more on the heat of charleston and house design... our house at lischey in nashville had transoms above the doors. however, as is wont to happen in depressed neighborhoods, the upkeep of the homes go by the wayside. in the case of 1116 lischey, i reckon that at some point one of the renters, or perhaps the landlord, removed all of the brass fixtures that open and closed the transoms and then sold them. the result was five non-functioning, caulked and painted shut door transoms.
at rutledge, we actually have operative transoms. when we first looked at the house i though that someone had done a bad trim job on them. this is what one going to the outdoors looks like:

i thought that maybe, just like lischey, the windows were about to fall out due to having no hardware, but really that little slanted piece of trim is the window stop. if you look you can see the hinge there at the top of the slanted trim piece.

now, the exterior door right across the hall has the same slanty trim feature, but it opens the other way. here is what it looks like:

the long and short of it is, before the advent of air conditioning (the sucker of 16% of america's energy needs), we'd figured out lots of ways to keep ourselves relatively cool. so, the windward side of the house has large double hung windows. in the heat of the summer one would have dropped the top half of the window to let in the breeze. the door transoms let out the heat trapped at the tops of the room.

a quick thought on tools: alison was telling me the other day that i am a good painter--house painter, that is. i can't paint my way out of a bag as far as canvas painting goes. it's true, i'm a pretty good painter, but there's really nothing to it. alison said she wasn't any good at it. anyway, this short conversation got me musing on the nature of tools and thier proper use.
okay. so like computers, televisions, automobiles, etc. are all things still in the midst of changing rapidly. in ten years, none of these things may look or perform anything like the ones we're using now, right?
on the other hand, a hammer, a number 5 jack plane, a western backsaw, a flat head screwdriver, all look pretty much as they have for a couple hundred years or more (although bessemer's invention of the blast furnace in 1865 did have a big effect on most of the above).
just to keep it simple here, though, my point is that all those tools--as opposed to the new fangled stuff--must have already reached their evolutionary apex. they stopped changing because they had become about as good as they were going to get to perform the job at hand.
what's at stake in all this, you might ask? well, if you're a tool, then being good at your job means doing it well--and doing it simply. so, the next time you're engaged in some physical labor like hanging a picture or screwing in a screw and you find that you're having a hard time, then just STOP! stop because you're doing something wrong. it shouldn't be hard. in fact, it should be a breeze. the tools you're using have been designed for maximum efficiency--you're just using them wrong. keep in mind that there's a dedicated screwdriver for every screw in the world. take some time to learn the proper tool and technique and thereafter fixing things for yourself will be much easier.
the far-reaching ramifications of this are less dependence on manufactured items, keeping things out of landfills, more money in your pocket, exercise, a sense of independence and well-being and on and on and on.


Cate Bush said...

Walter, I'm really enjoying your blog. In fact your most recent entry about the proper use of tools was very informative and entertainment. You know you could easily write a column or a magazine article :). I also wanted to tell you I love the paint color you chose for the hallway. It's one of my favorite colors these days. You can always change it when it goes out of style.

Cate Bush said...

p.s. Edit *entertainment* should have been *entertaining*.

Trey said...

Very interesting stuff. You could easily have a "home improvement simplified" blog or something like that.

You guys need to get your own accounts on Blogger, so that one can tell at a glance who's posting.

I've got a header image designed for you, and I've emailed Alison the nitty-gritty details on how to make it live. Because blogs haven't been around for very long (less than 10 years, I reckon), it's not a very simple task. But on the other hand, it requires no physical labor!