I took woodshop in the summers after sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. I made a chessboard the first summer and a small table the second summer. I tried to turn chess pieces the third summer, but that went poorly.
This series is about the small table project from the summer after seventh grade.
The year was 2001. At age 12, I was woodshop veteran heading back to Horace Mann School in Beverly Hills as I had been awaiting eagerly to do. But unlike the prior summer, I was going to be able to figure out what I wanted to build rather than choose from a list.
After a conversation with my folks about it, I think I came up with a stepstool or footstool or the like. My mom came across a picture of a stepstool in like Architectural Digest and asked what I thought. I remember it as being painted green, but that was coming up on 20 years ago, and I’m doing the best I can here. Whatever I made was not going to be painted green.
Equipped with the picture of what was probably only 7″ tall and with a 8″ x 14″ top, I went to the first day of summer school.
A note here is that I looked forward to a repeat of Mr. Bartkoski’s first day explanations of safety measures and how you can know how good a shop teacher is by how many fingers he has. “But don’t worry–I’ve got all of mine!” he announced with a huge grin as he displayed his hands to the whole class. I remembered gasping in horror along with the rest of the newcomers the prior summer because Mr. Bartkoski had expertly shown us the backs of his hands but curled his fingers in so nothing past the first knuckle of each finger was exposed. I was eager to hear the setup and enjoy the reactions to the punchline. And when it happened, it was wonderful. There’s really nothing like scaring the shit out of a roomful of boys and girls who are 10-12 years old.
When I showed Mr. Bartkoski the picture of what I wanted to make, he said that something taller and bigger would be more versatile.
There was some wood available as part of the class, but anybody who wanted to make something out of better wood was required to provide it.
It was off to House of Hardwood to get some birch. Of course I didn’t go alone. My mom took me there. I was 12, remember?
I cut, glued, clamped, planed, sanded, and routed my way through assembly of the table over the course of that summer. Per the advice of Mr. Bartkoski, I used screws to keep the leg panels in place while the glue was drying. The idea was to remove the screws afterward and fill the holes with wood putty so I could finish it.
And that’s what happened. Except that I stripped the head of one of the eight screws. So it was seven screws out and one in.
That’s how it stayed for about two decades.
Over time I used it for things like holding speakers to listen to music while I was in bed.
Later I used it under the CRT TV/VCR combo my sister used in college so I could play PS2 in my bedroom.
After a long while of the PS4 blowing hot air on and surrounding where I’d glued the top together, a crack developed along that seam.
So I had an unfinished table with a stubborn screw and new split. Eventually I’d be able to take care of it, I’d hoped. Maybe I’d get to sand off he head of the screw and go from there. But I took no action.
It stayed as an unfinished bedside table for years. And it’s not very good for a bedside table. There are no drawers. There’s no lower shelf. But it does keep things off the ground and closer to bed level, so it qualified.
This year changed everything, as 2020 has tended to do.
I had to purchase stripped screw extractor bits for the redo of the end table. It worked well for that project, and I figured there was a good chance it would work on this one.
More next week.