Saturday, June 9, 2012

Things Seniors Need: Item 8 - Hobbies

In one of my January blogs I revisited Ten Things Seniors Need (October 15, 2011) and today in desperate need of inspiration (a thought worthy of its own blog) I dug back into the original list for inspiration. Item number eight’s brief description of the importance of having hobbies notes the purpose of the hobby is to keep busy.

Perhaps that purpose is too limiting. A person can keep busy playing solitaire, watching TV or mopping the floor. None of these activities could legitimately be called hobbies. My original blog mentioned purposeful activities to keep a person sharp and interesting. But that definition is not very enlightening. Advice that is often given in my writing group is: show, don’t tell. With that advice in mind I will try to breakdown one of my hobbies and show how a simple hobby is really a very complex process with many unexpected benefits and activities.

Refinishing Cigar Boxes

Inspirational box and wine box mini-bookshelf
Many years ago a co-worker gave me a wooden cigar box that her husband refinished. She told me to put it on my desk to store pens, pencils, paper clips and other small items. It would keep my desk neat and be an attractive accessory. I left that position and put the box on my home desk with the same purpose. Now I store flash drives and other small computer related items in it. I looked at that box every day since she gave it to me and thought someday I’ll make one myself.

Recently that desire came to fruition. A current co-worker is a cigar aficionado and I came into the possession of a few unfinished boxes. My experimentation began with a little refresher of my ancient woodworking skills and a visit to the local lumber center. The purchase of a small orbital sander, sander paper, several small paint brushes and a variety of stains rounded out step one.

One Saturday I cleared a space on my work bench and began. The initial steps included removing old labels and sanding the box smooth. Next the stain was applied. After the stain dried the finish was further smoothed with steel wool, then a second coat of stain applied. The end result was a box with an uneven coat of stain and a few bubbles. But I could see the potential and techniques that needed refining.

Subsequent boxes came out a lot better. I gave a few boxes to my young niece and nephew. My nephew excitedly asked if he could do them with me. After the acquisition of a few more boxes he came over one morning and we worked on those boxes. Now I was beyond learning, I was teaching, another unexpected result.

Sporadically I have been collecting and working on boxes. The process is surprisingly simple but still requires attention to details: prepare carefully, work clean and allow time between steps. A six or eight inch square box might take two days to complete.

At a recent neighborhood garage sale I asked if they had any cigar boxes and was rewarded with a different item. They had a small, dried up, warped box of unknown origin. I bought it for a dollar. It sat on my work bench for several weeks while I looked at it and tried to figure a method for restoration. Another run to the store for some hardware, wood glue and a dark stain was needed. I disassembled the box, sanded the individual pieces and glued the box back together. A few very small holes were drilled and tiny brass nails used to secure the top to the sides. The box was stained in sections, reassembled and two brass screws and nuts were used to plug two holes. The completed box now sported a dark finish to hide the imperfections from age and wear. My wife looked at the plugged two holes, one in the front and the other in the rear, and declared that the original purpose of the box was probably a card catalog from a library or a recipe box. The holes were for the rod that prevented the cards from being removed. I tested the idea by putting a 3 x 5 index card into the box, a perfect fit.

Last week another co-worker who was cleaning out the household goods of her grandmother brought me another box of unknown use. The box was in excellent condition and was ornately decorated with a carved design. A small label on the bottom of the box and a partial label on the underside of the lid gave a few clues to the boxes history. A brief internet search (with my friend – Google) gave us the answer. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s wood burning was a popular art form and hobby. The box originally contained a kit of wood burning tools and a stencil. The stencil and tools were used to burn the design onto the box. The tools could later be used with other stencils for other projects.  I had an art history lesson.

The box is pristine and the only restoration needed is the application of a clear protective finish to prevent any future damage to the wood.

A simple hobby of refinishing cigar boxes resulted in a wealth of pleasures: relearning old skills, learning new techniques, working with my hands in an artisan fashion, teaching skills to my nephew, searching garage sales for other items to restore and an excuse to go the home center for gadgets (and every man needs gadgets). And of course now I have attractive boxes to put more of stuff in and give as gifts. At one of my favorite Italian restaurants I traded a refinished cigar box for an empty wine crate which I made into a mini bookcase for my 1950’s vintage wood office desk which I refinished many years ago.

1950's Desk Restoration Project
I have two painted flying frogs that are in desperate need of refinishing.  I am working on the smaller of the two frogs developing a method on how to bring those pieces back to life.  From boxes to flying frogs, what a leap!
Flying frog and two unfinished cigar boxes

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  1. It keeps you busy and away from trouble.

    Here's a project for you: put your shoes under the workbench in a box?

  2. The sneakers are drying out after a power washing project. I do keep busy.

  3. Wow!!! Looks like fun. Needlepoint and my blog are my hobbies but the latter is more than that -- writing has been a compulsion that's been with me since they gave me a big fat pencil and that ugly yellow paper in first grade. (And yeah, the Great American Novel -- unfinished, of course -- is on my hard drive!!!!) LOL

    Thanks for coming by!!!!!

  4. To Kay:
    We all have the Great American Novel, mine was done after I left my last stressful job and took 4 years. But it was just a learning experience.

    I will check your blog and have listed it on my URLs of note.

  5. Hello Friend , thanks for share this information. but any friend or seniors shear your hobby story. so send me on & if your story best so publish on magazine .

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