Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Why We Do What We Do

What better way to spend an Florida summer afternoon than on an angled roof, scraping bits of old glazing, paint and rust from the bedroom window, always one step away from slipping down over the edge and onto the stone patio below.

The old window hasn't been refinished since Roosevelt was in office; its sill was so rotten that it had curled upward and was actually catching the rain water instead of draining it away. And much of the old putty was dried and separated from the window.

Of course, there are contractors who restore windows; it's a specialized art, not really for amateurs like me, especially not these old rusty metal windows. In particular, there's an art to applying the putty, a mysterious technique known as glazing.

I knew from experience that I did not understand how to glaze; my attempts have always been pathetic. The putty should be perfectly smooth and continuous around the window.

So I poked around on YouTube until I found a video by some guys who specialize in antique window restoration. One guy was holding the camera and narrating while the other one carefully cleaned up an old wood window, doing all the work work that you would expect, filling in some damaged spots, etc. Then it came time to glaze.

"I know," the narrator said, "that some people don't like to do glazing, but it is my favorite part." His partner took up a big handful of the glazing compound and began kneading it like bread dough, to "get it nice and warm," he said. Then he took the putty knife and pressed several chunks of the putty onto the window frame. No problem--I can do that.

The camera came in close while the artist took the putty knife firmly between the thumbs and first fingers of both hands and, at a very deliberate speed, moved from right to left, cutting the putty at the window and leaving a perfectly smooth white putty surface behind. Beautiful.

The camera zoomed out, the artist stepped back, and the narration stopped for several seconds. With a tender voice, the guy then said, "This is why we do what we do."

It began raining lightly just as I was ready to do some glazing. I kneaded a chunk of putty, pushed it in place, and grabbed the knife with both hands.

More later...

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