OAKLAND - Most carpenters work in coveralls or at least pants and a shirt. Police say Percy Honniball prefers to do his work in his birthday suit.
``It's more comfortable,'' said Honniball in a phone interview Thursday. ``The primary reason is so I (won't) dirty my clothes and have to get into my truck with dusty clothes on.''

But not everyone is tolerant of nude carpenters. A Montclair homeowner called police when he arrived home early and found the worker buck naked.

``He got upset and he said `You have to leave,' '' Honniball said of the incident last October.

Earlier this week the Alameda County District Attorney's Office charged Honniball, 50, of Oakland, with misdemeanor indecent exposure.

Oakland Police Officer Jesse Grant said that when asked by the homeowner what was going on, Honniball ``didn't address the fact that he was naked, only that he was sorry that he was behind in the work'' building bookcases.

Honniball initially told Grant and Officer Shawn Johnson that he shed his clothes because he had to crawl under the house to do some electrical work and didn't want them to get dirty.

He also said that working in the nude ``gave him a better range of motion and made him a more efficient worker,'' Grant said. Honniball had been caught working in the buff three times before in Berkeley dating back to 2000, but he was only once put on probation for violating a city ordinance.

Asked about the dangers of working in the buff, Honniball said skilled workman can do it without trouble.

``In certain situations such as demolitions where you are smashing rock you want to be clothed and protected because this rock can harm you,'' he said.

The Montclair homeowner who had gone out with his wife and children on the warm sunny day, was first alerted about the nude worker by neighbors who saw Honniball getting tools from his truck and sawing wood outside the home, Grant said.
The officers said Honniball knew from past encounters with police that such conduct was wrong but he said he liked the idea of people seeing him.

Honniball said some homeowners who have hired him have welcomed the practice, which he insists he does not do for sexual pleasure. ``It's comfortable, especially on a warm day,'' he said.

Berkeley police spokesman Ed Galvan said Honniball was caught in June 2000, November 2001 and July 2003 working in the buff or exposing himself to mail carriers or nearby residents. In 2003, he was given two years' probation for violating a city ordinance that bans public nudity, police said.

Honniball said Thursday he doesn't plan to do work naked again.

``This is very costly,'' he said. ``The officers actually arrested me and I spent a whole day in jail before I was able to make bail. It was very unpleasant.''

Although the most recent incident happened in October, it took time to collect enough evidence to issue a warrant. Honniball was arrested April 10 and posted $5,000 bail after being interviewed by police. He is due in court within the next few weeks.

Police Honniball gets a lot of his jobs through real estate agents or word of mouth. He was recommended for the Montclair job by a Realtor.

Police said Honniball apologized to the homeowner, but was still fired. The homeowner paid Honniball for the work he had completed, but deducted $200. ``He kept out that amount to change his locks,'' Grant said.