Yesterday after a last sad trip to the dump with ruined items from our storage, I was finally able to start paneling the mudroom with tongue and groove pine.
Though it’s true that I’ve been fiendishly busy with other projects, it’s also true that I’ve had a bit of avoidance going on. I am always nervous using new skills. Power tools are like math to me. I can memorize and know math for a test. Then it vanishes completely from my mind. The same is true for power tools.
I own a giant 65-gallon air compressor; Damon traded it to me years ago in lieu of some money he owed me. The compressor comes up to my breastbone. It’s much bigger than I need, very heavy and unwieldy. Looking at its dusty dials I had zero memory of how it worked and a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach. Meanwhile, at the beginning of the summer when I thought I was going to be paneling the mudroom at any moment, I’d bought an inexpensive, no-name-brand finish nailer. I didn’t know how that worked either.
In the latter case, I could draw on memories of my father. Whenever we worked on projects, unlike all the male stereotypes, Dad always patiently unfolded and read directions. With Dad mentally at my side, I sat down, read the directions, and loaded the nail gun.
There were no directions for the compressor. I called Damon. He was on the road and the connection was bad. He has used compressors since he was a child. He couldn’t remember exactly how this particular one worked but if I had any trouble he could stop by on his way home.
I turned on the compressor. It roared to noisy life and I watched in alarm as the pressure rose to 125 psi. (The small gun required +/- 100 psi.) I turned off the compressor hurriedly and called Damon again. He told me to check the regulator.
“Which of the two dials is the regulator?” I asked.
“The regulator is the regulator! It regulates the pressure!”
“Okay,” I said, staring hopelessly at the compressor, understanding the words but, as usual, nothing about the machinery. “I’ll try again.”
I went to turn back on the compressor. Nothing happened. Click. Click.
I called Damon again. “Now it won’t even turn on.”
He could not hear me through the crackling on the connection. I hung up, defeated. No paneling today.
Then I had a brainwave. I hate this giant compressor, I thought. I’ll buy a little one! And it will come with directions!
All my builders have had small Porter-Cable compressors (called ‘pancake’ compressors because they are squat to the ground). They must be good. And they were on sale at the farm store, Tractor Supply. $99 but it will last the rest of my life and be worth it to never have to deal with this monster again!
I drove to Tractor Supply and located a clerk. “Can you tell me where to find your pancake compressors?”
His brows knit. “We don’t sell anything to do with pancakes!”
When the confusion cleared, it turned out the store didn’t have a single small compressor in stock.
Oh, well. I am sadly accustomed to changed plans due to malfunctioning equipment. Back at home, I was onto my next chore when the door opened and Damon limped in. “What’cha done now?” He worked on the compressor for five minutes, explaining the controls and dials in his usual impatient growl. Of course the compressor worked perfectly. “I knew you’d fucked it up!” he said, laughing, as he went out the door. Damon has rough language but he is a true friend.
I started paneling in the northwest corner of the room, between the woodstove and the wall. I figured this area would not only use up a lot of short pieces but be an excellent place to practice with the nail gun, as there will be a chopping block in front of it to hide any mistakes.
Sure enough, I made a few, but after I got the hang of the gun the work went quickly.
I cut holes for the outlet boxes with my jigsaw…
… and didn’t worry that some of the boards were slightly short because I knew they would be overlapped by panel boards from the north wall.
Of course, speaking of those north wall boards — given my lack of spatial awareness, it didn’t occur to me until I was nearly finished with the section that the nailer on that wall was not plumb, and thus I should have paneled the north wall first. Now, though it might be said that at the bottom of the course I had just enough nailer left over to catch the ends of the north wall boards…
… at the top, because the nailer is not straight, my west wall boards were nearly flush.
I stopped to make dinner. Today I will rip a 2×4 to add another nailer. Next time I’ll know to scout the nailing surfaces and plan ahead.
Of course, if I have to panel anything a few years from now, I’ll have forgotten again.