The Unskilled Helper

Yup, that’s me — at least when it concerns renovations to our new house. Hank is the skilled craftsman in this marriage. As a master woodworker, he has built staircases, cabinets, furniture, and more for many customers and luckily, for us.

Our current project is renovating a bungalow circa 1900 in the village of Shelburne Falls in Western Massachusetts. The house has great bones, but during its 118-year-old history, people have left their marks on the house, some good, some not so IMG_4818 copy
good. That’s where Hank’s skills come in: a totally new kitchen, an upgraded bath, flooring, restoring the home’s original footprint etc.

He is the star in this renovation. I appear simply in a supporting role.

I will admit I am not fit to touch power equipment, especially anything that could possibly take a finger or worse. But I want to help. So what’s an unskilled helper to do?

Here’s my list.

  • I make lunch and a snack for Hank — lots of muffins and scones these days.
  • I hold the other end of things like chalk lines and wood — usually a long plank while Hank cuts it. I am getting better at making sure the board is smack against the fencing. However, I draw the line at plywood. We tried it once, and it was a disaster. Instead, we get Hank’s friend Victor, another skilled woodworker, to do it. I joked to Victor, “Thank you for saving our marriage.”
  • I bring Hank tools when he’s on a ladder whether it’s a level, nail gun, actually anything not attached to his tool belt. That way he doesn’t have to go down and up the ladder all day.
  • I do the dirty work like removing wallpaper.
  • I do the clean work such as sweeping and/or using the shop vac for sawdust.
  • I carry demolition materials to the piles outside, which I will eventually carry into a roll-off container.
  • I lay cardboard over the flooring to protect it. I use a two-tape system with blue on the floor that I cover with the edge of the cardboard and duct tape.
  • I move lumber.
  • I draw lines. I used a T-square and a pencil to mark the floorboards where Hank should hammer the cut nails.
  • I check online for information — a snap for me.
  • I shovel snow.
  • I wash clothes and do other household stuff. Before we took on this challenge, we split the chores, but I don’t mind doing his share for now.
  • I hang around for moral support. Some days there isn’t anything I can do to help, so I bring by his lunch and hang a bit. It’s the least I can do.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That’s Hank hard at work.

A BIT OF NEWS: We are moving through the cover design phase of my mystery, Chasing the Case, which has an official launch date May 18. My publisher is Crooked Cat Books. More info will be forthcoming on how to get your copy. You will be able to get a paperback before that and pre-order a Kindle version. Much more as we go along.