Archives for posts with tag: steel brackets

Another busy weekend for me at the site for me. And for Jesse too, who spent today finishing up the third and final “Y” bracket. It took four of us to get the steel-covered glulams into place. It didn’t help that we were seven feet in the air and standing on a 16″ wide concrete wall. Good thing we took our macho pills this morning.

I think the crew is hoping to finish the roof tomorrow. They also had the membrane that will cover the roof panels delivered, and my understanding is that will go on too. It’s a big roof, but a shallow pitch and all one plane. So hopefully that helps…

Here’s a stack-o-photos. Some of the site, and some of a few details.



A short post after a long day. Also a productive day.

After relative quiet on site–over the weekend it was just me and Jesse, with Matt coming out a few times as well–we had a hive of activity today. Jesse kept cranking away on the brackets, while Alexi and his crew got started on the roof.

The SIPs panels arrived on two semis first thing in the morning. From there half the crew did some final prep (I even got in on the action again, using a router to detail the beams) while the other guys organized 45 panels into the right order. At up to 700 pounds each, this is no small trick.

We rented a big crane for the day to get panels into the most difficult corner of the house. Good call. And while the crew hoped to get a few more panels installed, we covered our daughter’s room, the guest room, bathroom and a bit more.

Starting a SIPs roof is a bit like starting a tile job. The first few pieces take longer. Why? Well the first panels set the geometry and rhythm for the rest of the project. If you’re off a bit on the first few, you’ll be off a lot by the last few.

Tomorrow should see big progress. I’ll be back at work, but it should be fun to swing by afterwards. The crew expects to have most of the house covered by the end of the day.


Sadly, this is the first post in a week. Not sure how that happened. Oh yeah, now I remember. Work has been busy, and we’re also building a house.

Good stuff has been happening though. Jesse Oviatt has been cranking away on getting the roof support brackets in place. More on this in a second. And Alexi and his crew worked Thursday and Friday to prep a few things before the roof panels are delivered Monday morning.

I spent this past weekend working with Jesse. I think he was happy for the help and it was fun to be on site, even if it meant working 10 hours a day. We made a ton of progress too, which always feels good.

To be clear, the work we are doing isn’t typical framing work. It’s more like the lovechild of cabinetry and bridge building. It’s fussy work. Were you to look around our work area this weekend, you’d see tools typical for framing a house–circular saws, framing hammers, squares, etc. But you’d also see two routers, a set of woodworking chisels, a japanese pull saw, files and a custom made wrench.

Our architect, Matt Melcher, came out for a few hours on Sunday to work with us. He marked the beams that need to be cut in the morning, installed a slope plate, checked measurements, and helped me cut a rabbet into one of the beams with a router.

This was shocking to Jesse. He had never seen an architect do actual work on site. What can I say? Our boy has some skills!

It’s hard for me to put in words how happy I am with the big “Y” columns. They’re insanely beautiful. I’m not sure how something that massive can look so elegant, but it does. And between the fir, the galvanized metal and the concrete, we have a pretty stellar group of materials working together.

You might expect that because I was on site for so many hours that I’d have a ton of pictures, but I don’t. At least not great ones–mostly taken with my phone. But here you go…

Hopefully the SIPs roof will go up without too many hiccups.

Oh, special thanks to our neighbors, Greg and Jackie, who risked their lives to help us install the posts. With the steel attached those suckers weighed at least a couple hundred pounds each. Not fun.

Saturday was the last warm(ish) day we’ll have for a while. It was also the day Mikel pulled off the last plywood form from our retaining walls. Something tells me he was pretty happy about this milestone. I spent the morning working with him, pulling brad nails from the forms and cleaning a few things up.

Misha: Happy to pull the last form.

Because it was a bit warmer I also pulled off more cedar boards from the concrete. This is tough work to be sure. We’ve had so much wet, cold weather, and the cedar is swollen and partially frozen into the concrete.

Part of why I wanted to do the work now though is because the concrete isn’t fully cured–it’s still “green.” Because of this, the ribs between the cedar boards are still fragile, so when I pull off the boards some ribs stay in tact, while others break off. And I like this look.

The work was much easier than last weekend though. It’s amazing what 10 degrees can do.

Finally, a more complete view of the wall, sans cedar.

Wood grain, concrete ribs and aggregate.

Just a snapshot, but I like the composition of this one.

I a recent post I mentioned that Jesse Oviatt is cutting slots and chamfers into our glulam posts to accept the new brackets. He invited me over to check on progress.

Jesse is a super-meticulous guy and he’s definitely paying attention and making suggestions about details on our project too. When I pulled up he was doing some work with a Japanese pull saw–not something you see people working with everyday.

He started the project by building a router template to help speed up the process. Judging by how clean the mortises look, I think it’s working well.¬†It’s still early, but Jesse’s making progress and he is genuinely excited about the project. We’re definitely fortunate to be surrounded with the team we have in place.

We also talked about a couple of details (big surprise). Jesse is ultimately going to cut a 1/8″ chamfer on the slots at a 45 degree angle. This is super subtle, but will be quite nice.

