I didn’t recall the finish I applied so I found out and it’s not shellac. It’s a varnish from the pre water-borne finishes era as nothing seems to touch it. Varnish was very much the standard in the mid section of that century. The oak had planed out well with such minimal tearout I could scrape with a scraper and sand with 240-grit abrasive paper. Pulling the long strokes along the rounded front edges of the side pieces, watching the brush hairs bending and conforming to the curves followed by the composition light played in reflecting the shape, I surprised myself with just how much the project evoked such fondness for my beginning as a woodworker. It’s a combination of things that play one sense against another and then suddenly it seems they each wait until they all somehow agree. This kaleidoscopic mosaic of parts compelled me like nothing I can ever remember. I started taking books from the local library. Sat at the tables naming the tools I needed. I would sketch woodgrain. Colour the grain on the paper with poorly matched watercolour paints to try to mirror what meant so much.
Pulling my strokes today I was able to share with everyone what this project still meant to me. My joints would never have held these 50 years had I not used screws as well as glue. The plugs are rough and the gaps along the housing dadoes are large enough to crawl inside. What am I saying? I’m saying it wasn’t the quality of my working that impacted me. Something was erupting inside me that defied the gravity others might consider more important. When I started work I didn’t even know I was going to get paid! That I would be entitled to pay. I know, it was a bit naive if not plain stupid. How could someone base is future on some shavings of wood and the shaping of it? But I did! It’s important to see that some things defy pay even though we must put bread on the table. It’s important to not only trust our instincts on things but also to trust our children’s instincts and abilities to choose their future even when we can’t see the value on what they are basing it on. Mostly I’m saying listen to your children even when they are very young. We can provide the support they need as well as wise counsel.
I ran a third coat and the grain filled up beautifully. One coat of paste furniture wax applied with #0000 steel wool and the shelf was done. I