Monday, May 28, 2012

A Work of Art

As I was stripping the bathroom door today, I stepped back to rest for a second, and I realized that I had created a work of art.

I call it Retrospective on a Door
I was determined to remove the paint from the bathroom door, the nearly 100 years of paint, and now I know the history: yellow first, then mustard, green, plum, and white. One layer on top of another.

Memories and some questionable color choices.

So I'm not sure what to do now; finish the job or take this to an art gallery.

By way of comparison, above is an actual exhibit from the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Jack Plane, Part 2

Journalism school gives you the notion that people care about your writing. Working as a technical writer takes that notion away, as I soon learned after getting the job at that aerospace company.

I had just moved from Arkansas to Arizona, and in Arkansas I lived a hermit's existence way out in the country. Wood heat, no air conditioning. I had a few hand tools--my favorite was a little jack plane.

Because my brother worked at a big aerospace company in Tucson, I had a good chance of getting hired in the technical editing/writing department with him. I still remember that day, sitting in a small office at a table, writing on the back page of a job application with a pencil, free to describe anything at all, as long as it was technical.

Something about the jack plane interested me. I would sometimes just stare at it, not really knowing why. It was perfectly flat on the bottom except for the protruding steel blade sticking through a slot, so it really didn't sit down flat except when pushed along a piece of lumber, when the blade pulled off a ribbon of wood.

But even then the wood is never really flat. The front of the plane is always riding on wood that is about to be sliced, and the tail end of the plane is lower, dropped into the space where the ribbon used to be. Then when you get to the end of the wood, the front end of the plane flies off into space. It is never level. And yet it creates a level surface.

I understand sandpaper because it is flat. A drill bit is a nice cylinder. But a plane is not normal; it's never what it appears to be.

Fortunately my brother worked at the place.

Fast forward, and I've got my second coat of finish on the office floor and hallways.

Also, the cactus in our side yard is really blooming...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Jack Plane

More than 20 years ago I packed up my stuff and moved to Arizona with the notion that I'd become a newspaper person, except the newspaper didn't want me, so I applied for a job as a technical writer for an aerospace company. On the last page of the application I was instructed to write a few paragraphs on a technical subject--anything at all.

As my subject I chose the jack plane, my very favorite carpentry tool, and one that has been around for thousands of years. Today, they are made completely of steel, but years ago they were all wood except for the metal cutting blade that sticks out from the bottom and that shaves wood into transparent ribbons.

I'm using one now because the replacement boards in my office are a bit thicker than the floor. The jack plane is the perfect tool for this problem, though people tend to use sandpaper instead.

The idea is simple--a little tongue of steel sticks out the bottom just a bit and scrapes away the wood, turning an uneven edge into a smooth one.

The concept is both simple and impossible, and there are profound philosophical issues to consider, and years ago, sitting in a room and filling out my job application, I knew that the company did not care to hear about the existential nature of a carpenter's plane. No, they just wanted to see if I could write clearly. By getting cute, I could very well lose the job.

More later.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Office Floor

For the past several years I've been sitting in my office chair and staring at a piece of termite-eaten flooring. Someone made a half-hearted attempt at repairing it, but anyone could see the ugly truth. So, part of the hallway project is to fix the floor in my office.

That board is really long and only the end is damaged, so I picked a spot in the middle and began to chisel it in two. I love chiseling wood. Clean and sharp downward cuts, then shave off the side. I even bought a grinding wheel so I could sharpen my chisels super sharp. How much fun is a person allowed to have?

After I cut my way through the board, I chiseled out the inside portion of the piece to be removed. Otherwise, the tongue and groove on the sides would prevent it from being budged.

OMG, I love this!

Clean as a whistle. More later...