The Arugula Parabola

I’m tired, dirty, stinky, and my hands look like hamburger. But with immense amounts of wonderful and generous help and guidance from my dad and brother, and a whole lot of work this morning and a long, long day yesterday, my house looks eighteen billion times nicer. Here’s the link to the flickr photoset, which I duplicate below with some narrative.

First: some “before” shots.

Back shed 1

The ugly old shed with pretty grape vine on the back of my house.

Back shed before

Note that the grape vine can’t climb on the corrugated fiberglass roof.

Back shed before

Inside the old back shed. Note the all-important chin-up bar and charmingly rustic construction.

The original plan

The original back-of-the-envelope plan for the new pergola:
A. Seven 12 foot purlins (2 x 2s), spaced 9 inches apart, go atop
B. Eight 6 foot long 2 x 6 rafters (only the two end rafters are shown, for clarity) with ornamentally cut tails, spaced 18 inches apart, secured to the currently existing 2 x 4 that is 94.5 inches up the wall of the house by joist fasteners, atop
C. Two 12 foot long 2 x 12 beams with ornamentally cut tails and half-ellipses cut out of the bottom center, bolted together with 3 inch spacers in the middle, atop
D. Two 6 inch square capitals, secured by screws, atop
E. Two currently existing 84 inch high pieces of pipe set apart 10 feet 8 inches, in a 12 x 6 concrete slab, with flanged caps 5.5 inches in diameter, 82 inches high.

Demo done

Demo done and grape vine down (but I hope still OK: I’m worried that as careful as we tried to be, we did do some damage to the poor plant). New 6 x 6 capitals bolted into the flanges at the tops of the wire-brushed posts, with 6 x 2 x 12 spacers screwed into them. Note also the 2 x 4 face plate bolted onto the house with another scabbed on top of it to give the rafters something to rest on. Dad’s drilling holes for the bolts that will hold the support beams together through the spacers and atop the capitals.

First support beam going up

The first of two 12 foot 2 x 12 arched support beams with decorative cut tails to match the ornamental woodwork on the front of the house goes up. They’ll go on either side of the spacers, atop the capitals.

Support beams up, rafters fitted.

Here, the support beams are bolted to the spacers. Rafters with decorative tails and notched backs to rest atop the 2 x 4 face plate bolted to the house, with bird’s beak cuts resting atop the the front support beams. 3 inch deck screws secure the rafters to the support beams and face plate. And yes, they were a cast-iron bastard to measure, cut, fit, re-measure, re-cut, and attach. Toughest part of the whole job, because the back of the house is uneven. We started with a template, but each of those rafters is individually custom cut and fitted, and that was the part of the job where the three of us got most frustrated, at about six o’clock last night, with daylight running out. (This shot is actually from this morning.)

Fastening perlins to rafters

2 x 2 purlins 8 inches apart atop the rafters, secured by deck screws, give the grape vine something to climb on. David and I found a rhythm where with two drills, we both measured and made the marks and then he drilled the lead holes and I sank the screws on each purlin.

Dad with grape vine

And we’re done, with Dad enjoying the sight and shade of the grape vine loosely secured to the purlins.

Side shot of dad and vine

This gives a good idea of the overall structure, purlins atop rafters atop beams atop capitals. Check out that beautiful arch on the beams, which was entirely Dad’s doing.

Decorative tails on rafters

Nice shot of the decorative tails on the rafters — I’ll brag some here and point out that I drew and cut the templates for them — and also perhaps instructive to compare with what’s on the back of the house next door. 🙂 If you look hard, you can see the way the bird’s beak notches on the underside of the rafters help the rafters fit snug up to the support beams.

Grimy, dirty, tired me

Grimy, dirty, tired, happy me.

Long shot of the finished pergola

And the full effect of the final finished pergola: so much nicer than what we started with.

Close shot of the finished pergola

A closer shot. Last step: I need to put some white paint on the metal columns. Sponge off the table and I’m ready for company and drinking some wine under the vine. Big, big thanks to Dad and David, without whom I couldn’t have done this at all.



Painted columns, ugly screen door removed, and a clean table. I’ll keep a bottle of white on ice for you.

The Arugula Parabola

10 thoughts on “The Arugula Parabola

  • July 1, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    Wow, that looks inviting! Great job!

  • July 1, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    Great job, indeed!

  • July 1, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    I hope you gave your father and brother a kitten each as a reward for all of their hard work! ; )

    Seriously, your revised structure is gorgeous in detail and in scope–opening the space up and letting the vine dominate the design gives it a simplicity and elegance that works with the proportions of your house.

    Two questions: what’s a “purlin,” and what is that tower in the background?

    Right nice, Mike.

  • July 1, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    Thanks, y’all.

    Joanna, on pergolas, purlins are sometimes also called stringers — they are the thin pieces (here, 2 x 2s) that sit atop the rafters; the longitudinal thin pieces atop the latitudinal rafters resting atop the central longitudinal beams. They serve two nice functions here: first, on my grape vine pergola, they give the vines small pieces of wood around which to twine and gain purchase. Second, because they are screwed down into the tops of the rafters, which are screwed on both sides into the face plate and into alternating sides on the two support beams, they help keep the whole structure rigid, and prevent the rafters from warping. And they’re pretty, too.

    The tower is the Episcopal Church of the Holy Innocents; one of the three churches here on Church Street. The six o’clock bells tell the cats it’s time for dinner, and David and Dad and I heard hymns this morning as we worked. On the one side, it was pretty to hear. On the other side, there had been Dad’s mom, Ruth, our Granny, who didn’t like any work to be done on Sunday.

    We did some work. We heard some hymns.

    If I was a builder, I’ll tell you what I’d do.

  • July 2, 2007 at 9:16 am

    Mike, it is spectacular. Your dad and David described the project to us but the outcome is so much better than the words. Also I loved seeing your house, though only the back of it, which your dad had told us about. The pergola is a charming addition to what appears to be a charming home.

    Nelly and Homer would love to adopt the two kittens but haven’t yet agreed on who will clean the litter pan — a prerequisite to my approving the adoption.

    We are in the hills on a gorgeous cool morning. Wish you were here but suspect you are sipping coffee or tea in your lovely pergola.


  • July 2, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    Looks pretty good big bro, happy to work with you again. Feels like we really accomplished something. Working with my hands like that gives me pause as to what my calling will be. I mean I’m not great at the carpentry work but it was satisfying. Maybe it means that Moses and me rehabbing a house next year will be more fun (with headaches of course) than I previously suspected. Dad fit the engineering carpenter role rather well, good supervision made for an easier project.

  • July 5, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    This looks like it was a blast. A lot of new vocab for me. Google was busy this lunch time. “Around which to twine and gain purchase”? Sometimes I’m in awe of your intellegence.
    Count ’em: one, two, three Edwards boys getting dirty and taking care of bid-ness. Granny would have been very proud indeed. Vitia is unusual but nice. I think I have enjoyed it.

  • July 5, 2007 at 8:27 pm

    You know I like the fancy talk, Mose, and I meant that “purchase” to invoke and point to the fine line from Raising Arizona, among other things. And again, thanks to all for the kind words. Doc — love the photo, but I’m afraid you might have to settle for some good unoaked Chardonnay, but I do like the Nobilio and that nice New Zealand zing.

  • July 6, 2007 at 9:12 am

    Oh, very nice! I’m impressed that you got the vine detached from the old shed and reattached to the new pergola without seeming to perturb it in the least.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: