Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

I Thought I Was Young Again
by James Glaser
Marcy 18, 2011
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I don't know what happened, but yesterday I felt young again. I was planning to frame out a little addition to my potting shed. Get the walls framed out, and if I was lucky, maybe get my first pattern rafter cut.

I had a wood foundation all done. In fact I built that last year, and just never got around to putting a building on it. So, yesterday morning I went out and made some measurements, and headed over to the studio and cut all the 2x4s to length with my chop saw. I then assembled everything I thought I might need, loaded everything into the truck and drove over to the potting shed and started putting everything together.

Everything went just fine. I used up all those boards I measured, and cut my first rafter. That fit on the first try, so I made the rest and put them up. After all of that I still felt good, so I headed out to the lumber company and bought half inch CDX plywood, came home, cut it to the correct sizes, and put all of that up. I don't know just how long I worked, but it must have been close to ten hours. A good day.

Today, is another story. Man, am I sore. I went out there and finished screwing all the plywood on securely, and took measurements for everything else I have to do. That would be the trim, flashing where the roof meets the wall, and I counted out how many shingles I'll need. All day yesterday I was up and down that ladder like it was 1980, but today it is 2011, and that ladder was a real pain.

I know, I should have quit when I had everything framed in, and I could have finished up today. That would have been the prudent thing to do, but I was having so much fun. All my saw cuts were perfect. Everything fit the first time, and I felt so darn good. I was thinking how I could accelerate all the projects I have in the works.

Today, reality hit. Man, I am sore, and I'm not getting much done. I can remember the day I turned 50 and I stopped to see my mother. She was close to 80 then, and I asked her if she had body aches and pains. I thought she would fall off her chair as she was laughing so hard.

Well, there are parts of me that feel just fine today. I use my arms and shoulders all the time, and they don't hurt at all, but I spent quite a while stretching and pushing on that screw gun yesterday, and I can really feel it in in my chest. That worried me, but then I figured out that I could rub the pain away, and my heart is beating at 68 beats a minute. You get older, and you have weird thoughts every time you feel something new with your body.

So, today I am back to thinking about pacing. That would be pacing myself. Actually slowing down and enjoying everything I do. I'll still get a lot done, it'll just take a bit longer. Probably it will even be better. I went out and looked at what I did yesterday and while it is a fine frame job, it isn't crafted like it could be. I framed it like I would if I was back working construction. I coulda, shoulda, maybe made everything kind of special. I could have predrilled everything, I could have done something fancy, just because I was doing it for myself and I wasn't on the clock.

That might be one of the blessing of getting older. You can slow down and take the time to add that little part of you, into your work. When you are young, you are trying to get done, so you can do something else. Usually that something else is more work, so you can make enough money to buy that new tool, a newer truck, a motorcycle, or maybe just diapers for that new child.

Now, and I keep forgetting this, I don't have to impress anyone but myself. Last summer when I was building that original potting shed a guy stopped and asked if I could teach him how to make rafters. I told him he could watch me, but that I didn't know how I do it. I never analyzed the process, but some time over the years I had taught myself how. The same thing happens in my shop. I don't think about how I am going to build something, I just go from tool to tool kind of instinctively doing the next step.

I always wondered about people who look in books trying to find just the right house and floor plan when they decide to build. Here is what I have always done. I figure out the size of building I can afford, and then I get the foundation or basement in, with a sub floor to stand on. I get up on that floor and look all around. I am looking to see where I want windows. The view dictates where the rooms are going to be. If your nicest view is where the bathroom or laundry room is located, it doesn't do you much good.

Also I can never figured out why people want their house parallel or perpendicular to the road. The only thing that really matters in sighting your home is the path of the sun..

Years ago I met Edward Brewer, a painter in Saint Paul. He had a wonderful studio with large windows facing north. Usually in Minnesota you want your windows to face south so you can get that heat gain in the winter. Brewer explained to me that with windows to the North, he never got a glare or shadows on his canvas. He thought about window placement before he built.

My studio is not lined up with the road. It is lined up so that when I am working, I can keep an eye on the house and driveway, and also have nice views of the woods. It would be more functional with no windows, because that would give me more wall space to put up shelves and position tools, but I have worked in those sort of caves before, and it really does stifle you creativity. I want to see the sunshine or rain. I want to see the birds and any wild animal that decides to walk by. I want to feel the breeze and let fresh air in.

Next time I have a day like yesterday where I feel young again, I'll probably do the same thing and work as long as I possibly can. Youth is intoxicating, and I suppose I'll pay the same price the following day. But until that happens, I'll have to try and enjoy the slower pace of craftsmanship, and have that be my reward, which when I think about it, is not such a bad thing.

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