Here’s the entry where I tell you about the various insane do-it-yourself projects I’ve been working on. Of course, you remember such classics as Weirdest Banister Ever Built, or Home Disco Roller Skating Rink or Barn Deck With Offset Umbrella or perhaps Stables Turned Into Dance Studio, but this winter’s projects at the farm took a turn for the arctic.
The Zambiani – Tessa and Lucy have been ice skating a lot lately, and when the yard turned into its usual slake of frozen tundra, it was well-used:
However, this brings up the problem suffered at all rinks: the crappy edges and chewed-up ice from all the spins, stops and landings. The usual solution is a Zamboni, that huge tractor-like machine that smears the ice back into a glistening sheen, but what of the backyard half-Lutz enthusiast?
Enter the Zambiani™. Carelessly scrambled together yet surprisingly effective, it’s a T-section of PVC pipe glued together. The top has a brass connector for the garden hose (with a control valve) and the bottom of the “T” has several holes for the water to spurt out. Behind the PVC pipe, a nylon rope drags a heavy piece of steel pipe.
Around sunset, you hook the garden hose to the Zambiani™ at top. Then slowly open the valve until you get the right pressure, and water starts to spurt from the holes at the bottom. Begin walking over the ice, like you were mowing the yard, dragging the contraption behind you. The steel pipe flattens out the water as you walk – and the garden-hose water melts the top layer of ice. Within an hour, the whole thing refreezes into a gorgeous shiny surface for the next day’s skating.
The Homemade Ping-Pong Table – We don’t have the room for a standalone table tennis set-up, so we’ve always been at the mercy of that cheap shit you can set on top of a pool table. These “converter” ping-pong tops are frequently too small, and even the best ones start to warp downwards at all four edges, making it even more depressing. I thought I could do better.
As you might know, a regulation table tennis board is 9 feet by 5 feet… in other words, you can’t buy a single piece of wood that big unless you special-order it. So I looked at all the tongue-in-groove Ponderosa pine flooring I had left over, and cut it exactly to specifications. Then I nailed it to three sheets of plywood in weird formations (to increase strength) and framed the bottom with metal brackets.
I was going to paint it regulation green, but then saw a quart of tung oil on the shelf and thought “who else on earth has a stained wood ping-pong table?” Nobody, that’s who, and as soon as it was dry, I knew why: you can’t see the white ball against it. So I found a bunch of colored balls on Amazon (hanging up at right), and the problem was solved.
The Stuppach Madonna – I include this, mostly because I loved working on it. Tessa and I have always had an affinity for the medieval painter Grünewald – whenever we’d peruse an art book, we’d always stop on pages devoted to him. He’s kind of bizarre, like an ancient Chagall, painting these green-skinned Jesuses to make patients at the leprosy ward feel better. He always seemed to have his own muse, like a lo-fi indie rocker, German Renaissance-style.
I found a site that made beautiful classic art print reproductions on stretched canvas, and one of Grünewald’s was there: the Stuppach Madonna, a deliriously happy work that reminded me of Tessa and Lucy (in fact, Lucy said the same thing when she saw it). They shipped it without a frame, because I wanted to make something intense to put around it, something with the same ornate quality as the paintings we’d seen at the Uffizi.
It took most of Christmas Eve Eve to figure it out (with help from all of my brothers) but I found some bizarre moulding along with end caps usually meant for fireplace mantels, fastened it all together, and coated it with a metallic gold spray.
The end result? Kind of awesome. Also kind of odd, I mean, we’re not what you call a religious family by any stretch, and the painting is ostentatious and wild, not a natural fit for any room in particular. But I stand by it: sometimes you have a strong feeling and you have to act on it. The painting hung on our living room door for weeks, still waiting for the right spot, and I would catch people staring at it for minutes at a time. Me too.