I love to cook. Saute. Roast. Grill. Braise. If it’s food, I can do a pretty decent job making it taste good. In fact, if I didn’t woodwork, I would probably list cooking as my favorite hobby… and tip the scales at a much higher weight than I do already.
The only one skill I have yet to master is baking. I mean, it seems so simple. Depending on the recipe, all you have to do is mix ingredients like flour, sugar, butter, eggs and baking powder, pop them in the oven and BAM, you have cake.
But baking is different. If you aren’t absolutely precise on your measurements and your process, you can end up with something that looks like a modern art masterpiece and sits in your gut like a ton of bricks. It’s completely opposite of the loosey-goosey kind of cooking that takes place in a skillet.
The same holds true for working with wood. I like to do fine woodworking. No, I don’t cut every dovetail by hand or thickness my boards with a classic infill smoothing plane until the surface glows. But, I do like to carefully mark components and fit them with a great degree of precision into the project. For me, that’s a pleasant way to while away time in the shop.
Rough carpentry, however, is a completely different animal. My wife and I have decided that the home’s original kitchen counter top which I had tiled over when we first moved in had seen much better days. In fact, it is pretty darned gross and needed to be replaced. While we were checking out the solid surface counter tops, my wife was struck with the idea of adding a high sitting bar to the existing kitchen design. The fellow who sold us the new counter top drew a quick yet thorough design of how to add this feature with a simple 2 x 4 framed wall screwed to the existing kitchen cabinets.
“And, you look like a pretty handy guy. I’m sure you can do it.”
Let’s just say that as with baking, rough carpentry is something I just don’t do well. It doesn’t make any sense. After all, isn’t it just cutting dimensional lumber to a certain length, butting it together and driving some nails. Piece of cake, right?
Not so fast. I soon discovered that I can’t cut a straight line with a circular saw to save my life. And, forget about hitting an exact dimension. Some of the studs I cut were off by half an inch, requiring me to use shims to get the boards to fit properly.
And, then there was the nailing. I’ve become a brad nailer convert, just like my power-driven fastener idol Norm Abram. My skills with driving nails using a hammer are dodgy at best. And, when it comes to driving 12d spikes with my 16 oz. claw hammer, let’s just say that the results can be humorous.
In fact, the toughest part of the job was framing the wall in my shop. I had to send the family far away from me so I could practice using all of the naughty words I was told to never use when I was in grammar school.
I’m no carpenter. I am, however, a proud CRAPenter, builder of lousy rough carpentry projects.
Eventually, I got the wall inside and properly secured to the existing cabinets. If I walk by and try to shake it, it is actually pretty solid. Maybe it’s just a tad out of plumb on one side, about 1/16 over its 41″ height. Not terrible, but I’m sure I can do better next time.
The moment of truth arrived when the gentleman came in from the counter top company to template for the job. He walked into the kitchen and looked around. “Who framed in your wall?” he asked.
Sheepishly, I owned up to the deed. “Not bad. You should have seen the awful job I saw at the last house I was at. I told the guy he had to tear his wall out and start over again.”
OK, maybe I’m not quite as bad as I thought I was.
And, once those new counter tops go in, I’m going to have to try to learn how to bake…