Beginning of the Road

July 1995

By Dane C. Sorensen


Perhaps the one single item, other than a wood stove, that marks the difference between living in Ely vs. a big city, is an outbuilding.  Folks both in and outside of town all have outbuildings.

Outbuildings are like blueberry pies, you can never have too many.  One for wood, one for your workshop, one for the dog sled, one for the bikes, snowblower and boat.  Oh, and one for that 1959 Corvette.  (Just kidding.)

We pondered what kind of outbuilding we should build.  Should it be made out of logs?  Perhaps field stone?  Or maybe good old fashioned scrap wood and sheet metal?  So many choices and so little time.  I guess that is why we bought one of those metal shed kits.  You know, the ones that come in a small long box that weighs 5000 pounds.

One interesting thing I found about these pre-fab metal sheds is that on the outside of the book are instructions on how to cut a small opening to remove the instructional manual.  Curious as to my future task at hand I whipped out my Swiss Army knife and surgically removed the manual.  It was wrapped in a plastic bag that contained all the screws and bolts.  It must have weighed 20 pounds.  It must have over 5000 screws and bolts. 

I guess that is why the box remained under a sheet of old plywood for a month.  One brief glance at the instruction manual and I realized I had bought the mother of all erector sets.  I thought putting together a Barbie Doll Dream House was tough, but this metal shed has more pieces than a Boeing 747.

After a month of excuses – one can floss one’s teeth only so much – I started work.  The easy part was building a wood foundation for the shed to sit on.  With the advice of several Ely natives, I settled on treated 2x4s and oxboard plywood painted battleship gray.  After that was done I sat back and admired it for at least two weeks.

Then last week, with only days remaining before vacation, I sprang into action.  It was great.  Step 1, Step 2, Step 3 – I was going through the pages as fast as lightning.  The base bars were done.  The wall braces were bolted and the doors were assembled.  Then came Step 4 with a little note in one of those warning boxes.  “Do not assemble if more than a light wind present.  Do not attempt to assemble without additional help.”  So I enlisted Snow White, my wife.  And the fun continued.

They wanted me to put up four flimsy corner pieces that were to be held by only one screw.  There was no way they could stay up.  A fly could knock them over.  So I commandeered my kidlets.  Thank God, we did not follow family planning.  I needed all three kids and Snow White to hold these flimsy sheets on the corners.  I had real doubts.  Meanwhile, I was running around trying to find part 3654 to reinforce those floppy corner sheets. 

All five of us kept working, holding, fastening and banging to get this #x@% shed done.  Of course, once you start they warn you repeatedly not to stop until it is finished.  You see, metal sheds are engineering feats where each part reinforces the next.  If you don’t finish and the wind comes up, your metal shed will flex and flay away until it collapses.

By 9 P.M. we had the walls up and then the rain began.  I had visions of lightning striking the shed and vaporizing my family.  But only the water soluble part numbers started to smear and wash off.  Part 54-A where are you?  Finally, at 11 P.M. it was done.  A masterpiece or at least we thought it was.  But then it was pretty dark out.  At least the manufacturer did not add insult to injury by stating it should only take 3 hours to erect.

Our life is complete – our first outbuilding!  And no extra parts!

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