Southern Yellow Pine

I nod my head to the beat, my earphones pumping music just above the volume of the DeWalt sander in my right hand. I pause to wipe sawdust from my eyes and see Chrissy approaching, blinking phone held in her hand. I sigh and turn the music off, pulling the dust mask from my face and switching off the sander, which stops with a shudder. I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand and taste sawdust. I look down at my arms and see it coating the folds of my sleeves, the spaces between my arm hairs.

“It’s Josh Urban,” She says, taking in my appearance with a glance before returning to her office. Her overalls and chucks make her look 18, not 30. She has a mouth worse than Lil Wayne – but that’s what happens to an only child, raised on a wildlife center in the middle of Arizona.

I lean against the sawhorse and give Josh my best, cheerful customer service voice.

In addition to helping with carpentry products, I sell cork bottle stoppers to distilleries all over the country. Distillery owners all seem to be the same type: They think their product is the best on the market, and that should allow them to order 25,000 corks and have them ship the very same day, regardless of our current stock (or lack thereof). Josh is not happy with me because his shipment has not arrived to his state of the art, 100% natural tequila facility, where I hope his employees get enough free samples to remain employed there.

I tell Josh I will do my absolute best to contact customs and determine when his cheapest option will arrive from Portugal, and wish him a happy Monday.

First name greatest, last name ever – I lay the phone down and put the dust mask on, the sander whines to life and I pass it across the honey colored board under my hand. The lumber, oddly enough, is for the brewery across the street. Craft brewers seem to obsess over carbonation and yeast origins, rather than bottling deadlines and label details. Whatever friends brothers cousins carpenter that install the front of their brewery didn’t know a thing about applying sealant, and they asked us to re-do the entire job.

160 boards total for the front entrance, side entrance, and some detailing around the windows near the back of the building: We measured them earlier this week, and I made a cut list to determine how many at what length. We made a few extras in the event that some boards don’t hold up as well. I also learned to measure twice and cut once.

This type of work, the loud, repetitive sanding, that doesn’t seem to make any initial change (but matters when applying the correct sealant) is more satisfying than appealing to customer’s egos, or wallets, or design themes, or whatever. Honest work, some people may call it. A reason to stay in school, perhaps.

But I like working with my hands, I like the feel of the wood smooth under them the most, splinters and all. Stepping back amid all the dust and shavings and seeing what a difference your hands made. Sometimes you have to go with the grain.