Sign Of The (Passing) Times

The fully primed, reassembled sign was ready for its first coat of paint. With a few hours left in the day and a few days left in my time in NH, I figured I could pull it off. I perused the collection of paint brushes that had gathered on the work bench and grabbed one and a gallon can. The application went smooth, though my eyes strained in the poor light see to which areas were covered and which had been missed. My eyes shifted to the bench where they took pause and peered at the can as I dipped my brush. “Fuck, son of a bitch” I said, a little to loud and a little to harsh with, as my mother would later say the “blue language.” I had just spent thirty minutes re priming the sign instead of painting. Now it would be another couple of hours of drying time for the primer before actually painting the sign. Shit. Then the lettering. Might not get it all done.


I’m not sure when I started the project, but I imagine it was on a Friday or so.  A wrench and a small application of WD40 allowed the quick-links to be loosened and the sign taken down.  A fine layer of mold, moss and peeling paint darkened the once white sign.  It had been hanging for more than nineteen years.  With a firm grasp making the bottom part of the sign come off in my hand, it seemed I would have my work cut out for me.

Instead of a complete recreation of the sign, of which I assumed the lettering and spacing would take the most time, I decided to go for a “major overhaul.”  A wonder bar, screwdriver and hammer proved effective at slowly taking off the various layers and trimmings. Rotten wood littered the basement’s cement floor and soon I was left with only the white painted plywood proclaiming the presence of the Stark Inn Bed and Breakfast.

Work space was at a premium, as is often the case at my mother’s house. Stuff lay cluttered and stacked everywhere, some untouched for 19 years. I knew the end result of my project would not just be a refurbished sign, but also, a cleaner, slightly more organized cellar. I cleared off a work bench, found some tools, and tried to come up with a plan.

The original sign, constructed by my dad probably over twenty years ago, consisted of a piece of plywood, two repurposed bed posts, some molding and a few eye bolts. It was mostly held together with a few nails and corner braces. Upon inspection I decided that I could reuse the plywood and the eye bolts. I would need to replace the rest.

A thorough scouring of the various usual haunts of where I would find supplies yielded a few pieces of molding and two short bed posts. The molding wasn’t long enough nor were the bed posts. Further searching scored me an actual headboard of a bed, old enough in nature that it still had bed posts, though that type of item in excess is not hard to come by in the old 1800’s farmhouse.

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I sacrificed the headboard and sawed of the bed posts. I had to move the operation outside to strip the paint off the posts, unless I wanted a lot less brain cells. A small amount of 5f5, some sawhorses, steel wool and a chisel had the green paint peeled off in no time. Back in the cellar I primed (not as bad on the brain cells, at least I don’t think) the sign board and various pieces of molding I had purchased at the hardware store. The bed post sported some holes from its previous life as a bed that would not be needed in its reincarnated life as a sign and I needed to fill those. A bit of sawing, swearing, gluing, puttying, and generally jerry-rigging (somewhat literally to the friends who call me that name) later had the holes filled and the posts ready for priming.

A long trip to upstate New York to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with family interrupted the assembly process but allowed some of my brain cells time for healing.

Despite having filled some holes, assembling the pieces called for new holes, so there was more drilling, cutting and boring. Like the filling process it was one of improvisation but they came out usable enough. After the holes were created, it took me an hour or so to attach the posts to the board. That process went smoother than I imagined it would and with the clock ticking prior to my leaving, it felt good to be moving on to the final phases.

And that brings me back around to the case of mistaken identity, primer for paint. Luckily the drying time for primer is pretty quick, much quicker than the oil based paint I had used on one side of the sign prior to the trip to NY. That had taken days to dry in the cool, damp work space of the basement. I learned from it though and was planning on a latex paint for the remainder of the project.

The time for the primer to dry also afforded me time to finish up another project I had undertaken, the painting of a wooden and metal bench that sits in the front yard. So while the primer dried, I finished painting and reassembling the now newer looking piece of lawn furniture.

I hear slow steps making there way down the stairs. The pattern tells me it is my mother, that and the fact that there is no one else in the house at the moment. I have the painted and assembled sign perched on a makeshift work bench. It is an old bureau, half stripped of paint, that has been sitting untouched in the same place for the last 19 years when it was last worked on before my father died. Now it’s location makes a fine spot on which to work. I doubt it will ever be much more any time soon. A small cup of green paint and a small, high school era paint brush occupy my hands as I try to keep the paint in between the lines.

“You do good work, Nancy said as she stood and watched me paint the green letters on to the sign.

“Not really, it’s kinda rushed and sloppy” I reply, “though I do think it looks better than the previous rotten and peeling one. Thanks though.”

There were two sides to letter and that process took the remainder of the time I had left in NH. In the end, I was unable to hang the sign back on it’s post and left that task for Michael and Josh. I trust it is in good hands and leave with the thought that if this one lasts (and is needed) for just half of its predecessors life, it will have been time well spent.

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A little bit less of a nomad now, Jared still likes to refer to himself in the third person.

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