I apologise for having been offline for the last few days, but I've been involved with a project that has challenged every ounce of my intellect, courage, and patience. It's a project my wife and I entered into blissfully unaware of the consequences, and which has enlarged our household with its completion.
I've been building a shed.
It turns out that being a rocket scientist does not automatically make one a carpenter, but it does provide one with a health plan that can cover the injuries sustained while trying to assemble a satisfactory simulcrum of a structure into which gardening implements and overflow boxes of stuff from the attic and garage can be safely stored.
I know that we could have bought one ready-made and had it dragged to our site by accommodating Amish gentlemen, and it all would have been over and done with in a matter of hours and a check for a few thousand dollars, but my wife had several specific requirements in mind that none of the pre-built garden sheds had, first of which was that she did not want to have to dismantle the garage and cut down a 150-year-old oak tree in order to get the shed into the back yard. I kinda had to agree with her on this one.
So I collected a few of my buddies who owed me a favor, ordered some pizza, and we had at it.
The delivery from the DIY store arrived at 9 AM sharp on a Saturday morning, which put a crimp in my own plans, which did not involve sheds but which did involve wood and nailing something. Instead, I got to stand outside in my bathrobe, like Arthur Dent, and supervise while a rather imposing pile of parts was unloaded on our front lawn. A shed in pieces is remarkably larger than the assembled end product, and of course all of this would have to be hauled by hand into the back yard. I asked my wife if she might not prefer the shed in the front yard. She cast me a baleful look which brooked no debate, and so I started the laborious process of hauling timbers, panels, hardware, and shingles down the ridiculously narrow pathway between the side of the house and the detatched garage. Honestly, who puts up a garage four freaking feet away from the house?!
My buddies arrived just about the same time I finished moving the pile, and while I helped myself to about two and a half pitchers of lemonaide (my wife wisely forbade us any beer. She's prescient. She also knows my buddies too well after all these years...) they started arguing about how best to lay out the shed. Since reading the instructions takes too long, and we all figured "it's a shed" they got started on the layout without really fully grasping the long-range goal, which was to complete a building sturdy enough not to fall down in the first stiff breeze.
If you watch any of the various home improvement programs, they make it look easy. But that's because they're just actors going through the pantomime of building stuff. Off camera there's an army of competent, trained carpenters, electricians, plumbers, glaziers, roofers, and interior decorators who swoop in during the commercial breaks to actually do the work. Suffice it to say that my buddies and I were none of these things, least of all, "competent."
I learned a lot while building that shed. First, there's no such thing as a board stretcher. "Measure twice, cut once" isn't just a cutesy saying. Sawdust in your eyes is not pleasant. Make sure all of your helpers use either metric or English, not both. Predrilling pilot holes saves a lot of bent nails. When someone hangs a door upside-down--twice--it's time to ask him to go home. And you should never, ever, ever make a grab for a falling board if you are not wearing gloves, and the board is studded with nails, because spending the afternoon in the emergency room waiting to get stitches and a tetanus shot isn't very much fun. And you can't really swing a hammer with a bandage around your hand.
So now that I can type again, I'm letting you know what I've been up to the last couple of days. And why I'm hiring a carpenter to finish the shed for me.