Saturday, January 2, 2010

Newest Project

When it comes to home improvement projects, my daddy raised himself a cupcake. I grew up oblivious to what it takes to fix things. I never experienced a stuck window, for example, but I would have imagined that if you found one, you’d just have to move to a house with windows that work.

Cooking and laundry were tasks that just happened in my life. Food materialized in the refrigerator and on the table. Clean clothes replaced the dirty ones that I tossed down the chute. I had to make my bed but no one said it had to pass inspection. (Good thing…I doubt that anyone ever looked UNDER the bedspread to identify various lumps.)

I was also spared the details of car maintenance. My dad must have taken care of changing oil/checking tires because I was an adult before anyone suggested I do such things. (Really? You have to change the oil? How often? Really?)

As for yard work, well, I think Dad actually liked mowing. I recall watching him pace and smile, his mind drifting to some far-off golf course. As for gardening, my only involvement there was when I was sent out to weed as punishment. I believe I pulled up some wrong things because the parents only employed that gimmick once.

So what was I doing during my formative years? Well, not cleaning, washing, mowing, cooking, ironing or cooking. Memory fades but I believe I was filling my head with wonderful plots, lyrics, inventions, and ironic asides that would come in handy later in life.

My own children now know the truth. I made them do lots of things that NO ONE ever made ME do. Deal with it, kiddies.

Speaking of irony, I married a man who is all about fix-it projects. His dad paired his teenage son with a maintenance man who taught the hub to roof, fix basic plumbing, replace gutters, and paint. My father-in-law owned some rental properties in town and when the hub was in high school, HE became the crew chief, employing his buddies to crouch up on roofs with hammers, nails (not nail guns) and shingles. They used to compete with each other to finish rows.

I married into this family and in our early married years, Mike’s dad would let us earn extra money, which we needed, by working for him. So, I learned how to paint a rental (get a roller and paint everything white that doesn’t move…watch out for that cat!), construct lumber/cinder block bookcases, and resurface parking lots.

This last task, apparently, needs to be done when the temperature reaches the humid mid 90’s. In case you’ve missed THIS experience, it involves pouring gooey black stuff out of 5 gallon cylinders and then brush, brush, brushing it to coat the paved ground. By the way, and leaving out details is always a problem when I’m enlisted to work, no one mentioned that, although it may be hot, it’s best to wear long pants and crummy shoes because they will get coated with tar. If said tar gets on bare skin, well, it burns and doesn’t stop, even after bathing.

Older and wiser. When I drive around town in the hot summer, I see that lots of places use machines to coat parking lots. Where are those manual laborers with brushes?

About 20 years ago, LOWE’S Home Improvement Store came to town and the hub, like lots and lots and lots of others, bought into their spiel that ANYONE can tile a bathroom, replace a floor, and hang drywall.

We’ve had those adventures, some good and some needing to be, um, refined by other skilled craftsman.

So, on New Year’s Day, while most Americans were either sleeping it off or watching football, I found myself up at the cottage with the hub, working on his latest last project.

Followers of this blog may remember that Mike started on a custom desk for me, wondering if he’d be able to finish it. Then came the chair and bookcase. Along side, there have been some framed mirrors, a special table for our Thanksgiving hostess and then the eight tables for friends who visited Mike in the hospital.

As the finish was drying on those tables, Mike decided that what our cottage needed were new drawers in the kitchen. That kitchen is probably original with the house. It has been painted a few times but with no other major changes.

Mike brought the 4 kitchen drawers home, took them apart and made new ones, staining them with ‘Golden Oak Minwax Wood Finish.’ (I have been sent to the store a few times.)

But new drawers, while nice and shiny, would only serve to contrast old, boring, painted doors. So he took all of the doors off, brought them home and made new door fronts. These are works of art.

We loaded up the truck, grabbed Ivy, and took off around 11 for what would be a long day at Winona Lake.

At any work site, there are roles that must be filled and the work will go more smoothly if all agree on the pecking order. Mike filled “Master Craftsman” easily. In an earlier time, he would have shepherded several skilled apprentices and a few worker bees or yeomen. My personal best skill is described as “Driving to pick up the pizza.”

But as a two-man crew, he looked to me to fill several roles. As he assembled the tools, I sorted wood screws. THIS I can do: flat for inside the cabinet; rounded for the outside. I could have sorted all day had there been that many screws.
Alas, the master wanted me to DRILL HOLES into the wood that he had carefully crafted, stained and finished.

Electric Drill. Permanent holes. No room for error.

Talk about living on the edge.

And then I was assigned to attach the hinges with the wood screws. I found the screws well-sorted (!) but this is hard work. After several feeble attempts, the task became 1) me starting the screws and 2) the master finishing.

The wind outside howled, bringing the wind chill down to below zero. However, I insisted we stop for lunch when we started to make mistakes. No pizza. Not much open on New Year’s Day. Wendy’s Chili did the trick and back to the project.

We teamed to hold up the various doors and tighten those screws.

Several neighbors plus sister Lisa dropped by to oooh. And, once we stepped back, we had to agree. We knucked (fist bump), and then we doubled knucked.

I’ll post pictures soon.

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