Stair of Despair

Dream Once Think Twice

We are currently renovating our 60 year old home, and have been doing so for the past six years. I have often commented to my husband that I hope to live long enough to see it finished.

The past year marked the restoration time of our front hall, a fairly small area, with an old wooden staircase which takes up half the entire width. It was my bright idea to strip off all the old stain and varnish and reclaim the beautiful, original wood. It was to be my personal project (nobody else wanted anything to do with it), and the pride and glory of producing a magnificent showpiece would be all mine upon completion. Boy, was I naïve!

For those considering a similar plight, I am including a few excerpts from the journal that I kept, along with a warning to:

THINK TWICE BEFORE DOING THIS!

June 25th - My husband and father-in-law removed the carpeting from the stairs today. The wood has a really yucky appearance, so there's no point in stripping the painted stairs, we'll just recarpet.

June 30th - A friend from work has offered to come over and help me strip the stair spindles and banister. Her name is Marg, and she figures that we can get it done in an afternoon. Tonight I will purchase the necessary supplies - stripper, brushes, brush cleaner, rubber gloves, putty knives, and beer - for our little project tomorrow. It'll be fun.

July 1st - Marg arrived at 10:00 a.m. My son helped us remove the spindles from the stair casing, and we were ready to start in no time! At 5:00 p.m. we stopped for supper, and then Marg went home. We have ten spindles almost finished. There are 32 all together, as well as a banister, and a large newel post. I'm disappointed that we weren't able to get more done.

July 2nd - I raced home from work to start on the stairs again. I would like to be done in a week, but I don't know that I'll make it, as it took me until 11:30 to finish sanding six of the ten spindles that Marg and I worked on yesterday. Things would porgress much faster if they were straight instead of being so ornately lathed.

July 3rd - Only four more completed. I don't want to talk about it.

July 4th - Started on the newel post just to get away from the spindles. Marg dropped by to see how things were going. She didn't stay, the stinker.

July 5th - Marg took pity on me and showed up with a six pack of beer to help. Ya gotta love her. We were really productive today, breaking our previous record of ten almost done spindles by one.

July 6th, 7th, 8th - ditto July 3rd entry. I'm getting sick of this already.

July 12th - same old thing.

July 19th - I may as well keep the entries down to once a week. Nothing new is happening, and I'm sure that I am going to be stripping and sanding these things for the rest of my natural life.

July 22nd - News! I've started the banister (to get away from the spindles). Unfortunately, it and the newel post were constructed of 3 distinctly different types of wood. I should have painted.

July 23rd - My husband and father-in-law want to know when I'm going to be finished. They say that I'm holding them up, that they can't put up the panelling until I am done and out of the way.

July 30th - I needed visual evidence of my progress, so tonight I started linseed oiling the completed spindles. I mixed the oil with paint thinner as I wanted to bring out the grain without darkening the wood. I actually felt a little of my original excitement returning as I reminded myself that this was the final step. Can't wait to see the results.

August 1st - Ahhh! They looked terrible! Well, not all of them. A couple turned out really nice. No two spindles were the same colour. Some had large, black, mouldy-looking spots. I'm sick!

After that last entry I was too discouraged to record any more of the events that lead to the final conclusion of my project. What started out as a labour of love ended in the guise of torture, and I am glad to be done.

Yes, the finished staircase looks lovely and I am very proud of it, but at this point I have to give my husband credit. The whole day and a half that it took him to paint the spindles was well worth it. They look great.

Stair of Despair, a.k.a. My Life as a Stripper was originally printed as a feature article in The London Free Press. One of their photographers came to the house to capture evidence of my painful experience. My mug made the front page of the Homes Section but a very nice picture of my very young grandson was included in one of the photos.

© 2008 Shirley Anderson

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Comments 25 comments

Eileen Hughes profile image

Eileen Hughes 8 years ago from Northam Western Australia

Very interesting, I honestly feel your pain and can understand. We went through something similar stripping the lino off the floor covered with glue and redoing with slate. Now that it is finished you think it was worth it because the pain of doing it is over. Good hub


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thx, Eileen.

Looked nice when it was done, but I'll never go through it again. While doing the livingroom, I had to climb over my couch to get to the fridge for a whole month.

I'll move before doing it again. I think what you said is right, it's a relief when it's over. Kind of like hitting your foot to forget about your headache.


