I recently scanned through every post to the Engineer Unplugged blog, updating tags and categories and adjusting the text a little. In so doing, I realized I was nearing a milestone. This is the 250th entry to the blog I began in spring 2014, when I moved to Vermont to pursue the lifestyle of my dreams. The journey has reached 21 months and roughly 100,000 words.
What began as a construction blog from a civil engineer’s perspective has morphed into a living resumé for my business, with a handful of ongoing construction projects and a weekly musing on how to live better. Here, I offer a look back at the ground I’ve covered, including a link to every single entry so far. The ten links marked with a * are my all-time favorites, so if you’re new then these are a good place to start.
This is where it all began. Colin hired me to help build his new house despite my near lack of construction experience. In so doing, he financed my mid-life crisis, enabling me to give up a desk job in Boston and start my own company, PERCH. With the mentorship of master carpenter Terry, I learned skills that make me a decent builder and a better engineer.
Brace Yourself! | First Place | Ode to Carpentry* | Barn Raising | Beam Me Up, Scotty | Gimme Shelter | Upward Mobility | Happily Ever Rafter | Stringers and String | Raise the Roof | All About ICFs | Shingle All The Way | Survey Says… | In the Hole | White Castle | This and That | Making the Grade | DIY | Wood is Good | Heat | Floors and Doors | Lumber Liquidators | Summer Routing | Lumber Party | Hitting the Wall | Peak Performance | Truss Department | Building Truss | Going Solo | Peaks and Valleys | Break | Shed Layers | Windows of Opportunity | Wall to Wall | Bargain Basement | Making Room | In-Doors | All Our Ducts in a Row | Harvey Wallbanger | All the Shingle Ladies | Postholing | You Conduit! | Down to the Wire | A Perch on a Porch | Sealing the Ceiling | Cable Management | Autumn | Fans and Cans | It’s a Breeze (Way) | Wall Stuffing | Insulate is Great | For Those About to Rock | Porches and Cream | Cut and Drywall | Works Sided | Writing’s on the Wall | Passing the Porch | On Deck | Prep School | Heavy in the Paint | The Little Things | Siding with the Pros | Floored! | Snow | Kitchen-Hearted | Inside Job | The Never-Ending Story | Make a (Book) Case for Yourself | Roast Turkey with All the Sidings | Dump and Run | Light Up My Life | Arranged By the Floorist | The Kitchen Sink | Stuffed | Need a Lift? | Channel Surfing | There’s Always Something to Do | Alone Time | The Story Ends | Soffiteering
As work on Colin’s house slowed for the winter, I found another job closer to home, remodeling a 200-year-old farmhouse while the owner continued to live inside it. Working mainly with local builders Mark and Hans, I discovered that carpentry is very different when you’re working with an existing, imperfect structure versus a blank slate.
New Year, New Project | Loadbearing It All* | Many Hans Mark Light Work | Jacked Up | Angular Momentum | Blank Stair | Blood, Sweat & Fears | Foaming at the Mouth | In-N-Out | More on the Floor | Walk the Plank | The Glorious Whitewasher | Stringing Along | Days of Floor | Over My Head | Walled In | Cedar, Oak, and Old | Holes | Break On Through to the Other Side* | The Doors | Closet Confidential | Livin’ on the (Factory) Edge | Which Window? | Duct Duct Goose | Roofless | Waterproof | Batting Cleanup | Class Action | Old Meets New | Class Dismissed | Shelf Confidence | Hooked on a Ceiling | Window Treatment | Float On | Case Workers | Counter Strike | Shelf-ish | Hole Filling
These are projects I’ve done for friends, family, and myself.
[For my parents] A Weekend Project in Massachusetts | Get That Snow Off Your Roof* | WallPaperboy | Re-siding in Massachusetts | Prime Number | Paint the Town | Can Do
[For Jas] Sounds Like a Good Idea | No Noise is Good Noise | Stove Envy
[For others] The Little Free Library | Empire State of Mind | Sukkah* | Fit and Trim | Lessons Learned
In fall 2014 I merged the blog into the website of my new business, PERCH Engineering. I write about the company’s projects at every opportunity, with a focus on site visits and designing for constructability.
