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If you could learn a trade — say carpentry, electrical work, roofing, landscaping, plumbing, flooring, drywall — you name it — what skill(s) would you love to have in your back pocket?

The closest I’ve come to a trade was making picture frames and I like it. I didn’t always enjoy how demanding it was, making those mitered corner cuts so exact that there are no gaps at all when you glue and nail it together — and the corners are actually right angles!

I’ve also refinished a few pieces of furniture, sanding a small solid oak coffee table right back to the wood, and discovering it was nicer than I expected. Even the stain went on well making a nice “new” piece of furniture. (You really don’t enjoy sanding while you’re doing it, but the finding quality wood and creating a nice finished product can make it worth it!) I did that to another table with a terrible ring stain on it, and it now sits in my living room looking quite nice, if I must say so myself.

Speaking of sanding, one of the most irritating tasks I’ve done more than a couple of times is to sand drywall filler which is used hide the joins in a wall or ceiling. After you apply the joint compound and it dries, the first sanding is a rough one to get off the excess. Then the finer sanding follows, with the goal being a perfectly smooth and even join. Step two, may turn into three and four, especially when you’re picky like I am. Then an undercoat goes on, and finally the paint color of choice. It’s a lot of work, and I marvel at the guys who do it professionally — quickly and efficiently and much better than I do!

The fun part is showering after sanding; the dust dries into a sticky paste and permeates pores and hair follicles. (Wearing a cap and face mask is important when sanding.)

One time my son and I ripped cracked ceramic tiles from a kitchen table top and had great fun finding new ones, and replacing them, having to make some challenging adjustments from the original metric size of tiles to the American inches standard. But we did create a nice finished product!

I haven’t attempted plumbing — except plunging, and electrical work is best left to someone surer of their skills then I am.

There is something pleasurable about creating something “new” from old stuff. I think some of the trades are undervalued these days, and some young people would benefit from exploring them before making decisions about their life’s career.

 

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