Coming Into the Cold

It was cold in the wood shop. Sunday afternoon, the sun already headed west, and I was alone in the entire makers’ space. I debated turning up the heat, but that seemed kind of frivolous when it was just me, and I once again optimistically thought my project wouldn’t keep me there very long.

It turns out, I couldn’t have turned the heat up even if I wanted — the furnace hasn’t been working since Branden blew out all the ducting. But I didn’t learn that until later. Despite the cold, I went ahead and cracked a window, because I had no way of knowing when someone was last there and no one who goes in believes in masks.

I didn’t know what I was doing. I wanted to put a hole through my bird post so that I could run a dowel through it. The first drill bit I selected ended up turning the drill instead of the bit; the second got me partway in but didn’t seem like it was going to be long enough to go through the 4 x 4 that is cedar, based on the smell brought up by the drilling.

The third drill bit was plenty long enough, but it kept coming loose in the drill, so while I was making headway I wasn’t getting very far very fast. About the time I was running out of things to try, Branden came through the door.

He was on his way to Crested Butte, where he has picked up a lot of repair work from a hotel — a hotel that has offered him a handyman job, a job he has turned down. He is doing his work at this hotel — welding stainless steel, creating scaffolding and something with an espresso machine — from 4 p.m. to midnight. On weekdays he is working for the contractor who owns the building housing the maker space. First he was driving trucks; now, after the contractor had three framers quit on him, Branden is building houses.

In the middle of these 16-hour days, which he is taking advantage of now because he’s afraid the state or county will shut things down again, he is growing frustrated with his partner in the makers’ space, DJ.

What Branden said Sunday, while taking over my drilling project (I was on the right track, just not exerting enough force on the drill and bit, neither of which belong to me), matches my own observation: DJ’s heart seems to have gone out of their maker venture since they got shut down in the spring as part of covid prevention that doesn’t seem to have an end in sight.

I didn’t know either of these guys prior to the start of the year, but it’s been clear they are good friends. Sunday it sounded like this friendship is skating on thin ice, and that Branden is waiting for DJ to tell him he wants out of the business venture. DJ, with a full-time job in food service delivery, isn’t helping out at the shop really at all — as I have learned when I try to go during hours he’s supposed to be in the shop, and when he says he can help me but never follows through when I press for a day and time. But Branden seems determined that DJ needs to make the first move.

Branden appears to have enough projects of his own to justify keeping the space, at least for now. He already scaled way back on the number of people being allowed in through the keypad door, due to unsupervised abuses of the space and materials, and no effort is being directed toward attracting new members.

I would like to pay for a new membership when mine comes due in January, but after Branden left for Crested Butte and I moved on to my two remaining feet for the bird post, I used a square with DJ’s initials on it. I don’t know how many tools in the wood shop belong to DJ, but if I were him and no longer invested, I wouldn’t be leaving my tools around for strangers to handle as they try to tackle projects above their nominal skill level.

I finished putting feet on the bird post. The post itself — my diagonal splice seems to be just the ticket, holding steady and firm — comes from 4 x 4s that once supported Pat’s folding table. For the feet I’m using screen frames repurposed by my friend Jim Barry, who made shelf brackets out of them. The dowel is really an old broom handle, and on top I put a platform made from a piece of shelving that belonged to Pat.

It’s all scrap, and it’s all finding a use, years after I started saving it. Maybe my magnificent yet useless wood collection has a little purpose after all.

I want to put a birdhouse on the post, but I really don’t know what I’m doing there. One day earlier this year, pre-covid and while DJ was still invested, I came into the shop to work on some project of mine while DJ put together three small projects. The idea was that kids in a wood class could pick one of the three projects and make it themselves, and one option was a bird house.

DJ’s model is still there, and I was hoping I could examine it to see how to make one. I suppose the other option would be to just see if I could buy that one, which isn’t doing any birds, or kids, any good sitting unused under a workbench.

Sunday in the shop I didn’t even finish attaching the platform for whatever birdhouse will perch atop my post. I couldn’t get the socket to fit on the wrench, which ought to be something basic, but the parts weren’t clicking together. I knew I had sockets at home — although it turns out I’m long on wrenches but short on the sockets themselves — and there was heat at home.

I cleaned up my wood shop mess, which seems to be beyond what most users of the space are able to manage, carted my supplies and the bird post out to the truck, stepping really, really carefully because by now water dripping off the roof had turned to lethal ice just outside the door, and closed the window I had cracked under the non-functioning furnace.

I didn’t need to be letting any more air inside the building; besides, it was already colder in there than I realized.

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