My Porch Project - episode 2

The first hurdle to clear on my porch project is the cement-like attachment of the dull, grey paint that has entombed the spindles. Multiple layers coat the curves of their profile, denying its shape and character expression. Trial and error took me through two kinds of chemical stripper and assorted scraping devices before I finally hit my stride denuding these wooden stalwarts.

Setting aside considerable anxiety about carcinogens, I initially thought chemical stripper was the way to go.  Presumably, the paint would liquefy before my eyes so I could just push off the muck with a painter's 5-in-1. With more than 90 spindles in line for treatment, imagining this outcome helped mute the vividly highlighted skull and crossbones screaming from the side of the can. Anticipating the tactile experience of dissolving the past and digging its weight out of the grooves and corners made my mouth water with desire.

Anyone that has ever undertaken a formidable paint stripping project knows my folly. Chemical stripper is powerful,  but the pitiful bubbles and riffly curls of the whisper-thin top layers of paint that peeled away from the spindles left thick decades of impervious shellack behind. The cure of time had hardened the chemical composition and nothing but brute physical force was going to make a dent in this casement. Malcolm had tried to explain this to me but only the failure of my fantasy method was enough to convince me that getting ugly with a scraper was the only real option here.

I now have two sizes of flat scrapers, each with "rough" and "fine" blades. There is no magical dissolution of muck; no short cuts. Decades of dance and yoga are paying dividends as I dig in to the paint hanging upside down over the rail, or crouched on either side, shoulders squared and stretched to the limit seeking leverage against the hardening of time at every angle. The trick is balancing aggressive forward force with deft sensitivity to keep from gouging the wood; action as metaphor for the project itself.


Gouge! It's a bummer when this happens, but I have a plan for fixing the many gouges. To be continued...