builders (132)

Grandpa Built a Car

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When my father was 5 years old, he was riding a tricycle on the street in Alameda and a train came along and the wheel cut off 4 of the toes on his left foot. When he was in the hospital, his dad promised him he’d build him a car. Which he did. I just discovered this photo in the family archives. My dad didn’t let the injury slow him down, he played tennis in high school and was an avid duck hunter and fisherman. I’m so proud of him, for his courage, and grandpa for his soulful kid’s car (with bicycle wheels).

(I just discovered this photo in an old family album, with my dad’s explanation written on the back; I’d never heard the story.)

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Val Agnoli’s Sculptural Home

Val is that unusual combination of creative architect and master builder. He can build what he designs!

I shot this picture of his home in 1973. There’s a long interview and about a dozen other pictures of his work in Shelter.

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Stone Barn

I’m going through my photo archives these days. I realize I have a wealth of building photos accumulated over a 50+ year period. I can’t recall where I shot this; it was somewhere on the several trips I took through Ireland and England in the ’70s. I was on a journey to study real building, after giving up on geodesic domes. Going from mathematically derived buildings, often built with highly processed materials, to studying construction methods based on local materials, site-specific experience, and fine craftsmanship was a revelation.

This stone barn, for example, is almost unreal in its simplicity and master masonry — both in the walls and stone (slate?) roof.

Note: See the wonderful thread of comments below.

BTW, I’m in a new mode these days of trying to put up blog and Instagram posts at least 5 days a week. I’ve sure got a lot of “content.”

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Lloyd and Louie Visit 02 Artisans Aggregate in Oakland

Tucker Gorman is an artist/woodworker that I recently met through Foster Huntington. Tucker is one of a group of builders, artists, welders, sculptors, and gardeners that operate out of a number of large buildings in the industrial part of Oakland, Calif. I’d been there last week and took my friend Louie with me to see it all this week. (BTW, Louie is 92 years old and still rides a 500-foot zip line across the Garcia River in Mendocino county to get to his house.)

It’s an amazing setup, with a group of ultra-competent people engaged in all kinds of activities. There are a number of dimensional sawmills — the largest can handle a 5-foot log — and the yards are piled high with stacks of sliced‑into‑slabs logs and stickered lumber of all sorts. In one building, there’s Joinery Structures, a custom sawmill with mills, planers, joiners, sanders, and other milling tools I’ve never seen before.

There’s a greenhouse in which seaweed is dried. There are chickens, guys working on making chicken feed out of food byproducts, a nursery, tanks containing sturgeons, and Soba Ichi: a very cool-looking, fresh noodle restaurant. More photos of it here.

Central to all this is Paul Discoe, a Zen Buddhist priest who studied under Suzuki Roshi at the San Francisco Zen Center and then spent five years studying with a master carpenter in Japan. He’s published a beautiful book, Zen Architecture: The Building Process as Practice.

I don’t have a lot of time (one could spend days writing this place up), but here are a few photos:

Brilliant use of shipping containers

This mill will handle a 5-foot log. With these mills, the blade housing moves on tracks; the log is stationary.

Paul Discoe’s collection of Japanese carpentry tools

More pics to follow when I get time.

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Shelter Books Inspire Carpentry Career

June 20, 2019

Dear Lloyd,

I am writing to thank you for your work as a builder/publisher/disseminator of alternative building inspiration. Your books are what initially set me on the path which I am on today, and I’ve never been happier. I was staying with a friend in Oakland on my way home from hitchhiking the country when I was first shown Shelter II. This must’ve been 2013. I told my friend’s housemate that when I made it back to Washington, I wanted to build a tiny house. “Oh,” he said, “well I have some books you need to look at.” I spent the next two days sitting in their garden, pouring over Shelter II and Builders of the Pacific Coast. Completely engrossed, desperately excited.

Well, I made it back to Washington bought a hammer, and got to work. My blueprints were drawn on 2×4 off-cuts, mostly making it up as I went. Square enough, level enough.

I moved in once the roof was on and spent the next three years finishing it (I never finished it). When it was time to move on from “Shackie Onassis,” we hitched it to a tractor and took it down the road a ways to my friend’s farm where it resides today. While the house was being moved, I rode alongside in my skateboard — I am one of the only people who has skitched their own house (skitching is when you get a vehicle to pull you on your board, but you know that!).

That was years ago now. Today I make money as a carpenter, and I just can’t believe people pay you to do this shit! I love my job, my coworkers, and the places I get to work. I have a regular yoga practice, which is the only way I believe I’ll be able to keep doing building work as I age. I’m 32 right now and I want to keep at this for as long as possible. Yoga is key.

Anyway, I’m just trying to thank you for the work you’ve done. Your aesthetic and approach to building are foundational influences for me. That pic in Builders of the Pacific Coast of Sunray Kelly, barefoot, shirtless, on a roof with an electric chainsaw is still a “Fuck yeah, that’s what I want to be when I grow up” image for me.

–Take care, man, thank you so much for being an inspiration!
Marshall

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Nepenthe Restaurant in Big Sur

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The inn was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright student Rowan Maiden some 70 years ago and is still lookin good. It was built by brothers Frank and Walter Trotter in 1948. It’s unique in that it’s framed with local 1×12″ redwood, interwoven and sandwiched together. There is no 2″ lumber in the framing at all.

You can sidestep the expensive dinners by getting a draft beer and an “Ambrosia burger” at the bar.

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