With a title like the one above, I’m sure you think I’m going to dive deep into a pool of thought about an antique tool or a piece of lumber….but believe it or not, I do have a thought or two outside of the shop.
My wife turns #$#@$ years old today. I had to work at the hospital, so I wished her a Happy Birthday before I left the house this morning. I had dreams of making her an elaborate breakfast, but I did well just to put my chef’s coat on and dampen my hair before walking out the door. When I went to kiss my wife goodbye, she was glowing. I feel confident to say she is glowing more now than her first birthday we spent together. She was laying on her side, nursing our son who was laying on his side. Comfortably content. The scene didn’t do a thing for my morning motivation to leave for work. The scene did make me feel a bit better about having to leave. My wife gets to celebrate her birthday with her month old son and two year old daughter. My daughter loves to sing Happy Birthday almost as much as she loves to eat the Boston Cream Pie cupcakes that she helped me make for her mother’s birthday. We practiced singing Happy Birthday last night. Full dress rehearsal. This meant that we got to eat cupcakes with sparkling candles as we practiced singing. The end result: Bathwater full of chocolate from my daughter’s face, hands, and arms.
I finished out the evening working on a few birthday presents while smoking April some chicken wings she requested for her birthday supper.
About these birthday presents:
April has been wanting a screen door and a caddy for her bathtub.
I grew up with screen doors. The house I grew up in had a screen door with one hell of a spring. You didn’t want to be caught in an indecisive moment when that door was shutting. I can still remember the cat that tried following me into the house. She made it, but her tail was cut clean in two by the door. It was as if a butcher’s knife struck the cat’s tail. With one motion, the tail fell cleanly to the ground. I don’t know how many coils were in that spring, but it worked!
I remember replacing the screen on that door several times. The frame held up well enough, but with kids, large dogs, and everything else, the screen with only a perimeter frame really got roughed up. My father and I would pull the trim from the insides of the frame, pull out the old staples, remove the old screen, and then lay a new piece of screen in it’s place. We’d then staple it down with one of those big ol Arrow T-11 staple guns that at the time took me two hands and all of my body weight pressing down on it to get it to fire off. Needless to say, my aim was never accurate since I was too busy trying to muster the necessary force, so the screen was already at a disadvantage before it was rehung. My father being the loving teacher that he was, said nothing as he mended the brand new screen that I stapled two holes right in the center of. We’d then tack the trim back down, give it a couple coats of paint, and rehang it for another couple of seasons. This screen door was on the side of our house, but it was the main entrance for us. The front door received a different treatment as our 130lb dog thought it was the main exit every time he saw a deer bolt across the lawn. We ended up putting a metal grid made out of 1/2″ stock across the bottom of that screen door. The screen held up great, but the frame ended up splitting to pieces as it was a store bought door and doweled together at its joints.
I mention the above because I think we all know what it takes to make something as simple as a working screen door, but when we go out to purchase one, cost factors in, R-Value factors in, etc, etc and then we find ourselves leaving the big box hardware store with an aluminum framed storm door with brass kickplates and built in blinds.
I wanted to build my wife a door that would let the breeze in, let the living room expand to the front porch, and have the screen not blow out from children and animals pressing against it/running through it. I want the bottom reinforced, but not with metal. I want it all wood. I want it natural, I want it cherry. Its for my wife. Our house has white trim. I don’t want divorce. The door shall be white, not natural cherry!
With any woodworking project for the house, this is to be done in a hurry, so any step to speed up progress is welcomed.
I thought about a design or scene on the bottom of the door..I could make that be the “Fence” that keeps the screen from getting run through. I did a quick search for a silhouette of a fence, found one that I liked, scaled it to size with the old rule trick, and got to work. My daughter helped me with the placement and overall layout as we ate snacks and lemonade in her playhouse.
Frugality is a key. My wife hates with a passion money spent on her. I milled out scraps from my son’s nursery build for the screen door. I wanted the door to last, so instead of dowling the door together and relying on glue joints, I chose mortise and tenon…but with time being a factor, I opted for “loose tenon” construction. I made the tenons out of ash for durability. Ash has held up well on my canoe, so I believe its perfect for the door’s joints. The door itself is made of yellow pine.
