The Poet Trims a House

When I’ve find myself wondering what am I doing? When it seems like I’m spinning my wheels writing, I seek for immediate tangible daily gratification. Something concrete. Do it. Look at it. Be done with it.

Hard work is good. Physical work is good. Physical work with a mental component is even better.

Most of this non-writing work is carpentry. At the end of the day, you stand back, look at job that is visibly further along. Real measures exist. The living room windows are trimmed out. The bedroom doors are hung. The floor in the hall is finished.

Recently I trimmed out a house in a traditional manner. The owner wanted the finish to reflect the old school craftsmen manner and quality. In that way, it was a traditional trim job. We installed all the wood from the walls out. Trimmed the windows. Laid the floor. Hung the doors. He wanted no end grain showing, so every piece of wood was cut at a 45 on the end and another matching, short 45 piece was slid in to finish the end into the wall. The grain, the stain, all had to match so as to be un-noticeable. Each finished window required the cutting and fitting of 23 pieces. From the extension jambs bringing the window casing out to the plane of the wall to the crown molding running across the head, each piece required thought, precision and care.

And now that I think about it, the project was as mental as it was physical. Each piece became a mental challenge as well as a physical challenge.

After the windows, we laid the floor.

The flooring was re-sawn four by six larch beams re-sawn, then run through a molder to shape into tongue and groove. The beams weathered heavily before being taken down and held spike holes with black stains from the rusted materials that once held them together. When we finished the floor, the owner spent hours filling the holes, matching each with one of four or five stained fillers he mixed for the job. Three coats of satin finish topped it off. The floor became a central feature of the house, finely finished with a rustic undertone.

As we worked on the floor, at the end of each day we could look back and state, “We started there and we finished here.”



No question about the worth of the day.

And then, we hung and trimmed the doors. There were a bunch. Not as complicated as the widows, but similar. Only 16 pieces per door. But then remember, there are two sides to every door, so in reality 32 pieces trimmed out each door. Lots of little pieces. Finicky little pieces.

You learn tricks. Like using tape to hold a piece is only so good. There is bound to be a little slippage. When it dries, the edges will not remain exactly aligned. The best using good contact cement. Put two coats on the face of little piece and the larger piece. The grain tends to absorb the first layer of glue. The second layer really creates the bond. Let it fully dry and then –thunk—it holds.

That’s done now.

I am back to following up with editors, sending out queries, and trying to write little essays like this one to keep me feeling like am making progress.

And there is no longer any measure.