I’m sitting at my gate in Chicago as the loudspeaker cracks to life “for passengers traveling to Hartford there has been a gate change, please proceed to gate B10 for your flight”

The guy sitting next to me laughs aloud “ha! No one goes to Hartford”

Pentagonal Tesselations

Jen and I are going to make an art piece. It’s based on the fairly recent news that mathematicians determined a new equation for a pentagonal tesselation.



Yes. This is all truth. So, uh, what does that mean? Basically, all triangles and all convex quadrilaterals can form tessellations. No big deal. Easy stuff. Pentagons? A bit more challenging. Thankfully over the course of history mathematicians determined 14 different general equations for pentagons that will get the job done (image shown above). Over the summer, a fifteenth was discovered (whew!)

Or plan is to laser cut these tesselations into 15 individually colored panels and mount them in an array.

It will be beautiful.
It will be colorful.
It will be geeky.

In my mind, these three criteria result in great art potential.

The Shed – Part 3: Siding & Roofing

While walking through a lumber yard with the shingle guy

mike d: “It’s a beautiful day for working outside!”
shingle guy: “It’s never a beautiful day for roofing.”

True thing shingle guy. True thing.

Once the framing was complete, my father in law returned to help with the roofing and the walls. Far more challenging than the actual construction was the creative ladder work and scaffolding to accommodate the precipitously steep hill and the at this point seemingly terrible decision of a steep roof.

Siding? No major issue. I used textured plywood (T1-11) for the siding. We pre-stained it (critical) but we painted it once it was mounted (not nearly as critical for reasons unknown). The roof? Shingle guy was totally right.

Examples of scaffolding/laddering/etc:


Hill ladders







HOW AMAZING IS THIS! A 14 foot 2×8 board atop two ladders that are clamped to either side of the shed. SO GOOD.


The roofing took two weekends and was mostly exhausting. Jen cut the shingles while my father and I braved the (occasionally sketch) scaffolding and hammered in the 4,000 nails.

The Shed – Part 2: Framing

Framing a shed is not challenging. There are four parts:

1. measure and cut everything in advance
2. buy a nailgun and air compressor
3. use the nailgun
4. take frequent snack breaks

This is one of those cases where the prep takes as much time as the actual construction. Jen and I spent a full day measuring and cutting in preparation. Jen measured and marked each piece as I used the chop saw to cut. Every single one was flawless – except for the one piece that I happened to have measured. Ha!


We setup all the wood at the floor and used the floor as a table for construction. To make our life easier on the trusses, I setup a jig on the floor that was preset to the angle of the roof. The roof is 50° off plumb on each side – or a 110° roof. While a 45 degree roof would have made construction easier (everyone loves 90 degree angles) I’m glad we stuck with the 110. Forty five degree roofs are more common for saltbox type sheds – 50 is better for a colonial style and easier (though only marginally) for shingling.

Staging in process

Staging in process

My father-in-law came over to help with the construction. I also purchased an awesome 33Gal Air Compressor on Craigslist for $120! DAAAAANG! What a deal! My neighbor loaned me a framing gun and I bought 1000 nails. Literally a thousand nails. Nail gun framing nails don’t come in quantities much less than this. I did not run out of nails.

With the tools and an extra set of hands the framing commenced!

The build!

The build!

All Walls

As I mentioned in the previous post, I modified the plan designs so that it had four windows and a door on the front side instead of the gable side of the shed. The door is 48 inches wide and just six feet tall which works great for me but anyone taller will constantly bump their heads.


We built all the trusses before putting up the walls. And just like the walls, it was a simple task to get them up and nailed into place.

The trusses lined up and ready to be raised

The trusses lined up and ready to be raised

Now it looks like a Shed

Now it looks like a Shed

All the framing took place in a single day!

I call this next part the Error Amplification Phase. Even the tiniest of errors ended up escalating exponentially. 1/8″ gap difference across the door frame? Prepare yourself for 30 hours of rework.

Thankfully there were only three or so errors besides that door one that ended up costing me later.

1. I made the floor 10ft x 12ft. The roof was designed for a slight overhang on each end – but since I made my floor the full width, the roof line extended to about 12 feet 4 inches. Since my roofline lumber was 12′ long and I wanted to plywood the roof without weird-sauce cuts, we had to reposition the end trusses to not overhang and I had to do all sorts of extra crazy trim stuff at the end. Ugh.

