Thursday, Jan. 01, 2004
Dear Diary:

Today's chore was to get the first coat of a hand rubbed oil finish on the newly installed pine ceiling of my office to be.

Hand rubbed oil finish. Admit it. You read that and instantly terms such as "artisan" and "craftsmanship" flitted through your head. I'm just going to bask in that notion for a few seconds, enjoy the cred the words "hand rubbed oil finish" bring with them.

There are many reasons to put a hand-rubbed oil finish on wood. For one thing, it is beautiful. Urethanes give wood something of an "encased in plastic look". In places where wood is going to take a real pounding, urethane does make sense, but in places where it won't take a lot of abuse there's nothing quite so beautiful as a well aged, hand rubbed oil finish.

The linseed oil/turpentine mix I'm using will turn the pine on my ceiling to a lovely, glowing caramel brown in a few years. And, uh, I could pretend that's why I chose this finish. Only I didn't. I chose it because I'm lazy.

See, the beauty of a hand rubbed oil finish is that you don't have to sand between coats because it doesn't raise the grain of the wood. If I put urethane on that ceiling, I would have to sand it between each and every coat. The pine we put on has a raised bead beside the tongue. Sanding this wood would be a major pain in the buttal region.

Installing the ceiling was a lot of work and the spousal unit has been fretting that I would mess up the finish. His fears, of course, are baseless. I've put a hand rubbed oil finish on all the interior logs of our log cabin, all the pine walls, and all the furniture I've refinished. I Know How To Do This.

Yet still he felt compelled to fret. His fretting got on my last nerve. Fortunately, after more than 29 years together, we have perfected the complicated ballet necessary to keep from killing each other in our sleep. Today it went like this:

He (noticing that I was gathering up several soft cloths to rub in the oil and rub off excess) said out loud: "Wouldn't this go better with a brush?"

What he really wanted to say: "Stupidhead, use a freaking brush! You'll never get the oil into all the grooves in that pine."

Me (feigning nonchalance although I was ticked off that he was butting in on this project): "I always use a cloth to rub the finish in. It will be fine. How are Monique's kitchen cabinets coming?"

What I really wanted to say: "Shut up. You're not the boss of me. I've always done it this way. Go away."

The spousal unit's finely honed survival instincts kicked in at this point. He took the hint, went to his shop and didn't come back into the house until about an hour later when he decided he needed a coffee break. I was about 2/3 of the way through the ceiling at that point.

He could have stayed downstairs in the kitchen, but like a moth to the flame he just had to come upstairs and check up on my work. He stood in the doorway to the office to be, watching my efforts.

He said: "Would you like me to hold some cardboard at the edge of the wood so you don't get oil on the walls?"

What he really wanted to say: "Stupidhead, you're going to slop oil and turpentine all over those beautiful, freshly painted walls."

Me (feigning nonchalance although I was ticked off that he was again butting in on this project): "Nah. Things are going okay."

What I really wanted to say: "Shut up. You're not the boss of me. I've always done it this way. Go away."

Sometimes marital peace is as much about what you don't say as what you do choose to say.

One of the problems, of course, is that I'm an oldest child. From what I've read in studies about birth order and marriage, firstborn children tend to be bossy controlling uhhhhhhh independent self-starters.

Apparently, it's a very, very bad idea for two people who were each firstborn in their families to marry. Firstborns are better off looking for either middle children or youngest children who have learned the fine art of being doormats compromise because of their family birth order.

The spousal unit is the youngest of three children and so used to being somewhat bossed around gently guided. Our conflicts tend to arise when he forgets that I Am Queen of the World and that He Is My Peon.

(You would think that after all these years together that this notion would be firmly affixed in his consciousness, but he still shows amazing amounts of free will despite my best efforts to snuff it out.)

Two more coats of oil, and we will have all this finish ugliness behind us and we can go back to our normal order--him working on the room under my firm yet fair supervision.

I'm sure he can hardly wait for that, eh?

--Marn

Mileage on the Marnometer: 2 piddling miles
Goal for 2004: 1,000 miles - 1609 kilometers

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