Construction Techniques

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Secret Construction Method

You are capable of building an underground house without prior building experience. I firmly believe this. I believe a fourteen year old boy could do it. I think a lady could do it. Someone handicapped could do it if he had help with the heavier structural timbers. It's even possible a few businessmen could do it.

Now I'm not writing with a forked typewriter. With PSP the job is simplicity itself. Except for around the doors and windows there's no carpentry more difficult than notching a beam. The bulk of the construction is simply a matter of peeling and bucking logs, laying out polyethylene, stacking boards one on another or nailing them to the roof beams and throwing dirt in and out of the right places at the right times.

Not only do you have the PSP system going for you but you have my secret construction method. That method, developed out of desperation, is called starting-here and working-over-that-way-taking-it-as-it-comes. Other people sometimes label it "bad carpentry" . . . but never mind, here's the way it works.

First, put off that tough part that has you stymied till last. Then, finally, when there is nothing else that can be done and the whole project is being held up due to lack of completion of that critical section . . . spend a day or two going swimming, fishing, etc. This serves several purposes: (1) It makes you regret "wasting" the time and (2) it allows your mind to fester.

Once you begin to worry about letting time slip through your fingers, you'll get desperate to finish the job. You'll be infused with a form of cheap courage which should give you enough motivation to actually tackle that seemingly impossible task. This is very important . . . just as it's important to allow your mind to fester.

Festering is that form of semi-conscious, semi-unconscious thinking we all fall back on when we don't really know what the hell we're doing. Since you won't be building with blueprints drawn up by a trained architect, and since you probably have only the foggiest notion of carpentry techniques, thinking is going to be the biggest and longest part of the job. If you try to sit down and reason it all out logically you're going to get a headache and become grumpy. Better to let it fester.

When you're sufficiently festered and truly desperate, you'll get back to the project. Maybe you'll grab a 2x4 or a post that you'll run clear up to a beam somewhere because somehow in the back of your mind you know that it'll make the door jamb sturdier if you put it in that way. So you nail the member in place, hold the door up against it to get a measurement, mark it, cut a piece to go above the door . . . and you are on your way. Pretty soon you'll have boards spiked in here, windows placed there . . . and when things don't fit you'll rip them out and try putting them in a different way. Failures won't put you on a downer once energy and enthusiasm are running high because, by Steven Gaskin, something is actually getting done.

A professional carpenter, see, looks at the job and thinks of it as a whole. He either works from blueprints or he has enough experience and confidence to be able to figure everything out in advance. We can't do that. Trying to do so only leads to feelings of defeat and despair. So think bit by bit. Handle each problem as it arises. Start-here-and-work-over-that-way-taking-it-as-it-comes.

Which, I might add, is the way to do your whole homestead. Sure, you have to think ahead on some, maybe even most things. If vou don't you could easily plant your garden where, two months later, your septic tank must go. But never become discouraged by some distant and seemingly insolvable problem. It'll work itself out in time. So will immediate problems. Bypass them. Go on to something else. Let the problems fester.

Don't worry about bad looking carpentry, either. You aren't a pro. None of us are. Few things will be plumb, there will be awkward gaps and spaces here and there. If your handiwork isn't professional, be glad. Look at the results of most professional builders today; sterile, hollow, plasterboard, suburban, blah houses. Your place will have character. It'll be built with love.

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