high-minded drivel

high-minded (adjective) - refined; cultured; particularly civilized. drivel (noun) - senseless talk; nonsense.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Powering my way through another (wooden) post

When reading about foreign countries, particularly in Africa and Asia, one often reads that the country is in the midst of "the rainy season."  This is the time of year when the country experiences extensive precipitation, flooding certain areas as a matter of practice and at times causing unwanted damage.  Apparently Columbus has now developed its own rainy season, as the month of April had record rainfall and May is supposed to follow suit.  It has rained for about two weeks straight now, off and on, but mostly on.  My only comment is, aren't we supposed to get a water buffalo somewhere in this deal?

Not an Ent
Nate and I purchased the hardwood flooring for the remainder of the upstairs recently, and due to the wetness in the current climate it may have been important to give it adequate time to acclimatize.  It's like the equivalent of a traveler overcoming jet lag.  After letting the wood hang out for a few days, laid out log cabin-style in the living room and upstairs, we set to the task of installing it yesterday.

Nate and I chose to go with some nice oak to finish off the upstairs.  For a time we considered going with bamboo, but in the end oak seemed like the better option.  The decision came down to which type of "predator" would be less desirable.  With oak the primary danger would be termites, while with bamboo you'd have to worry about pandas getting into your house and eating your floor.  While I don't have any great aversion to slaying Ling Ling should the need arise, the mess would be much harder to clean up, even if we are talking about wiping blood off a hardwood floor rather than carpet.

You know what else has the coloring of a panda?
A killer whale.
Please know that those last few lines were a joke.  Pandas are lovable and cuddly, and I would never harm them, especially not the two that I have in the house as pets.  The actual reason that oak was chosen over both bamboo is because oak is a classic, not a fad.  You could install bamboo flooring, but then 10-15 years down the road it would be out of style, and you'd quickly find yourself in an awkward social situation when you invite people over for dinner and all they can say is "Oh my god is that bamboo!  Why would you have bamboo floors!  You loser!"  Despite the fact that you have hardwood floors instead of carpet, the cleanup would still be messy after your carefully trained pandas are directed to maul your guests.  All this could have been avoided with oak floors.

Before laying out the strips of flooring, we put down some rosin paper to serve as an additional layer to reduce squeaking and other undesirable aspects of floors, per the instructions we had printed off the internet.  When purchasing the paper at Lowe's the store employee I was talking with recommended taping the paper together at the seams so that it would not bunch up over time.  He said any generic tape would work, although duct tape would be a good choice.  So, as Nate and I set to work we used duct tape to secure the rosin paper in place.

As people have experiences over time they learn to associate certain smells with certain people, or locations, or memories.  For example, if you've seen the animated Pixar movie Ratatouille then you likely remember how the food critic is transported back to his childhood upon tasting the ratatouille that has been prepared for him.  For me, the smell of duct tape quickly brings to mind fond memories of trick-or-treating on Halloween as a kid.  Going door to door, knocking on the doors of those houses with the porch light on, and being presented with a nice roll of duct tape was always a great time.  If you got lucky you may get some masking tape, or even electrical tape if you were one of the "neighborhood kids" that people knew.

Pork rind?
Pork rind.
Please know that those last few lines were a joke.  My neighbors as a child were wonderful people who gave only the best candy on Halloween, and eventually I too took a spot on the front porch of our house to distribute goodies to the local kids (always reserving a generous supply for myself).  The reason duct tape reminds me of Halloween is because my costumes frequently involved duct tape in some way.  We were never the type to go to the local Wal-Mart (actually it was K-Mart for us growing up) to purchase a pre-made costume.  Rather, Mom took it upon herself to fashion costumes for us out of cardboard, random fabrics, and of course duct tape.  The costume I remember most clearly was, not surprisingly, my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume, which included a strip of purple fabric with eye holes cut in it for the headband (because I was Donatello), some green sweatclothes (which were actually my standard everyday wear at that point), some cardboard "shells," and duct tape to hold the shells together.  Likely I was not permitted to carry a bow staff, as my mother was wise.

So yes, while laying down rosin paper in this old house at age 27, performing such a grown-up task as installing nice hardwood floors, my mind wanders back to those days when the most concerning thing in the week was not Osama, or Libya, or nuclear reactors, but whether Mrs. Moore would be handing out Snickers or Milky Way, and if I would encounter any members of the Foot Clan while out and about.  Then the moment fades as I return to 2011 and Nate is standing there, telling me to stop pretending to ninja kick the damn wall and help him with the rosin paper, for god's sake.

Installing the floors is clearly a first for us, and yesterday was a good experience.  Certainly it wasn't smooth sailing the whole way, and we only got a few rows laid down, but trial and error is a valuable part of the learning process.  When laying down the first few rows of flooring you can't use a nail gun specifically made for installing hardwood floors because there isn't enough room to fit the gun in against the wall.  Thus, the previously mentioned instructions directed us to drill pilot holes, pound in some 6d or 8d nails, and then countersink them.  Rather quickly we went through about six nails bending, despite the pilot holes, and decided to give our finishing nail gun a try (this is a much smaller nail gun used for other purposes).  Our belief in trial and error is balanced with our belief in not driving oneself to madness.  The finishing nailer didn't crack the wood, which was the primary concern, and in fact it worked like a charm.  The success of the finishing nailer prompted me to question why the instructions would direct anyone to drill pilot holes and hammer in nails manually if they then went on to recommend using a power nailer for the second part of the job.  If you're going to recommend a power tool for one thing, why wouldn't you recommend it for both, right?  Then Nate reminded me that the instructions were probably assuming that most homeowners would be renting the floor nailer, and wouldn't have a variety of other nail guns laying around to utilize for the first part of the job.

The reason we have these nail guns is because Dad enjoys purchasing them.  Who actually purchases a floor nailer?  Well, our Dad does.  Dad's propensity for showing up on any given weekend with a new toy was initially somewhat at odds with the mentality I had developed while working with Habitat in college, which was to make do with basic tools.  In Habitat, power nailers are not typically used, so all framing is done manually, with framing hammers.  Thus, giving up on the old fashioned hammer and nails for our flooring job had more of the bitter feel of giving up for me than it might for most.  However, at times like these when I'm wavering between stubbornly pounding away at nails for days on end as a matter of principle and taking advantage of the technology that is readily available, I'm reminded of a particular experience while working with Habitat...

It's taken three hours to pound in one nail, but at least you
didn't get any vibes from it.
One cold Columbus day I went out to a work site on Saturday morning, as was our practice, and the task for the day was some framing.  My specific responsibility was to put together some door frames.  I had some skill in construction, but definitely still had my days where nothing would go right.  This day was one such day, and after several hours of bending nails, splitting wood, swinging a hammer, and generally freezing my ass off, I had a few suspect-but-acceptable door frames put together.  Drive back to the dorm, warm up, metaphorically lick my wounds, and count it as a frustrating but not entirely unproductive Habitat Saturday.  The next weekend comes, and as the fates would have it we returned to the same work site.  Usually this was a good thing, as we'd have a chance to make some more progress on a house with which we were already familiar.  On this particular occasion, however, the familiarity turned sour when given my first assignment for the day.  On any work site you have to move materials around periodically to keep things orderly, and this was the first order of business for me that day.  As I began moving a pile of "scrap lumber" to another area of the work site my eyes fell upon some 2x4's, joined together by some nails pounded in with no small amount of effort, roughly forming the shape of a door frame.

Sadly, those last few lines were not a joke.  Artisan craftsmanship be damned, hand me the power nailer.

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