by Rich Sheppard
When things get a bit stressful in my life, I take refuge in projects around
the house. I detest house projects so much that doing them blasts my thoughts
away from what's troubling me and provides a measure of consolation.
Underestimating a Job
My first big task seemed a snap, promising fast stress release: painting
the decorative wood frame surrounding my front door. Resolutely, I purchased
paint and brushes. I'd be done in time for dinner -- ready to absorb a meal,
a ballgame, and additional stress.
About to start painting, I finally took a
closer look at the door frame. Even to this novice, "surface
preparation" was an obvious requirement. The existing paint was ancient
-- crustily, crackling, and peely. A minor setback. A short cellar rummage
yielded a worn wire brush and rusty paint scraper thoughtfully left behind by
the previous owners. Back to work!
But this is a
House Project, and Projects are never easy. The wire brush simply
doesn't do the job that a motivated new home owner wants. It just scratches
the surface, removing little flecks of the curly, already loose paint. The scraper
is promising, but can't penetrate the dense, thickly-applied paint
layers. The stuff is like tank armor. I need something brutal. The more
brutal, the better. Where to turn?
TV to the Rescue
I'm no fan of the
people on those cooking and home-improvement shows on public TV. They make
things easy, when sure for them they are because they do them for a living.
They're often smug about their talent.
sometimes have those shows on in the background while I read or dine. Even
if it's annoying to suffer people doing things you can't, it's sometimes
strangely appealing and relaxing to watch other people work. Burning
food, hammering thumbs, whatever. Amazingly, something useful surfaced, and
just in time.
I was half-watching a handyman show
when they had a helluva paint scraping task. They were using an electric heat
gun. Perfectly brutal! In an ugly conventional war against paint, the
heat gun is splendidly nuclear. At forty bucks, the affordable answer to my
woes. (Until I see my electric bill.)
The heat gun
resembles a blow dryer -- even the attachments are identical. The directions
clearly read, DO NOT USE AS A HAIR DRYER, and for good reason. Trials
prove you can incinerate a diamond-hard frozen pizza back to crunchy black
carbon in twenty seconds. It's a blowtorch with no visible flame -- a
fiendishly potent and perilous apparatus. Handheld Hell. Licensing may be
appropriate to keep it out of the wrong hands (mine).
you're stripping paint in the bathroom, please don't leave the heat gun
lying around. The innocent will come along and accidentally grab "heat
gun" instead of "blow dryer." That person's whole head will
surely be ablaze too quickly to amend the ghastly error. I'm certain (and
troubled) that this has occurred somewhere.
heat gun is so dangerous that it fascinates -- daring you to find senseless
new uses for the searing heat. But like the automobile cigarette lighter,
the electric pencil sharpener, and the heavy-duty blender, the heat gun is
not a toy. Sometimes, however, tools are more fun that way -- used as
hypnotic distractions from real work.
in the Cellar
An inquisitive toddler, I
occasionally conducted "tests" on the capabilities of electrical
appliances. The devices often "failed." (I can tell Sunbeam how
"heavy duty" their blenders really are.) Cigarettes don't cause
problems if you put them in an electric pencil sharpener; pens or straws do.
Don't get your finger in there, either. That's all behind me now -- I
believe I'm responsible enough to own a heat gun without licensing.
am I? The heat gun is so tempting. Setting "1" puts out a wicked
600 degrees, heat that boils and bubbles armor-tough paint layers for easy
scraping. Plenty of heat for anything, really. But why, if not to encourage
childish stunts, do the makers provide setting "2"? Setting
"2" produces 1200 blistering degrees, far more heat then the
public (especially me) needs for any purpose whatsoever.
are ideal laboratories. Some sick humans use the cellar for bad things --
kidnapping and such. I use my cellar strictly to endanger my own life:
finagling with electrical boxes, moving crushingly heavy objects by myself,
and startling plumbing mishaps. Plus the inevitable scientifically useless
heat gun trials.
The sirens grow reassuringly
louder. Here come the fire trucks -- hurry boys! Experiment #122c:
"Effects of 1200 Degrees on Glass Bottle" is a failure. The bottle
shattered, and a glowing glass shard ignited a gauzy curtain. I was slow
with the garden hose. The cellar is an Inferno, with the entire house soon
to become a smoking, radiating ruin. Is my fire insurance okay? I'll find
out. Of course like most, I could blame someone else and sue. Those devilish
heat gun builders never included a warning about stripping paint from glass
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