2. This one was phenomenally stupid. We centered the edge of the studs not the centers. We should have measured to center. That means come time to put up the plywood walls it was a roll of the dice if they happened to fall on a stud. We were lucky everywhere except for 3 spots where the seam falls NEXT to a stud. Ugh^2

3. My windows were framed EXACTLY TO FIT. Come on Mike D, get it together! I admit that I’m a bit arrogant when it comes to expectations of the quality of my work, but sizing a window frame to 22 x 26″ for a window that is manufactured at 22 x 26″ is not a bright thing to do.

Next up? The walls and the roofing.

The Shed – Part 1

My own personal Great Pyramid of Giza, this shed has undeniably been the largest construction adventure I have embarked upon. Thankfully I’ve had help at almost every stage of this project – note: Perhaps I shouldn’t compare my shed work to the Pyramids. My help was certainly not forced slave labor burdened by the brutal Saharan sun (though occasionally, they may disagree).

The almost finished shed

The almost finished shed

Schedule: Officially, we broke ground for the shed on July 25th. And while I’m still not completely done with the work, I’m close enough to start posting this recap. Right now we’re at about week 11.
The Goal: a 10ft x 12ft shed
The Budget: not-defined, but I had mentally prepared for about $2000-$2500. I was wrong here.
The Placement: the edge of our yard abreast a precipitously steep hill

I'll probably mention the precipitously steep hill many times

I’ll probably mention the precipitously steep hill many times. NOTE: this picture was taken in the fall long before the start of construction

Original research:
I started by taking out some books from the library and searching Houzz to try and define what kind of shed we wanted to build. Sander loaned me an excellent shed book under the “Build like a Pro” series; within which was a link to shed plans that were purchasable from a company called Better Barns. I purchased a $35 dollar set of plans for a simple colonial style shed.

The Plans:
The plans were… okay. The covered the general construction methods but the Bill of Materials was incorrect and there were a bunch of details missing from the plans. The plans also needed to be modified rather significantly for our property. For example: I changed what side of the shed had the door and increased the number of windows.

And now? We start.

Step 1: The Foundation
I planned a concrete pillar foundation. Because the shed was at the edge of a precipitously steep hill, I needed a method to ensure stability and levelness. Concrete pillars seemed to make the most sense. Dad D came down for a weekend to assist. The goal was six concrete pillars. Three in front, three in back. The middle of the shed would be simply supported by bricks. My plan was to bury the six concrete pillars 42″ deep – that’s the frost line. BUT: we hit rocks that limited our depth. I’m not concerned.

Dad D positions the concrete forms

Dad D positions the concrete forms

The floor frame of the shed is assembled from 2×4’s at 12 inch centers mounted atop three 4×4 rails.

The Frame!

The Frame!

Fun fact: measure corner to corner to ensure squareness. Then lock it down with some strapping before attaching all the joists

Fun fact: measure corner to corner to ensure squareness. Then lock it down with some strapping before attaching all the joists

5/8″ CDX plywood covers that. Was it level? Absolutely. Was it square? Perfectly. All the materials for the floor and subfloor is pressure treated.

Critical advice for others attempting this:
1. Use a transit for leveling purposes. It was a lifesaver a thousand times over



I’ll post the framing story next! Framing is the part of the project that I like to call “Everything goes so smoothly because details aren’t yet important!”

Doors are complicated.

This past weekend my father in law came over and we worked aggressively on building the doors for this biggest of big summer projects: The Shed of 2015.

Prior to the final website post which will hopefully show up next week (if I’m done with the shed by then), here’s a quick approximation of the amount of time for each portion of this project:

Foundation: 18 hrs
Framing: 20 hrs (almost entirely prep time)
Siding and roofing: 8 hrs
Shingling: 12 hrs
Windows: 6 hrs
Trim: 12 hrs
Door: 8 hrs
Trips back and forth from the local hardware store to pick up the random forgotten fastener: 7000 hrs

The most surprising part so far? THE DOORS TOOK AN ENTIRE DAY TO BUILD.

I’m stunned at how complicated doors are. Granted, the doors that I designed were a bit more elaborate than your run of the mill plywood doors. These were constructed as tongue and groove cedar planks with z-battens on the back and attractive trim-stuffs on the front. BUT STILL! A whole day for two 24″ wide doors? I’m genuinely surprised.

So what’s left before I can post the full recap? Not too much. Corner trim, door hardware, and edge trim for the exterior. The interior only requires some final window work, peg-board, and perhaps a shelf or two.

We are CLOSE.