Wednesday, 17 June 2009

The dark shed of shame

I have a guilty shed secrets. The first secret is that I have a shed, and the second is that it is packed full of sadly neglected lovely materials.

A few years ago I spent a great deal of time and energy moving my workshop from a cramped room to my shed (well, lean to between houses) which is about 8-10 METRES long, and 1.74m wide (yes, I know the exact width, I will explain why!) Now the reason I was in a cramped room rather than this epic sized shed was the old leaking roof, made from wonderful bright but holey twin-wall plastic. Also the front was also falling apart.

As part of an epic garden makeover I sneaked into the budget a lean to greenhouse to replace the crumbling wood, and the vital new roof. However, as happens with these things, the money vanished on bills, and I had to cut back on the roof so instead of all nice and new and double glazed, I went with single glazed at one end, and re-use and bodge the bit in the middle!

Not surprisingly it still leaked, but now in new places!

So much patching later, I ended up with a cold and partly dry bit, and a very leaky bit where I had initially stored wood to work on, and now have various moulds and mushrooms instead!

This weekend I endeavoured to do some much needed household DIY which left me up a ladder stretching in ways my couch potato body hasn’t tried to do in years. First the quick repairs to an upstairs window frame – thanks to that ‘bunch of merchant bankers’ (make what rhyming slang you will of that!) and the credit crunch all hopes of replacing the old wooden frames has been dashed for a few years now, so drastic repairs were in order for it to survive another winter.

The next day, rather stiff and sore from stretching on a ladder just a few rungs too short, I decided to have a go and the shed roof again. I had a pond liner librated from the disastrous pond fiasco (soon to refilled with dirt and the whole saga never to be discussed again) which I decided to ‘quickly pop on the roof to help keep the water out.’

I should know that in DIY ‘quick’ means slow/frustrating/dangerous/painful.

So, the shed roof still leaks, and I now have less light thanks to a great black pond liner on the clear roof. I also have a nasty gouge in my thumb from a very dirty nail which was covered in smelly pond mud, and of late with a lot of antiseptic just in case!

On a positive note I am hoping it will become less porous as I plug the remaining leaks. Also it’s re-acquainted me with some of the lovely lacquers and shellacs I have out there, ideal for the impending walking stick project. I did also manage to glue up a picture frame I was making, for which I mixed up some garnet shellac.

I so like making my own varnishes and waxes; shellac varnish is one of the easiest. You buy flakes of shellac (old beetle cases!) which can be found in different shades, then dilute them in meths. And that’s it! Some people strain it through old tights, but I prefer a ‘hot’ mixture with more meths so don’t overload it with shellac. It makes a thinner layer that dries faster, and needs many layers to get a good effect. However I find it’s easier to control than the shop bought varnishes, and doesn’t have that plastic shine you get even with matt varnishes. Any coating on wood should be to protect and enhance the wood, not smother it.

There is also something quite satisfying about using these old time finishes, one of my recipe books is a re-print from 1647 in olde English. All of the recipes are straight forward and work a treat. As I stand in my cold damp shed it even makes me feel like I have a little connection to these craftsmen of olde. Even the working conditions are the same!

Right, off to put my thumb into another bucket of savlon! TTFN

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