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Digital Subscriptions > Cottage Life > SPRING 2018 > THAT’S ONE HECK OF A DECK


And this is the best deck he’s ever built— a sturdy cedar work of art, full of clever design tricks for enjoying outdoor space. Climb inside the mind of a deck genius
This is Marshall Black, a mastermind carpenter and the new star of the Cottage Life channel’s Lake Docks & Decks
Photography Liam Mogan

Marshall Black is heading to an island he knows well, threading his custombuilt contractor boat through the channels scraped into the edge of Georgian Bay, southwest of Parry Sound, Ont. It’s been five years since he built a wraparound, multi-level deck for the only cottage on two-acre Crouse Island, and some things have changed. For one, he’s now trailing a TV crew, shooting the next season of Lake Docks & Decks. The crew is filming Marshall and fellow contractor Simon Hirsh on builds all over cottage country.

On screen and off, Marshall is not the typical gonzo TV builder; there’s no alpha-male peacocking for the camera or gimmicky catchphrases. Instead, the lean, tanned 49-year-old father of two is calm, thoughtful, and deliberate—and a good listener to his building crew and his clients. Even though he’s on Crouse Island because owner Stephen Smith and his family need a new dock, Marshall can’t help but make a return visit up the hill to check on the deck. “This deck means a lot to me,” he says. “It means a lot to the family.”

The deck passes inspection. Its cedar top has weathered, as it should, to a soft, foggy grey, but there’s little else that has aged. The pressure-treated wood that Marshall used for the substructure will last for decades, and “there’s so much good airflow here nothing else will rot either.” Even in the corner details, where Marshall has mitred the deck boards, picture-frame style, any aging is only cosmetic. Mitred joints are notorious for opening up as wood shrinks over time, but these are still tight. He explains that the only real secret is taking care to get the details right: measure and cut the mitre carefully, then test-fit and tweak the angle as needed, even if you just have to shave off half a degree. Marshall likes to squeeze a bead of construction adhesive on the cut ends and install a screw coming in from each side of the joint.

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