Building Project Costa Rica – Part 4 – Tools & Torque

Our Building Project – Images of the progress since the last post (permission to project start), how very important a machete and rope have become and which brands of tools are taking a beating.

We are officially deep in the throes of building. Not the sometimes you talk about “Oh yeah, 6 am to 6 pm every day it’s killing me” throes of building but the every visible orifice is filled with brown crud throes. Just looking at my used Q-tips makes me gag.

Construction days are from 6am to 6pm though and cooking, cleaning, yard care, washing, talking and paying bills is all somewhere in between. Our Valentines celebration was essentially being nice to each other when the table saw broke and it, along with the planer, needed to be taken to the shop. “Who used this last?” is the question most often heard around 5:15 pm. Everyone looks at around at each other and says “worked when I used it”.

Tools that can’t keep up

I don’t know if it is the hardwoods, the humidity or the brand of the machine but no tool seems to last more than one project. We are on our third major project and have been through two table saws, one planer, one shop-vac and two grinders. This crap is getting expensive given that the price of tools in Costa Rica is sometimes twice what tools cost in the States. We came down with older machines that were hand me downs from Barry’s Dad and in normal environmental conditions, with normal use and normal wear and tear factored in we should have had at least 5 years of use out of them. To be fair to Ryobi, they probably were not meant for cabin building projects in the humid rain forest on tropical hardwoods anyway. I will say that our Makita tools and Skilsaw have fared well.

The beauty of the CR is that the small engine repair guys can work miracles, even if their spell only works once. They will exorcise the demon right out of a tool but if it breaks again you can be sure it is on the speed slide down to the “I have no idea what to do with an old tool when there is no garbage pick-up” land.

Two very useful tools that have not broken yet are the ever-popular machete and the contortionist rope. Barry is always amazed by how many different ways a Tico can use a rope and the hundreds of knots that can hold anything in to place.

Machete on Building Site
using torque and rope to build

We had a support beam that needed to be pulled in just a tad so that everything squared up so a thick cloth rope was tied around the Guachipelin post and the other side was tightened around the opposite side post.

Re-using Wood – Trying not to waste

These shots are of our scaffolding and temporary floor planks which are made out of thick cut Laurel Wood. After the construction phase ends we will sand this Laurel down and use it to make our built in closets and cabinets. Laurel is a medium grade soft wood which is fairly insect resistant. It is mainly used in furniture making because of the distinct brown and white color variations. We covered our interior ceiling with it to help keep the house cool. We will treat it with a termicide before laying down the metal roofing.

Building Scaffolding

Interior shell of wood house Wood House Building Site Limon

We have used a chainsaw for more things than we ever thought possible. Here Alfredo is getting ready to cut one side of a Pilon support beam so that it sits directly on to the floor joists. If you are visiting the U.S. soon you should scour Craigslist for used chainsaws in good condition. We got our small Stihl for about $100 from CL, Florida and use it almost more than any other tool. If we had bought it here it would have been 3-4 times as much.

Chainsaw cuts on support beam
Chainsaw work on wood house

This is the house skeleton before the interior roof was finished. We are happy with the progress we are making and the weather has been on our side lately. We figured that if Downton Abbey can show you a little doggy booty so can we.

Wood house skeleton
As usual comments are always welcome, especially if it’s a helpful tip or a “My God, I love it” works too! : )

14 comments on “Building Project Costa Rica – Part 4 – Tools & Torque”

  1. Rooster Chic Reply

    I am doing basically the same thing, but in Dominica, on a smaller scale and as a single female. Reading your blog has made me realize I am not insane yet and someday (soon I hope) my house will be finished as I am in a village apartment now with no privacy. Today it is raining heavily so am taking a rest. Costa Rica is much more developed than Dominica so I thought it would be easier, but I see you are go through pretty much the same obstacles as I do. Good luck to both of you and keep up the awesome work and this wonderful blog!

    • Kimberly Beck Reply

      Hi Rooster Chic. Wow, I couldn’t even imagine doing it as a single lady. You must be tough as nails. Well good luck to you and if you have a blog or pic’s share them with us!

  2. Keith Bassett Reply

    Hey guys my name is Keith Im from Los Angeles, will be building in the Miramar area soon, 30 min north of Jaco. Just reading your adventure and was wondering if I drove down with a truckload of tools I they would let me cross without taxing me on everything in the back of my truck. by the way, Ryobi is junk, they break down no matter were you use them. Good luck on your project its looking good. How far are you guys from Miramar?

    • Kimberly Beck Reply

      Keith – Miramar is all the way on the other coast which takes us about 5-6 hours to drive to. I hear it is very beautiful there. We have a friend in Jaco. As far as driving down with tools, the key is to make them look used if they are not. If you have all new up-opened boxes border patrol might think that you are trying to avoid paying taxes. Good Luck on your drive and let us know how it goes. When you are ready to see the Caribbean give us a call.

  3. carolyn tait Reply

    this is just thrilling to behold! i can’t wait for the next chapter. kind of like watching downton abby. =)

  4. Jim Burnett Reply

    Great progress and looks very nice! I know what you mean about brand name tools. I think they make them like refrigerators with planned obsolescence! As a woodworker myself, I can highly recommend Festool power tools as being the very best. They are rather expensive up front but are the best power tools I have ever used for precision and durability. Either building a shed row on the farm or making a stringed instrument in my shop my Festool tools have for the last 8 years outlasted anything else I previously owned (and gave away). As for chainsaws…they are a man’s ( or woman’s) best friend! I have four ranging from a small Echo W/ 12″ dime tip bar for carving and precision work to a Husky 395 W/ a 66″ bar and an Alaskan mill for milling my own lumber and slabbing for furniture. It will mill logs up to 56″ in Dia. If you can find one on CL you would find it invaluable where you live. I enjoy your posts. Keep up the good work! Cheers

  5. Cindy Reply

    What you are doing is amazing.. I bet it will feel so good when it stops :-)You sure are providing good advice ..& a reality check, for would-be CR homesteaders!

    • Kimberly Beck Reply

      You hit the nail on the head woman. There are about 5 different people on the farm everyday, tiring. Thanks for the kind words.

  6. Marlene & Caryn Reply

    you guys blow me away!! I can’t believe how quick it is going up, Congratulations on your home !!

  7. Joseph Reply

    Looks great! I like the views from the house. Are you going to park your cars under the house or use it for storage?

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

    • Kimberly Beck Reply

      The downstairs will have partial concrete walls and it will include a guest bedroom, a bath, our kitchen and living room.

  8. Vince Reply

    Wow what progress! You guys are my heroes, it will take me a few years before I can get there but everyday I think about it. Thanks for great pictures.

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