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29 August 2012 | Category: Stories | Author: Clare

It feels like years ago that I first contemplated sanding.

I almost remember, it was right around the time I was incorporating collar ties into the roof. Being the first lumber that would actually be visible later, I spent some time with a planer, and belt sander.

I was intrigued at how the wood responded to this process. Sanding away the weathering and grime accumulated with age to expose the beautiful virgin material below. The wish that we could turn the sander on ourselves; liberating our souls from the traffic that they had seen, replacing our tired, jaded hearts with a fresh innocence and optimism.

Getting ready to stain the first half of the staircase, I am back at it in earnest.

But none of the usual romanticism accompanies this go-around.

Instead, I find myself preoccupied with some of the more unexpected characteristics of working with this equipment.

Firstly, why the hell does the hum (buzz, vibration, whatever you deem the appropriate phraseology) of any kind of sander, attract almost all of the bugs residing in the wetland?

I have seen larger, and more disturbing insects sanding than I have whilst employed at any other task (including skinning the bear in the slough, which is a little surprising).

The interactions tend to follow a similar pattern.

There is the whirring that flits in and out of ear shot a couple times, which you try to pretend you haven't heard. The increasing magnitude of the disturbance, becomes almost undeniable, until you are finally on the verge of admitting there might be some kind of physical encounter on the horizon, when the bloody thing whizzes right under your nose like a miniature helicopter.

The disturbing thunk as whatever it is lands on your head or shoulder, your thigh, or your hand. The off-putting weight that suggests dimensions more befitting a mammal than an insect. And the visual queues that quite honestly, almost make you recoil in effeminate horror.

You swat at the uninvited guest, disgusted by whatever happens to be the combination of gangly legs, swinging pincers, brightly striped bodies, lobster eyes, flapping, half useless wings, African ant armour, to name but a few of the potential aesthetic characteristics.

Unfortunately, with both hands employed at sanding, you tend to fight back with the equipment.

This would suggest an easy victory, but not really.

A direct hit splatters boghin, off-yellow bug guts across anything close at hand, and you have to hope you didn't have your mouth open in concentration.

A half-successful swipe serves only to piss off the marauding bug, that now correlates the sander with the arch enemy it had been wondering if it was. Now your only hope is a direct hit, with the consequences already outlined above. Also, this endeavour requires somewhat of a karate-kid wax-on/off battle on the deck.

A completely useless effort renders your sander momentarily out of control, and it has a tendency to bump into, or otherwise jeopardise the piece of wood you are currently working with.

Groan. Truly, I would love a workshop I could shut the door on.

However, that leads very quickly into my second complaint.

Insects to one side, sanding creates a big bloody mess.

Not only is the cabin, deck and surrounding 5 acres completely covered in a fine dust (so much so, that I am currently struggling to see out of the windows), but I swear, despite spending an inordinate amount of time trying to beat the fine coating from my clothes and myself at the end of a session (hair, eyebrows and eyelashes included), I always spend the next 4 hours rubbing my eyes in frustration at the small particles that have taken up residence in there, blowing and picking at my nose to remove the industrial waste that has accumulated, and coughing in an attempt to clear my throat, and presumably my lungs.

I shake, dance around, and beat at any other part of my anatomy that has decided to join the hospitality team.

Bloody hell.

My final complaint, as these diatribes presumably form a legitimate part of this cabin building chronicle, is that my wrists and hands still feel like they have been operating a tamper for a week straight. The warm throbbing in your joints is a little disturbing, and sticks around long enough for you to feel like a recovering alcoholic every time you go to pick something up.

I lose dexterity for what feels like a long bloody time after leaning on the orbital sander for a couple hours, and you start to wonder if it is like the dulling of sound after shooting if you were too lazy to wear your plugs.

You can't help but wonder is this the day that buzzing in my ears is not going to go away. Did I finally push that a little too far (as you stare lovingly down at your innocuous looking 12 ga.).

To date, the hand throbbing has always retreated after a half hour or so, but I look forward to getting past this stage, and relaxing into the staining process.

For the record - it is still super fun to see what a piece of wood has to offer if you give it a little love with a power tool designed for the purpose ; ).

Happy sanding people, happy sanding.

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