Friday, January 16, 2009

Working with teak oil, or not

With so many of us buried under snow and freezing body parts off, what better time to take a break and set sail. Please welcome guest blogger, Norma Huss.

By Norma Huss

How do you keep a sailboat spiffed up? Some sailboats come with teak, a lovely, long-lasting wood that requires a lot of care if you prefer the soft luster of oiled wood. There’s the sanding, the applying of teak oil, and the hand-buffing that removes excess oil and preserves the surface.

My husband and I both loved that natural sheen on our sailboat’s teak. And, I’d committed to what one could consider housework in two homes. However, the surfaces inside a house are not exposed to the outside weather of sun, wind, rain, ice, and snow. Inside, one does not think about painting the cupboards or replacing floors for several years.

Sailboat maintenance is another ball of wax. There’s that teak. My husband researched teak upkeep. He didn’t consider allowing the teak to weather and turn gray. He rejected, as well, the overly shiny varnished look. He studied the various available oils, the good and bad points of each brand. He chose one and spent his anchorage hours on the teak. He began to teach me how to apply teak oil as well as he did. I tried.

I could certainly preserve the teak on the hand grab rail on top of the cabin. First I carefully sanded. Since the rail was so full of small angles, I used a cloth to wipe the oil onto the teak surface. Then, using a separate, clean cloth, I rubbed. And rubbed. I moved around to get at the wood from new angles. I supported my free hand on a cloth to protect the white fiberglass surface. And rubbed some more. Finally, I was rewarded with a single, lovely section of hand rail, free of excess oil. I wiped the sweat from my brow and went on to the next part.

After an hour, I proudly exhibited the full length of the teak rail glowing in the sunlight. And discovered something like twenty greasy spots on the white, fiberglass cabin roof.

“What’s this?” my husband asked.

Seems like I’d used a well-oiled cloth to protect the fiberglass from my oily hands.

However, there was an upside to this story, in fact two upsides. I loved to cook, my husband loved to keep our boat spiffed up. The galley became my domain, the teak his. Division of labor.

And the second benefit? I discovered a young woman who loved polishing teak as well as, or even better than my husband. Not only that, but she happened upon bodies right and left, and developed an infinity for solving the crime of murder. Great attributes in a friend of a mystery writer, wouldn’t you say?

Okay, so actually, I invented her. She’s my amateur sleuth in one and a half unpublished books. She’s pushing hard to get that second one finished. Do you suppose she knows she’s a product of teak oil and an overactive imagination?

Norma is a wife, mother, grandmother, and writer of mysterious manuscripts. She has had short mysteries published, but none - so far - of her full-length MSS. As for working, she's been a secretary, death-claims girl, museum docent volunteer, screener for lazy eye, and holder of various woman’s club offices.

Her interests other than writing are learning new things, boating and travel, reading, photography, grandchildren, and cooking (which accounts for the recipes included with some of her manuscripts).


Annette said...

Hi, Norma. Welcome to Working Stiffs!

I like the division of labor idea. My hubby and I generally reach the same kind of deal with projects. If I don't do a job to his specifications, it becomes his job.

Joyce Tremel said...

Welcome to Working Stiffs, Norma!

I don't mind polishing furniture, but I'm not sure I'd have the patience to do all that teak!

Anonymous said...

Joyce, teak is a whole monster unto itself, believe me.

Susan said...

Hey, Norma!

Interesting stuff!

This explains the manuscript I read of yours last year (or so) wherein the heroine was cleaning up a boat!

That is until the ghost of her dead friend wanted her to investigate her murder.

That was a great story.

susan meier

Anonymous said...

Love the post, Norma! What a job with all that teak...can't imagine all that. But, it sounds like you and your husband really enjoy it--well, each your own parts of it. And to have your protag leap from the belly of the ship you're working on is artisic fortune in spades.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Susan. That was last year when I took your Pennwriters intensive class (with great ideas, I might add).


Anonymous said...

Annette, I do like that division of labor. Works great.


Anonymous said...

Kathie, I have to admit, that sail boat was some time ago. We went on to a trawler, without teak, which we also enjoy.


Anonymous said...

Beautifully written Mom. You and Dad have always had a way of working together sucessfully. Love ya. DJH