Thursday, October 21, 2010


Maybe you'll recall from a few weeks back when we were finishing up the new steel roof, a big box of tiles arrived from Mexico. We spent one late breakfast breaking into the nest and marveled over how well all the tiles were wrapped. Somewhere in the world someone is still taking the care with their work. And we tried to complement that on this end by tiling part of the chimney up on the ridgetop, and then on Columbus Day, when bicyclists were sailing by and the maples were turning their best colors, I coated our front door frame, all four sides, with the tiles.
Someday when someone (maybe me) has to get down into the long strap hinges, there will be something to think about. It's good to think. Especially with a tool in your hands.

We were hoping the trapezoid roof shaped job would be the clincher on the spring ~ summer season, where we were away painting a house for someone and taking care of general carpentry repairs, then back home with all sorts of big and small repairs. Roof done, head into some tiling, work up some stonewall, cut plenty of firewood...then the power vent on the old oil furnace busted down. It doesn't work so good without the power vent, although for a week or so I ran the range with one wily worker who had me almost convinced we could run the furnace with a stovepipe for how little we burn per year (75 gallons)...this is a firewood house...and then I pressed him about carbon monoxide poisoning and the draft for the flue and all of a sudden that worker was long gone. Left us in a lurch. I swore the next time a power vent crapped out we'd end our oil run and move to gas. I put the furnace in 20 years ago with a friend and it all still worked fine. A Williamson. Can't find the parts any longer for the one day I took a few socket-wrenches down into the cellar with me and kneeling in dry crushed rock, dismantled the furnace. The size being maybe the size of what I always imagine one of Wilhelm Reich's orgone boxes to be. Quite an image.

I removed the metal side walls, then dug deeper down into the empty chamber of motor, pump, blower etc., and finally the belly of the beast: the heat exchanger. The heaviest part of the furnace, the worker, the nucleus, the heat maker. Still solid, no cracks, it would make someone a perfect
piece of the furniture if their old furnace was in need. Sweetheart and I lugged everything out of the cellar, then rolled the heat exchanger up planks and lifted it out of the bulkhead, across the porch and then a long roll into the garden where I stood it up in what will be a deep bed of daylily flowers by next June. I removed the small steel roof I built over the old power vent location and topped the heat exchanger off with its cap. In the rain but out of the rain. All the parts are on Craigslist, plus the heat exchanger, and I'll wait awhile before I take it off and keep the parts as decoration, or in the old parts foundry I have where someone may come by one day asking if we 'have a such 'n' such.'

Right now we call the heat exchanger with power vent roof "R2-D2".

I told a friend about our "R2-D2" and he wrote back from Illinois saying, "I always wondered what he'd do after he retired."

Quite an image.

photos © bob arnold

Don't be afraid of being called 'unmodern'. Changes in the old methods of construction are only allowed if they can claim to bring improvement; otherwise stick with the old ways. Because the truth, even if hundreds of years old, has more inner connection than the falsehood that walks beside us.

Adolf Loos, 1913