A Carpenter’s Life as Told by Houses (Audio book)

A Carpenter’s Life as Told by Houses (Audio book)

SKU# 061102

An intimate view of the American home over 100 years

Larry Haun

6 CD Audio book

List Price $34.95 Today's Price $31.46
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Other Formats
  • Product # 061102
  • Type 6 CD Audio book
  • ISBN 978-1-60085-489-7
  • Length 7.5 hours
  • Published Date 2011

"Larry Haun is as much a historian and philosopher as he is a 60-year veteran carpenter. Larry’s memoir would be equally at home on the bookshelves of home building and architecture enthusiasts as anyone on a spiritual journey.”
- Brian Pontolilo, Editor, Fine Homebuilding Magazine

The unforgettable memoir of a legendary builder. You don’t have to be a carpenter to appreciate this fascinating book that Publishers Weekly calls, “a first person timeline of 20th century American residential architecture… combining …two literary styles: the memoir and the how-to book.”

A moving story of that place we call home. An early advocate for building lean and green and an avid blogger, Larry Haun tells his unique story in terms of twelve homes – built over the last 100 years. These are homes he knows intimately, drawing the reader in with detailed descriptions and thoughtful observations.

“Just like any good carpenter, Haun brings his own artistic flourishes to the job of storytelling…. But where Haun’s true personality comes across is when he describes the construction process for the many houses he has lived in and built—from his parent’s 1,000-sq. ft. wood-frame house and the adobe and cob structures of the Southwest to the mid-century pre-fabricated and tract houses, and the more recent Habitat for Humanity homes he has donated his time to help erect.” 
- Publishers Weekly, 6/13/2011

"The late Haun—one of Fine Homebuilding’s most popular writers—reflects on a long life through an exploration of the houses he lived in and built, in the audio edition of his fascinating memoir-cum-carpentry history. Narrator Patrick Lawler delivers a compelling performance, enriching the text with skillful modulations of emphasis, tone, and rhythm. Equally important, Lawler manages to downplay the author’s various assertions about how people today are just not as good as they used to be—something that would certainly alienate younger listeners if mishandled by the narrator. An additional treat for listeners, Haun, who died last year at the age of 80, reads the book’s introduction. An absolute must for carpentry and woodworking enthusiasts."
- Publishers Weekly, 01/27/2012

A delight to listen to. A great gift. This engaging memoir will appeal to anyone who appreciates a well-told story.  A Carpenter’s Life As Told in Houses explores our love of home – feelings so deeply rooted that they go far beyond wood and plaster and shingles. Share the author’s deep connection to the natural world, his yearning for simplicity, and respect for humanity – and see why he believes that less is more.

About the Author

Larry Haun began his building career on the Nebraska prairie, where at 17 he helped to build his first house. In 1950, he began framing in Albuquerque, N.M., and in 1951, he joined his older brother in a Los Angeles building boom that brought about rapid change in tools, materials, and building methods. Later, seeing a need for passing on production-framing techniques, Haun began teaching two nights a week at a community college--and stayed there for 20 years. He retired to Coos Bay, Ore., where he builthouses for Habitat for Humanity, wheelchair ramps for poor people, and backpacked in the High Sierras, the Rockies, and the Andes. He is the author of Habitat For Humanity: How to Build a House, Homebuilding Basics: Carpentry, The Very Efficient Carpenter, and three companion videos on how to frame a house. Larry also kept a blog, A Carpenter’s View: http://www.finehomebuilding.com/blog/a-carpenters-view, where he wrote until a couple of weeks before his death at age 80 in October, 2011.

Patrick Lawlor is an AudioFile Earphones Award winner and Audie Award finalist. His recent audio includes I Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish, Worse Than War by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, and The Spiritual Brain by Mario Beauregard and Denyse O'Leary, which was named a Best Audiobook of the Year by Audible.

MY MOTHER TOLD ME that I started to take a real interest in the few carpentry tools we had around home when I was seven years old, back in 1938. She said I would sit on the sunny side of the house for hours taking apart orange crates that came to our village once a year. For a boy with nothing but homemade toys, these sweet-smelling soft pine wooden crates were the mother lode.

Our curved-claw hammer was missing a claw, so I pulled the small nails out of the crate with a pair of pliers. Once the crate was apart, I fashioned the wood into play objects, a small house, a wagon, boxes, and shelves to hold things. It was here that I learned one of my first carpentry lessons: to hold my thumb a good distance from the head of the nail. Bam-ouch-blood!

Our nearest hardware store was 30 miles away, so when something broke, we fixed it. Tools became as much a part of my life as food. I can now be grateful for those days because they allowed me to learn a trade where I can create with my hands. By the time I was 19, I was a union journeyman carpenter in Los Angeles, where the sun shone most every day. Making decent wages, I was able to study at universities for 13 or 14 years, not to collect degrees, but to satisfy my curiosity. Besides building houses, I taught night school at a community college for nearly 20 years—carpentry to apprentices, Spanish to people who just wanted to talk to their neighbors, and even deaf children (and their parents), helping them integrate into mainstream schools. I was able to travel, buy and remodel a simple house, raise a beautiful family, and in my later years become a writer trying to help others be master carpenters.

Some of my travels took me to countries where I saw firsthand how many thousands of people live on the edge in tin and cardboard shacks. I recall an early morning walk along the Pasig River where my wife, Mila, lived in the Philippines. Near her home many families are crowded together in unstable houses that hang out over this once pristine river, now the recipient of all human waste. A teenage girl with clean, colorful clothes and an armful of school books emerged through a small opening from her tin “house,” which measured no more than 8 ft. by 12 ft. I was encouraged by her bright eyes and smile. I peeked inside and spotted a colorful cloth covering a wall and a flower in a vase. For her, this simple house was a place where she could dream her dreams.

At the other end of the spectrum, as a contractor, I was once invited into a palatial home near Los Angeles to discuss a remodeling project. A servant seated me in a reception room full of thick carpets, fine furniture, and museum art. Maybe ten minutes later a couple entered and we began. It wasn’t long before I felt a chill move through me, not from the temperature of the room but from the evident hostility between the man and the woman. Let’s just say that I passed on the job.

I can’t help but wonder about the relationship between people and their homes. How do these vastly different dwelling places affect the people who live there? How have I been shaped by the houses I’ve lived in? Who and what would I be if I’d been born in an upscale mansion or a shack by the river? A Carpenter’s Life is my way of looking at these wonderings.

To state the obvious, we can’t choose our place of birth. Given a chance, I would not have chosen to have been born in 1931 in a refrigerator called a balloon-framed wood house out on the treeless high plains, the short-grass prairie, of western Nebraska in the middle of the Great Depression.

I have lots of good memories from those times, but being cold is not one of them. In the 18 years I lived there it seemed to me that I was always cold, due mainly to the constant wind that blew down across the snow-covered sagebrush hills out of Canada and into my life. There was never a question about whether the wind was blowing or not. Rather it was about how hard and how cold it blew. Turn your back on our iron kitchen stove and you could see your breath. Whatever the temperature was outside, that was the temperature in our bedrooms, even when mother warmed the sheets with her flat iron. We did have those summer days when I would play on the lee side of the house, but the chill never left. I could never get warm all the way through. (In retrospect, I sometimes feel that all my efforts, all my struggles, the reason for my existence, has been to do whatever was necessary to keep myself warm.)

The house had no insulation, no electricity, no running water, no indoor plumbing, and no central heating. Flannel sheets, down comforters, wool socks, and thermal underwear were something I knew nothing about. Even now, far from snow and wind, as I sit here in Oregon, I can still feel that chill in my feet. Long, lean, and hungry-looking I am, with not much natural insulation on these bones, growing older daily. By the time my blood is pumped from my heart down through my long body to my toes, it has cooled considerable. Take my guard down for a minute and there will be icicles on my nose.

These days I take time to teach a granddaughter, Julia, and a grandson, Jonathan, how to hammer nails, cut wood to size, and build things we need around our homes. They won’t follow my path, but they will know how to fix things as they grow into adults. If they stay here on the Pacific coast, most days they can work without wearing a jacket. And me, I’m sitting here with my feet propped up near a wood fire that keeps the icicles at bay.
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