“I’m a carpenter man, I’m a carpenter man, I was born with hammer in my hand” – sung to the tune of  “Workin’ Man’s Blues”......

 I was born a builder!  I can remember the fascination with grandpa’s old  “pole handle “ wood toolbox, which I discovered up in our attic when I was about 8 years old. There were all kind of interesting tools in it, mostly wooden handle and antique. There was a hand plane; miter box, coping saw, big grey clamps, levels, Yankee screwdriver, keyhole saw, hammers, chalk box, various chisels, and my favorite – a big red cranking gear handle drill. After pestering my dad to show me how to use all of them, I set out to fix anything around the house that I could. I was just aching for somebody to break something! On slow summer days I would take my little red “Radio Flyer” wagon around town and pick up all the soda bottles for nickel deposits, then I’d take the redeemed money and go down to the local hardware store to poke around for supplies for all the projects I would dream up. I would buy long and thick bolts with nuts, big eyehole bolts, white hub 8” hard rubber tires, a 6’ piece of braided rope, and bags of nails and screws. After digging around in my garage for some scraps of lumber and plywood that dad had lying around, I got to work.  A few days later, and Viola! – a wooden go-kart with a cross bar 2” x 4” pivoting rope handle steering mechanism. All those trips to buy hardware caught the attention of Jake, the old man who owned the store, and he gave me a job. I would fix broken windows, repair torn screens, thread pipe, and pick up nails off the wood plank floor that had fallen out of the revolving metal nail bins.

One summer, when I was about 10, I decided to take on a serious project that I would keep a secret for more than a few reasons. One reason was that my friends and I had a secret agent club that this project was related to. Our club headquarters was in my garage, where we put some plywood over the attic floorboards and made a ladder on the wall to climb up. This garage attic retreat is where we would hold our secret meetings to plan the demise of the “neighborhood bully.” The only problem was, my dad kept the door locked and I’d have to ask him whenever I needed to get in.  This arrangement did not work well if we spotted Melvin (the neighborhood bully) heading to the playground and would need to call an urgent meeting to plan our day. So, I decided that I was going to cut-in and install a secret access door to the garage behind the giant bush at the back corner of the garage.  I carefully marked the four lines of the 2’ x 2’ opening using a level and pencil line. The lines connected the four holes that I had drilled from the inside between the studs with the big red crank handle drill. I then used a keyhole saw in the four holes to cut the clapboard siding enough to fit in the bigger handsaw. Zuba! Zuba! Zuba!…….away I cut! I took the loose pieces of the siding and carefully reconstructed them onto two vertical pieces of 1” x 4” to create a door of like material.  I picture framed a cased opening with precision miter joints of the finest craftsmanship.  I then mounted the door with spring loaded screen door hinges and a pull handle knob.  Now we could easily sneak behind the bush and into our garage attic clubhouse through the secret door that nobody knew was there. It was great!

But, then fall came, and the leaves all fell from the big bush that concealed the secret door. It was then that it was a secret no more, and I’ll never forget the sound of my dad yelling at me from across the yard….”GET OVER HERE!” ...….”WHAT'S THIS?”  Needless to say, my dad wasn’t very happy! I remember he gave me a gentle kick across my backside as I scurried back to the house with my head hung down. It seemed like he was mad at me for months. Years later, when I reflect, I realize that what my dad failed to see was the level of skill and craftsmanship that was used in the construction of this secret door into his garage.  Dad passed away long before I ever established my career in construction, and he never did get a chance to see that maybe I was “born a builder.”











Man from U.N.C.L.E.



Copyright © 2004 Harry James Building and Design. All rights reserved.