For the most part, I’m a “mama’s” girl. My mom and I spend quality time together on a weekly basis. With similar interest in movies, books, shopping, and cable TV shows, we can talk and hang out easily for hours. In some ways, I’m also a “daddy’s” girl. But Dad’s favorite TV station is the Weather Channel. His interest in reading extends mainly to the newspaper. And “shopping” generally refers to picking up bananas at Walmart. So, quality time with my dad has been more purposeful through the years. Sailing is definitely on the list of things we do together. Also on that list is carpentry.
My dad worked for a cabinet-maker before I was born. As far back as I can remember, he’s had a workshop set up in the garage. There are photos of me as a kid wearing overalls, safety goggles, baseball cap, a tool belt, and wielding a hand saw. I’ve always loved the smells of fresh sawdust, stain, and lacquer. He’d patiently show me safety with everything from hammer to drill press to table saw…while I’d impatiently watch, waiting for my turn to try it on my own. While we don’t often build things together any more, he is the first person I call when things break down around my house. He’ll diagnose the issue and tell me how to fix it, or help me fix it…or warn me it’s one for the pros to tackle. He has often bravely lent me his tools (not brave because I’ll misuse them, but brave because he has 5 kids and keeping track of his tools can require phone calls to several people). He loves it when we put tools on our Christmas or birthday lists, partly because it means we won’t borrow his, and partly because it gives him an excuse to shop at the hardware store (his favorite shopping apart from Walmart bananas). This Christmas I was honored to receive his 1970s True Temper claw hammer with fiberglass handle. I’ve borrowed this hammer many times and love the feel of the swing, the weight and power of its head. He’s seen me hunting for its replica (unsuccessfully) on Ebay. So, he says he’ll use his dad’s old hammer, and the one I’ve borrowed is now permanently mine. YAY!Today’s featured work is a product of quality time with both of my parents. Mom and I are HGTV junkies, constantly watching shows like Flea Market Flip. When I was at the flea market this past November with friends, I came across an old painter’s extension ladder. Then I found a vendor selling live-edge wood boards. Falling in love with a long board of dark walnut wood, I decided to build a bookshelf. My many hours of practice with hand saws as a kid paid off. I measured and cut the ladder in half (a very straight cut with a steady hand, if I say so myself). Old stakes from Dad’s scrap wood collection worked well as braces. These I cut to length on a jig saw, forming rounded notches to rest one brace over the ladder rungs. The vendor had already sawn the walnut board into 3 sections for me. Rounded brackets designed to attach metal pipes to ceiling joists worked well for holding shelves in place. I decided to keep the old paint spatters as well as cool extension clamps on the ladder. After a bit of sanding, I put 2 colors of stain on the ladder sections and support braces. The first coat was a dark mahogany stain, followed by a thin coat of ebony, and finished off with beeswax to seal it. The shelves had their own innate beauty. All they needed was a natural stain and 2 coats of clear lacquer to bring out rich colors and wood grain patterns.
At the moment, this gorgeous piece of furniture is housing my niece’s Lego village, including a tree-house, dinosaurs, Lego fruits growing in a Lego garden, and Lego people drinking orange juice. She has agreed to share the space with some of my books…eventually. More importantly, she spent quality time “helping” me yesterday. She placed her toddler hand on the shelf, “holding” it for me, as I screwed in a bracket. Earlier, while pre-drilling holes, I wasn’t paying close enough attention to my left hand and nicked a knuckle with the drill bit. She consoled me over the “hurt dinger (finger)” and inspected my Band-Aid. Maybe a few years from now she’ll look back on fun memories of doing carpentry with me. And, perhaps she’ll build similar memories with her daddy down the road.