What Would Tom Silva Do?

For full disclosure here and to be 100% clear – I am a huge fan of Tom Silva. I have learned so much from him. And if I find myself in a bind I do literally ask myself, “What Would Tom Silva Do?” Now you can read on.

I am working currently to rebuild the bottom rail of an original wood window frame (there’s Part 1 of this story).  While I have worked on restoring wood windows, had I done one just like this, before . . .  really? No.  Do I have the proper tools, a shop, a set up? Not really.

I made some time last week (as I said I would) and I visited old window experts, the lumber guys at Crown Lumber & Supply.  They selected (after some Q&A) a nice piece of clear yellow pine in 2×8 for me – a four foot length.  I was going to work it on my portable table saw.  The guys at Crown agreed that would be fine.

termite eaten window sillAnd I’ll spare you the details here – like I actually did my work with any real authority. It included a bevel cut on the front (or *leading* << sounds pro-like) edge and then a tilting upwards to cut an equivalent bevel on the top of, or the surface, of the stock (after all, you want window sills pitching water away from the house).  After these preliminary steps, I re-cut that first bevel (but in the opposite direction, and I don’t have the space to explain this if you are not following me, right here right now).

Then, and part way there, I had to figure out how to cut the dadoes, the channels, the notches, the grooves, in the precise locations where, and the perfect distance apart to receive the horizontals, the legs of the rest of the window frame.  It is at about this point that I said to myself, asked myself rather, How exactly am I gonna accomplish this? A plunge router? Still on the table saw? Take it out to someone? How am I gonna do my measuring and marking?” – I mean >> What Would Tom Silva Do?

The Minutemen Did “A History Lesson: Part 2”

Shortly after college I moved to Colorado. Plan was — blow off steam, then pursue graduate school – Denver, Iowa City, Seattle (I knew a girl there). While in CO, I met some kids (primarily) from Vermont. On a shared interest in roots funk and the indie rock of the early nineties – we formed a band. We called ourselves Supermodel. We moved (as a band) to California and changed our name.

In CA, I dyed my hair green (I’ll scan a pic one day) and found punk rock.  I took a job with a small general contracting firm.  At the time, I had limited construction knowledge, but I did need something to fill my daylight hours.

The company was owned by three brothers, each responsible for a different arm and doing various things across building/remodeling/home improvement. I worked with Dave, the middle brother; he was responsible (primarily) for running a warranty repair service that they offered to builders in and around San Jose, CA.  And graduate school slipped away . . . just like that.

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notched window sill

Working in California with a Guy Named Dave

For full disclosure here and to be 100% clear – I was a huge fan of Dave. I have learned so much from him. I totally admire anyone that makes their way through this world running their own business.

I learned a few things from Dave, like – how to make quick and effective drywall repairs, how to tweak doors, install trim, how to shock myself with live electric (<< this may explain a lot), and how to scream at the top of my lungs over frustrating plumbing repairs (<< Actually I don’t think Dave taught me that. He showed me instead how to chuck 18 volt cordless drill drivers . . . for maximum distance).

In other words, I had *some* training; I mean — I knew a thing or two by the time I bought my first house. Basic skills only though – sure I knew a little about electrical and plumbing systems, had an idea of how to use tools (such as a drywall knife and a miter saw); plus . . . put it on the resume — I knew how to cheat on almost anything inside the house.

rebuiltwood window frame installA solid basis though – a kit of tools . . . I would use these as I became a homeowner myself finally in the middle part of 2000. My then-new wife and I, like many in these parts, bought a small rowhome.  While it had been well maintained – it required much work.

As a homeowner I found quickly that while I did possess some skills (not many tools — most sold at yard/garage sales in CA), there was still a gigantic gap in what I needed to know to rehab a house.

For quick info, and when I needed help, I frequently turned to This Old House. I think I received it (a magazine subscription) — a 29th birthday gift.  I found myself hunting the archives, pulling things up online (I don’t think so) and even occasionally – can you say it >> “the greatest invention of the first decade of the 21st century!”? – searched for and Tivoed any episode that contained information that might apply to a portion of any current or upcoming project.  It was a good system for me, a good way to learn, and it all came kinda quickly (I said “kinda”) for me.  And my (man) love for Tom Silva blossomed.

What Would Tom Silva Do?

Tom SilvaIt happened exactly like that, my window work this weekend. You remember the saying What Would Jesus Do?  And it is true, I find that occasionally I do ask myself that question – WWTSD?  I am not ashamed.  I mean — Norm’s thoughtful craftsmanship is *ayright*, but I am simply more drawn to TS’s rugged “get-it-done” style.

The whole story here depicting the essence of mastery, maybe.  I mean — where the real skill comes in . . . with any, well . . . act.  Like a writer with nothing to write about, an acquired level of understanding that allows the doer to step confidently into the space where prior experience falls short. Spontaneous expertise, I guess you could call it.  And you might try it . . . the next time you are stuck; ask yourself, “What Would Tom Silva Do?”

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Of course, putting aside any jokes about “calls for makeup” or answering sarcastically saying, “Nothing!  His crew of 15 would already have it done for him.”  I give him mad props; TS *is* my man!  (<< more man love!)  He’s gotten me through more than one “window frame.”  And I’ll save the talk of the other TS for next time (or maybe not).

Tfr&BMBM! and maybe I have Part 3 eventually.


Photo Creds:


Music Cred:

* History Lesson Part 2 by Minutemen << see best use of the adjective “Bob Dylan” . . . of all time!