Gunter’s Ingenious Home Made Two Story Brick and Screened- In Porch

Thursday, December 15, 2011 10:05 AM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas
Tondeleo : My last posting was about Gunter’s portable homemade workbench on a wagon. If you missed it, go back and read that post. It is a shining example of what can be done with little money, creativity and a bit of effort. My observation is that one reason that these people can make anything they want boils down to attitude.
Like all of us, they want things that they cannot afford. But instead of going in debt (most of them have no credit), or just whining about it, they have an attitude that says, “I’ll get it, even if I have to make it myself.” And then, they do exactly that.
Today I want to show you a picture of his two story enclosed porch that he made for family activities and an exercise room. He did it with used brick, discarded windows and other used materials, and some other materials that he got very cheaply. Gunters Porch
Doc had told me about Gunter on several occasions, and then one day he took me over to Gunter’s house to see firsthand what he is capable of.

I have to confess that I believe that this man is a creative genius. He has an old Mercedes Benz in his garage, from the 1960’s. He has rebuilt the engine himself and has also repainted it there in his garage. It actually looks very nice, because he has hand rubbed the finish to a deep luster. He also has a coupe of old VW’s that he has restored, and several extra VW engines that he has rebuilt, just in case one goes bad.

His house started off as a mid size house and he has added on to it regularly. That is a common occurrence out here in the country. You see houses that began as shacks, and then have had room after room added on, to meet the needs of the inhabitants.

From the front of Gunter’s house, you can see where he dug out the front garden to make a driveway that leads to a two car garage that he added on. It is a very professional looking job. Along the edge of where he dug out his garden is a four foot high brick retaining wall on one side and a two foot high one on the other. He fabricated steel steps to get you up to the level of his original walkway, and he has made storage under the steps for his garden implements.
In the back, Gunter has built a two story porch as you can see in the picture. The ground floor is made from discarded bricks from demolition sites, as well as discarded windows. The floor, as you would have read in my former post is made from bits of 2X4 that he cut and made like a parquet style flooring. 

Upstairs, it is more interesting. As you can see I the pictures, the screened walls angle out. Why is that? Because Gunter got a good deal on 13 wooden screen doors, and they were too tall to go straight up and still give him the desired roof pitch for drainage and for snow to slide off. So he angled the walls out. 

You can also see the inner railings he made so his children and grandchildren won’t fall against the screen doors and get hurt. Since the wind blows from the north, he covered the north end of his porch with transparent fiberglass roofing panels. They let in the light, but keep out the blowing rain.He fabricated the steps out of scrap steel.

On the porch is a porch swing, a patio set, a brick barbecue set up and exercise equipment. And all of this cost him less that $2,000! He spent his Spring and Summer building it a few years ago.

In Gunter’s back garden is a home made garage/shop that also has been built for little money and has been added on to over the years. It started as a shed. He used privacy fencing to build exterior walls, adding three bays to it. Then he insulated the fence panels, added vinyl siding to them, and a roof! Now, he has a very cheap garage and shop!

Gunter’s Home Made Portable Workbench on a Wagon - Cheap, easy and handy

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 10:42 AM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas

Tondeleo: I never cease to be amazed at the creativity of some of these uneducated rural Americans. Many of them nave finished secondary school, and are not informed about (and indeed have no interest in) world events and politics, but they can invent and make almost anything. 

Below is a picture that I took of a workbench on a wagon that was built by one of Doc’s friends, Gunter (yes, Gunter, not Gunther). Gunter is handy and creative and always has some new invention he has come up with. 

Gunter is a family man, and like a lot of rural people, he keeps working on his house to improve it so it will be bigger and better for family gatherings over the holidays. He has added on an attached two car garage. He finished out his basement by adding a brick fireplace, a bar and family room. Across the back of his house, he has added a two story enclosed porch with a barbecue pit and exercise room. 

No plans or blueprints were used. Indeed no building permits were obtained. Gunter pictured these things in his head and commenced to build them.

He made a portable workbench on a wagon so he could transport his tools easily and have a work surface to use them on whilst working on his projects.
Doc: Yeah, that Gunter can make anything and fix anything. He’s smart, and like the rest of us, he don’t have any money. When you ain’t got money, you gotta use your brain more. You can’t let it hold you back just ‘cause you ain’t got any money. Country boys can SURVIVE, Tondy!
That wagon workbench of his is really nice. He got the wagon part of it at a tool sale. Then, he took scraps of one inch angle and welded up a little table to fit just inside the edges of the wagon. He put a frame about 8 inched or maybe ten for support, and also to hold the Pepsi cartons that he uses to hold his hand tools.

The Pepsi cartons are held in with zip ties, so he can remove them if he wants. The workbench is not welded to the wagon, even though welding is faster and easier. He bolted it in, in case one day he wants to take it off and do something different with his wagon. 

Gunter has a shop out back and he needs those wagon wheels to get his workbench from the house to the shop and back. Little wheels would get stuck in the mud.

