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home : insight & opinion : guest columns
October 21, 2017

8/7/2017 2:28:00 PM
Homemade shed a satisfying project
For the Daily News

It's hammer time! (Music plays and thoughts of strange pants dance in our heads.)

I have put up a storage shed to hold some of the stuff that passed the "keep or throw away" test, even though It hadn't passed the "haven't used it in 10 years" test. What can you do? Humans get attached to things like their memories get attached to things, and we put them away for the day we'll want them again, even if we never seem to.

Downsizing looms, however, and the kids will have to come and get the last of the things they've put off coming after pretty soon, or they'll disappear into the donation bins without further angst.

Building a watertight shed is not especially challenging, since I used to put up entire houses, but it has been a while and I did take a look at several makers' models in case I wanted to just write a check instead.

I didn't, although a final accounting will probably show it would have been a slight savings. Still, I have always found a degree of pleasure in hitting the nail on the head, and sensing for myself the depth and taughtness of the bond I make as I drive them into, through and beyond the surface I'm watching as my arm swings down with visceral satisfaction, yielding a pleasing "kerthunk" with each blow.

To do this, I need a hammer, and I happen to still have the first one I ever bought, right here at the Western Auto, which used to occupy the building on the corner across from the Methodist Church that used to stand where the new one stands now.

I bought it because it was on sale for $1 and because it had a rocket on the handle and was named "The Rocket." While I knew better than to expect it to have any space-age qualities, it was the time for such references and predated our sending men to the moon. I used it to build my dog Jet a house; she had the name because she wasn't one. She appreciated the house and its rather odd angles, and the Rocket did a much better job on the shelter just finished than on its first effort. Imagine that, a tool that improves with age.

You may think me frugal, still having my old hammer after all these years, but the truth is I have half a dozen claw hammers and probably that many again of ball-peen, sledge, half-hatchet and other derivatives. That's not because I like to waste money or have a fetish about tools, but because I can't stand to waste time.

Once when I was about to hammer something, the Rocket had taken a vacation in a location I was unable to find quickly enough to suit me, and rather than root through everything I had to find out where I had laid it down while thinking of something else I just bought another one. They don't cost much - not as much as wasting an afternoon frustrating yourself with worry that you might have early onset Alzheimer's - so when I got to the lumberyard and piled up things on the counter to get the work underway, I'd just add a hammer.

This happened more than once, and I made efforts to avoid it, but still I wasn't too hard on myself about it. My pegboard over my work bench has outlines for six hammers painted there to know where to put them back when I am done with them so I won't have to buy any more - that's how I know I own six. Four of them are actually there, so grading on improvement, I'm getting better at keeping track of them. The others will turn up sooner or later. Having their outline waiting is like leaving the light on for them, only it costs less.

I also have a number of tape measures, utility knives and levels, some with a 90-degree gizmo to make straighter cuts and better corners, and some just in a stick of plastic of some length. But there is just one plumb bob and chalk line combo that can't seem to be misplaced or forgotten, which I take as a sign that I am all right in some ways.

I put a metal roof on the 8 x 10 structure because I was tired of asphalt shingles, and really hope I never have to replace it. It came out all right, and after I learned what oddly shaped pieces of extruded aluminum trimmed and made it watertight, I have to say I'm happy with it. Tired, but happy.

The whole project cost me less than one of the blow-away metal bolt-together kind, and was a lot more fun. I also got to appreciate the smell of sawdust again and enjoy the marvel of putting studs every 16 inches on center and having 4 x 8 sheets of things work out just right for nailing it all together. I did wrap it with the modern roll of airtight material, which really does make a difference and stands it apart from the tar paper stage of past efforts.

Progress is everywhere today in the building trades, but I did manage to resist the temptation of an air nailer when offered one by a neighbor who came over to watch my progress.

Apparently few things are as satisfying as watching someone else work, unless its asking the rhetorical stupid questions and making the equally inane suggestions that go with it.

"You're not going to cut that there, are you?" and "don't hit your finger," were not as helpful as thought when said despite their being offered in the best possible way.

As for the hammers, I have four grandsons and no granddaughters, so there will be plenty to go around when the time comes to pass them on. I do worry that their thumbs won't be up to using them, however, after all of the hours spent playing video games and texting their friends about their weird grandpa, but such is the modern world.

One of the hammers not being passed on is the Rocket, which hangs on its own pegs under a little sign that says, "Can't touch this..." (music plays, and thoughts of strange pants dance in our heads).

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