Canadian Woodworking

Carl’s house – part 1

Author: Don Wilkinson
Illustration: Mike Del Rizzo
Published: August September 2016
Carl's house
Carl's house

The other day, my new neigh­bour, Carl, showed up at my door looking a little frazzled. Maybe he looked scared; it’s kind of hard to tell with Carl.

He and his young wife had recently moved into the old house just behind my place. They had somewhat grandiose plans to com­pletely gut and rebuild it. Unfortunately, neither Carl nor what’s-her-name had a clue as to how to swing a hammer, let alone renovate a house, not that they even owned a hammer. It was true that the house they had so gleefully purchased was in serious need of renovating, but a clue­less young married couple should not have been attempting to do the work, not unless at least one of them knew how to operate a D10 bulldozer. Preferably both.

Their first project was to strip the car­pet that covered every square inch of the main floor, including around the toilet and under the stove and refrigerator, which happened to all be in the same room. After tasting what’s-her-name’s cooking I could see a certain logic in the appliance place­ment but I was informed they planned on changing that somewhat. They also planned on installing a tub-surround and possibly tile the walls once they had built some. They had even briefly considered installing a bathroom door. Radicals!

The previous owner of the somewhat eccentric house had been a somewhat eccentric lady who had died the previous winter without bothering to let her neigh­bours know beforehand, so we all felt bad once she had finally been discovered. We were just happy she hadn’t been a cat lady. She had performed many of the previ­ous renovations herself using a limited number of tools and an even more limited amount of knowledge of house construc­tion. There were light switches and outlets scattered across every wall surface throughout the house, some of which powered absolutely noth­ing that anyone ever discovered and several that had either no wires attached or had wires curled up inside the junction box that were fully live, but attached to nothing at all. The fuse panel was worse. I closed the door and ran away. Fast.

And then there was the plumbing. The basement had a toilet in one corner perched on a platform with the drain pipe rising straight up to the main sewer pipe suspended under the main floor … seven feet above the toilet. Science and gravity were clearly not this woman’s strong point.

As I implied at the beginning, Carl didn’t have much in the way of tools. He also didn’t have much in the way of a clue, or skills, woodworking knowl­edge or patience. However, he did have a great and rather endearing line in bashful hopelessness.

What I had was a garage, a shed and a basement full of tools left over from when I ran a custom furniture business. And some from when I built log homes. And a few from when I operated a wood­turning school. Plus a vast assortment of others from when I just liked to buy tools, whether I needed them or not. And more than several, just because.

Unfortunately for me and my tools, the previous weekend, Carl and what’s-her-name had been walking past my house at the same time I had been sitting in my garage contemplating doing some­thing about straightening the place up enough to walk from one end to the other and actually set at least one foot on the floor. I didn’t really care which one.

Carl, upon spotting the stacks and heaps of tools and equipment had immediately become my best friend and wanted to bor­row each and every one of them, even the ones he couldn’t identify with any degree of certainty.

He never did explain why he might need a dedicated bowl lathe at this point in his reno. The chainsaw I could understand, seeing as he didn’t know how to oper­ate a D10 bulldozer. I got a real kick, and a sense of ominous foreboding, when I started up the chainsaw and he was star­tled by the noise it made. It was as if he didn’t know chainsaws were operated by an engine. Hmmm! Oh! Oh!

It was at that point I decided that for the sake of my toys, and in the interest of keeping noisy ambulances from the neighbourhood as much as possible, it might be advisable for me to assist Carl with his renos. Thus began the end of my retirement.

I’ve always said it never pays to be nice to someone.


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