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Buy for $20.97
From a master carpenter, Making Things Right is a celebration of good craftsmanship and a tribute to manual labor in the story of a loft renovation.
Making Things Right is the simple yet fascinating story of a loft renovation. It is also a book about work and identity, about collaboration and pride in skilled craftsmanship, and about what it means to make things with your hands in a consumerism-driven world. From the moment carpenter and contractor Ole receives the first phone call asking him to submit an estimate for the job, to when the space is ready for occupation - his role involves heavy lifting, patience and problem solving, splinters in fingers, meticulous detail, and teamwork.
Full of joy and pride in craftsmanship and his trade, the author reflects on the philosophical aspects of life and work while laying out the construction process. Rich with descriptions of the carpenter's role and work process, Thorstensen gives a warm and often humorous portrayal of a tight-knit working community, writing passionately about his profession and of the joy of seeing a vision for a space take shape. Making Things Right is the simple philosophy of a working life.
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This is an evocative blend of philosophy, daily life in Norway, the concerns of a small business owner, and carpentry methods, written by an experienced craftsman. Most of the story follows a particular loft conversion project. (I eventually inferred that the "loft" was what people from the States might call a large unfinished attic, in an "apartment" building that operates like a condominium or possibly a housing cooperative.)
I run a tiny software development and computer security consulting business in the US, and do a lot of DIY construction on my weekends. My household also hires tradespeople to do construction and masonry projects that are too complex or too far beyond our existing skill sets for us to handle alone. I doubt I was the intended audience, but I found this book very relevant to all 4 of these pursuits.
The planning process for a software development project, the growing communication gap between architects and the craftspeople (in my case programmers) who build their designs, how client relationships are built & maintained, the need to know the kind of work and processes you can expect from your fellow workers, workers from other cultures enriching the field, everyone's work being affected by relative social status that is arbitrarily assigned, and many other topics were easy to identify with in my own work life.
I know just enough about construction to particularly enjoy the forays into specific construction challenges and techniques. Some standard practices from Norway were intriguingly different from practices here, at least on the single-family homes I have worked on, like leak-proofing a bathroom floor (although there is selection bias since I have only investigated already-problematic bathrooms) or using clay to insulate between floors. Ironically, I feel exactly the same way about getting stuck behind DIYers in line at the hardware store as the author. We also share opinions about work gloves.
One of my favorite moments in the book was the author taking a persistently boorish white-collar bar patron to task for besmirching tradespeople based on their national origin, when the complainer himself was the cause of the problems he encountered.
It was helpful to have a narrator who could pronounce northern European names correctly, and I also enjoyed the glimpses into popular music and radio in Norway.
Overall, I enjoyed the story immensely and I intend to make this book required reading/listening for my future employees/apprentices. I aspire to craftsmanship in my work, and expect the same from those I mentor. This book explains what craftsmanship entails better than any other source I've read.
- Brian W. Veit
Not sure you need to read this unless you don’t have a clue about being a tradesman
Some interesting things but also a fair slog of uninteresting things if you know much at all about home repair and carpentry.