Solstice Wall – Almost Done

February 07, 2024

By: Lee LeFever

I write books and run a company called Common Craft. I recently moved from Seattle to a rural island. Here, I write about online business, book publishing, modern home construction, and occasionally, dumb jokes.

This article was published as an issue of my newsletter Ready for Rain

Sometimes I think about the amount of time and energy I’ve put into the Solstice Wall project. That goes for Sachi, too. I’ve taken the lead, but she’s been a part of every decision, and the endless brainstorming and problem-solving. Now that the project is days from completion, I’m both excited and a little sad.

As I’ve written many times in this newsletter, I believe happiness lives in anticipation. Since June of 2021, I’ve been anticipating the completion of this project and it will soon be behind me. Then what? I have plenty of things to look forward to, like warm weather and the garden coming back to life. But those require little creative effort.

This project has taught me that I get real satisfaction from taking on big creative projects that require learning and experimentation. I want ideas to brainstorm and problems to solve. I want to try and fail and try again. I want to learn about tools and materials and how to be more detailed and diligent.

Since early December, the work on the Solstice Wall happened in our garage. At the end of the work day, I looked forward to heading in there, putting on a podcast, and pushing the project forward. Whatever is next, that’s where the work will get done.

Current Status

Right now, the plywood panels that will hold the rays are mounted on the wall of our great room. Getting to this point was a relief because everything was built on the floor of our garage. I worried that I’d missed a detail or flubbed a measurement. I imagined the panels, which contain 79 holes for holding the rays, would not match up as expected. Then what?

The moment of truth was installing one of the longest rays, which stretches across three panels. Thankfully, the holes in the plywood matched the dowels in the ray and everything came together as expected. Phew!

I severely underestimated what would be required to complete this project. This, as Sachi will tell you, is not a surprise. My optimism gets the best of me. Here’s an example…

The rays will be held onto the plywood panels with 79 metal dowels. The dowels hold the rays off the surface and will be visible. Each one will also cast a shadow. It occurred to me that the placement of the dowels shouldn’t be willy-nilly. To be elegant, they needed to be carefully organized and aligned into neat rows. It sounds pretty simple, but it wasn’t.

The challenge had multiple variables. The rays relate to one another, their locations on the plywood panels, and now the dowels. To get the dowels to line up, I placed the rays on the plywood panels in the final form. Then I had to ensure the rays didn’t move while I measured and made 79 marks indicating dowel locations.

It was one of the most taxing parts of the project because, well, I’m clumsy. The chances were high that I’d knock something out of whack and not notice. For that reason, I put weights on the rays as I worked from one side to the other.

When it was all said and done, it was close. A few dowels were way off. A few were imperfect. Most were close enough. And is always the case, I needed to learn something new. This time, it was how to use wood filler and make it strong.

Next Steps

The plywood panels were attached to the wall with countersunk screws. All those holes have now been filled with spackle and need to be sanded down and hopefully disappear.

After a bit more cleanup, the panels will be painted our wall color. Once that is complete, the rays will be installed and we’ll be done! More on that soon.

I’m sharing this process on social media. Follow along!


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On most Tuesdays, I share a story from my life on Orcas Island and a recommendation for something I love. I'm interested in how to design work and home for lifestyle, livability, and fluffy dogs. Learn more.

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