John and Juan came back last Thursday I think it was; they were supposed to come back Monday. But were delayed. We decided to go with John and Juan to fix up the closet into a small office since we did not like the plans the California Closet people came up with, and while what they might have done might have been purely functional, that’s all it would have been. White all over, perfectly machined but not something one would want to look at or be around all that much.
In the back of my mind, all along I had the notion of “real wood.” I have some sort of prejudice against “particle board.” I know that technically it is made out of wood: like wood chips and saw dust. But then some sort of chemical is used to fuse it all together. Some contend that it is stronger than “real wood.” But no matter what you do to it, it doesn’t look like real wood. Though of course you could put some wood veneer on it to make it look like wood. But it would have to be a damn fine veneer to make it look like wood.
I, at John’s suggestion, went to this place downtown that must be patronized by all the carpenters in town. I went to look at veneers because that had been John’s first suggestion. I got there and all I could find was door knobs and hinges and stuff like that; two whole rooms of the stuff. I was about to give up and wandered out back to find that there were several ramshackle buildings, all hooked together. I went in there and began to find all sorts of things.
But I couldn’t find anybody to answer my questions. They had guys back there that you could place orders with, but unless you were ordering something they wouldn’t look at you because the only people that were supposed to be back there were carpenters and contractors who knew the place and what they wanted and where to get it and not people like myself off the streets who cannot tell, when it comes to wood and working with it, shit from shinola.
But I found this kid—who did not look depressed out of his mind—like the other couple of guys I saw there. I mean these other guys had the classic signs. No energy, lips that turned down at the corners, and big black rings under their eyes. They were either terribly depressed or terribly hung-over. But the kid in a ripped and torn t-shirt had some energy and didn’t mind talking to a wood illiterate like me and said maybe what I wanted was some plywood, and they had some “birch, paint ready, on one side” for a good price.
At first when he said plywood, I was skeptical. This stuff, too, is not real wood, but thin sheets of real wood all glued together and the plywood I was used to seeing was crappy stuff with pieces missing. You might use it for flooring, but you would cover it up with linoleum or something. But when I looked at the sheets of birch, paint ready on one side, I was impressed because the paint ready side really did look like wood.
Not bad, I thought. And birch too. I liked the sound of birch.
Above: a shelf box made by John and Juan out of plywood birch one side paint ready, plus trim.