carpentry (73)

My First Building Project (1961)

Designed by my surfing friend John Stonum, who was in his final year of architecture at UC Berkeley. (I was his first client.) It had what we called a “sod roof” in those days (now called a “living roof”). I got a big load of merch-grade redwood 2×4’s at the closing out of the nearby Olema Lumber Yard for — get this — $35 per 1,000 board feet, and nailed them together on edge for the roof deck. I let them run wild on the right-hand side, so had to cut off about 14 feet of them. I started out with a hand saw, then went and rented a Skilsaw to finish the job.

I was working as an insurance broker in San Francisco and would rush home from work every night and as well, work on weekends. As the years went by, I started on a very ambitious remodeling of the old summer house on the property (in Mill Valley, Calif.), and what with the cultural revolution brewing (I was listening to Beatles records while working), my dislike of wearing a suit and increasing boredom with the business world AND a growing love of building and working with my hands, I quit my job in 1965 and went to work as a carpenter.

The roof had two layers of tar and gravel, then 2″ of coarse gravel and 4″ of earth. It was planted with chamomile and in the spring, it was covered with white blossoms.

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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

209790

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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Bruce Baillie’s Timber-Framed Bridge in British Columbia

Photo from Godfrey Stephens

From Bruce Baillie, who rode his 1969 Moto Guzzi motorcycle 28,000 miles to Central America in 2012-13. His story is on pp. 130-31 of Tiny Homes on the Move. Now he’s back in British Columbia, and just sent us this.

…my latest building which I framed up last summer. It’s a log structure that’s built on an old logging bridge at the zip line I helped build 10 years ago. I felled the trees on site, limbed them, bucked them to length and yarded them out of the bush with a big truck using blocks hung in trees for lift. I then framed it all up and put a bright red tin roof on it. It was all very exciting as the drop to the river below was about 45 ft. from the rooftop.

The guy ran out of money at that point but we’ll finish it this summer. There are 6 separate zip lines on this site; the last one runs under the bridge where this building is. Goofy (Godfrey Stephens) has a picture of me standing inside the building with my Harley chopper parked nearby.

Last fall I worked for a guy in the city; while I was there I bought a steel sailboat 34 ft. long that was supposed to be scrapped. Long story short: I traded straight across for this custom Harley chopper that I rode for a bit and then sold to pay for a trip to Cuba last month. It’s great to have grown up around guys like Bruno (Atkey) and Goofy while young: being around interesting people in turn helped cultivate my lifestyle into what it’s been. Life is good. I still ride my old Moto Guzzi.

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