Don’t pull my finger

Bill Nattress

Photo By Tom Angel

If you’ve been thinking that a giant picture window is just what your living room needs this spring, call Bill Nattress first. He works for Chico Concrete Sawing and Coring, and he saws (and cores) really big stuff, like the big wall on the Second Street side of the new Pluto’s Deli going in downtown. For the past few days, on my way to lunch, I’ve been drawn to the vibrations of the gigantic circular saw with which he’s been slicing out whole sections of the building. Nattress sits nonchalantly atop a ladder with a smoke clenched between his teeth, guiding the spinning blade slowly down the tracks he bolted into the wall. Water (pumped onto the blade to keep everything cool) sprays everywhere, combining with concrete dust into thick gray puddles on the newly poured sidewalk, and another downtown building gets a major facelift.

What do you call a saw like this?

It’s a wall saw, specifically designed for doing this kind of work.

What are you doing here?

Window and door. There’s going to be a big window on this end and a big door opening on this end.

Is “sawer” your job title?

I do quite a few other things as well, but for this it’s my job title.

What are some other things that you’ve sawed?

So PG&E can put in big covers like that [motioning toward rectangle hatch sidewalk], I saw the tops of those off. They get rid of all the concrete around it, expose the top of it so I can mount this saw to it so I can cut the whole top of it off.

Can you do lines other than straight lines, like curved lines?

No, everything has to be straight.

Ever saw anything you weren’t supposed to?

Let’s see, only hidden cable underneath the ground. It’s better if you don’t cut it, but if you can’t see it. … It’s really hard to see through concrete.

Can this saw cut through anything?

Almost. I’ve cut one-inch-square steel hidden in concrete. We knew it was there, but you don’t know where it is, how deep it is, how much of it there is.

Can I see if you still have all your fingers?

No, I don’t, as a matter of fact. I lost the end of one finger [pulls off glove to expose his decapitated digit]. Not with the saw, but with a chunk of concrete that I cut off with that saw.