Learning About Building

by Olivia Raynard


              Prior to me deciding to build a tiny house, I have never used a power tool and had never built anything in my life. Since I decided to build my tiny house, I have started pushing myself outside my comfort zone and have been slowly gaining more confidence in my building skills. However, my building skills are still not at the point I want them to be at, in order for me to feel comfortable taking on the building project of my tiny house. Therefore, I have been working on smaller projects to gain more experience with tools and also to get in the habit of thinking like a carpenter. This means I began taking stability, structure, space, and function into consideration when thinking about a building project.

            Since being at the farm the two main building projects I have been a part of was the picnic table and the baby turkey house. The first one I did was the turkey house, along side another intern on the farm. I felt that working with another individual was good for me because I could observe the ways they used the tools and also ask questions if I wasn’t completely sure of our plan. However, I also felt like I stood back and didn’t contribute as much of my opinion as I would’ve liked to. And I think that was because I just lack confidence in my building skills. This project really showed me how much more work I need to do on improving my skills and overall carpenter thinking.

            The next project was the picnic table, which was at first dedicated as only my project. So, I first looked online for picnic table plans and once I found one I then printed them out.  Then, I scavenged through the scrap wood pile we have to see if I had enough pieces to make the table, which I did. However, I did have to adjust the plans slightly to fit the board’s lengths and thickness. This scrap wood was very warped from water and was also very rough, so not the best building wood, but was good enough for a scrap wood table. When I first started this table, I was fine and felt confident because I had practiced cutting with a circular saw before. Therefore, the cutting went well, until I had to cut some pieces at angles, and I was unsure how to do that. I decided to ask Sam for help, and he showed me how to use the tools to draw the line at the right angle and then how to adjust the circular saw to cut an angle.

            Overall the cutting went smoothly, but once I went to put the pieces together, it got very frustrating for me. First, it was hard for me to maneuver the pieces because they were so thick and heavy. Then, I was not well educated in how to use the drill, so I first went for the hammer and nails, but this ended up being the wrong choice. I later learned that screws are better because they are sturdier and it can also be faster to drill them in than hammer in nails. I got so frustrated trying to put the table together by myself, that I couldn’t finish it by the end of the day and had to step back from it and reevaluate the situation. I consulted Sam for help and then the next day when we worked on independent projects I took the part I had assembled apart and another intern, whom is quite experienced with building, helped me assemble the table. Working with the other intern was really nice and I learned a lot about the tools from him and why we use screws versus nails and also how to make the table sturdier with supports. The other intern didn’t take over my project, but instead would just show me how to do something and then give me the chance to try and watch to critique how I did it. I found this very helpful to watch how it was done and then get to try it myself.

            Once the table was assembled, I sanded it down and added one more support setup to make the table less wobbly. Overall, the picnic table project at first really brought my building confidence down because I got frustrated working alone. But once I had some help and guidance, the rest of the build went very smoothly. I’m slowly gaining more confidence in my building skills and am looking forward to learning more and trying out more power tools.