Write On! profile image

Write On! 8 years ago from United States

Hi Shirley -

I have been in my home, which we bought new almost twenty years ago. And it is now in need of renovation and repairs. I am just a chicken:-)

You keep working it and perhaps I will become inspired.

Thanks,

Write On!


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Write On! Careful...inspired and insane start with the same letters! You start out with the first and end up with the second. Move into a hotel and have contractors let you know when they're finished.

I'm kidding, of course. Sort of.

Good luck, may the reno force be with you.

:)


funnebone profile image

funnebone 8 years ago from Philadelphia Pa

a different kind of despair than mine, and much much better!


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

funnebone:

no water involved in mine, but lots of beer and cursing.


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Hi Shirley, your sharing drove me into reflection which made me smile (at all the beers and the curses-understandably) and applaud you at the same time--for completing an arduous task. I don't think I would ever be brave enough to repair something. LOL --michelle


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 8 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

The only stripping project I ever started was on an antique bookcase with a glass door.  I wanted to bring the oak wood back to the original color.  I was abut 90 percent done, after two weeks of work, when the door of the bookcase swung open all by itself, tipped the bookcase forward onto the concrete floor of the basement, and shattered both the glass and the wood of the door.

I so admire your perseverence.  And three cheers to Marg and her beer. If I had had Marg and the beer, maybe I wouldn't have cried so much!


trish1048 profile image

trish1048 8 years ago

Hi Shirley,

LOVED the journal entries! I was sitting here laughing so hard, but I could only imagine how you must have felt! You poor thing,,,but isn't it great to have a dear friend to support your efforts? Seriously, this was quite an undertaking, and you kept at it to the end. And just think of what you learned! I applaud you! I would have quit sooooo much sooner and slapped on the paint lol,,,

GREAT hub! Thanks for sharing,

Patty


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Sherri - OMG, I feel so bad for you! I know how labour intensive that is. Hope you had a couple of drinks after that!


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Hi Patty - I'm glad you enjoyed my article! This is the first one that I ever wrote and sold....a long, long time ago. Believe me when I tell you that I will never again attempt anything like this.


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 8 years ago from Stepping past clutter

I like the chronological approach to this, as well as the teaser in the Hub intro. I really had no idea which stripper you were referring to and that drew me in, haha. Thanks for tweaking my curiosity!


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thank-you, Storytellersrus! I'm glad you liked my approach, and I really appreciate you commenting on it.


rmr profile image

rmr 8 years ago from Livonia, MI

I had a similar experience with an old water bed, once. It happened shortly before I went out and bought a new bed.


B.T. Evilpants profile image

B.T. Evilpants 8 years ago from Hell, MI

I remember that water bed. I was always getting blamed for the leaks. As if I would intentionally poke my antlers through it. Honestly!


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Okay, I'm getting Bert and Ernie vibes here....RMR & B.T. share sleeping quarters?

B.T., you did it, didn't you?

RMR, may I suggest putting a circle of butter tarts down around the bed before retiring. The jackalope'll be so fat and full that he won't be able to get up on the bed. Speaking of which, he must have really long legs.

And what happened to Butter Tarts Anonymous?


rmr profile image

rmr 8 years ago from Livonia, MI

He published a new hub, yesterday about his ongoing struggle. I believe it also explains the sleeping situation. I didn't really read it. I try not to encourage the little bugger.


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Oh, thx for letting me know, I'll check that out and just see what he's been up to.

I don't blame you for not encouraging him.

Have you noticed that you two are becoming more and more like the Odd Couple?


B.T. Evilpants profile image

B.T. Evilpants 8 years ago from Hell, MI

That was one of my favorite movies, but rmr is more akin to Grumpy Old Men!


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

You live next door to Ann Margaret?


rmr profile image

rmr 8 years ago from Livonia, MI

I wish!!!


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Uh-huh, and if Mel Gibson or Hugh Jackman (purrr) moved in next door to me, I wouldn't be disappointed.


Kind Regards profile image

Kind Regards 6 years ago from Missouri Ozarks - Table Rock Lake

Shirley Anderson, I thought Uh-oh on June 30 when Marg thought you'd get it done in the afternoon. I knew you were in for a surprise. Congrats! on getting it done. Kind Regards


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Uh-oh is right, Kind Regards. I will never ever strip a staircase again. Ever. Thankfully, it looked great but I learned that painting is whole lot easier and you don't run into mismatched wood.

Thanks for your comment.


Sun-Girl profile image

Sun-Girl 5 years ago from Nigeria

Nice info,thanks for writing.

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