Yestermorrow Day #1: I hate that clapboard is pronounced clabberd.

As it turns out, it costs about $1,500 in materials to build a 10' x 7' shed.  I guess that's why so many people go to Home Depot and buy piece of crap sheds made from T111.  

Wait.  Did I just drop the term T111?  That's right, I'm slowly but surely learning the lingo.

For those of you who don't build, T111 (tee one-eleven) is plywood siding.  It's low enough in quality that mentioning it anywhere around Yestermorrow invokes a fury of rolled eyes.

I just finished day #1 of the shed build, and again the experience exceeded all expectations.  Today's task was to put the bottom of the shed together (it doesn't live on a foundation -- it will be carried off to a neighboring property when it's complete).

In the morning we did classroom exercises.  Patti and Lizabeth schooled us on tools and wood. From conventional pipe clamps to Japanese saws (they cut on the pull), we learned the ins and outs of hand tools and how to use them.  

Did you know that saws are measured in TPI (Teeth per Inch)?  

Are you aware that wooden hammers transfer the least amount of shock back into your body, followed by fiberglass and then steel.  The only people who buy titanium hammers are people who have extra money to burn and are looking for ways to spend it.  Do you have a 16oz and 20oz hammer in your toolbox?  You should.  

Is your tape measurer a Fat Max?  Fat Maxes can pull out 11' before crumpling.

We learned all that and more before taking a break for lunch.

Raw rainbow salad, two potato salad, and wild broccoli and YesterKale quiche?  I may never leave this place.

After lunch we began the build.  Our build site is a massive outdoor tent.  It's pretty utilitarian, but the interns found a way to work a disco ball into the ceiling.  Nicely done, folks.

So...How to build a shed...Here you go:

1. Plug in all of your equipment.  Know that thicker cords carry larger loads, so those should be plugged directly into the outlets.  It's worth spending $100 on a good cord so that you have the length you need without throttling your tools.

2. Make a build plan and a cut list. Our cut list was just for the floor, as that was our project for the day.

3. Grab your wood and cut. Don't forget to mark which side of the board is the crown. All crowns need to point up when assembling the frame. You'll see that JL and I cut the two end joists. Our boards looked mighty good when we finished up with them. Smooth cuts and perfectly sized. We rule.  

4. Lay the pieces out on the floor to match the build plan. Since we aren't building on top of a foundation and our floor isn't level, we needed to do some shimming to get everything flush. Make lines on the band joists every 16" so you know where to run the parallel joists.  Mark the edges (16-3/4) so you can flush the joists right up to the lines you draw.  FYI 3/4 is half of 1.75, which is how thick a typical milled 2x6 is.

5. Shim and nail. Make sure the tops are flush and everything is square. We used 16 penny nails for most of it. Why are nails measured in pennies, you ask? Back in 15th century England a "penny" size determined what one paid a blacksmith to forge a hundred nails of that size of nail. One could buy 100 10-penny nails for 10 cents or 100 16-penny nails for 16 cents. Nowadays nails cost a smidge more, but the name stuck. 2/3 of your nail should stick through whatever you're nailing.

6. Square, level, resquare, and relevel.  If everything isn't perfect then your structure will be completely wonky by the time you reach the ceiling. Make sure the diagonals measure exactly the same.  If they don't then you've got yourself a parallelogram.  Sledge on a longer corner while keeping the tape measure stretched out across the shorter hypoteneuse.  Keep sledging until the two diagonals are equal.

7. If you plan on moving your shed you'll need eye bolts in it.  Get out a monster drill and drill 4 holes through the innner and outer band joists.  Run eye bolts through them.

8. Cut the floor. Patti drew out a plan for us on our plywood.  We don't need a subfloor since we're just building a garden shed. 

9. Place the floor on top of the joists. Nail in a corner nail and use it as a pivot to make sure it's aligned correctly.  The tongue faces out.  Groove in.  You'll need to sledge into that groove a bit later.

10. Nail along the joists. Tape measurers show every 16 inches in red because joists are spaced 16 inches apart. Each peasy! Just place 'em 16 and center. Make sure you don't nail too closely to the groove, as you will need to fit the tongue into it later.

11. Keep laying down your plywood pieces.  If you can, keep the factory cuts butted up against each other so that everything stays square and the cuts are over the center of the joists.  We screwed up a bit and cut the plywood wrong the first time because someone thought both sides needed to be measured 24 on center. In reality, the top side had an 8" joist and a 16" joist ( = 24 on center) while the bottom had only 16" joists. ( =32 on center).  Oops.

