The artful life has its complexities

“Simplicity is the most difficult thing to secure in this world; it is the last limit of experience and the last effort of genius.”

George Sand

By Mike Hess

I have a very slight headache.

Yesterday it would have been from trying to solder a brass light switch knob on the back of a Malaysian coin for use as a sealing wax stamp. The torch would not operate well and the combination of burning flux, asbestos siding, fiberglass mat and—despite all this protection I put down—the laminate counter top, made a haze that I happily left for 7 hours.

Today, it’s possible that the fumes from the acetone are at fault even though I did the bulk of the cleaning of the torch tips outside. There will be more acetone to clean the goo off the big wood bowl I bought.

Acetone is not a friendly solvent. Goes right through one’s skin, I’m pretty sure, like DMSO. Certainly it dissolved the plastic of the torch handle. That surprised me. Yesterday I wore gloves (though acetone will dissolve nitrile gloves, I discovered). Today I just planned on not touching acetone, but the dissolved handle ended up on my fingers and no amount of soap will remove the black splotches. I suppose I could clean them off with acetone…

The Fresnel lens is the coolest thing. Every broken projection TV has one. Not to mention a huge trapezoid front surface mirror.

I cut up a stainless steel bed frame. Those parts are ready to be cut to length for the frame I’m building for a Fresnel lens. Perhaps I will put a metal cutting blade on the band saw in my living room. The Eastlake hall tree is completely reassembled after the disassembly of moving it from Seattle. Well, the disassembly caused by the gardening tools landing on it during the move from Seattle. The Eastlake dresser is close to being done. I need to reinforce the candle shelf where the screw head pulled straight through.

The Resale Evangelista tells me all this sounds like “simplifying and focusing to make a more artful life.” Artful perhaps, but believe me, if you were here just now, simplified is not the word that would come to mind. I am encouraged that for the most part, I follow through on all these projects. Right now I’m about to measure the oak from a headboard to build the case of a Jacob’s Ladder I made.

Things that have lost their utility are encumbrances. No need to mourn their loss—they are literally more trouble than they’re worth.

Every once in awhile, I find I’m holding on to a thing or have a fix that’s been stalled mid-operation for a long time. Over by the kitchen door are the remains of a floor lamp someone offered up by the dumpster of an apartment building. Turns out the only part left undamaged on it is the part I hopelessly bent on my own. Instead of the excitement of something for nothing or making an improvement, it’s become an annoyance—a visual and mental stumbling block, the drag on emotion of a thing unfinished. Worse it may become invisible to me.

I always wanted a roll-top desk, but the one I bought needed help here and there. I fixed a drawer and a pigeon hole, but the roll never did work properly and it bugged me every time I opened it.  Got rid of that desk and I never wanted another.

Usually, I’m able to introduce these materials to the dumpster myself, either on the sunny corner on the outside, or into the dark interior. I’ve a motto that if you can’t find it, it’s not doing you any good. Things that have lost their utility are encumbrances. No need to mourn their loss—they are literally more trouble than they’re worth.

Mike Hess is my go-to friend for anything technical, for pithy quotes, opinions on dust, movie recommendations and weird words, like chingadera. Look it up.

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