I can’t keep tops and bottoms straight

I may have gotten your attention with that title, but what we’re actually talking about today is the dark side of handing my finish work over to someone else and leaving, even someone I trust.

You might remember how much I liked the idiosyncratically mismatched woodwork that came with my house when I bought it. I liked it so much that I decided to keep it mismatched, even when I replaced it all. While the Irishman was working on jambs, he decided to start on the trim work. We hadn’t really talked about it. And I was working in my parents’ garden without my phone. By the time I was done, he had downstairs trim up all over the second floor.

I told him what happened, and let him take it down and fix it. And I said, “Now you understand that the tops and sides are the same trim with mitered corners, right?” And he said yes.

But I came in, and he had the upstairs trim installed on the sides cut square! I flipped, called him, and told him I couldn’t afford more of what he used. And he said, “I thought you were talking about the mitered returns under the window sills. I’m sorry, I can’t keep tops and bottoms straight.”

And so came the best that’s what (s)he said of all time.

By the way, this is what he meant by the mitered returns under the window sills. They’re very well done.


So first he said he’d buy some more of the trim. Then he found out what I spent on it, and instead he said he’d dowel it together. “Because they call us joiners for a reason.” I’m pretty satisfied with this job. If somehow it shows, it’s part of the story now.


Then, finally, he got the back bedroom window just the way I wanted it. Remember, there are two ways to do a double window. You can run the trim around the whole thing and put a flat trim on the muntin inside it, or you can run the casing around both windows. The latter way is harder, but I wanted it that way. Why, because I can inside mount my blinds. And he did it beautifully.


Third time’s a charm.

Now, there’s another dark side to all this. He took a pretty good chunk of… all the money I have. He likes me a lot, but not enough to do this kind of work for free. So I was kind of terrified. But I found a way to make it work. A credit card. I got an introductory 0% interest rate. That means every Home Depot purchase, every gallon of gas, and every drink I buy at a bar for the next 2 months is deferred until 2016. But hey, I’m used to living modestly. I can keep it up a bit longer, right?


6 thoughts on “I can’t keep tops and bottoms straight

      1. infinitequery

        I don’t know your parents home seems very very up scale and that’s a pretty snazzy house you are creating but our concept of high living may begin at a different social strata


  1. Mary Elizabeth

    You don’t have to worry about “the Irishman” until he comes to work wearing his pants on his head. 🙂 Seriously, the joining of two pieces of trim for doors and windows could be seen over the Victorian house I grew up in. They didn’t feel every bit of trim had to be a straight run, especially if it was going to be painted. At the end of the day, the old finishing carpenters would have almost nothing left in the way of scraps.

    One of the things we learned when we were designing and building the addition to our ranch house was that because we were sharing the work with the carpenters, we had to give them more than verbal instructions. We were always making little sketches of how we wanted something to look. The mistakes happened when they or we suggested a change (“You’ll save money if you make the deck a foot shallower”; “OK, sounds good”) without sketching out how that was going to change the overall plan. Skilled craftspeople have preconceived visions in their heads based on their experience. They can’t always articulate that to us DIYers.



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