12.When the whole top is nailed down you'll need to trim off the extra plywood on the side with overhang. Bust out the circular saw and before you know it you'll be done.  In our case, we had to make a 10' cut, which is pretty long.  If you have to make a 10' cut, you should crouch while you do it, not kneel.  If you kneel and your saw kicks back you'll cut your special area out.  You know the one.  The one your bathing suit covers.  Need help remembering?  Try repeating "Crouch saves crotch" a few times in a row and you should be golden. I made that up right now.  I may or may not have had too many glasses of champagne with dinner.  I'll never tell.

That's as far as we got today.  Other things you might want to know:

  • Stainless steel nails don't cause staining, but they can't be picked up by the "love magnet" at the end of a job, so someone (an unhappy homeowner) might end up with a punctured tire.
  • If you're using pressure treated wood then you need to use copper flashing.  Aluminum will corrode thanks to a galvanic reaction.
  • If you're hammering into a butt joint and you think your plank might split, put the nail head-side down on a hard surface and bang it once (hard) with your hammer.  Blunting the tip should help reduce the occurance of splits.
  • Cut nails are very en vogue these days. Apparently everyone wants new floors that look old.
  • As if memorizing your woods wasn't hard enough already, there are soft hardwoods and hard softwoods. Hardwoods are deciduous and softwoods are coniferous.  Balsa is an example of a soft hardwood.  
  • Poplar is great for painting, so you might want to consider using it as a trim wood.

If you're wondering what we look like when we're hard at work, here are a few scenes:

Yestermorrow. Subtitle: My Quest to Become a Pioneer Woman

This is going to be the best $800 I have ever spent.

Hands down.

Feet up.

No questions asked.

Sometimes you just know something is right.  And as if the world wants to make sure you get the message, it plays a vintage Casey Kasem Top 40 Countdown on the radio while you're driving home from said right thing.  A countdown from the 80s with Journey and Michael Jackson on it.  If that isn't a divine message from higher powers then I don't know what is.

This evening was my Yestermorrow orientation for a week-long class called Carpentry for Women.  Before I left the house my mom insisted on taking "First Day of School" photos. Yes, I am 34, and yes, I gladly posed. Some traditions never get old. While I didn't have a lunchbox to pose with, I think you'll agree that the level served as an acceptable proxy (see left).

I arrived at the school (located in Waitsfield, and across the street from a nudie swimming hole) not having any idea what to expect. Entirely by design. I like throwing myself into new and potentially uncomfortable situations to test myself.

First up was a campus tour by Kate, the Exec. Dir.  She looked familiar. I'm pretty sure that at some point in my life we have been in a foursquare court together. I think she was in square #1 and got me out with a tough serve. If you aren't familiar with the ins and outs of Vermont, here's a pro tip: we do actually all know each other. It's that small here. When we get bored we play Two Degrees of Ben Cohen or Three Degrees of Phish.

There were 20 of us in the tour group: 10 in the Carpentry for Women class and 10 in the Green Roofs class. Kate showed us all around the main building, which used to be a condemned hotel. Yestermorrow bought the property 12 years ago and has been fixing it up ever since.

After the tour we had some free time and then dinner. WOW. The meal was insane. There's nothing like a meal made out of fresh, local, organic food to get my excitement zooming.

After a bit more milling about it was time to assemble the class and meet the instructors. I was leery of taking a segregated class, but just five minutes into the orientation I cast aside all concerns. For the first time in my life I understand the appeal of female-only courses/schools. It's an entirely different energy, and in a good way. It's supportive. It's fun. And everybody laughs at my jokes. 

There is a woman in the class from Vermont who said that she wants to learn how to build a shed for the "30 horse tractor" she has her eye on. The announcement scarcely left her lips before the entire roomful of women was nodding and sighing in agreement. Meanwhile I was trying to figure out if I could justify buying a John Deere and using it for living room furniture (since I don't have much else to do with it in Oakland).  

A woman from New York plans on building tool sheds and hay bale stations for the farm she works on. My fellow Californian has a dog house on her mind.

Do you know how many times a tech bubble was discussed? Here's a hint: 0.

Ahhhhhhhhh. Refreshment. 

I mean, I love the tech scene just as much as the next Bay Area gal, but sometimes I just need to get out from under it and return to my roots.

The women in my class are smart, interesting, off the grid (some still use dial-up modems, many lack TVs, and virutally none are on FB), and they make me really miss life in New England.  Fun fact: I'm on a quest to feed the New England/Maritime part of my soul this year.  I want to become a more self-sufficient/pioneer women version of myself.  I already learned how to make perogies and bread from scratch; now it's hammer and nails time.

This week my class will be constructing a garden shed for a woman in Waitsfield.  We kick it all off tomorrow with a trip to a mill, lumber yard, and hardware store.  We also get our tool belts and something called a cat's paw, which I can only assume (hope) is less literal than it sounds.