One of my earliest memories was sitting on a pile of dirt and watching a bunch of guys digging a hole with long handle shovels. It was in the early 1950s, I think 1952 and the men were all of my uncles and older cousins. They were digging the trench for the foundation of my mother and fathers new house to be. It was the tradition in my family that when ever a family member needed a house all the men got together and built it, and in the beginning it was all done by hand, even the digging. If you have never dug a foundation for a house with a shovel you don’t know what you are missing. All my uncles and most of my cousins were in the trades. We had a plumber, an electrician, sheet metal workers and carpenters all in the family. My uncle the plumber eventually bought an old ford 8 or 9N tractor with a back hoe on it and the shovels got semiretired. Most of my childhood weekends were spent on one of the family job sites. As soon as I was old enough my first job was sorting lumber. They would order a load of lumber and when it arrived at the site before any of it was used each size lumber had to be separated into three piles. There was a pile for 1/4 sawn 2x4s, plain sawn and rift sawn. Same for 2×6, 2×8 and so on. Lumber for building houses back then was not the same thing it is today. My uncles only used Douglas Fir and there was a reason why. Unlike many of the SPF species used today the grain in Douglas Fir runs strait and parallel with the length of the tree. In many of the species used today the grain cork screws through the length of the tree. When this cork screw grain expands and contracts with seasonal moisture change it torques inside of the walls and under the floors or where ever it is used. this seasonal torquing and relaxing has a tendency to work the fasteners out of the wood over time. This used to cause drywall nails to pop out of the drywall, that’s why we now screw drywall up instead of nailing it up.
Back to my lumber sorting, at the time I was first doing it I didn’t know why but it turns out that old time carpenters wanted the grain of the lumber to be in correlation with the load. In other words they wanted plain sawn lumber for joists and rafters and 1/4 or rift sawn for plates and decking etc.. If they had to use plain sawn for decking it was oriented so it would cup down and not hold water.
I was one of the youngest cousins and by the time I was married and needed a house many of the uncles were already gone, the cousins were all busy. I wound up buying and restoring a long string of old homes. Finally about ten years ago I decided to build my own house from scratch. Well the first ten months I worked on it full time, ever since it’s been on and off a little at a time. I’m not sure I will live long enough to finish the darn thing, but I’m sure it’s the last one I’m going to build, especially alone. Here is a view of the inside.