The “I have a great idea” stage is the point at which we are the most optimistic in our lives. More than a new relationship (what if he’s working for an international organ smuggling ring?), more than a new job (oh god, what if I can’t find anyone to sit with at lunch on the first day?), and definitely more than any dentist visit (when I don’t worry about it is when something bad happens, therefore I must continue to worry). It is the time when nothing can slow the onrush of good feelings that everything will work out perfectly and there is no reason in the world that your perfect vision will die a horribly embarrassing, cherry-oak stained death.
I had proudly proclaimed to my husband that I was going to be doing all of the work, thankyouverymuch, and that he merely needed to be there in a guidance capacity to help explain things when I got stuck.
The looks that Ryan gives me are great. In cases like this, they’re usually a mix of horror, confusion and amusement; horrfusement, if you will. What he realized at that point would take me a few more weeks to come to grips with: I didn’t have a god damned clue about what I actually needed to do.
All things considered, the cabinet turned out okay, but I had to come to terms with the fact that everything just doesn’t go how you planned. That’s double true when the extent of your planning is to draw on a piece of scratch paper and call it a day.
I had in my possession a three foot tall, five foot wide bookcase with one shelf that was begging for cabinet doors. I desperately wanted to cover all the crap (the dvd player, the dvds, xbox games, cable box and about fifteen thousand miles of cords to all of those things) that needed to be stored there. But I also needed a way to ventilate the electronics and allow the remotes to still, you know, work. Turns out they don’t operate by way of magic spells and ignorance.
I wanted a cabinet that was simple, clean, mid century modern-esque piece that fit into my imaginary eclectic retro-styled home. And also my mismatched old house.
Something like this. It would be a bright matte white, and the doors would be a glossy stained wood, and the hardware would be gold. Each of the four doors would have a gold mesh window in it as well. Perfect. I measured and remeasured (my only real stroke of genius so far – always, always remeasure), drafted my design and went shopping. When I got home was when I realized I had no idea what the hell I was doing.
So I decided to seek out someone with experience for a consultation.
“I’m still doing this all myself,” I told Ryan, “but what would you do to put these boards together? Wood glue? Or maybe the nail gun would…”
Since he knows me only too well, and before I knew it we were making another trip to the hardware store for a new $45 tool that guides your drill at an angle so we could screw the flat boards together without losing our minds.
After measuring again, we discovered that the old bookcase was just a bit crooked. Which would make lining up those four damned doors impossible. So it became two doors, each with two windows. Fine.
After building the frame for the door, it was time to stain. I brought out the best brush, laid down the first coat of a beautiful rich brown stain, admired the look of it lovingly, and then went to wash the brush. As soon as the water hit the damp brush, the dampness turned to stickiness. It refused to wash out of the brush, stubbornly adhering to the bristles, allowing itself only to be pushed here and there by my fingers. Which is also stuck to. It dawned on me – the stain was oil based, and was reacting with the water like, well, oil.
If you’ve never used oil paints, they are remarkable in many ways, but ease of cleaning is not one of them. Water, of course, is out of the question, so that leaves other, harsher solvents to do the job. In this case, it was mineral spirits dumped over the brush (and my hands) and running off into a used paint roller tray. It worked, sort of. The brush still has a little extra stiffness to it and has a lovely rich brown hue to the bristles.
Afraid of further ruining the one good paintbrush we own, I switched to sponge brushes. Bad decision. The cheap sponge brushes soaked up too much stain, were stingy about sharing once dragged across the wood, but when pressure was applied even slightly they would give up and dump all the stain at once leaving heavy, sticky coats of stain that sat noticeably differently than the coats done using the bristled brush.
The sponges, however, were not the worst possible choice. After I’d seen the difference in results, I rummaged through my art supplies and grabbed a cheap bristled brush, hoping it would do what my original brush had. It didn’t. Instead, it left behind half of its bristles embedded in the stain that I then had to remove using, you guessed it, mineral spirits.
Back to the sponge brushes I went.
I managed to only make one dent in the fresh white paint when attaching the doors to the frame.
It was a good thing we decided to check our measurements on the second door before staining, however.
We were able to quickly correct our mistake, refitted the door and the second time was a charm (I don’t think we could have afforded a third). Another staining fiasco and we were the proud owners of a New Old Cabinet with One Door Stained Slightly Darker Than the Other.