Sunday, May 14, 2006

Refinishing a table: a Gospel analogy

I am nearing the completion of a project and, since it's Sunday, I'm grasping at some Gospel butterflies.

We got the offer for a free, highly used, kitchen table a few months ago. Since we're still eating on a plastic card table in there, we couldn't refuse. But when the table was dropped off to us, I couldn't help but ask myself, "what did I get myself into?"
After pulling out the 8"x8" white and cracked tile and a few hours of sanding, this is what the table still looked like.

Working on it became sort of a little escape every once in a while. But I swear that I thought I'd never get all that white and pink paint off. The majority of it was sanded off with the little sanding sponges. I used a random orbit sander on the top and parts of the sides. I tried using a chemical stripper on one of the legs, but it made such a mess and took longer than just using the sponges. Anyway, my whole life I never saw the lure of having a little workshop--and especially why so many older men seemed drawn to wood-working. I found out through this project that it is quite satisfying and can quiet your mind, lending to moments of reflection on your life. Anyway, with the help of my dad putting in the new mozaic tile and grouting it, it is now ready for the final coats of high gloss epoxy and urathane. What do you guys think?

So, seeing the stark contrast between the old grimy version and the updated version, I realized that it could be a gospel analogy. I may be stretching here but I had to find a way to share this little project (you likey Erin?). So the power of the gospel is that it can take a shabby, dirty, stinky, person, and with some hard work, with some painful sanding, a little dismantling and cleaning, some refinishing, an entirely new vision of the person can be seen. With the table, we had no idea that it had such beautiful wood underneath the stained white and pink paint and the grime, and I think that the same is true with many people we come in contact with throughout our lives. They've just been beat on for so many years, that we can't see the beauty underneath it all. Have you ever mis-judged someone that way? I probably did with my wife when I first met her. But that's a different story.

The table is far from perfect and has developed a whole new set of imperfections, but I'd say it's at least 200% better looking now. Anyone else have any little projects to share?


Nick said...


And by 200%, I think you meant 200x.

Shane said...

Very impressive final product. You should get in to woodworking.

JonnyF said...

I agree with Nick, it looks 200 times better.
Isn’t it satisfying to do something with your hands? You’ve taken something that was in bad shape and improved it. I think satisfaction comes from doing something like that, or from making something out of raw materials, because it is a very tangible thing that you can look at and say, “That used to be ugly, but I made it look good.” There is now one less bad looking table and one more good looking table in the world thanks to you, Randy.
For Christmas in 2004, while we were still living with Katie’s parents, Katie was sort of talked into making some stained glass panes for her some of her mother’s cabinet doors in her kitchen as a present. (Katie’s grandfather has done a lot of stained glass work and has all the tools.) Katie’s siblings agreed to help, but didn’t end up helping much because one lived in Utah, one in California, and one at home, but he didn’t help because he’s, well, a quadrapeligic. So Katie did the majority of the work and I did quite a bit of it too. It took us six months of our spare time, but the finished product looked pretty good. To me, they look very imperfect and hand-made, but Katie’s mom really likes them. We had a big sense of accomplishment in knowing we had taken some glass, solder, and other assorted raw supplies and produced something that has some value. Maybe I’ll find a picture and post it here sometime.
As an epilogue: for much of the time we were making these panes, I had a bad attitude about the whole project. I felt like Katie had sort of been manipulated into doing it and that her siblings should have helped more. Katie often had to tell me that I was doing it for her and not for her mother or anyone else; that’s the only way she could motivate me. I didn’t completely let go of the bitterness even after the project was done. It wasn’t until we found out that Katie’s grandfather was giving us all of his stained glass equipment, (all together, probably worth well over $10,000 (he is old and has stopped using it, and since Katie is the only grandchild that has show interest in stained-glass, we get the equipment)) that I managed to let go of the bad feelings. Now, of course, I feel a little bit sheepish.
So we took some of that stuff home from our recent trip to Colorado (I bet that’s the first time that TSA inspector had seen a glass grinder in a piece of luggage). Now we have a couple of decisions to make: 1) how do we get the rest of the stuff home? (It’s hard to ship a box of scrap glass of various shapes and sizes.) 2) Where do we set up shop? We have a room in our basement we aren’t using, but doing that kind of work on carpet is a bad idea. We actually put our cars in the garage, (even though I grew up in California where garage=big storage room and driveway=where you put your cars.) so there isn’t much room in there. Anyway, someday we’ll get set up and it will be fun to make things.

erin said...

That table looks fantastic, Randy! Nice work! Seeing stuff like that makes me a little heady--like the ocean to a sailor or something.

I like the analogy, too. Wood is so beautiful and alive if you can get the rough spots off and the old varnish and stain. I can hardly ever stand to stain a piece of wood because the natural color under a little linseed oil or polyurethane is so pretty. Wood is just beautiful--and so are people. Sometimes people need a little sanding, and sometimes the person looking just needs to know a little more about that kind of wood. If you were looking for a piece of maple and came across a piece of ebony, you might think it was old and ugle and rotton--just because you didn't know anything about it. I think I'm beating this analogy to death, but nice work on that table.

And nice work on the windows, Jon and Katie! When I worked at the art store in Provo my boss got us all doing some stained glass work and it was really neat to find out about it. It was a lot of hard, exact work that never came out exact for me.

Speaking of not coming out exact, I'm building a bookcase right now out of scrap wood that I had around. It was just going to be functional until I came across two short boards of cedar. From that point on, this bookcase has called all the shots and I feel like I new member of a sports team of a sport I've never played. I can't tell you how many times I've repieced, rearranged, resanded, and gone back to home depot--sometimes just to unwind. Some people get coffee at Barnes & Noble and some of us go stroke the wood at Home Depot.

Julie C said...

I completely agree that handwork is SOOOO satisfying. I really love that sort of thing - I think my three biggest favorites are embroidery/cross-stitch, refinishing wooden furniture, and cooking something fantastic. To me, seeing the results of my work make me feel like I can do something worthwhile and occasionally beautiful. It's like the beauty of my work means that I have that beauty within myself.

I also think it's very like the gospel that we can never create the "perfect" finished product. We can improve and improve and make something a whole lot better, but there are always imperfections if you want to get picky. It's common for us to get really picky about our imperfections. A friend of mine had a very interesting point about this - he told me, If you only see yourself as being perfect or being not good enough, then you will always see yourself as not good enough because you can't be perfect in this life. A measurement of improvement is far more valuable than a measure of perfection.

Well, I'm working on that. Regarding the table, I hope some of my projects turn out as well!

Nick said...

It's interesting how all those things you did to the table to make it nice are actually very unpleasant- chemical stripper, sanding, etc. The same applies to improving people- change is usually painful and unpleasant, but the end product is always worth it.

Jenny said...

Randy, I know that this is really late because I haven't been on to make comments for a while, but I've been meaning to say: Very Impressive. It give me hope for all the DI/garage sale furniture I have that I want to refinish/reupholster someday ...