On The Surface, Part I

The ring of the saw blade glided to a stop after the last board was cut. Fluorescent lights from the woodshop fell dimly on the driveway as the sun settled behind a gentle pink summer sky blanketing the Denver suburb. We rounded up a group of four one-inch maple strips to apply to the backside of newly trimmed rectangular hardboard. This was all part of a specific painting surface I had been trying to figure out how to make since June. I was fortunate enough to find the assistance of a professional woodworker and delighted in how perfectly this dream seemed to be coming together.

Earlier in the spring, I was short on cash and couldn’t afford to buy canvas material to paint on. I had some old scraps of hardboard stored in the studio, so I took them out, cleaned them up and primed them with gesso to begin new work. I loved the way the paint responded to the hard surface. Not since college had I worked on boards, and even though this re-acquaintance was circumstantial, I couldn’t have been more pleased with the results.

I did notice after I applied the gesso primer and began the actual painting, the long boards bowed ever so slightly. I wondered if it was possible to straighten the wood in order to make them more presentable. I knew other manufacturers were already making similar products, but after I contacted a few, it became obvious that commissioning them to produce custom sized work was not the most cost-effective strategy. Besides, I wanted something that was unique to me- something I had a hand in putting together, without relying entirely on somebody else to produce it for me.

After spending some time at the hardware store and consulting with several friends who were at least a little familiar with woodworking, I wasn’t getting any further along in the process. I made several calls to various wood suppliers in the Denver area, but didn’t find them to be much help either aside from providing me with suggestions for the right materials and some basic knowledge of the properties of wood. Though I was very impressed by their overall attention to detail, I was no closer to finding what I was looking for. I decided I needed to find a subject matter expert who was willing to consult and assist me in the process.

I made one call to my friend David, who seems to know just about everyone who ever did anything under the sun. Sure enough, it didn’t take but a second for him to think of a neighbor who happened to be a professional woodworker, making cabinets and furniture for a living. One week later, I found myself alongside David, walking up the driveway to meet Tony.

To be continued…