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A Handy Man

I like to build things. There is no feeling in the world like finishing a project, stepping back and admiring your accomplishments. It’s a man thing, or so I thought until the other day.

My wife wanted a new corner cabinet for our TV and entertainment components. The current cabinet never really fit into the living room corner. First we went shopping for an entertainment center that would fit in our space. We found a few cabinets that might have worked, but the cost was way too much. Obviously, cost is very important. The quality of material was also insufficient in my opinion– particle board will never do.

No, I could build a corner cabinet out of real wood that would hold up for many years at half the cost. That was my plan.

My wife had many reservations with my plan, citing past history and track records complete with a tour around the house of projects not quite finished, including a folder full of receipts and full color glossy photos showing projects we had to disassemble, take to the dump or burn. She was prepared for this argument, I’ll give her that.

Didn’t matter; my mind was made up. After all, one of the reasons she married me was my unmatched ability to build things. As my mentor Red Green has stated many times, “If you can’t be handsome, at least you can be handy.” I’m sure my wife feels very lucky to have both qualities in me, although she has never said it out loud.

The first step was to design a center that fit into our corner with all the shelves measured carefully and the angles set up so I could watch TV from any chair in the living room. Further more, I wanted to be able to see from the kitchen, dining room and even the bathroom if I left the door open and positioned the medicine cabinet mirror to just the right angle.

So I drew a perfect sketch, with measurements included, and handed it to my wife to decipher and draw up. She went to school for drafting, so this should be a piece of cake for her. She looked over my drawing, mumbling something about a silk purse and a sow’s ear. I couldn’t catch it all.

Her next complaint was totally unfounded. This country was built by geniuses that wrote their ideas on paper napkins.

“Never mind the catsup stains, dear, just work with me here.” I said.

The next day she had a perfect rendition of my drawing, complete with dimensions, angle degrees and a material list. I didn’t mention to her that she probably went to all that trouble for nothing. By now I had everything in my brain, and the only thing left was to buy the materials and build it.

We went to the lumber yard and I handpicked each board using my years of experience and expertise, and before I knew it, we had every screw, nail and board we needed for the project. The cost of materials turned out to be a little more than my original estimate: about twice what it cost to buy a new cabinet, but at least it would be hand-made and built to last forever. You can’t measure these things in dollars and cents, you know.

I put the lumber in a safe place in the barn and waited for just the right weekend to cut the wood and assemble our new cabinet. I couldn’t wait to get started. Two months later, I still hadn’t found just the right weekend.

That’s when it happened. It was a Thursday afternoon, about 4:30pm. I came home and saw a perfectly stacked pile of cut up boards, resembling over-sized Jenga blocks with angle cuts and notches in every board. My wife had really messed up. She was tired of waiting.

“I pre-cut all the wood for you, dear.” she said. She didn’t understand how complicated this project was. From past experience I could tell her I would have to shape and mold each piece, and nothing ever ended up the exact same length or angle it was supposed to be.

I didn’t tell her that, opting to spare her feelings instead. My next sentence, however, got me into an uncomfortable conversation, to say the least.

“You used my power miter saw?” I asked. Actually, she paid for the saw, so apparently I stepped over a line with that question. The ensuing conversation was too long and sordid to put into words here, but you can probably guess how it went.

The next Saturday I went to assembling, although I knew it would be an exercise in futility. I would surely have to go back to the lumber yard at some point. “Maybe I could salvage a few of the boards.” I thought to myself.

As I hammered, screwed and glued each piece together I was amazed each time another joint came together, aligning perfectly with the piece before it. My mathematical abilities seemed to be even more unbelievable than even I had imagined. As the last piece came together, I stood back and admired my work. It was perfect.

It had to happen sooner or later. In all my years of building, this was the first time I didn’t have to re-cut a board, the first time I didn’t have to go back to the lumber yard, and the also the first time ever that my material list was correct. I must be getting better with age.

Oh, by the way, dear, I want to thank you for your assistance. Taking care of the little, minor details really helped me to concentrate on the important stuff, using my carpentry skills to the fullest extent. Maybe you can help me with the next project if it’s not too complicated.

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