Monday, September 25, 2023

Make a piece of furniture

What I really wanted to do yesterday was go hiking, but we're all trying to get over a cold and I was really much too sick to actually go hiking. This illness seems to be different from the little cough we all had last week (and no one over here has tested positive for COVID), involving just a sore throat, full body aches and only a minimal fever, if any. 

I was having a body achey day yesterday, so hiking wouldn't have necessarily been a good option. But for some reason I felt building furniture would be??

I recently finished reading Beehive Girl, which was a charming and quick read. The author is a young little thing—who has her PhD and one baby—and reading and trying to relate to her story felt like the time my friend Amanda pointed out that we were living life "in reverse" of each other when I started graduate school, having already birthed my passel of children, while she was getting ready to have her first, having already finished with graduate school. 

There were a few things I would have questioned as an editor (though I was not the editor for this particular book, which is through BCC Press, where I've done a smidge of editing), such as when she made a claim that she was worried about ticks dropping from the trees. She's a biologist so I felt like that could have been researched a little better (ticks do not drop from trees; I don't care how many born-and-bred Southerners or New Englanders or what have you might tell you otherwise). 

But that mistake was one I was able to swallow pretty easily and overall it was just a quick, charming read (as previously mentioned). 

I appreciated her optimism, which at times I even felt was tinged with hubris. For example, one of the first big projects she discusses is "making a piece of furniture." At first she selected a rather expensive and complicated toy box system that her aunt/mentor ends up talking her out of in favour of a cubby/bench system that required less wood and less work. She allotted a single day to construct this piece of furniture from the ground up, having never used any sort of power tools, and also driving for, like, six hours!

Needless to say, she did not finish her project in a single afternoon (and then hilariously—and tragically—relates how her car broke down on the way home so she ended up having to return to her aunt's house to spend the night with her baby and ended up with the stomach flu as well, embarrassingly vomiting on the kitchen floor). 

So, I mean...she typically got humbled pretty quick when she was too ambitious with her plans. And who hasn't started a 5-minute project that turns into 3 hours...that turns into 3 days...that turns into 3 weeks...

Andrew and I have certainly tackled many a project with a bit too much confidence. On the one hand, these projects have taught us that we lack many basic fix-it skills. On the other hand, these projects have taught us a lot of basic fix-it skills that we previously lacked. 

Learning is messy and slow. And that's okay.

Anyway, all this is to say that long before I started reading this book, Zoë was reading her Beast Academy 2C Guide Book (she's in grade 3 now if that gives you any indication of how long ago this was) and in one of the problems the little...beasts...were challenged "to cut two planks. One plank should be 4 inches longer than your height. The other should be 4 inches shorter than your height" (p. 38). Once they had their planks measured and cut, their teacher offered to help them turn their planks into chairs, which they do, while the readers are turned over to exercises on addition and subtraction strategies.

Zoë thought it would be fun to make chairs as well, so she showed me her book and I immediately recognized the style of chairs. We had one like them at the beach house on the Red Sea (not that it was our beach house, but it was the beach house we were given keys to in compensation for tutoring some children in Cairo...which was awesome).

They look simple enough to make—but I recognized that as the "5-minute project" part of my brain talking and reminded myself that I have no real knowledge of power tools or construction or anything, so I assumed it would take us a while to take one from start to finish. 

I looked up some plans to show her, Andrew bought some wood for us to use, and...then that wood sat in the garage for literal months. 

So I decided—in spite of feeling ill—that yesterday was the day to bust out those plans and fashion some chairs out of a single plank of wood. Benjamin and Rachel were my helpers (they're both also sick):

It only took us a couple hours to piece together our first chair. We used the wrong board, so it's too thin to hold very much weight (I'm not sure what it's original intended purpose was...but it ended up being our practice chair). We decided it can be a kid chair.

I also feel this particular design wastes quite a bit of wood on the base. But I don't know enough to adjust the plans. Benjamin found the chair quite comfy and tried it in every possible orientation.

Then Rachel and I made another chair out of a thicker board that Andrew actually intended us to use for this project (the chair Miriam is sitting on, below; she was the Phoebe-tender while the rest of us were working):

It's certainly much sturdier with the bigger board (but also much heaver, and I still feel just has so much extra wood back there...but that might be important for the angle of the chair...and I fear we might not be able to pull off anything more complicated than this). We'll probably end up making a few more chairs in the near future—now that power tools aren't quite as scary (see—we gained some skills/experience!)—and the kids have plan to carve and/or burn (with the woodburner) some patterns into their chairs, so the project isn't technically finished yet...but we have the chairs together!

(You probably notice that Zoë wasn't involved in this process. That's because the bigger people needed to be more comfortable in the production of these chairs before we could involve the little people in their construction.)

Rachel and I were just finishing up the second chair when Andrew called us in for dinner, so it's safe to say this project ended up taking us hours...and they're pretty crudely constructed. I can hardly imagine how long it would take us to produce a carefully crafted piece of cabinetry! Much longer than a single day, I can assure you!

1 comment:

  1. Nice! I am glad you enjoyed Mikayla's book!! And cool that you made chairs!