Thursday, Apr. 21, 2011
Dear Diary:

Well, we survived the winter of 2011.

It's scary, having the spousal unit out of work more than four months. This is the second year in a row this has happened. It's starting to feel a lot like the early 1980's, when the Canadian economy melted down and we ate a lot of beans and lentils.

Frankly, I've come to believe that pigs, chickens and cows everywhere are quietly rooting for economic downturns. The happy world of Farmville is a sham, a sham I tell you. Don't trust any critter below you in the food chain.

But I digress

It can be depressing, sitting through the winter months waiting for the phone to ring. Fortunately we had last year's unfinished pantry cupboard project to fill the days. Got a project that takes endless labour but very little money? Where do we sign up?

It doesn't get any more home made than these cupboards. The butternut logs are trees we cut from our land over a decade ago and had milled by a guy with a portable sawmill. The rough sawn boards sat drying in a shed on the home farm for many years, awaiting the perfect project and the time to complete it.

Early last year the spousal unit and I planed all the boards to get furniture grade smoothness. The boards were cut to sizes closer to the finished sizes we'd need for the cupboards and stacked in my kitchen to dry (and perhaps warp) in the climate of our house.

Late last spring we got to the point that cabinet boxes had been built and drawers installed. Then, hallelujah, the phone started to ring and the spousal unit was off to work for others. The sucking sound of our savings circling the drain stopped. It's not a sound I recommend.

Then, a few weeks before Christmas, the phone got scarily quiet again.

We picked up the skeins of last year's pantry cupboard project. It's hard to describe how much extraordinarily precise work the spousal unit put into this. He sawed some boards into little strips, two inches wide and a quarter inch thick. He glued the quarter inch sides together to make the panels, the centers of the door fronts.

He handed them off to me for sanding, staining and three coats of finish. Believe me, there wasn't a flat surface in our home that didn't have some bit of the pantry drying on it.

Doors part way there.Then he assembled the door frames around the panels. This shows you the contrast between the raw butternut wood frames and how the panels looked after the wood had been stained and finished. Hard to believe it's the same wood, eh?

He even hand made crown mouldings to cap the upper cupboards. The man has a gift.

I love sleek, modern brushed nickel hardware, but it's very much of today and it will become dated because of that. We decided to buy reproductions of antique cupboard hardware so that the shaker style cabinets would never be in and never be out of fashion. Here's the finished project:

Done.  Finally, finally done.

We live in a teensy weensy log house of just a smidge over 1200 square feet total. There has never been enough storage, which means that I've always been surrounded by clutter. Now there's plenty of storage. Things have places and clutter has largely disappeared. The house feels a lot more tranquil.

Now you would think that this would be project enough, but as I've mentioned before our local lumber yard had a sale on cottage grade beadboard. I have a thing for beadboard ceilings. I have always hated the ceiling we have upstairs. We had time. The money was right. The boards seemed decent.

Then we unwrapped them from the rippled cellophane that encased them and we got a nasty shock. No way the tongues were ever going to slide into the grooves, so the spousal unit spent days running them through a router to turn them into shiplap boards.

These boards are only 3/8 inch thick pine, too thin and too soft to run through a belt sander. I spent over 40 hours with a palm sander transforming them from essentially kindling to something we could put on our ceiling. Below is a typical board. The left side I haven't sanded yet. The right side is the wood I worked on. If you look closely, the wood on the right is far from perfect, but it's a lot better.

Worst piece of crap evah.

I spent many hours brushing a finish on these boards so I wouldn't have to haul my aging carcass up a ladder to urethane them in place. You can hide a lot of flaws with a matte finish. I used the most matte finish I could find.

Ridiculous amount of work.The spousal unit had to fit each board (far from easy because many of them warped in ways you would not expect that wood could move). Then he planed the top and bottom edges so they'd slip under the log beams that span our ceiling, giving the illusion that the bead board has always been there.

There are no words for how much patience this took.

When we each broke over 60 hours on labour, we stopped counting. It was a ridiculous amount of work. Had we had even a glimmer of how much work would be involved, we never would have done it. But then, almost all our projects turn out this way.

You would think we might have learned that by now.

You would be so very, very wrong.

The ceiling is up. It's so busy that the eye skips over the flaws in the wood and instead all you get is the overall effect of a river of light pine. The room glows golden and is infinitely brighter than we expected. BONUS!

We priced crown mouldings and quickly realized that the mouldings to trim the new ceiling would cost half again as much as the cheap ass wood we put on it. Crap, crap, crappity crap crap. Still, we both agree that the ceiling needs something. So the spousal unit bought a special router bit and he'll make the new mouldings for about 30 per cent of what it would cost to buy them.

Eventually.

And, um, yeah, it's 30 per cent if you don't count his labour. Count his labour, and we're back in the Land o' Ridiculous.

Which, come to think of it, is pretty much the story of our lives.

That said, it's a good life. If you don't weaken.

--Marn

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