Thursday, March 7, 2013

One Step Forward, Several Steps Back

This is a retrospective post, started a good five or six weeks ago.  Why it wasn't finished then, or even on the official post date, will become obvious as you read . . .

It began in my first apartment after I graduated from college in the late 1970s.  After a year of so of stacking my LPs against the wall, I was finally able to afford a bookcase to hold them.  Tall and narrow to fit the available space; Scandinavian design with real teak veneer over particle board, very simple and modern.  My tall teak bookcase has accompanied me from apartment to apartment, getting dinged and losing pieces in the process, and finally has ended up here at the Sow's Ear.  But what looked good or at least all right in other settings simply doesn't work now that the red William Morris wallpaper is hung in my living room.  I'm not really keen on painting natural wood pieces, but the teak finish looks shoddy and cheap in my repapered living room.  Buying a new bookcase isn't an option right now.  Best solution?  Paint it black to match the mantlepiece.

I wanted to do it in oil base paint, since books and album covers stick to latex.  Took awhile till the semigloss black was available at the Sherwin-Williams, but at last, a week or so before Christmas, I picked up a quart and set to work.

This is when the trouble began,and trouble that's all the more troubling because I deliberately and foolishly overlooked it at the time.

The oil-based primer didn't brush on smoothly.  I ought to have deduced something from that.  But no.  I had the sillyassed idea that somehow the black top coat would even things out.

It didn't.  More streaks and ridges.

Well, maybe it just needed a second coat of black.
Oh, dear.  Streaks, ridges, drips, sags, and blobs.  It was terrible.  A friend who saw it said it looked great, but I couldn't agree (I think she was just being affirming and wanted to save me work).  Could I sand it down?   Yeah, right, and bring up all the white primer undercoat.  Sure.  No, the paint simply Would Not Do.

Did I feel like a wastrel and an idiot?  I did.  The behavior of the primer should have told me what would happen with the paint.  Should have returned the can unopened and gotten my money back.  Though maybe I was optimistically thinking of the decent job I achieved with white oil-based paint on the bookshelves up in my study.  That was SW paint, too, and it levelled out fine.

Decided to do what I should have done all along:  Refinish the tall bookcase in black shellac.  Ordered some black aniline dye powder from  But did nothing on the refinishing for over a month, being busy with the hallway floor.

But now the paint and acrylic topcoat are done in there, and I needed to allow it time to get good and hard before I take down the baby gates and allow traffic on it.  Good time to deal with the tall bookcase.

Weapon of choice?  The heat gun, of course, followed by a rubdown with the Western Wood Doctor refinisher.  Started with a couple of the shelves that were loose.  Then I managed to get another pair of shelves free and set to work on the carcase itself.

Didn't take as long to get the paint and primer off as I'd expected.  Things were going along pretty well.  Only trouble was, I had the thing on its side with my head poked into it and the heat gun kicks up a lot of dust and fumes.  And I wasn't wearing a mask.

Why not?  Well, because I wear glasses.  And if I wear a dust mask, especially in the winter when the temperature in the house is lower, my glasses fog up and I can't see.  Can't see, can't work.  Makes perfect sense.

But the Sunday before Presidents' Day the fumes really started getting to me.  I mean, my throat and sinuses hurt.   Stopped for the night before I'd intended to.

Where I've left it
Next day, it hit me, "Idiot! you have that special mask you got when you were cleaning the fiberglass insulation out of the attic!  It's got a gasket!  Why not use that?"  So I did, and what do you know?  No fog, no fumes, everything was fine.

But everything was not fine.  Too late!  The day after that I had a bad sore throat. After a few days, that gave way to some sort of full-on respiratory ailment.  Aren't I clever?  I know the tagline of this blog is "I'll make a silk purse out of this house if it kills me," but that is not what I literally had in mind.

Finally took myself to the doctor's yesterday.  Yeah, I've got the flu.  They prescribed me an antibiotic, the five-day kind, which seems to be doing some good . . .  But no work on the house till I get over this.  I barely have enough energy to drag myself to work, and I do that only because I have no sick leave.  I've set myself back and I'd earnestly kick myself for it-- if I were well enough to care.


Jayne said...

Oh, that's so terribly discouraging. I've had plenty of moments where I overlooked the obvious and did something stupid. Like, when I painted the house the first time without scraping it down to the bare wood. I hope you feel better soon and the bookcase is a quick finish.

Kate H. said...

Thanks. I think I'm going to finish reinstalling the trim in the hallway before I tackle the bookcase again. Ideally, I'll wait to do more stripping till I can open the windows . . . in about four months, the rate winter is hanging around.