I’m scared of heavy duty staples…I can see it now: I’m working in the shop late. Everyone is asleep. I go to staple the screen to the door, and I end up stapling my finger to the door. I have no luck at prying my finger off so I must open the garage door to exit the shop and carry the door with me down to the front lawn and scream for my wife’s assistance.
I opt for a rubber spline instead. It is much more attractive and does a better job at pulling the screen taught across the entire perimeter, not just at the stapled “points”. I want the spline to be hidden, so I cut a rabbet around the inner frame to accept a trim piece after I cut a channel for the spline.
I insert my loose tenons, clamp it together, prime it, paint it, sand it, paint it, and screen it.
When screening a door, most think its backwards, but you do a much better job if you raise the center of the door about 4″ or so (I usually stand a 2×4 on edge) and then clamp the corner edges of the door down. Bowing the door in this manner ensures you get a nice tight screen. If using the rubber spline, by all means get the $2 tool to install it. Don’t be cheap like me and get the pizza cutter from the house to modify, because you will search through the drawers before realizing you have no pizza cutter. The fluted ravioli/pasta cutter doesn’t come remotely close to working either. Nor does the dough cutter.
When waiting for the paint to dry, THINK about what your wife has said to you before you start in on another project. I didn’t. I just went guns blazing on her bath caddy. Cedar: Beautiful, rot resistant, and light. Perfect wood for a bath caddy. I do remember my wife saying she didn’t want an adjustable book support built in or anything fancy like that. What I don’t remember her saying is that she more or less wants a wooden box to hang over one of the edges of the tub that she can put her ipad or book in when she is not using them. More or less a tool belt for the bath tub. She mentions this as she walks into the bathroom as I’m test fitting the caddy on the tub before I apply the last coat of butcher block finish to it. Damn, Damn Damn. Listen!!! Oh well. I’m already dreaming of a little dovetailed box hanging off the side. I’ll have to give this caddy to another tub for the cedar is too highly figured to accept a tight series of dovetails.
I was able to complete the door only five minutes into her birthday (12:05). I think that’s a record for me. I’m usually much more tardy. The wings are smoked, and the mini Boston Cream Pies are done. Although the door is completed, I thought it was best that I didn’t install it. Nothing good ever came from a night door installation, especially when your wife is on the other side of the wall sleeping right next to your son that finally fell asleep.
My wife is my partner in every sense of the word. My children are amazing and I am a firm believer that children are a reflection of their parents…especially their mother. My daughter is smart, she loves all mediums of art already, she loves good food, she loves people, she loves animals more. She puts up with me. They both do.
My wife always pushes me to be the best, but toes the line well because she know how anxious I can get, even when it comes to picking the dead blooms off the potted flowers on the porch…it drives her bat poo crazy to watch me have my ice cream melt because and old bloom needs disposed of.
I love my wife. I love the family she has given me, I love the opportunities she gives me. I love the time she gives me. I love the support she gives me.
Most of my wife’s friends comment on how it must be great to have a husband that can do woodwork. They don’t see the sacrifice that my wife takes to make the woodwork happen. If I have a free second, I’m researching woodworking. Five free seconds or more, and I’m in the shop trying to practice what I just researched. My wife spends many nights in a half empty bed as I try to become a better woodworker. My wife supports me no matter how lonely or how trying it gets. My wife lives in a house of furniture that didn’t make the cut to be sold. With all this said, my wife still takes the time to draw up ideas of new pieces of furniture to build.
My wife is an amazing person. She has time for me, she has time to make the woodworking shop work, she has time to be a wonderful mother, so I don’t know where she found the time, but I’m proud to say that she opened up her own craft shop and is concentrating on themed dresses for lil gals.
Give that woman a scrap piece of cloth and she can turn it into something beautiful! Did I say she is amazing? Babe, you are amazing. I love you. Happy Birthday! I might be going bald, but you will always be older than me!!! Haha!