122 Artist, Gardener and Activist Renee Garner

Image: Renee Garner.

There’s a struggle in cities, around the world, to make streets safer for everyone, especially our children and elders. One hundred years of car-centric planning has created cities and suburbs that are ugly and dangerous. Renee Garner is fighting a plan to turn the road in front of her home in Matthews, North Carolina into what would be, in effect, a multi-lane freeway. During our conversation we talk about her activism and what happened when a local reporter uncovered a trove of mean spirited text messages about her from the (now former) mayor. In addition to her efforts to stop the John Street widening project, Renee is an artist, illustrator and avid permaculturalist. You can find Renee’s website at renee-garner.com. Check out her amazing illustrations here.

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Random Acts of Beauty

Thank you librarians of this world for your shelves of suggested new books. The librarians of LA’s Central Library have been a big part of my effort to cut down on screen time in the evening (during the day my workshop and home restoration duties force me away from that infernal iPhone).

Librarians have a real talent for suggesting books I’d never find on my own such as Wiener Werkstätte Jewelry. Behold, the striking pendant above designed by Koloman Moser in 1905.

William Burges Cardiff Castle.

Another serendipitous find, Gothic Revival by Megan Aldrich introduced me to the work of architect William Burges. A recent Guardian article featured a tour of Burges’ Tower House in London that just happens to be owned by Led Zeppelin founder Jimmy Page. The ceiling of Burges’ Cardiff Castle, above, shows Burges’ extreme commitment to ornament and detail.

Lastly, when it comes to screen time, I’ve been thinking about re-watching the films of Andrei Tarkovsky, Stalker, in particular. Like all of Tarkovsky’ work the film is poetic and ambiguous. In Stalker, Tarkovsky addresses two of the issues that keep me up at night: ecological disaster and a culture that has become overly literal minded.

Make Your Own Molding With a Table Saw

Not much posting this week as we’re racing to finish the home restoration project we began in May. I spent the past week installing another wood floor and replicating 1920s era molding that is no longer easy to find. My companion in this quixotic journey has been my table saw.

I held off getting a table saw for many years thinking I could get by with a circular saw. I’ve learned, in the past year, that a table saw is capable of much more than just rip cuts. While labor intensive, you can use a table saw to make many kinds of molding.

Pacific Ready Cut houses feature a simple molding that I replicated with a series of 45º cuts followed by a pass over a dado stack and/or a router. I’ll provide specifics in a later post if requested.

You can also make cove molding by moving wood diagonally across the blade. This was easier than I thought it would be (once you figure out the right angle–the not easy part). Since you raise the blade just 1/16th of in inch at a time, it can take a long time to spit out 100 feet of molding, as I discovered. And you’ll need to sand away the blade marks.

I also took some Home Depot door casing molding and cut a groove on the back with a dado stack on the table saw to make an improvised picture rail. I’m not sure why picture rail fell out of favor (though you can still find it if you hunt around online). Who wants to make holes in the wall every time you want to hang up a picture? I’m guessing it has something to do with the use of drywall after WWII. Lath and plaster walls, like we have, don’t take well to nail holes. That said, even a house made with drywall should have picture rail just for the convenience of being able to easily hang and move around pictures without making a lot of holes.

Should you wish to join the table saw cult, I’d recommend getting a SawStop table saw. I have an inexpensive Delta table saw that works fine, but I had a chance to use a SawStop during a class and they seem well made in addition to their unique finger-saving safety feature.

If you do not have space for a table saw or other power tools, one of the best YouTubers out there, Paul Sellers, proves you can make just about anything with hand tools.

Shed Factoids and Resources

Henry David Thoreau‘s cabin at Walden Pond.

After hours of research attempting to find a kind of grand unified theory of sheds I gave up realizing that the topic is so deep, thanks to the tiny house movement, that the best I could do would be to corral a few of my favorite shed resources and factoids. So here it goes.

Average shed construction costs range from around $1,200 USD for a DIY 8 by 12 foot shed to more than $50,000 USD for a modernist pre-fab shed/mansion. You can, of course, build one for almost nothing if you’re the scavenging type. Derek “Deek” Diedricksen has a great website with lots of videos and resources for keeping costs low and creativity high. I used some of the building tips from his book Micro Shelters when I built my ridiculous neo-classical garden shed.

Here in Los Angeles you don’t need a permit for a shed that’s less than 120 square feet,

One-story detached accessory buildings used as tool and storage sheds, playhouses and similar uses, provided the gross floor area does not exceed 120 square feet, the height does not exceed 12 feet, and the maximum roof projection does not exceed 24 inches, are exempt from building permits. However, any electrical, plumbing or mechanical equipment installed in these structures do require separate permits. In addition, all structures regardless of size must comply with applicable zoning requirements. Please refer to the Department of Regional Planning website for more information on zoning requirements.(1)

We can thank the late artist Chris Burden for that 12 foot height limitation. Your local building code may be different, but I know that the 120 square foot limitation is common in the US.

Add a dry toilet and you’ve got a functional, if illegal, living space.

Inexpensive Pre-fab
Johnny Sanphillippo, a guest on our podcast mentioned a shed he installed in a rental property he owns. He went with Cedar Shed but, for his second shed project he’s getting a Tuff Shed from Home Depot.

Modernist Shedcraft
Though not a modernist myself, I really like what this YouTuber did with a Tuff Shed:

I also like this modernist shed from the, sadly, defunct Readymade Magazine:

You can still download the MD100 plans for free here.

Curbed did a roundup of five sheds if modernism floats your boat. And there’s an encyclopedic searchable database of pre-fab sheds at Prefabcosm (with a traditionalist search option).

Spinning Sheds
Lastly, let me sing the praises of The Idler Magazine (you should subscribe!) for introducing me to the world of rotating sheds. George Bernard Shaw was the most famous of rotating shed owners, but not the only one.

Do you have a shed tip, resource, story or photo to share? Did you have your shed installed? If so how did that go? What do you use your shed for? Leave a comment!

An Improvised Roof Rack for Lumber and Sheet Goods

Lately I’ve had to transport 4 x 8 sheet goods on top of our undersized chariot. Thanks to YouTuber Dan Pattison, I now have a handy method.

It’s as simple as attaching 2 x 4s to an existing roof rack. Following the instructions in Pattison’s video, I notched the 2 x 4s and attached them with metal plates and bolts to make the rack sturdy and easy to remove. A pair of brackets keep the sheets from sliding forward during transit. And I use this handy online calculator to make sure I don’t exceed the weight capacity of my rack.

Pattison’s rack is not just for sheet goods. In fact, I use it for transporting lumber much more often than plywood. Put those 2 x 6s on the roof, strap them to one of the 2 x 4 cross pieces and you’re ready to roll.