Featured Sidebar

Watching a building go up can be enjoyable, doing it maybe not so much

Share this article

By BEN OLSON/for The Herald  —  Many years ago, my wife won a company trip to Nuevo Vallarta. Getting out of Wisconsin for 5 frozen February days was just what we needed. We were on the 5th floor of an ocean-front high-rise, with a view  of the highway. Being a free trip, we couldn’t really complain about not getting to see the ocean from our room.

Everyday, after I had my coffee, I would start walking north along the beach. The land, for the most part, was not developed, with only an occasional home not very far above the high tide line. There was a half mile of scrubby trees enclosed by an 8 foot tall chain link fence. I’m not sure if the fence was meant to keep people out or to keep the surly ostriches in. Once you saw the ostriches, though, you probably wouldn’t want to be on their side of the fence anyway.

At least rebar was used

A mile up the beach was a sight that intrigued me to the point that I had to stop and watch the show. There was a high-rise being built and the skeleton of the building was already 6 stories high. There were about 40 workers standing on the platform of the 6th floor with rebar sprouting out all around them.

They were hauling concrete up in 5 gallon buckets with a rope as part of the construction process. There were no railings and no safety harnesses- it was an OSHA nightmare. The forms for the floor were held in place by hundreds of what appeared to be saplings about 4 inches in diameter. I watched the process for about an hour before continuing my walk.

Everyday after that, I would bring my to-go coffee to the construction site and sit under a palm tree to watch how things get built where the rules and the economic realities are different. It occurred to me that the place where we were staying was probably erected in this fashion, as well.

Building a vacation cabin

This vacation took place at a time when I myself had ventured into the construction business. Inspired by building a vacation cabin in the northern part of my state, I started to learn, in earnest, how to actually build something the right and proper way. The cabin was constructed with planks cut at a nearby sawmill. It was an enormous circular saw powered by an old tractor motor. It produced prodigious amounts of sawdust and sounded as if the apocalypse was descending upon the building that housed it. One could not look at it without envisioning the cartoon of Snidely Whiplash, with Nell tied to the log approaching the blade, only to be rescued at the last moment by Dudley Do-Right.

A few tools and a lot of sweat

The one inch boards varied in thickness from ¾” to 1 ¼”. I dug in a grid using the ends of old power poles and suspended the floor several feet off the rocks and brambles that covered the site where my cabin was to be. My tools consisted of a posthole digger, hammer, tape measure, string line, framing square, 2 foot level and, for all the precision cutting, a chainsaw. 

There’s no need to go on about the real houses that I built on level foundations. That stuff happens all the time, and it all has to conform to state and local codes. There were a few log homes which, with the proper equipment, went up relatively quickly. I did work with another builder who erected large log mansions using logs slabbed 15 ½ inches thick and coped on the corners. They were set in place by a crane with an 80 foot boom. The crane operator made more money than me for sitting in the crane all day, waiting to set a log. On a good day we would install 5 or 6 logs. It only took 7 courses of logs to get a 10 foot ceiling.

A barn raising in Wisconsin

A few years back, I was fortunate enough to be invited to participate in an Amish barn raising in rural Wisconsin. It wasn’t a traditional red cow barn, though. It was a 35 by 60 foot pole building. About 30 of the neighbors showed up with their tool belts, and there weren’t very many of us there that didn’t have on the blue shirts, suspenders and straw hats that is the Amish “uniform”. The walls were up, roof trusses on and roofing panels and siding were being nailed on by the end of the day. It was a model of cooperation, skill and benevolence that was inspiring to see and participate in.

From the vantage point of my deck, I can watch, from a distance, several houses being built. It is almost soothing to hear someone pounding in nails with a hammer, not using a nail gun. I am thoroughly entertained by watching other people work. I still love to build things, but my days of wearing a toolbelt 40 hours a week are over. If you want a custom built dog house or chicken coop, I may be your man.

Ben Olson, musician and Oakridge Resident, with his standup bass. Ben is a regular contributor, as well as the Entertainment Report’s columnist. Ben Olson photo

Comments are closed.

Lane County Libraries The Power of Partnership throughout Lane County Oregon

graphic: Classifieds

GARAGE SALE: Tell folks about your upcoming garage sale here.

LANDSCAPING SERVICES:  It’s that time of year.  Let everyone know what services you have to offer.

JOB OPENINGS: Need to let the community know that you need help. Post your job openings here.


OFFICE SERVICES AVAILABLE:  Copying, Scanning, Emailing & Faxing Services are now available at The Herald’s office in Oakridge.
CLICK HERE for details.

graphic: Classified Ad Posting is Now Available - For Sale • Help Wanted • Landscaping • Rentals • Homes for sale • Repairs • Remodeling • and More! - Post your classified ad with us today.

Follow H58H on Social Media

The calendar is temporarily disabled due to a rendering error. Please reload the page.