Becoming proficient in a field can sometimes make life difficult. Like an artist who visits friends and relatives and must keep to herself how bad the paintings in the house are. Something similar happens to John Griswold when he sees houses built with structural elements wholly out of keeping with their purposes.

Standing on the tee box of a local golf course I saw a peculiar sight. A nearby house sported a second-storey deck, clearly a cantilever as there were no support posts, and rising from its corners to carry the safety rail were two stone columns. The carpenter side of my brain kicked in: “Those must be steel or timber posts clad in faux stone, they’re far too skinny to pass the Drunken Allen Test.” My partner Jeff and I have jokingly applied this rule for decades while repairing yet another failed deck rail: got to make the connections strong enough that Allen could lurch his 230-pound frame into our product without going through it like a Hollywood stuntman.

Read Griswold’s Stone Timber and Steel: The Logic of Structure in the September 2012 edition of 15 Bytes.