Tuesday, 21 January 2014

I'm Sure I Did This Once...

This is my first time working with recycled wood. There is a tree-hugger out there somewhere that owes me lunch.


This oak originally made up my wife's plant stand, that big monstrosity I made and wrote about a few years ago. It is a long story why this plant stand came to be garbage in a few short years, but to explain it, I'll try to incorporate some brevity, although that certainly isn't my long-suit.

I started making this stand not long after my in-laws had moved in with us. At the time, my wife and her mother had agreed to disagree about everything that encompassed co-existing together in the same domicile. I loved my mother-in-law dearly before she move in with us, and I love her to death now, but the reality is, the poor ol' girl had a childhood, if that is what it could be called, that was more horrific than anything I could ever imagine. Through no fault of her own, what she endured back then had warped her perspective on life, as well as all those within it. As she aged, those issues became magnified and although she barely stands 4' 8", she became a force that is beyond being reckoned with. As a result, my poor wife went through royal hell and back trying to cope with her.

While I always knew my mother-in-law had issues, I agreed to have them move in with us because, having watched her with my wife for over 30-years, I felt the last thing she would ever do was endanger the relationship she had with her daughter. We all make mistakes, I guess. Within a few short months of them moving in I had realized that the situation was unliveable, having come to this conclusion long before my wife was forced to finally admit it to herself, as well as me. At the time I had to think long and hard about what to do about it, and in the end, I chose to do nothing but live within it. That may sound strange, but I came to this conclusion after remembering something I had read a long time ago. It was either an old proverb written on the inside of a pyramid wall, or graffiti, written up high on a bathroom wall, I'm not sure which, but it said; "Lo I say unto you, suffer the man who darest to come between his wife and his mother-in-law, for he shall soon become dead meat", or something similar. OK, this proverb/graffiti story is bullshit, but the message is true. I knew that I had let my wife have her lead and try to ensure that her actions towards her parents were of her own choosing, all made with a rational mind free from anger. If I chose to dissolve the arrangement, guilt would cause her to resent me for it later, and if I let her make rash decisions about it, guilt would cause her to resent herself. I figured that my wife and I would be together long after her parents were gone, so, for me, not doing anything was an investment in that future. As things turned out, all I did for the more than three years we had them with us was to keep my mouth shut and stalled every time she insisted we were throwing them out. It was a long, long three years.

Yes, I remember...brevity...

I didn't build the plant stand because I felt horrible for not being able to "fix it" or to have an excuse to hide. The only reason for creating it was in hope it might give my wife something to escape to. I put it together unfinished, doing so in a way that allowed any or all the pieces to be removed for finishing, giving her a workable product as quickly as possible. I also gave her a crate full of young orchids at the time, so not only did she have somewhere to work, but something to work on. I chose orchids because I had read they were a bitch to grow. The whole thing didn't work as well as I had hoped, but it worked well enough for her to find some diversion with it.

In the end, the health and mental faculties of the two old souls deteriorated to the point where full-time, professional help was needed. My wife and I moved out and left her parents in our condo, letting them live there until they no longer needed it, while we moved into our current home, which has a huge bay window that is just perfect for growing orchids. This made the stand unnecessary, so I tried it for displaying tools on in my office, but because the shelves were few and far between - literally, I chose to disassemble it and keep the wood for another project.

Just to finish the story, in case you might be interested, my wife's parents moved out of the condo a few months ago, taking up residence in a full-care retirement home. As I write this, my mother-in-law, bless her heart, is in the hospital suffering with a blood clot which the doctors are having a devil of a time locating so they can remove it. My wife is very slowly getting her wits back again and is currently staying at the retirement home with her father, ensuring that his dementia doesn't overtake his emotions caused by his wife not being around. And me, I'm relieved everything turned out for the best and I am currently removing the stained, varnished and steelwool-rubbed waxed finish off of the hacked up boards that once made up that plant stand so I can use them to build a portable vise. Sad, really.

Sad, and a bitch of an amount of work. I've stripped wood before, but only with chemicals. This time I chose to scrap the finish down to bare wood with a paint scrapper, resulting in all the surfaces needing to be re-trued. I didn't start out this way. I first sharpened a trashed blade for this purpose, but found the finish was so thick and slippery, the blade just skated across the board, removing zero to very little in the process. I had no choice but to go the scrapper route, discovering that it took an hour to do both sides of one 26-inch board. Given the stack you see in the background of the photo, I figure I'll be preparing stock for the next month and not much else, hence my opening statement about the tree-hugger that owes me lunch.

Peace,

Mitchell