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Building furniture, day 3

Amazing!   Another mostly sunny day.   That’s practically a record lately, so we took full advantage and spent it all working on the Caravel’s furniture.   The “shop” is humming right along, although we lost a lot of time today waiting for glue to set.

Although yesterday I said we weren’t able to use glue, what I meant was that we can’t use glue on pieces that will need disassembly for shipping purposes.   There have been at least a dozen places where glue has been indispensable, especially building the cabinet and closet doors.   We managed to finish all the doors we started yesterday, including final trim and sanding.   They look great.

Our technique of stacking all the doors in a pile and then weighting the pile down with paving stones worked very well, so we’ve been doing that all day instead of using clamps. With limited flat clean space to work on, the table in the Airstream had to be pressed into service too.   That helped keep up the pace of production at our “furniture factory” (as my father calls it).

We also finalized the gaucho, then disassembled it and packed it in the Armada with the rest of the rapidly-growing pile of furniture.   In between large cuts, I put together some of the many “miscellaneous” pieces, including two interior partitions for the kitchen, one interior partition for the gaucho, some blocks, and a couple of facias.   There are still another half dozen or so miscellaneous pieces yet to go.

Eleanor tested the stain we bought, but it was a disappointment.   We don’t have time to keep experimenting with stain, so I called Susanne Brown, the interior design expert and asked her to recommend a stain that would work with the color of Marmoleum floor we have.   She’s working on it.   Stain may become the bottleneck of this project, since we can’t put polyurethane on anything until we have the stain picked out and applied.

We aren’t going to build any of the interior shelving at this point.   All of the shelving has been replaced by prior owners and no two pieces are the same.   Instead, we’ll build shelving after everything else is installed, next summer.   That will allow us to customize the interiors of the cabinets and closets to suit our needs.

A big pleasure of doing this project comes from being able to replace the old parts with new parts that are much better than the originals.   I can take a little extra time and re-design a piece to have a nicer curve, fewer screws, smoother edges, tighter joints, or stronger supports.   For me, that is a big reward and a motivator.   Our trailer will be better than new, when we’re done.

One of the problems we are facing at the moment are the “mystery” pieces.   We have an entire box of oddly-shaped wood parts that we can’t identify.   They are so strangely designed and unfamiliar that it is hard to believe that they even came out of our trailer.   Some of them are clearly shelves, which means we can ignore them, but others have pieces of finished elm on them, which means that they are visible somewhere in the trailer.   We can’t ignore those.

The problem with those pieces is that in most cases they have obviously been re-worked by someone.   That’s generally a bad thing, because re-worked parts tend to be — shall we say — “less than optimal.”   They are shabby, riddled with mismatched screws, and have the distinct appearance of having been “fixed” in a big hurry.

If I knew what those parts were, I would know whether we should re-build them exactly as they appear, or   design them more suitably for their function.     But we are so far flummoxed by about ten strange parts.   If I spend time rebuilding them and they turn out to be messed-up designs, that’s a lot of valuable time and wood wasted.   Tomorrow I have to start on them if they are to get done at all, so some rapid decision-making will be done   in the morning when I’ve got a fresh mind to consider the problem.

This is the first woodworking project I’ve taken on since we sold our house three years ago.   As Eleanor and I worked on it today, little tricks I’d forgotten kept popping back into my mind.   I remembered how to straighten a crooked board on the tablesaw, how to set up a straight line cut with a jigsaw, and a thousand other small tips that sped the work.   I also popped the iPod into our new Atlantic Ego sound case, so we had tunes all day long too.   (The nice thing about the Ego case is that it is dustproof and waterproof.   It gets covered in sawdust, but at the end of the day I just rinse it off in the sink!)

Between motivation, memory, and music, the work moved along quickly.   Now I’m starting to regret the impending end of this phase of the project.   I’d like to keep going, and install all our handiwork in the Caravel right away.   But with only a handful of days left, that’s impossible.   We’ll put in just another day or two, before we hit the road again.