It seemed like a simple task: layout two wall sections for the next building at 13th and North E. At least it should have been a simple task.

This building is an older design with pilasters, so I laid out the first wall by counting the required number of brick courses for the height and width of the sections between each pilaster. I did the same to locate and cut the window openings and to layout the cornice. Everything went well, until I laid out the second wall and discovered a mismatch at the cornice. The second wall was higher, enough so that the offset would be an obvious distraction.

As I often do, I made the fix more difficult by thinking that I could grind off the offending piece (photo above). Fortunately I came to my senses quickly and realized I could just cut off the cornice and glue it in the correct alignment. I clamped the wall firmly to the work bench, made the cut and fitted a new cornice, only to discover things were still off by one brick course. To make a laughable story short, things are now as they should be and the cornice flows nicely around this corner.

Why was this so hard?

There’s no simple answer of course. Most likely it was a case of familiarity breeding contempt. Last week when I worked on the brass fire escape I was in unfamiliar territory, using materials and techniques I’m not entirely comfortable with. Therefore, I paid close attention to each step because I didn’t want to ruin an expensive kit. In this case, I was working ad-hoc and designing as I went with a handful of known dimensions. All I had to do was cut two rectangles, plus a few narrow strips and glue them together. It was easy to let my mind drift into autopilot and get careless. It’s a mistake I make repeatedly, even when I’m aware I’m doing it. Given the building’s foreground location, a thoughtful job is required and since there is just one corner involved, I’m without excuse for letting it go. Luckily, the fix wasn’t too involved.

One could boil this down in a number of ways but I often ask: why am I doing this work? For me it goes beyond the modeling or having something to show. I’m ultimately doing it for myself and why would I accept half-hearted work here, when I wouldn’t tolerate it in a different context?

Why would any of us?