If you haven't read it already, check out the article about arbors in this month's issue, written by frequent PDB contributor Bobby Parks. It's filled with design and construction tips that I wish I'd known about more than 30 years ago, back when I built my first (and only) arbor. My client? My mother … I was home from college on summer break, and she was a sucker for my sales pitch on that hot June afternoon we spent chatting about my summer plans. It didn't take much to convince her that what her south-facing concrete patio really needed was more shade.
At the time, I wasn't what you might call an experienced carpenter, but what I lacked in ability, I made up for with enthusiasm. The arbor I "crafted" did its job for several years after I built it, though in retrospect I'm not sure how. What I remember most about that project, however, was that it was both fun and challenging in ways that academics lacked — I'd built some furniture in high school shop, but this was my first attempt at structural work, and it set a hook that I haven't been able to shake loose.
I considered myself lucky when I landed a job with a small landscaping company between college and grad school. There, I learned a lot about groundworks and hardscaping (and too much about mowing). Later, when I was finally done with formal academics, I juggled teaching and carpentry for several years until I felt I had learned the skills to earn a modest living as a full-time contractor.
For the last 15 years, I've worked primarily as a journalist, though I've never really hung up my tool belt. There's always an unfinished project at my home (my wife will attest to that), such as the screened porch I've been working on this spring that you can see in the background in my photo. I also have to replace a front porch on a rental property that I own — anyone have an easy way to replace pipe piers with something a little more robust?
Actually, I plan on asking a lot of questions like this. If there's one lesson that I learned at JLC, where I was an editor for eight years before taking over from Andy Engel here at PDB, it's the value of being part of a community of pros who are willing to share what they know. And I'm sure to be muddled about some of the latest developments in deck building — there are plenty of new materials, new code requirements, and new methods of work to get caught up on.
The magazine business has changed a lot lately, too. Websites, online forums, and social media like Facebook and Twitter present lots of different ways for members of the PDB community to connect with each other. While maintaining the quality of the print magazine, one of my challenges will be to take advantage of all of these other newfangled tools in ways that are useful to you. So please, let me know what's working and what isn't — I look forward to hearing from you in the coming months. After all, this is your magazine.