by Steven D. Johnson
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This Ain’t Furniture
For close to a month now, I have had to remind myself everyday, "This ain't furniture." My
tendency, and bias, is toward meticulousness. Even building a 2x4 wall, I have been known to trim
and square the ends of studs, cut them on a miter saw, fasten them fastidiously with screws instead
of nails, measure precisely, and obsess over details. Normally, time permits me to enjoy the
journey rather than being obsessed with the destination. But framing, I remind myself, "ain't
furniture," and time is short, so mark quickly, cut approximately, and grab that nail gun!
The other day I was clamping a saw guide to a sheet of plywood in order to get a clean, perfectly
straight cut, and reminded myself, "This is subflooring, dummy...snap a chalk line and cut!" A
screw went off line and broke the face of the drywall, and I almost started over, but a quick taunt
to self reminded me, "Drive another next to it – the mud will cover it!" A speck in the ceiling
paint, a brush stroke here and there, a hole I missed with the putty..."The next coat will get it" or
"No one will see that from the floor!" have become extensions of my mantra, "This ain’t furniture!"
I only hope that this convoluted obsession with the destination as opposed to the journey will not
affect my furniture-building in the future. I suspect transitioning back into my detail-obsessed,
sixty-fourth of an inch measuring, not-a-speck-of-dust-in-the-finish self will re-emerge unscathed,
but I do have to admit that this free-wheeling time-obsessed construction has, in a way, been
Figure 2 - This very effective paint stripper
seems to be able to remove about three
of paint at a time. This is the third application.
Yesterday I framed walls in the basement for what will be a walk-in "auxiliary" closet. Start to
finish, the walls were built, erected, squared, tied together and fastened to the floor and the
floor joists above in just 43 minutes with the help of only a trusty old job-site chop saw, framing
nailer, tape measure and carpenter's square. Cutting two studs at a time and trusting the "factory"
end to be reasonably square helped. Marking two bottom plates and two top plates at a time sped
things up as well. On a macro basis the room is square, level, and tight. On a micro basis, I'm
sure every stud is a little "off" and the rough opening for the door might be slightly out of
square. But, that's what the trim carpenter is for, right? Oh yeah, that's me, too!
The challenge, I have found, is not shifting gears into "speed" mode from "meticulous" mode or
vice versa. It is, rather, the frequency and abruptness of the shifting gear. With a small brush,
fussily "cutting in" details in a painstaking effort to paint windows one minute and slopping
masonry paint onto basement walls the next; ripping up old vinyl sheet flooring one day, precisely
cutting oak transitions the day after; cutting mitered trim in one room, rough framing a wall in
another; pouring paint stripper and scraping a batch of air duct registers, then floating out the
third coat of mud on sheetrock walls, the whipsaw shifting of gears is dizzying.
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