Confessions · Yes Boss

The Art of Hitting a Nail

I have decided that the art of hitting a nail is a sacred test of tradesmanship. I know this because I’ve been initiated.

Project: Exterior deck

Start Date: Soon

Method: Too complicated to explain

Manual Labour Involved: I shudder to think.

Big Boss took me around to this project this afternoon. It was mainly to debate battle tactics with the home owner, who had made the mistake of applying a cheap oil based deck coating to his pride and joy.

Note to All Proud Deck Owners: Don’t touch oil based products with a thousand metre pole.

You think you’re going to have lovely looking boards and rave to all your friends about your pretty outdoorsy area? Wrong. What you’re going to have, six months from now, is ugly greyee-brown timber flooring and a large pricey quote to fix it. Don’t. Do. It.

Anyhoo. Back to my initiation. In order to sand the guts out of a deck, you must first ‘punch’ down the nails. To do this you will require a hammer, a puncher and a strong constitution. The puncher is a short elongated length of metal, the hammer is a metal head on wood and the strong constitution is your teeth clenching one another like fearful lovers.

Place the puncher atop the nail, hold it in place with your fingers and bang the head with the hammer. I really shouldn’t say bang because that’s misleading. Instead of bang, hit the puncher like a psycho maniac and then repeat…and repeat…and repeat.

Imagine me kneeling on a deck. I have pro protective knee pads on. For my knees. I have protective ear muffs on. Yup, for my ears. Big Boss hands me a hammer and a puncher and says, ‘Go to it.’

Now, visualize me attacking deck boards with my hammer with a feverish vigor. This is partly because I’m mortally afraid of hitting my thumb and need a distraction, and partly because it soon becomes apparent that the nails are laughing at me.

I try to figure out the technique by watching the pro, but this doesn’t seem to help me. Big Boss’ hammer arches up and down gracefully. My aim wobbles around like a giddy wort hog. Big Boss hits each nail once and moves on. I get stuck hitting the same nail fifty million times.

By the time we near the end of our nail punching combat, my wrist is killing me, my thumbs have trouble bending and that hammer has connected with my sacred flesh at least five times. As if to have the last laugh, the final nail puts up such a fight I literally have to canon ball it five mil deep. I set my weapons down triumphant. I survived. I’m still breathing with all ten appendages attached to my hands.

Just as I start thinking that it’s a good thing this kind of crazy work is a one off job I overhear Big Boss on the mobile. ‘Yes, we want to get it right. We want to learn to specialize in decks.’

Specialize? Do more of this? I am so not going to have hands by the time I reach thirty.

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