Saturday, September 17, 2011

After a year of bare MDF,

our book cubes are finally coming to completion. The Mayan blue one is actually complete, while the white one is just primed. I thought I'd show you anyway, since it will only be white paint going over the white primer.

Tim and I started these just before Christmas 2009. During the summer of 2008, I had drawn up in my journal (alongside notes for a unit on optics, math problems, and sketches of plants) some conceptual plans for free-standing book cupboards. I had finally, shyly showed them to Tim (he insisted), and it was quickly decided that, for a Christmas present, he would help me to tweak the design and make the plans concrete. It turned out that tweaking the design was quite, quite important (in the interest of the units not collapsing, Tim suggested we add a middle wall); nevertheless, the cubes look very much as I imagined them.

It was a long process. I had never done any woodworking to speak of, had never measured wood or particle board, had never taken kerf into account, had never tried to build something with anyone else. Nearly every time we went down to the basement to work on them, I panicked, become spiteful and defensive, assumed that Tim was condescending to me or was impatient with my lack of competence. It took months to finish two (we still have a third in progress), and then another year before I asked for help again, this time in finishing the edges so that I could sand and paint.

Now they are almost finished. In this joint project I seem to have more staying power than I do in my solo work. It astonishes me that Tim gives up on me less easily than I give up on myself. And his skill astonishes me.

(The realization of my ambitions with his help astonishes me.)


  1. Building things together is hard. Eric and I renovated our basement suite together (but I am lucky: he was originally a carpenter by trade) so that C & E could move in and have a nice home.

    During renovations, my mom asked me if we'd had any major fights. Apparently she and my dad attempted to build something together once, had a massive fight about it (probably mostly due to stubbornness, sensitivity, defensiveness... your general book cube problems) and have never attempted a project like that together again (it's been 39 years).

    But Eric was always very nice to me and never made fun of me for asking stupid questions and my general lack of skill. Although he did the brunt of the work, he helped me help him, which was nice.

  2. PS: The book cubes are completely lovely. What a great idea.


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