The Predatory Word

Color magazine have asked me to write a regular sidebar on their book review page Inspiration Bound. They suggested it be called The Predatory Word, which I think is quite funny but I’m still a little self-conscious about it and have no idea what I’m writing for their next issue. Below is a piece I did for Color a while back about my experience with an electronic book that contains various skate-themed craft and design projects. It continues with the endless theme of designing the ultimate skateboard. Warning: It is mainly words.

 Build it, Hack it, Skate it.

An account of what could happen if you decide to pursue the path to a home made lifestyle board.

You download a free kindle app and buy some book called Build it, Hack it, Skate it, for 99 cents. You are possibly the type of person who looks at the Ikea shelves and thinks “120 bucks! Pfff. I could make that myself, easy.” You might do your own oil changes and intrepidly replace drum brakes on old trucks. You are not alone. What follows is an account of precisely what might happen should you buy the aforementioned book of skateboard-oriented projects.

The build your own board projects in the book sound exciting but as you read you realize they are very involved. Cut, piece by piece, the cross sections of your wood mold. Make a vacuum-sealed bag out of large sections of vinyl. There are words like contact cement, power tools, epoxy, maple veneers and more. You read the next one which talks about improvising, suggests using an old board as a mold. “I have old boards” you think. This is your eureka moment. You realize you could simply cut an old board into a new shape. Recycle. Breathe new life into old wood.

You decide on a paper template based on your buddy’s cruiser board you liked the shape of enough to take a photo of.

In adobe illustrator you set up the document to the correct 32” tall size then trace the shape. You use the print by tiling function to print the thing out life size, trim each section and piece it together on the floor. catThe cat takes immediate interest first swiping at the edge of the top left section then, gaining confidence, he pads forth, crumpling your work before your very eyes. Any second the cat will begin to scratch and tear at this novel white surface and you must take preventative measures. You grab a camera and quickly take a photograph. Next you make a sudden lunging movement towards the cat so that it takes up an endearing defensive position, you take another photo. You shoo the cat away and check the paper for siphonaptera feces (flea shit/cat blood). If you find any you will carefully pick the whole thing up, there are probably eggs present and being tiny and translucent they are difficult to spot on the white paper. You’ll pour this entomological detritus into the sink and wash it all away down the drain and out of your life, making a note to vacuum every inch of floor the cat may have shaken flea eggs onto as he attempts to quench his incessant thirst for excitement. There will still be fleas in your house. They are brutally tenacious. You fight through daily anguish, brow furrowed, teeth clenched, in your constant battle against these bloodsuckers. Vacuum, fine-toothed comb, chemical warfare; all are employed and yet still these bastards cycle through their various life stages and hop up into the soft underbelly kitten fur of your beloved feline family member.

You use Thunder stickers to hold the various section of the template together and then you use a modus sticker at each end to secure the whole perfect construction, carefully centered, onto the top of the old deck. As you work the cat runs full speed and leaps, front paws spread wide, claws bared like the talons of a great eagle, arcing towards you, as if you are an unsuspecting shrew. He misses your arm by mere millimeters, taunting you with his agility, daring you to engage him in his tireless game of pursuit and capture, hunter and hunted.

You ignore him; you are too deeply immersed in your work. You are the master craftsman, dedicated, nothing less than perfect results will suffice.

You fish around in a drawer and pull out a near empty can of matte-black spray paint. You take everything outside and use the dregs of the can to delineate the new shape, it is at this point you realize you have not precisely centered the template.

deliniated board shapeNo matter, you will deftly adjust for that when you cut. You realize you don’t own some fancy electric jigsaw, you own a manual hacksaw but you are undaunted. You think of Dick Proenneke. He had no access to the convenience of electrically amplifying power output when he trekked off into the wilderness to build his cabin. He was content to work at the pace his physical body alone could sustain. Self sufficiency! That’s the name of this game.

You saw with great fury while the calm and watchful eye of the craftsman within remains fixed on the line marked by the salvaged spray paint.

man sawingYou cut notch after notch each notch of course being limited by the depth of the hacksaw frame. It’s as if Dick is guiding you, watching you proudly.

wood notchAs you saw you kneel on the board, immobilizing it, the weight of your powerful body focused through the meat of your patellar tendon rather than the bone of your kneecap, which you opened your car door onto yesterday, bruising it painfully.

You start at the nose, inching your way around its torpedo head curve feeling the prickle of your pores clicking into action. Upon reaching the beginning of the long sweeping line of the rail, you switch tools. You thank the geniuses at Vaughan and Bushnell for their incredible Japanese style Bear Saw as you rip through 16 or so inches of hard maple ply in a minute or two.

At the tail you revert to the thin blade of the hacksaw but must cut switch in order to continue to use the kneeling body weight technique to keep the board still. One day you will own a decent workbench. When the switch curve cut meets the rail you gasp in horror at the harsh kink in the line that appears as the last notch falls earthward from the board’s new edge.

harsh kinkIt may be inaccurate cutting or it may be some cruel unaccounted for detail to do with photographing a three dimensional object. Whatever. You’ll fix that with the rasp you think and walk inside for a cup of tea. You pass the cat on the carpet who seems delighted as he bites and wrestles and claws at a roll of toilet paper, destroying something useful to create a beautiful but deeply impractical blizzard of tissue shreds.


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