[Moretown house lift] What I’m Working On | How to Pick Up Your House | 7 (Feet) Up | Lights, Camera, Compaction* | Density Digs
[Granville timber frame] Shiver Me Timbers | Truss-Tease | Blastoff! | Floor Values | Touchdown! | Open House | Rafter is the Best Medicine | Cold |
[Other projects] Send in the Reinforcement | Clear for Landing | Hoist With His Own Petard
[Company/website announcements] PERCH | What’s New | Two Hundred Fifty
I learned a lot about carpentry in a short time, and my Woodshop feature (originally Woodshop Wednesday) presented my latest discoveries to a wider audience. When that slowed down, I transitioned to Monthly Mechanics, a crash course in structural engineering. I strongly believe that I don’t understand a concept until I can successfully explain it to someone else.
[Woodshop] Anatomy of a Stud Wall | The Chop Saw | 9 Things Every Carpenter Should Carry | Know Your Dimensional Lumber | 5 Ways to Cut a Straight Line* | Raising a Stud Wall | The Circular Saw | A Tale of Two Nail Guns | Checking Lumber for Straightness | Wiring an Electrical Box | Carpentry Humor | 3 Mistakes with 7 Solutions | 12 Fasteners and When to Use Them | Installing Cabinets | Reciprocating Saws | Moving Cabinets | Installing Drywall | 4 Ways to Hold Up Your Roof
[Monthly Mechanics] Actions and Reactions | Design Loads | Tributary Area | Shear and Flexure | The Elastic Modulus | Deflection | Stress | Let’s Design a Roof, Part 1 | Let’s Design a Roof, Part 2 | So You Want to Be an Engineer? | Cables | Arches | Trusses | Free-Body Diagrams
I love tiny houses, alternative energy, efficient uses of space… anything that saves money, the planet, and your sanity. As yet I haven’t figured out how this passion should merge with my career as a civil engineer. But I give you food for thought and keep myself sharp with Tiny Tuesday, which has appeared weekly for over a year (until today when you get this roundup instead). And sometimes I just write about whatever the heck I want.
[Tiny Tuesday] The Perils of Efficiency | Homes That Fit* | Resourcefulness in Smalltopia | Not So Big | PAD and the Joy of DIY | Live to Ski | Everything You Need, Nothing You Don’t | The Price of Net Zero | Micro-Architecture by Deek | Living Large with Less | Murphy Beds | Life, Edited | The New Manufactured Home | It’s Hard to Move Stuff | Two Takes on Microhousing | The Making of a Carpenter | Strawbale Construction | Looking at Life Cycles* | Give Your Space Style | Strong Composition | Green Up Vermont | The World is My Living Room | Go Prefab and Go Home | The Humble Futon | A Place of My Own | Two Kinds of Stuff | The 16-Year-Old Homeowner | What is Affordable Housing, Anyway? | Your Daily Inspiration | To Yurt or Not To Yurt? | Home-in-a-Box | Pocket Neighborhoods | Time is Money (But Not the Usual Way) | Stretch Your Space* | The Little Free Refrigerator? | More Small Houses in the News | Mining the Sun | Picture Perfect | Live Local | These Homes Were Once a Hotel | How to Grow a Bridge | Mushroom Insulation | The Passive House | Why is “Minimalism” Such a Long Word? | No Easy Walk | America’s Most Tiny-Friendly City | The Habitat Model | The Shelter Pioneer | Plug-and-Play Architecture | Built for $8000 | Rethinking the Building Code | Give | Urban Beehives | Discovering Security | Accessory Dwellings in Burlington | Spoiler Alert | Homes for the Homeless | Let’s Talk About It | Flood Relief | It’s Not the Size, It’s How You Use It | Live Here | What’s Under Your Bed? | The Candidates’ Houses
[Other musings] The Eco-Dictionary | In Praise of the Architect | The Martian
As always, thank you to my loyal readers, old and new. Here’s to great things happening in the next two hundred fifty!