Tightly tucked into the corner of a snow-covered boat yard, the Karen Marie rests idly on a set of rusted blue stands, her canvas cover shielding her from the elements. Unlike last winter, the past few cold-New England months were not filled with a frantic boat project. There were no masts to build but alas, I am learning that there is always work to be done on a boat.
My focus is now shifting to the interior of my 1961 Rhodes Chesapeake, which is beginning to show her age. She needs her old wooden roofline torn down and replaced, a fresh coat of paint, new upholstery and just some plain old TLC. The brightwork that years ago must have glistened is now gray and worn, setting the mood for our small living space. Looking to get a jump on its restoration, I brought my wooden companionway staircase and one of two wooden doors home for sanding and refinishing. On a few of the warmer days I set out with my orbital sander to remove layers (and a lot of them!) of old varnish from their cedar skin.
Though sanding and wood working in general is considered a laborious chore (and in some ways it is) and often left for boat yards to handle, I rather enjoy it and here’s why:
- You get out of it what you put in: Few things in life are fairer than woodworking. If you take your time sanding and ensure that all the layers of old varnish are removed while continuously going over your work with a finer and finer grit paper, ensuring no sanding marks are left behind, when you’re finished, you will have something that really shines. Cut corners, leave scuffmarks or neglect the hard to reach places (read: underside of companionway steps) and it will show.
- It gives you an excuse to buy new toys: My toolbox sometimes looks the lost and found at the airport. I have three screwdrivers, of all different brands, two wire strippers of different colors, an assortment of zip ties, hose clamps and an bevy of paintbrushes that would make da Vinci jealous. But where my tool collection thrives is with my sanding equipment. I am the proud owner of a new belt sander, orbital sander and multiple sanding blocks for hand sanding. I have sandpaper of every grit and color. (In fact, I’ve been told I should head down to the beach with paper and glue to save money.) I have battled many hard to reach edges in my young restoration career. I’ve sanded the underside of handrails and a detailed steering wheel until I was certain I’d permanently rubbed off my fingerprints (thankfully, I still have all 10). That all changed when I acquired a Dremel Multi-Max MM40, with a sanding attachment. This bad boy saved me approximately 4 hours of work on just the door and staircase project alone by reaching the tight corners.
- Time to unplug: Sanding a flat door is not what you would call intellectually stimulating. In fact, some would say it’s mindless work, and I would have to agree, but in the instant gratification world we live in, where email alerts, Facebook and ESPN Gameday updates too often consume our personal time, I find it almost therapeutic to sit in my back yard or garage, unplug and work on something with my hands.
- Something to be proud of: My parents instilled in me, at a young age, the value of doing things yourself. Whether it was remodeling a bathroom, building a deck or simply fixing your own flat tire, the pride in doing something yourself was not lost on me, or so I thought. It wasn’t until I had built the wooden mast for my boat and sailed her that I truly appreciated the value in building something on your own that you could be proud of. The same sense of pride was there when I painted the boat, varnished her topsides and I know one day when I’m hiding from a rainstorm in the cabin, I’ll be proud of this project too.