Rafters: cut one and stab my face with it.

I’m great at making things hard on myself. I’m equally good at using a form of logic to convince myself that it’s for the greater good. My experience with learning how to cut rafters is as good an example as ever. There’s nothing quite like psychoanalyzing yourself while also trying to learn a new skill. A microscope is a great tool for getting a closer look, but you can zoom in too far and then you’re focused on nothing.

There are several ways to cut a rafter. The old school way is to use the “step off method,” which requires a carpenter’s square and a lot of thinking. Another method is to simply (enough) calculate the hypothetical length of the rafter and take a measurement from the ridge board intersection to the top of the “heel cut” which is in plane with the outside wall. I could have made all of this even easier by simply taking measurements from my Sketchup model, marking the boards and just cutting the fucking rafter.

I opted for a combination of these methods. I reasoned that I wanted to truly understand how the measurements are taken rather than just getting the result. In my mind the end did not justify the means.

Fair enough. So I spent all day yesterday over-thinking the process, watching tutorial videos on YouTube, reading various textbooks and generally just looking way too close at the matter. Finally, I was ready to plug in a saw and get to work. Instead of cutting two rafters and checking them for fit on the actual house, I opted to lay them on the ground and take some janky measurements. Good work, I thought, and I cut out every single rafter.

Mother-of-hell-shit. I got the ridge board in place and the rafters did not fit. I’m real proud of myself for deciding to build a house and everything, but it would probably be easier to jump off a building that already exists.

Everybody makes mistakes. A big setback is predictable. It still blows.

Eventually, I calmed down and was able to shut the fuck up long enough to breathe again. Zen. Calm. Who cares? I’m going to build something else later, and I can use these rafters then. Sure I can.

It has come to my attention that I’m not exactly impressed with myself for having the fortitude to take on a project like this one. What I am impressed with is that I will take on the project in spite of the fact that I know going into it that the learning process will bring my head dangerously close to explosion many many times. I am a hero for forging on against myself.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Rafters: cut one and stab my face with it.

  1. Hey, I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog so far. This post really resonates with me as My experienced has been very similar at various stages of our bus build. For example, we spent a week researching what type of plywood to put under our floor. My husband took into account the fact that it would be on top of the metal bus floor and that it could get moist, the flexing of the bus when we drive versus the thickness we need to be sturdy, blah blah blah. We drove an hour away to get some marine plywood and the sales guy talked us out of it, we got into an argument with each other out of frustration over the appropriate thickness and if it would even fit in the car and so we went to lunch. After lunch we drove all the way home, went to he Home Depot 5 min away from our house and bought the first plywood we saw that seemed like a good thickness. I haven’t thought twice about it since and I use this experience a lot to push forward past seemingly important yet relatively insignificant details.

    • Sandwich Bear

      Yes, it seems like there is a similar component hidden somewhere in our brains. I often find that the easiest solution is the best one, and also the option that I skipped over for something “better” or “more perfecter.” Funny that the guy actually talked you out of the plywood that he was selling. The best advice I get is often just yet another reminder to quit overthinking and use common sense.

      Your bus looks awesome. I think bus conversions are some of the more sensible living structures. It’s nice to start with plumb and level walls and a roof that will never ever ever leak. I also enjoy the re-purposing of vehicles as dwellings. I’ve spent many hours daydreaming about the ultimate van-cabin conversion.

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