Monday, February 11, 2013

Tyranny of The Winter Project

Some years ago I fell victim to the theory that months as awful as January and February might be redeemed in small measure by tackling and completing what became known around our house as The Winter Project.  It got us through some miserable winters down in the flatlands when there was little to do but watch basketball, shovel ice and wait for the Daytona while dreaming of warm breezes, soft sandy beaches and beam reaches.

One year it was painting the dining room, front hall and living room before the paper hangers came to put on wallpaper.  (We had learned years early not to hang wallpaper together.  Some projects are not worth doing, together or otherwise.)  Another year it was pulling up old carpet and old carpet pads and yanking up about nine gazillion rusty staples that held the carpet pads down on an otherwise perfectly serviceable oak floor.  Last year it was building two sets of built-in bookshelves in the new house.

This year it was building a large spice rack to hold 45 or so of the most frequently used spices, so as to clear out a kitchen cabinet, and to stack the stacking washer and dryer, revise some shelves built to hold cleaning products and expand by 60 percent the size of the kitchen pantry shelving.

Here's how I prepared for the job: 1. Smashed my left hand in a bizarre accident when the tongue on an overbalanced 4x8 trailer half full of firewood let go from the hitch ball on the RTV and banged the hand against the underside of the dump bed on the RTV.  From this I learned the dangers of the runaway lever and a stationary object; 2. Shot a 1 1/4" finishing nail into the tip of my little finger while miscalculating where to hold a 3/4" square support for one of the pantry shelves.  From this I learned the dangers of 100 pounds of pressure behind a small nail that doesn't want to penetrate a knot; and 3. Bruised a shinbone and raised a baseball-sized lump when, seeking a change from hand-smashing and finger-shooting, I took a hike downstream and took a tumble on a steep hillside overlooking the upper reaches of the Smith River while trying to find a long-overgrown trail that led by a spooky old house I once found while looking for something else. From this I learned that hand-bashing and pinky-puncturing were not so bad.

It would all have gone a lot faster had I been able to find the handy-dandy 8-inch sharp-as-a-new-chisel Bostitch prybar that is essential to removing shoe molding, baseboards, nails driven into fingers and other misplaced objects.  Tore up the workshop looking for it; failed to find it; substituted a much larger and not half as effective Wonderbar, a magnificent tool in its own right, but much too bulky for close finish work.   After filling half the remaining trashed shop with sawdust while rebuilding the shelves and fitting new trim, I spent a couple of Sunday hours cleaning up the mess.  Restacked lumber.Found some things I was looking for weeks and weeks ago. Put away hand tools.  Found the right boxes for some power tools.  Rearranged odd pieces of trim, tucked away some cutoffs too good to burn for kindling, stored some old speakers too good to burn for kindling, and kept an eye out for that little prybar. It drove me crazy looking for it. Opened every box, every bag, every drawer, every cabinet, every tool box dating back to the 1956 model my Dad made for me out of an old shipping crate.  No prybar.  But that shop looked better than it has in, oh, three years or so.

So: The Winter Project is done.  The shop is clean.  The bruises are healing.  Oh -- and at 3 a.m. this morning I awoke to receive an internal e-mail .jpg from the quirky cerebral harddrive hidden somewhere inside my aging skull.  The .jpg was a mental picture of a little wooden toolbox that I keep in the back of the RTV, about 30" from the site of the ambush on my left hand.  Nestled neatly in that little toolbox was the black-and-yellow prybar that would have made The Winter Project oh, so much easier. From this I learned to take the advice of a good and wise friend: Next time I have the urge to undertake an ambitious project, I'm going to go lie down until the urge passes.

The wayward prybar


  1. Jack, I hope your 'pinky-puncture' is healed by now. I am sure your guardian angel saved the whole finger but left the tip to remind you. I have many guardian angels. Starr and I agree with you that the right tool for the job is essential! Sometimes the tool to leave hidden is ourselves! We have put off trimming the bottoms off the laundry area bi-fold doors until we can get the right tools or better yet, "Let Bob do it." Our salvation has been the three flights of stairs we have to tackle since we moved into our condo. It thwarts many-a-plan. Thank you for sharing! Catch my blog when you get a chance, it might give you a chuckle. O Love That Will Not Let Me Go. The high school story of Starr and me.

  2. Hope your body can take a few more winters...might be worth changing to the winter travel plans! My shop is nowhere as organized as yours, so I can now plead that organization does not help me find tools faster...only naps do that!