Well, I thought I might be able to have a nice, relaxing summer vacation, but instead I somehow was enrolled in summer courses. I didn’t feel like dealing with the long lines at the registrar, so I just decided to go. Oh how much I learned over the last five weeks at the Jesse Oviatt School of Construction Best Practices!

I was able to partake in daily hands-on learning in classes such as Ambidextrous Nail Gun Usage, Creative Ladder Placement Techniques, Fiber Cement and You, Back Flashing for Beginners, Story Poles: Then and Now, Proper Hydration: Water vs. Beer, and my favorite: Caulk 101.

For my whole life, I have always thought that if you had to clean up your caulk line with your finger, it meant that you just weren’t very good at caulking. Friends, it turns out that is not true! The first rule of good caulking is that it always needs to be smoodged into place. In the past, this has meant that I ended up with all 10 fingers loaded with globs of caulk. Watching Professor Oviatt at work, I learned that the way the pros do it is to have a wet rag handy to do the smoodging. Then every so often, you amble over to a bucket of water (and it doesn’t even have to be really clean water) to wash out the rag and wash off your hands. Trust me, this is the way to do it. It gives a superior caulk line every time.

My other favorite course this summer was Lacquer and Varnish: Will it Ever End? with Professor Tom Mylroie. Professor Mylroie draws on many years of experience, which he shares generously with his students. To prep wood for varnish or lacquer, I learned that oftentimes, using just a piece of sandpaper is not enough. The proper method is to have a sanding block, which you wrap with a little blanket of paper towel, and then wrap with the sandpaper, to give it a little cushion. Professor Mylroie astounded his class one day when he spontaneously, and in record time, built a special-use wheeled cart to carry his fancy German spray gun and can of lacquer. He even had a special hook for the paint can opener!

What a treat to be able to learn from such talented professionals! And now I have so many new skills to add to my resume. I just hope my final exams aren’t too tough …