Nina MacLaughlin’s beautiful, meditative, and soothing memoir of sawdust, kitchen tile, built-in bookcases, table-making, roofing, and the weight of wood. I’m only sorry that most of you will have to wait until March to read it.

This was such a good, unexpected thing to read today. It made me blushy and so happy. It feels good to know the book could be a balm during this fucking heavy week.

Filed under Hammer Head Rachel Fershleiser

27 notes &

An hour in Longleaf Lumber this afternoon, searching for the right board in the piles and stacks of their warehouse full of reclaimed wood. It’s treasure hunting. I took as a compliment when Brit, one of the women who works there, said, “Not everyone is going to know what to do with that,” about one of the pieces I’d chosen. There’s such a good feeling of possibility in there, plus the people are funny and patient and kind, and know their wood. Some cool projects afoot!

Filed under Longleaf Lumber white oak reclaimed reclaimed wood Rachel's table

55 notes &

His teeth were short and some were black and some were gone. The sign outside the big barn said THINGS FOR SALE and we stopped because we were in no rush. Outside, bright Sunday, August afternoon, and the depth of summer color was distinctly rural. Inside, dim and cooler, the room was aclutter with old furniture, the smell a mix of dust, wood, and wallpaper. All around the room, chests, desks, curtains, bureaus, tables made of old barn doors, faded Levis draped over the back of a tall chair.
The old man greeted us and talked a little about the desk I was admiring in a way that suggested that he might make furniture himself. He told me he did, both restored and built, but it was hard now with his shoulder. His right arm hung limp at his side. “Can’t lift it,” he said. “If my left shoulder itches, I can’t use my right hand to scratch it.” To use the biscuit joiner, as he’d been that morning, he had to press it into the wood using his left hand and his hip. “The table saw is the real challenge,” he said. “I have to stand on the wrong side of the blade.” He shook his head and looked at the floor.
Under shelves with glass bottles and cast iron pans sat three rusting old wheels. They asked the question about the moment something goes from weather-beaten and forgotten leaning against a shed to an object of décor. I knew we wouldn’t leave with anything.
The old man lives in the basement and has a workshop there. He couldn’t afford to keep the place himself, so he sold it to his lawyer. He came with the deal, he laughed, included in the sale along with all the old cabinets, tables, and broken chairs that fill the big room. The lawyer has plans to turn it into a B&B, and has warned the old man that someday he’ll need to clear out. He told us this, laughing. “I don’t know how old he thinks I am. By the time he gets it all figured out, he’ll have to feed the bushes with my ashes.” Feed the bushes with my ashes.
Feed the bushes with my ashes. 
And I could see the someday when his ashes are fed to the bushes, ash in the dirt and on the wind, poured from a can by a friend, and I got nervous, but some people can say this sort of thing and laugh. And I looked around the room at so much solidity and heft. The tables, those heavy rusting wheels, the desk from a railroad station, the thick drapes with yellow flowers, so many remains.
We made our way toward the door and he walked with us back into the sunlight. “Some people mistake me for Bill Murray,” he said, and when he said it we saw it. Something in the worn sad softness of his face and his blue eyes. Sitting at a bar in Troy, a couple a few stools down bought him a drink one time. “I was with my girlfriend,” he said, “my ex-girlfriend,” he corrected himself. “She was a lot younger, an attractive blonde.” He accepted the drink and the couple came over and he said to them, “’You probably think I’m Bill Murray.’ Well I bought them a drink right back.” 
We said our goodbyes and moved toward the car.
“Come back again,” he said and gave a small wave with his left hand.
The afternoon was fading, summer is fading, and we didn’t get his name.    

His teeth were short and some were black and some were gone. The sign outside the big barn said THINGS FOR SALE and we stopped because we were in no rush. Outside, bright Sunday, August afternoon, and the depth of summer color was distinctly rural. Inside, dim and cooler, the room was aclutter with old furniture, the smell a mix of dust, wood, and wallpaper. All around the room, chests, desks, curtains, bureaus, tables made of old barn doors, faded Levis draped over the back of a tall chair.

The old man greeted us and talked a little about the desk I was admiring in a way that suggested that he might make furniture himself. He told me he did, both restored and built, but it was hard now with his shoulder. His right arm hung limp at his side. “Can’t lift it,” he said. “If my left shoulder itches, I can’t use my right hand to scratch it.” To use the biscuit joiner, as he’d been that morning, he had to press it into the wood using his left hand and his hip. “The table saw is the real challenge,” he said. “I have to stand on the wrong side of the blade.” He shook his head and looked at the floor.

