There are some things that are worth redoing. When confronting a project, somehow I never worry about the ‘how’ it will get done but the ‘when.’ I agonize over what else will be sacrificed to enable me the time to work on my next idea. How high will the dishes pile in the sink, during one or two afternoon’s work, before they stretch onto the neighboring counter? How far will the debris from ‘said project’ be tracked in from the garage across the kitchen floor? Once the project is finished, how will my family look at it when they’ve eaten cold pizza every meal for a week to accommodate it? Not really, but I do fear being stretched too far when I start something big that I can’t fit one more thing in. Rusty old wood – rotten furniture be gone with a snap of my fingers and in its place a freshly painted set of neatly sanded and stained wood pieces to welcome deck visitors because I haven’t the time for you. This project taught me another lesson. It’s one I’ve learned but needed a refresher; I’m reminded about the time I kayaked out into the ocean (the same one I’m afraid of) in front of my kids, waiting on the shoreline. It required so much strength to fight and pass over the incoming waves and I went so far I thought I’d reached England – all so they’d see that because something is hard or you are fearful, doesn’t mean you can’t do it.
Just looking at this project was daunting. Things I’d never done before: rust clean up and woodworking to this magnitude. My dad told me to use a chemical called Navel Jelly – which I was really embarrassed to ask the guy at Lowes for but he knew exactly what I was talking about. I took pictures of how the slats were joined and then disassembled the pieces and saved all of the brass carriage bolts in a Ziploc – trashing the tiny rusted screws to be replaced. I Naval Jellied the iron sides and wire brushed them down. Once the rust was gone I washed them thoroughly with the hose and some blue Dawn and left them in the sun to dry.
Once dry, I spray painted both sides with black Rustoleum spray paint. I waited a day between coats and covered it a second time. I took the wood measurements to a local mill yard and had the pieces cut to specifications. I searched for redwood but it’s too hard and costly to come by on this side of the country so I used cedar. After researching and talking to several master craftsmen it seemed that with proper care and maintenance I could expect the cedar to last for the next 40 years. That sounded good to me because the wood alone ended up costing around $650. It’s beautiful though – here it is drying after two coats of Cabot natural deck stain:
Here’s where I got to the sticky part. I am NOT a master craftsman. I like to think I’d play one on TV, or in my pretend mind, or even in my next life, but real woodworking and serious power tools aren’t my thing. I’ve always found a way to get by. Each wooden slat needed to be drilled and an additional countersink drill hole added to accommodate each carriage bolt. I didn’t have the tools for it but I’d figure plow ahead and I’d find the way. I don’t like asking for help and try at all costs to get things done on my own – by the time I do ask for help I’m one blink away from crying because I’m a hair over being overwhelmed. Usually that means calling my parents because separate and apart from his profession, my dad actually IS a master craftsman. My mom is the advisor and question asker – but a necessary part of all difficult projects. My parents came out for the day and my dad brought his drill press that I now know was the saving grace of the project. He cranked out each piece drilled with the right machine precision- uniformly and regular so my furniture wouldn’t be crooked and loose.
I put everything together to look at and the end was in sight. We pretty much worked that entire day. The question asker (mom) on the job said, “How would you have finished this if your dad didn’t have these tools and know what to do?” For a rare moment – I had no answer. I had no idea how it would’ve gotten finished if not for my dad – other than somehow I always find a way. I’m resourceful like that- repurposing, reusing, reworking things has – up to this point – exuded good karma enough that it all falls into place. From this project that seemed to stare at me winter after winter, rusting on the back deck, and plead to be redone each spring – to be enjoyed again – to finally be finished, I learned that even when you think you’ve bitten off more than you can chew – keep eating – dream bigger – don’t be afraid that you can’t do what it is you set out to do. It’s like my trip in the kayak – I never would’ve thought I had the strength to beat the waves or the courage to do it alone – but I realized then that I find the way just like I did this time. Thank goodness for my dad and the question asker.