Did you ever get a project about halfway done and then took years to get it finished? Oh, good, I’m glad it’s not just me. Two years ago Duluth Trading asked me to participate in a promotion they called A Kick in the Seat of the Pants. The idea was they’d give me some cash for the project and some work pants to work in and get some attention for their Duluthflex Fire Hose Work Pants. I decided I’d refinish the Adirondack glider that had been left by the previous owners of our house. It looked like this:That was in April. I didn’t actually get around to Part 1 of the project, cleaning the glider with deck cleaner, until the end of June. You had to spray this stuff on, let it sit for a bit, and then scrub it off. It took a lot of scrubbing, and more deck cleaner than the video had led me to believe. When it was all done, it looked pretty good. It looked so good, that some family members moved it out of the garage and onto the front terrace. And everyone started using it.
Fast forward two years
So why didn’t I take the hint from my family and call it done? Because I still had those cans of stain. And I had a vision for what I wanted that glider to look like. But–I also had a lot of gardening I wanted to do. And it turns out I have a mental block about painting jobs. But it took me a while to figure that out.
This year–two springs later–I was in the basement getting ready to put some newly-sown seeds under the lights I have down there, and I saw the cans of stain. I remembered I was going to finish the glider last year. I had even taken the paint back to the store and gotten it shaken again. But then there was always some gardening project calling for my attention, and those cans never got opened. I thought to myself, “There is a small window of opportunity to get this job done. It has to be early enough in the season that I think I still have plenty of time to weed, prune, divide, and rearrange plants. But it has to be warm enough to paint. That time is now.”
The directions on the stain cans said to apply it when it was above 35°F (1.7C) and was going to stay above that temperature for the next 24 hours. Spring had already arrived so I got to work. I took those cans back to the big box store and got them shaken a second time. I asked a family member to give up his garage bay for the next three weeks so I could use the area to paint. I swept out the garage. I had two strong young men of my acquaintance move the glider from the front porch into the garage. I learned how to put sand paper in the electric sander. I sanded the glider lightly. I wiped down the glider with a damp cloth. I laid out a tarp and got someone to help me tip the glider onto its back.
And then winter came back.
Not only was it below 35° at night, it didn’t always get above freezing during the day! And I had given myself a deadline. Asking for an extension would likely mean I didn’t get it done for another whole year. So I studied the ten-day forecast every day and counted the days left until my deadline. In the meantime, I used a photo editing program to figure out what color the various pieces of the glider should be painted.Finally, a week before my time was up, I decided the weather was going to cooperate.
I used three colors of Olympic solid color stain–Wedgwood, Forest, and Gray Slate–which in my mind became blue, green, and purple. I had a foam brush and a bristle brush, both 1-1/4 inches wide, plus a lot of other smaller brushes that I had borrowed from my daughter and from the childhood paint sets that were no longer used. I had paper towels, newspapers and stirring sticks. I had a screwdriver to open the cans with and there was even a mallet to close the paint cans with like they did in the store. I had my photoshopped picture of the glider, showing me which color to paint where. I also had an incredible amount of anxiety about getting started.
I felt like bad things were going to happen. The can would tip over, paint all over the place. I wouldn’t clean the brushes good enough, and they’d seize up. I’d inadvertently get one color mixed up with another, and a whole can of paint would be ruined. Dried up paint would fall into the can and somehow get stuck to the glider without my noticing. Where was all this coming from? I couldn’t believe how many different ways of failing I could come up with before even starting. And that was just one edge I had to talk myself away from.
I was also fighting my perfectionistic tendencies. What had possessed me to use three colors? That’s six different ways to mess up, where two colors are next to each other and–oops!–the hand isn’t steady enough and a bit of blue gets on the purple part. I envisioned myself in tears of frustration. I finally resorted to cliches to get myself working. Do, or not do. Keep calm and carry on. “Good enough” is good enough. One step at a time.I can’t say painting has now become my favorite activity, but it sure wasn’t as bad as I was dreading. I got into the zen of doing a good job without being emotionally attached to it. If the wrong color got dabbed on an adjacent part, I calmly made note of the fact and took care of it when the next coat was applied. Using a very small brush for touch-ups helped tremendously. I washed my brushes out thoroughly and let them dry overnight before using them again. I kept the paint can on the opposite side of the glider from where I was working so I wouldn’t kick it over, and poured a small amount of paint into a plastic tub to dip my brush in. The perfectionist part of me told myself, “When the stain has dried and the glider is back on the porch, you’re going to find a place where the wrong color didn’t get touched up.” And the saner part of me said, “That will be fine. I’m doing the best job I can and the glider looks so much better, no one will notice.” (I did notice that spot today–two weeks after I finished–and I’m pleased to report my saner self was right. The world as we know it did not end. I didn’t even slap my forehead.)
What I would do differently
For this project, I thought the foam brush worked better than the bristle brush, although it did get snagged on rough wood. (I probably could have sanded more than I did.) The painting could have gone faster if I’d had one brush for each color. That way I could have gone on to the next color without waiting for the brush to dry out after being washed. However, I often didn’t have enough to do three different colors in one day anyway.
I learned a lot about myself working on this project. I was definitely out of my comfort zone and the finished glider looks a lot better than I thought it would. It’s a relief to no longer have this project hanging over my head, but it’s not the start of a new hobby for me. I’d still rather be gardening.
Duluth Trading paid for the supplies for this project back in 2014. I still appreciate the kick in the pants I got.