The first pass at sanding is not only an event, it is a magical event

Our story so far: Having accomplished basic prep on the hardwood floors of the sanctuary of the old Methodist church, it was time to try sanding it.

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heart attack snow
Looks like cotton, feels like it weighs a ton.

It was still winter that first day Tyler tried sanding the floors. The morning dawned with five inches of heart attack snow on the ground and an early morning wake-up call.

The day before, Tyler called Home Depot to inquire about renting a floor sander. He was told they were rented on a first-come, first-served basis; he couldn’t reserve one. But he asked the guy at the rental desk if he might give him a call that night to confirm a floor sander was available when the store closed, which would indicate if one might be available in the morning. The guy agreed to give Tyler a call, but Tyler didn’t actually expect him to do it, given our experience at that point with flaky contractors and our inexperience with the folks employed at the local Home Depot. But indeed, at 8:15 p.m., the guy called and confirmed not one but two floor sanders would be available the next morning.

So Tyler woke up, made coffee, drove to Home Depot to pick up the floor sander, grabbed breakfast at Starbucks and was back at our rental house by seven o’clock, where I was groggily brushing my teeth and making coffee.

“Mission accomplished?” I asked.

“Yup! Today’s the day we take the top layer of grunge off the floor.”

He was excited. I was just waking up.

But I got dressed while he snowblowed the sidewalk in front of our rental house. We’d sold our enormous high-powered snowblower a year before when we embarked for a life on the road, never dreaming we’d be living in the snowy Midwest again so soon.

But lucky us: Among the strange and varied items the congregation left behind at the church was a little snowblower. It didn’t work, but Tool-Time Tyler was never deterred but such details. He fiddled with some element or another of the small engine, filled it with gas, and voila, we were the proud owners of a snowblower again.

The winter so far had called more often for a shovel than a blower, but that morning’s snow was deep and heavy. So when we were ready to head to the church, we loaded the little snowblower alongside the big floor sander in the back of the truck, and the first task was clearing the sidewalks over there.

Remember the church so many months ago? Notice the former doors on the front and the dumpster outside.
well shoveled sidewalk
There’s a sidewalk under all that snow!

Blowing snow, as it happens, is a lot like sanding floors. Move slowly, walk in a straight line, generate a lot of snowdrifts (or sawdust drifts). I didn’t appreciate the act of shoveling all that much, but I liked looking back over a well-shoveled sidewalk and feeling satisfied.

With a lot of foot traffic from a parade of contractors ahead of us, we weren’t interested in finishing the hardwood floors just yet, but Tyler took the opportunity presented by the wide-open spaces to sand off the top layer of glue and mastic with a drum-type floor sander and 24-grit sandpaper.

Wow, talk about a feeling of satisfaction! Our 126-year old Douglas fir flooring in the main sanctuary was beautiful under all that gunk. Some people might object to the knots and seams, but with a rustic transitional design scheme, it was perfect for us.

first look at hardwood
Here’s how the Douglas fir of the sanctuary floor looked after the first sanding.

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Today’s headline was appropriated from English novelist J.B. Priestly who once wrote, “The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?”

Tomorrow: Oh, the sanding has just begun. You thought a stairway had a lot of steps. Read about them here.


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