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Articles by Gary Katz

Falling Water

Where Wright was Right and Wright was Wrong

I recently read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. What a great story about an architect—Howard Roark—who refuses to compromise his creative ideals or his personal values. In a biography of Frank Lloyd Wright, Brendan Gill discusses the comparison between Wright and Roark, and the common misconception that Rand based her character on the famous architect (Many Masks, pg. 490-492). After reading several biographies of Wright (and learning Wright was a colossal egotist), then visiting many of his homes (where I was overwhelmed by their timeless beauty), I have to agree: it’s too bad there wasn’t more in common between the man and the myth. But Wright’s work, and especially his influence on architecture, will definitely outlive his personality. Read the full article…

Festool 4 Ft. (Stabila) Level

When I started teaching carpentry clinics at lumberyards around the country, one of the first companies I sought support from was Stabila—I used their levels for a couple of decades and wouldn’t think of switching brands. There was no other spirit level available that guaranteed the same degree of precision, whether the vials were right-side up or up-side down.

When I first started in the trades, I used an adjustable level, but threw it away after setting door jambs in a home getting bull-nose drywall. Read the full article…

Shop Class as Soulcraft

A book every craftsman should read

“What sort of personality does one need to have, as a twenty-first-century mechanic, to tolerate the layers of electronic bullshit that get piled on top of machines?”
–Matthew Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft: Penquin Press, 2009

I recently taught a class on Mastering the Miter Saw to a group of mixed-age students at the West Valley Occupational Center, near my home in Los Angeles. I’ve volunteered to teach classes there before. The instructors teach drafting, framing, electrical, drywall—a general hands-on course covering everything about construction with blackboard backup. It’s a great program for anyone new to the trades. But I was surprised to find the class stalled by a lack of building materials. One instructor was digging into his own pocket to keep his class going. Read the full article…

Bending Hinges

Hinges aren’t made in a mold. They’re bent or formed in a press. That means the swag or bend in a hinge is never identical from one hinge to the next. And that means the gap between the hinge leaves varies just a little, which can have an impact on the fit of your doors. Read the full article…