Non Transferrable Skills

Our house has been extended to have a small conservatory at the back, sometime way before we bought it. So I’m not sure why when they built it why they left the open drain that the kitchen sink drains into in the floor of the conservatory. I’m guessing it was easier, but maybe there’s a more technical reason. I didn’t even see it when we were buying the house as it had a board cut to cover it. When we moved in the previous owner had left a post it note on it warning there was a deep drain underneath – I lifted it up, yup, that’s about a 2 ft drop, put the board back and then soon after it got an off cut of lino put over it and the cat’s bowl on top of that and I forgot all about it.

Until that period before Christmas, when I was ill and we had family visiting and everything was hectic and there was a funny smell, a not nice smell, in our conservatory that wouldn’t go away. Eventually I worked out that under the lino, the board had rotted and dropped into the drain blocking it and it had filled with stagnant water. Yeugh. I cleared out the drain and cleaned it up and there it stayed, open to the world, all the stuff moved over in the conservatory moved over to one side to make space for the clean up operation. I was too ill and busy to do any more.

So, last week, with the kids back at school, my mission was to buy a drain cover. Then I had a better idea, I’d make one how hard could it be? We had some wood lying around from some shelves that had given up the ghost, there are tools in the house (mainly they used to be my dads) – it wouldn’t take long, surely. After all I make things all the time. Make do and Mend it was then, reuse some of the junk resources I had rather than buying new, custom made to fit, rather than having to go with whatever piece of plastic the shop would sell me. And I could put it on the blog, after all, it would be a project, something I’d made, nothing flash admittedly, not in this sort of league, but still, we all have to start somewhere.

After it was assembled once, had both ends of each strut removed (even the glued on side), disintigrated and bodged back together.  Spot the mistake in how I aligned the strut on the right when reassembling.

After it was assembled once, had both ends of each strut removed (even the glued on side), disintigrated and bodged back together. Spot the mistake in how I aligned the strut on the right when reassembling.

I think my design was ok. But it quickly became apparent that I’m really bad at sawing. I don’t know why I’d forgotten this. Maybe the saw isn’t the best, maybe I used the wrong one, but I think the sad truth is I’m just not good at woodwork. So idea’s of a pristine looking cover faded in my mind, but at least it would be practical.

Next up I simplified my design as I realised that fixing some pieces to butt up to the pipe was beyond my skills. Still, most of the hole would be covered.

Then I tried to assemble it. I used a combination of wood glue and nails. It went badly. Turned out the right sized nails that I had weren’t the right sort for wood, they were too soft and bent. The next ones I tried were too short and didn’t bite into the underneath piece. Finally I bodged something together. OK, it wasn’t looking pretty but it would work.

Except it wouldn’t go on the drain. My cross pieces to hold it together and stop it sliding about were too long and it didn’t fit. Despite me having measured them, proffered them up, double checked. At this point I sulked.

So today I tried to saw the excess of the glued/nailed on pieces off. Then I tried chiseling. Turns out I suck at using a chisel too. Eventually I managed it, and then it turned out the other end was too long as well. So I sawed that off a bit (easier as no planks over this bit) and then the whole thing came apart, well, one of the cross struts came off. At this point I was losing will, so I put the strut over the exposed nail ends and hit it with a hammer until it just about stayed together long enough to put in place. Whereupon I discovered in my haste I moved the end off my strutt back to where it had been in the first place – i.e. slap bang in the way of it lying flat. Luckily it was barely together so I pulled it apart and tried again.

New drain cover finally in place. No prizewinner. I have since propped some spare bits of wood over the gaps at the back. I will not be attempting to attach them (as they'd need sawing first for a start).

New drain cover finally in place. No prizewinner. I have since propped some spare bits of wood over the gaps at the back. I will not be attempting to attach them (as they’d need sawing first for a start).

It is now in place. It technically a better thing to look at than an open drain, but it’s no work of art. Hopefully it will stay in place and stop children and cats falling down the drain or dropping stuff in there until we get around to having work done on the house and can get someone professional to sort it out. I have abandoned my plan to paint it – the idea was it would make it more durable, but clearly, this is not an object that will be with us forever.

The whole thing made me think. How come I’m so bad at woodwork. After all I sew stuff all the time. I can measure and plan and follow diagrams and read tutorials and work all sorts of stuff out if I’m sewing, but ask me to do it in wood and it all falls apart. Literally.

Am I alone in the nicheness of my making ability? Do other people make such a dogs dinner of supposedly simple projects? Is it really too much to expect myself to turn my hand to practical things other than sewing? Or is this some kind of mental block that I can blame on my woodwork teacher at school and get over with therapy? Or maybe I’m just going about it all the wrong way? Anyway, you are unlikely to be seeing any more woodwork projects here any time soon.

3 thoughts on “Non Transferrable Skills

  1. Oh that was fun to read! I don’t know if it helps, but one of my friends has tried everything and she says woodwork is really HARD!! I haven’t done any since school so can’t comment on my own ability….I bet it’s like everything else though – just needs a lot of practice. Well done on the ultimately functional drain cover!

  2. Pingback: Prolific Project Starter | Waistcoat.

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