Under shelves with glass bottles and cast iron pans sat three rusting old wheels. They asked the question about the moment something goes from weather-beaten and forgotten leaning against a shed to an object of décor. I knew we wouldn’t leave with anything.

The old man lives in the basement and has a workshop there. He couldn’t afford to keep the place himself, so he sold it to his lawyer. He came with the deal, he laughed, included in the sale along with all the old cabinets, tables, and broken chairs that fill the big room. The lawyer has plans to turn it into a B&B, and has warned the old man that someday he’ll need to clear out. He told us this, laughing. “I don’t know how old he thinks I am. By the time he gets it all figured out, he’ll have to feed the bushes with my ashes.” Feed the bushes with my ashes.

Feed the bushes with my ashes.

And I could see the someday when his ashes are fed to the bushes, ash in the dirt and on the wind, poured from a can by a friend, and I got nervous, but some people can say this sort of thing and laugh. And I looked around the room at so much solidity and heft. The tables, those heavy rusting wheels, the desk from a railroad station, the thick drapes with yellow flowers, so many remains.

We made our way toward the door and he walked with us back into the sunlight. “Some people mistake me for Bill Murray,” he said, and when he said it we saw it. Something in the worn sad softness of his face and his blue eyes. Sitting at a bar in Troy, a couple a few stools down bought him a drink one time. “I was with my girlfriend,” he said, “my ex-girlfriend,” he corrected himself. “She was a lot younger, an attractive blonde.” He accepted the drink and the couple came over and he said to them, “’You probably think I’m Bill Murray.’ Well I bought them a drink right back.”

We said our goodbyes and moved toward the car.

“Come back again,” he said and gave a small wave with his left hand.

The afternoon was fading, summer is fading, and we didn’t get his name.    

Filed under Route 2 things for sale Bill Murray carpentry old furniture feed the bushes with my ashes

33 notes &

We work for nice people. We come into their homes, disrupt their lives for a bit while we build or fix or improve this or that, and the people are patient and kind. They offer us juice and coffee and water. They tell us we’re doing a good job. Sometimes they give us plants or jam. Rare has been the rude or ungrateful.

On Friday we returned to a home in Lexington where we’d installed a huge window on the third floor some months ago. When we opened the door, M. said hello to an older man standing at a coffeemaker, grumbling. He turned, looked at us, and went back to muttering at the machine. M. and I exchanged a glance and continued upstairs to hang some fancy architectural design store shelves and figured he was too distracted by the coffeemaker to greet us. The woman who’d hired us came to check on our progress and mentioned her parents-in-law were in town.

I went downstairs to fetch the Japanese saw from the van and passed by the couple talking in the TV room. “Hello,” I said. They said nothing to me. An hour later, I walked through the kitchen. The mother-in-law stood at the sink. “Hello,” I said. She continued washing a dish. She did not acknowledge me with gesture or word. As we were finishing up, the father-in-law came to the top of the stairs and looked at our work. By this point, I was baffled and mad. I took a step towards him and I looked him in the eye. “Hello,” I said, slightly louder than I needed to. He looked away from me and to the stupid sleek shelves we’d just hung. He said nothing. He did not nod. He did not smile or wave. Nothing in his expression changed. We were invisible. We were not human enough to be acknowledged. I laughed and shook my head and said, “Wow.” He left without a word.

"Makes you realize how good we usually have it," M. said as we cleaned up.

I cursed this couple in my mind, these pathetic small assholes. I wished for bad to befall them. As we left, I was tempted to spit on their navy blue BMW with Connecticut plates. I didn’t. I wish I had.

Filed under an exception to the rule carpentry other people's houses

75 notes &

I’ve seen Rachel’s beaming face holding a lot of different books, and on Friday afternoon it was strange indeed — and amazing — to scroll through Tumblr and see my book in her hands. Her copy made it to her faster in New York than it did to me in Cambridge, and I came home yesterday to find a package from Norton with two copies, two galleys of the book. What a thing to hold. It’s gonna be a book. Coming March, 2015.

I’ve seen Rachel’s beaming face holding a lot of different books, and on Friday afternoon it was strange indeed — and amazing — to scroll through Tumblr and see my book in her hands. Her copy made it to her faster in New York than it did to me in Cambridge, and I came home yesterday to find a package from Norton with two copies, two galleys of the book. What a thing to hold. It’s gonna be a book. Coming March, 2015.

Filed under Hammer Head W.W. Norton The Making of a Carpenter holy shit