This here picture is made under his porch what he built. Look at that floor! That didn’t costs him even one thin dime! He made it for free by pickin’ up old 2X4 scraps from off of construction sites and then cuttin’ them up into 10 inch sections and layin’ them on the sand what he put under his porch. That’s a good lookin’ floor, for free. 

Gunter’s a smart one, for sure. You ought to show people the picture of his porch from the outside, how he framed out the screening by using wooden screen doors.

He got all kinds of things what is worth writin’ about. He can fix cars, weld, do masonry work, electrical work, carpentry work, all of it. And he does it good. Write about him, Tondy.

Doc Stevens on How to Keep Warm in the Winter Without a Woodstove or Furnace

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 8:40 PM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas
Tondeleo: I just got off of the phone with Doc. He was telling me that cold weather had finally hit Southern Maryland and how he had been over to a friend’s house to check on her to make sure they kept warm.

Doc: Yeah, Tondy, I been over to Estelle and Vince’s all day. With that weather drop, they been freezin’ at night. Their wood heater ain’t no good; it’s gotten old and rusted out. Right now, he ain’t got no money. They’re just doin’ without heat. So I been over there helpin’ ‘em make sure they make it through the winter. 

I brung over some plastic what I got at the Home Depot and stapled that over all the windows on the inside, to keep the wind out, but let the sun in…

Tondeleo: Like home made double glazing?

Doc: I don’t know what that is, but yeah, I guess…Doc Stevens and Estelle Be fore we did that, we stuffed rags in around the edges where they had cracks. That helps, too. And we put a piece of old rug along the bottom of their doors. He cut it into strips and I doubled them over and nailed ‘em to the bottom, to keep the wind out. 

We took some old blankets an’ quilts an’ put them behind the curtains on the north side windows, because the sun doesn’t come in on that side anyway. That will keep a lot of the heat in. A set of heavy curtains can block a draft. On the south side windows, we cut back the tree branches so the sunlight could get in. And you want to keep the curtains open when the sun is shinin’ so the heat will come inside.

Here’s somethin’ we done at our bungalow a long time ago. Planted cedar trees along the north side of the house, to block the wind, and regular trees what lose their leaves along the south side. In the Summer, those trees give us shade and keep it cool. But in the Winter, they lose their leaves so the heat can get in.

We put old newspapers what she’d been collectin’ and laid them under all the rugs. She got about three layers of rugs down, to keep it warmer. She gets ‘em at thrift shops and yard sales. 

Another thing they done was got another dog. They gots about four of ‘em now. They all keep warm by stayin’ together all the time. I THINK she lets ‘em in the bed with her when he’s workin’ on a job what takes him away for a few days. ! I mean she ain’t got no ‘lectric blanket, so what else can she do? It keeps her warm and alive and helps those dogs, too. Plus they keep each other company.

One thing we all do down here in the winter, is we go visit folks what gots heat!  Some of my friends got pretty good heaters, and we go to their houses to play music and sing as much as we can in the winter. You can’t work much with it getting’ dark so early anyway, so what are you gonna do? We go to church, too, cause it’s pretty warm. And that’s a good thing to do anyway, and we play music after church a lot of time. 

When it’s cold out an’ you don’t have any heat, you can go to McDonalds and hang out there, or Burger King. The Post Office is always heated and you can go in there at night.  That’s what we got up in Bryans Road. And there’s the library during the day. You can go to the laundromat and sit in there for a little while.

Another cheap way to keep warm is to ride the Van Go bus all day. Costs like a buck. It's heated and there's always someone to talk to, or you can get dropped off at the mall. It's warm, too.

Church is a good place to go for heat on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights and Wednesday nights. it's out of the cold, and some of them serve free coffee, and there's some nice people to meet at the churches.

At night, you just got to bundle up. Put on long johns, extra socks, a hat and sweat shirts, whatever you got. Bring the cats and dogs to bed with you if that’s all you got. 

If you can, you can make a wood heater outta an old oil drum and then get some pipe to make a stovepipe to go out through a window pane. But we didn’t do that at Estelle and Vince’s. But that’s what I done in my shop. And if you ain’t got a chainsaw, you can do what a lot of people do, which is collect old pallets and burn them. One of my friends got a pellet stove. My other friend, Big Dave tells people he gots a PALLET stove!

But basically you just got to burn what you can to get warm and stay warm. It ain’t not good bein’ cold, that’s for sure. And it don’t do your guitars any good to get too cold neither. When it’s that cold, you can’t play ‘em anyway. I cain’t hardly play when my hands is warm. When they get cold, I sound even worse. And I ain’t room to GET much worse!

Doc Stevens and the Famous (well, it SHOULD be) Old Panel Truck

Friday, December 2, 2011 8:37 PM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas
Tondeleo: It seems like there are common interests that run deep in many rural Americans. Things like guns, “hot rods” and music. Some of these people are working jobs that pay very little, and are renting small bungalows, but they may have thousands of dollars tied up in their gun collection, musical instruments and their hot rods. It’s all about values; what’s important in life.

