Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Despota of Drywall

I finally arrived at St. John's on Saturday night just before dark. I took this picture of the exterior of the Church. The dome is from the original chapel at Point Reyes (and the chapel wasn't much bigger than the dome, so they expanded the Church space under it. At supper Fr. Meletios announced to the monks that I will be staying in the Bishop's quarters...which, he said, shows how highly he regards the drywall work to be done. Coincidentally, Bp Benjamin showed up Sunday afternoon for a brief visit to see the Church. Fortunately he wasn't spending the night. Its only a double bed and I snore.
So....What does the Stealth Bomber

and the Church at St. John's have in common? Well... read on.

Monday morning I started on the sheetrock with two of the monks helping me. We got half of the altar ceiling area done in about 8 hours. About 6 sheets of drywall. (30 to 40 sheets a day is normal quota)... Why?
Find a square corner... I dare you.
It is a little hard to see from this picture, but the ceiling angles up and down in about 7 directions in this small area, and then dies into a round wall in the back behind the altar.

This is Ross, one of the pilgrims who is helping us. He has never hung sheetrock before, but I gave him a crash course on how to read a tape measure and cut drywall, then gave him a drywall knife, a T-square, a screw gun and a saw. He and one of the monks have been doing the closets, columns and lower parts of the walls that are square and straight. Today I graduated him to ceiling details. He kept saying to me, "You know, maybe if you....the ceilings might go faster." I'd say, well...it doesn't quite work that way. It took him about two hours to put up 3 pieces of drywall less than a square foot each. He said, "NOW I understand what you guys have been doing..." Don't judge until you've cut an unequal quadrilateral in my shoes.
You can see from the pictures that, like the stealth bomber, there is not a single equilateral piece of surface anywhere.

The framers did the best they could with the design, but almost none of the angles are "true", so every piece has to be cut, "dry fitted", recut, refitted and then installed. Maybe if I had paid more attention in high school geometry it might go faster, but Euclid is unforgiving. Two degrees or that this way makes a big difference if you want to be able to screw the sheetrock to the framing.
After about 35 hours in 3 days we have a little over half of the ceiling done. In 26 years of drywall work, this is the most difficult job I've ever done, hands down. But.... I'm loving it.

16 comments:

Fr. John McCuen said...

Can't help myself here... That's not a picture of a stealth bomber (the B-2); that's an F-117 Nighthawk... ;-)

But yes, the ceiling line in your picture does suggest the fuselage of the stealth fighter!

What a joy it must be to be able to give such help in making a church more servicable and beautiful!

s-p said...

LOL! I Googled "stealth bomber" and that's the first image that came up. I just remembered seeing one of those at an air show and the ceiling reminded me of it. Also, monks are known for being all in black and "flying under the radar" too. :)

Anonymous said...

OH...My...Goodness...Were they working from plans when they framed it? That is so unusual. I know it will be very beautiful when you are finished! Well done!
-Wifie

-C said...

You are an artist, Steve, a true craftsman with a high calling.
I am in awe. Seriously.

Gabe said...

I'm just glad I moved back to Michigan before you asked me to help :)

Andrea Elizabeth said...

My son's attic dormer bedroom in the 1930's gabled roof of my previous house posed similar difficulties. I mostly taped and mudded. All the extra angles look really cool when done though. I'm glad you're enjoying it!

s-p said...

Andrea, Yep, I did an attic office that was almost the entire attic years ago that was all angles, but at least they were pretty "equilateral" or parallelograms. The mud work on this is going to be interesting too for sure.

Jim H. said...

This has been fascinating to follow this whole journey. You are a fine artist, and a heckuva good storyteller!

James the Thickheaded said...

I took me a while to see the I-lams, but seriously... the photo almost makes you want to skip the drywall, and do the whole with pine or cherry or something (cheaper)... cause it would look stunning in oiled wood and maybe save the drywall or use it sparingly.

But I'm sure in real life... it'll look better in drywall.

s-p said...

Thanks, Jim, I'm glad you're enjoying it as much as I am. JtTH, we're talking about wrapping some of the beams in wood later on, to do the whole job would be impossible, really, the framing is so out of whack you couldn't cut a straight board for any of it, and the labor would be astronomical. I can cover a lot of sins with mud, wood shows everything.

Kirk said...

Two words: drop ceiling! :)

s-p said...

Kirk, LOL! I actually did a million dollar custom house years ago, and the owner put a drop grid ceiling in his 16 foot ceiling family room. You can take the man out of the trailer park but you can't take the trailer park out of the man sometimes. (Hey...drop me an email: stevenpaul4@cox.net)

Bill M said...

I've worked for contractors in the past. And hung a fair amount of drywall. I think this one would have left me crying in a corner! And you turned a newbie loose on it! :)

I'm really looking forward to more on this photo-journey. Thanks so much for putting it up.

s-p said...

Hi Bill, Thanks for visiting. Yeah, one of the monks said he was amazed that I wasn't throwing tools and cursing already. At my age that's just a waste of energy I'll need for something later. :) The newbie guys can basically read a tape measure and I put them on the simple stuff first. When I saw them getting frustrated or doing something the hard way I showed them a trick or two. By the time they got to the little angle pieces they had some basic skills. The "tricks of the trade" don't make any sense until you know something about the trade, and if you're frustrated then the "easier way" makes sense and you like it more. The only way human beings learn is the hard way. :)

Anonymous said...

FINALLY!! i found a reason to take geometry...too bad i'm not gunna use it still...

wish you would've paid more attention in geometry eh?
hahahah.
i love you daddy! miss you a lot!

<3
kenzy

s-p said...

LOL! Yeah, actually Brother Eamon (who just finished high school) figured out one of the really complicated pieces with sines and cosines. My last geometry class was 43 years ago. The reason I know that is because all I can remember how to do is add and subtract. Miss you all too. xoxoxo