Someday when I have a bit more time I’ll put up some other examples of Jesse’s work. In the mean time, if you need a builder or carpenter for a project, you can e-mail Jesse. [oviattconstruction (at)]


Jesse showing how the metal plates fit into his mortises.

Jesse was the only human out at his shop today, but luckily he’s working under a watchful eyesocket.

Jesse's supervisor.

A busy week at work has kept blogging to a minimum, so apologies for the lack of updates. Plus, crappy weather and a set of bolts we need that won’t be in town until Monday have slowed things down a bit.

There are actually a few things happening though. Smitty sent a text and picture of the back of his truck as he was leaving the galvanizer. Later that day I stopped by the site and noticed a green tarp. What was below? Something very heavy. Very silver. Very awesome.

On the macho scale, 1,000 pounds of galvanized steel pretty much pushes the needle to 11.

The brackets are beautiful though. Every time I talk to Matt, I say some version of, “those things are crazy.

Jesse Oviatt has also been hard at work cutting mortises (a fancy word for a slot) into 6″ x 6” fir posts to fit into and on the new brackets. Jesse is a seriously talented guy. I may stop by his shop this weekend to grab a few pics. The combination of the massive steel brackets and natural wood should be frighteningly beautiful.

In the mean time, here’s to a great weekend.


Watching the house come out of the ground has been fascinating. We spent almost three years in the design process before breaking ground. This translates into many hours spent looking at one-dimensional pieces of paper and talking through details, with an aspiration of one day–some day–seeing an actual house emerge.

We even built our own house model using foam core, glue and balsa wood.

A Christmas break project from two years ago. Note the rookie move of gluing the "beams" on the wrong side of one section of the roof.

L & K helped by making a clay weimaraner and furniture.

I’ve heard some people compare the design and building process with giving birth. Part of me has thought that this is a hokey idea. I’m not so sure anymore though.

We’ve invested so much time on not just the big concepts of the house, but in smaller details like understanding how the roof connects to the retaining wall or how two pieces of wood on our kitchen cabinets will meet. Seeing these details become real three-dimensional objects and structures has been far more exciting and satisfying than I could have imagined. And I went in with pretty high expectations.

Here’s an example: the brackets that carry the posts that will attach to the roof.

Early in the design phase we talked about these in very general ways. They’re in a really visible part of the house/courtyard, so we wanted to do something special, but early on they were pretty non-descript drawings. Why? Well there were bigger things to work on, plus my guess is Matt hadn’t yet figured out how much load they would need to carry. On top of this, “special” can mean elegant and minimal, or it can mean something massive and articulated.

The idea behind the brackets began to evolve. I even sketched some ideas based on what we talked about to give to Matt, which could very well be included in a book titled “Bad Client Drawings.”

In any case, the general idea for the brackets began to evolve. You can see this below in the wire frame schematic.

As Matt worked with Paul, our structural engineer, the brackets were put on steroids and the design emerged more and more.

A detailed set of drawings were developed next (in fact many sets of drawings). Matt then worked with metalworker Sean Smith to come up with a plan to build them.

Finally, yesterday Sean sent me a text message with the picture below.

So yes, in a way we did give birth to this thing. From general design discussions, to sketches on a blank sheet of paper, to architectural drawings on a computer, to Sean in his shop with a welding mask, torch and hundreds of pounds of steel, a team of people made this happen.

Pretty amazing. We’re open to suggestions about what to name our new baby.

Yes, it was 70 degrees and sunny in California yesterday. So the 9″ of snow forecast for tonight will be a bit of a shock. Hopefully we’ll get over this though.

I couldn’t help but run by Smitty’s shop to see the brackets that are being assembled this week. Thankfully he works in the Bat Cave, just a couple of blocks from my office. And of course I ran up to the site to check on the walls, which look unbelievable. Arkada and Alexi pulled off a couple of pieces of cedar to find the hidden letters in the concrete. Pretty cool, and it was fun to watch Alexi’s face, who had no idea the letters were there.

Overall, I love how the forming turned out. The concrete is still pretty “green” and needs to cure, but the look is just what I hoped for.

P.S. You have no idea how difficult it was for me to resist titling this post, “My nuts are bigger than yours.” I guess I’m becoming more mature.

A short post since I’m out of town visiting family, but I received a couple of cool text messages today.

But first, yesterday’s big pour was an all around success. 90+ yards of concrete (or 10 concrete trucks, if that’s easier to visualize).

Matt passed along a picture of the first forms coming off. I just have one for now, but more to come when I get back. I’m pretty excited to check this out.

A lot of the concrete "ledge" will break off, kind of like what you see in the lower left. At least I think that's what happens. Credit: Matt Melcher

Sean Smith, who is fabricating our steel brackets, sent a second message, with the description, “Did someone order a bomb shelter?”

Bomber. Sean says the bolts are as big as the palm of his hand. Crazy. Credit: Sean Smith

Indeed. These should do the job. 70 pounds each, and that’s just the first part of the base.

Anyway, another good week of progress.