How To Make A Board
================== by Dave Barry
Most of what I know about carpentry, which is almost nothing, I
learned in shop. I took shop during the Eisenhower administration, when
boys took shop and girls took home economics--a code name for "cooking".
Schools are not allowed to separate boys and girls like that any more.
They're also not allowed to put students' heads in vises and tighten
them, which is what our shop teacher, Mr. Schmidt, did to Ronnie Miller
in the fifth grade when Ronnie used a chisel when he should have used a
screwdriver. (Mr. Schmidt had strong feelings about how to use tools
properly.) I guess he shouldn't have put Ronnie's head in the vise, but
it (Ronnie's head) was no great prize to begin with, and you can bet
Ronnie never confused chisels and screwdrivers in later life. Assuming
he made it to later life.
Under Mr. Schmidt's guidance, we hammered out hundreds of the ugliest
and most useless objects the human mind can conceive of. Our first major
project was a little bookshelf that you could also use as a stool. The
idea was that someday you'd be looking for a book, when all of a sudden
you'd urgently need a stool, so you'd just dump the books on the floor
and there you'd be. At least I assume that was the thinking behind the
bookshelf-stool. Mr. Schmidt designed it, and we students sure know
better than to ask any questions.
I regret today that I didn't take more shop in high school, because
while I have never once used anything I know about the cosine and the
tangent, I have used my shop skills to make many useful objects for my
home. For example, I recently made a board.
I use my board in many ways. I stand on it when I have to get socks
out of the dryer and water has been sitting in our basement around the
dryer for a few days, and has developed a pretty healthy layer of scum on
top (plus heaven-only-knows-what new and predatory forms of life under-
I also use my board to squash spiders. (All spiders are deadly kill-
ers. Don't believe any of the stuff you read in "National Geographic".)
If you'd like to make a board, you'll need:
Materials: A board, paint.
Tools: A chisel, a handgun.
Get your board at a lumberyard, but be prepared. Lumberyards reek of
lunacy. They use a system of measurement that dates back to Colonial
times, when people had brains the size of M&Ms. When they tell you a
board is a "two-by-four", they mean it is NOT two inches by four inches.
Likewise, a "one-by-six" is NOT one inch by six inches. So if you know
what size board you want, tell the lumberperson you want some other size.
If you don't know what size you want, tell him it's for squashing spi-
ders. He'll know what you need.
You should paint your board so people will know it's a home carpentry
project, as opposed to a mere board. I suggest you use a darkish color,
something along the lines of spider guts. Use your chisel to open the
paint can. Have your gun ready in case Mr. Schmidt is lurking around.
Once you've finished your board, you can move on to a more advanced
project, such as a harpsichord. But if you're really going to get into
home carpentry, you should have a home workshop. You will find that your
workshop is very useful as a place to store lawn sprinklers and objects
you intend to fix sometime before you die. My wife and I have worked out
out a simple eight-step procedure for deciding which objects to store in
my home workshop:
1. My wife tells me an object is broken. For instance, she may say,
"The lamp on my bedside table doesn't work."
2. I wait several months, in case my wife is mistaken.
3. My wife notifies me she is not mistaken. "Remember the lamp on my
bedside table?" she says. "Yes?" I say. "Still broken," she says.
4. I conduct a preliminary investigation. In the case of the lamp, I
flick the switch and note that the lamp doesn't go on. "You're right,"
I tell my wife. "That lamp doesn't work."
5. I wait 6 to 19 months, hoping that God will fix the lamp, or the
Russians will attack us and the entire world will be a glowing heap of
radioactive slag and nobody will care about the lamp anymore.
6. My wife then alerts me that the lamp still doesn't work. "The lamp
still doesn't work," she says, sometimes late at night.
7. I try to repair the lamp on the spot. Usually, I look for a likely
trouble spot and whack it with a blunt instrument. This often works on
lamps. It rarely works on microwave ovens.
8. If the on-the-spot repair doesn't work, I say: "I'll have to take
this lamp down to the home workshop." This is my way of telling my wife
that she should get another lamp if she has any short-term plans, say,
to do any reading in bed.
If you follow this procedure, after a few years you will have a great
many broken objects in your home workshop. In the interim, however, it
will look barren. This is why you need tools. To give your shop an
attractive, nonbarren appearance, you should get several thousand dollars
worth of tools and hang them from pegboards in a graceful display.
Basically, there are four different kinds of tools:
Tools You Can Hit Yourself With (hammers, axes).
Tools You Can Cut Yourself With (saws, knives, hoes, axes).
Tools You Can Stab Yourself With (screwdrivers, chisels).
Tools That, If Dropped Just Right, Can Penetrate Your Foot (awls).
I have a radial arm saw, which is like any other saw except that it
has a blade that spins at several billion revolutions per second and
therefore can sever your average arm in a trice. When I operate my rad-
ial arm saw, I use a safety procedure that was developed by X-ray machine
technicians: I leave the room.
I turn off all the power in the house, leave a piece of wood near the
saw, scurry to a safe distance, and turn the power back on. That is how
I made my board.
Once you get the hang of using your tools, you'll make all kinds of
projects. Here are some other ones I've made:
A length of rope.
Wood with nails in it.
If you'd like plans for any of these projects, just drop some money
in an envelope and send it to me and I'll keep it.