Of course none of these people have investments in the stock market and don’t have money in the bank or even a retirement or pension fund. All they have are their cars, guns and instruments. 

Building a hot rod is not cheap. Some of these work two or more jobs so they can buy the parts to build a hot rod. And some of these cars, trucks and race cars are well worth more than the homes they live in.

How do they achieve this? First, by bartering goods and services with each other, maybe trading welding expertise for painting or bodywork, or for electrical or interior work, or mechanical work. Doc’s friends say that this is how the early car clubs got started. There would be 5 or 6 guys who wanted to build hot rods but didn’t have the money they needed or the skills. So different ones would each make his contribution to then others, so all could get their cars built. If you didn’t have a needed skill, you couldn’t join the club.

Some people may sell or trade drugs, from illegal street drugs, to selling their prescription pain killers for speed equipment, engine and body modifications and custom paint, wheels and high performance tires. When a person is addicted to building a hot rod or race cars, he would rather be in physical pain than to do without the parts he needs to go fast.

Doc’s truck didn’t need to be financed in any illegal ways because he doesn’t have much money in it, according to him. The body is nearly perfect because for much of it’s life it has sat in a barn, so it never got rusted out. 

Also, it has been in his family for many, many years and did not get the rough life of a vehicle used commercially by drivers who didn’t care about it.Doc and Bruce
As for the mechanical work, he and his friends did all it themselves, so it did not involve much actual cash. Doc already had the engine, which is a 406 cubic inch Chevy engine. It was a 400 “small block” that has been “punched out to a 406.” It came out of what is called a “pro street” car. Doc traded an old car that he had for it. 

His friend Pat Stone did a lot of the mechanical work on it, and his friend Bruce Williams did work on the frame  and other welding that Doc wasn’t sure he could do and still have it be safe. “Bruce is a real welder, like for a living. I ‘m not. All I know how to do is stick two pieces of metal together,” Doc said. 

Doc has put  his 1951 Chevy panel van (or panel truck as they call it in the US) back on the road after having it torn apart in his shop for a few years. It has been in his family since the late 1950’s or early 60’s, he can’t remember. It’s been driven, parked, stored, painted, sign written and used in different ways throughout it’s life.

During his more recent modifications, he has put it on a newer Chevrolet chassis, installed the powerful V-8 engine, a different transmission that has been modified, a new rear axle and other mechanical mods, most of which I don’t understand.

He has kept the old paint on it. and the old signwriting which is not quite so old as the paint. I don’t know much about hot rods, but I can appreciate it as a piece of Americana. Inside and out it is like a time capsule to days gone by.
Panel Truck and Doc - Small
Doc: Well, right now, Tondy, the panel truck is back on the road because we are getting’ more indoor gigs and I’m usin’ it to carry our guitars and amps instead of my pickup truck which is what I been usin’ to play local. I need to get someone to take some more pictures of it for you to put on that interweb.

A panel truck to me is better than a pickup truck, cause you can carry your stuff in it if it’s rainin’ and it won’t get wet. Like a deer what you just shot, and you ain’t want to leave it in the bed of your pickup truck overnight ‘cause vultures might get into it by mornin’.  But you ain’t gotta worry about it with a panel truck.

Also, for me it is a place to sleep when I’m travelin’. I got a [guerney] out of a old ambulance a long time ago and I keep that in the back to sleep on. I can pull it out in warm weather and sleep under the stars. Or pull it out when we got all our ‘quipment in it and need he room.

We got our letterin’ on the side of it what lets people know who we are and that we are playin. I can park it out in front of where we’re playin’ and it makes it easy for people to find us. It’s part of the show, so to speak. You gotta have somethin’ to make you stand out.

We got the phone number on it, too so people can write it down an’ call us if they want us to play for them. We got on the hood, “We don’t play bluegrass, so do not ask.” People always is askin’ if we play bluegrass. We don’t. 

We play downhome blues, roots and gospel music. We got that wrote on the side, too. And some other stuff, so people ain’t got to ask too many questions. They can just write it down.
That truck gets a pretty good amount of attention, and the hot rod guys like it real well. 

It may be ugly but it is well put together. When they first walk up to it, they think it is a junker, but then when they get up close they can see that it ain’t no junker. The body is perfect – no dents, no rust, nothin’. And if I let ‘em look under the hood, they can see how much work has been put into it.

I like my trucks sittin’ low, so we lowered the body over the frame six inches. It still has a good ride, because we didn’t cut the springs. It’s still got the full springs but it sits low. 

You can’t tell that til you look under the hood and see how it looks like the engine is sittin’ higher than regular. A lot of guys ask about that.”Why does the engine sit high?”  “It don’t. The truck sits low!” We had to raise the floor up six inches in the back part of the truck to get it to sit this low! But we used the same old floor what came from the factory so you can’t really tell it. I mean, it DOES still look like an old junker – but it aint.