Audio Post my fathers workbench sept 17 2012
It rained today in Houston. It was muggy and hot. I worked in the garage using the workbench my father-in-law built. I was finishing furniture and trying to match the finishes he had on the furniture he built for house where my spouse grew up. He was my spouse’s father and he was my father too.
As I applied my finishes I thought of him and of how he did the work. I thought of him building the furniture and then patiently putting the finishes on it. His old pipe clamps are stacked against the garage wall and his saws are in the back corner. The workbench has cuts and scars that only come from a person who actually uses their tools. I noticed today that the board at the back of the workbench where the tools hang had little pencil outlines for each tool. I had never noticed that before. It was the sort of detail that made him comfortable in the world. It made me smile a tender smile to myself.
It was a nice Sunday even though it was wet and muggy. I was not feeling very well in the morning so I stayed home from church to rest. After a while I felt better so Sophie and I went out to the garage to work on two chairs I was finishing. On our last trip here to Mom’s house in Houston, I finished two bedside tables and painted a chest of drawers. This trip I worked on a chair from the bedroom and an antique-style oak office chair with casters. It has a pretty carved rose on the top crest of the chair.
On Saturday I put the stain on the chairs. Sunday was a day for the top coats. I had planned to put one on in the morning and then sand and put another on in the evening so that I could place them back in their respective bedroom and office locations before we flying back to the Rockies on Monday. When I put the first top coat it was in the 80s and muggy but it was not raining. I put Sophie on a long lead and clipped her to the garden wall. She wandered around sniffing and generally enjoying being outside. After a while she lay down in the driveway to wait for the family to come home. I put the top coat on the chairs while she kept watch for the car that held the family. When they came she beat her tail against the concrete driveway in a happy welcome.
I got my finish on and went inside. My spouse went off to play golf and my Mom and I had the house to ourselves. We made peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. I made peanut butter, mayonnaise and raisins. She made peanut butter with butter. After 35 years we found something out about each other that was shocking. We tried each other’s concoction and decided that we liked our own best, even though we allowed as how the other’s sort of made sense. We sat at the table and ate our sandwiches and is our habit, told family stories. It was a good afternoon.
About three o clock, I went outside to check on my chairs and the finish was still tacky. I was tired and the weather was heavy and a nap seemed in order. Sophie and I took a good nap. I went out again to check on the chairs and the finish was still tacky. I went inside and waited a while. I went back outside and the chairs were just barely dry. I had to concede that the weather had gotten the best of me and that all I could do was sand them lightly and finish the finish on the next trip.
We brought the chairs in and even with spots that need to be sanded and in need of at least one more top coat, they settled in nicely. I did not match exactly the finish my father-in-law’s furniture from so many years ago but the desk and the chair are happy companions.
I will look forward to returning to this home in Houston where my Mom is and completing the work on the chairs. It is a homey thing to do. It is good for my soul these days to work on furniture that has had a place and will have a place. My furniture is homeless right now. Our book shelves are in flat boxes with packing straps around them the way they were shipped from New York. They have no finish. I wanted to put their finish on but could not quite gather myself to do it. I feel ready now. Being at my father-in-law’s workbench, matching finishes on furniture he had as a child and on furniture he built when my spouse was a child stood as the bridge to my courage to finish my furniture for my house that is not there.
It rained today in Houston. It was muggy and hot. I worked in the garage using the workbench my father-in-law built.