July 11, 2012 by drandmrso

This made me laugh out loud. And then I remembered: I recently did some science! It all began with a sudden urge to become both frugal and crafty. Pinterest, anyone? Since we only had two kitchen chairs and our new house has room for four, I decided to buy these chairs from a very nice lady on Craigslist and repaint them:

One of the five chairs for refinishing

Only $25 for the whole set! Well actually more like $30 if you factor in the gas it took me to get to this lady’s house and back because she did not live in my city (as advertised), but rather in the middle of nowhere about 30 miles away. Do I sound bitter? I’m not bitter. It was a very scenic drive that partially inspired my novel that I recently started writing. HOLY TANGENTS, BATMAN! I’m trying to tell a craft-tale here, so stop distracting me brain!

Ahem. So I drove the 30 miles, took a quick gander at the chairs, bought them (how could I not?), and shoved all five into my Subaru. I excitedly drove directly to the library to check out a book on how to refinish furniture. Unfortunately, the library wouldn’t give me a library card because of something about lacking a proof of address. But since we’re in the Midwest they let me check out two books anyway as long as I promised to bring them back on time. Ha! Suckers.* So I trekked home–carefully, since there were still five chairs inside my car–and started devouring the 1994 edition of “Refinishing and Finishing Wood” by Black and Decker when page 22 slapped me in the face: “Use a lead-testing kit to determine if a painted finish contains lead….If lead is found, do not attempt to strip the paint yourself. Take it to a professional refinisher.” Lame! I wasn’t about to let a prohibitively expensive professional refinisher take over my frugal craft experience, but at the thought of ignoring the directive to do a lead test, my conscience–in the voice of a middle-aged woman with an extremely heavy Minnesotan accent–said, “Your future children will use these chairs!”. I relented and headed out to Home Depot to get a lead paint testing kit.

I don’t know how often you go to Home Depot. Maybe a couple of times a year? Well I’ve been there approximately 87 times in the three weeks I’ve lived in my new house. Oh–grown ups with houses own sprinklers and hoses? Home Depot! Oh–grown ups with houses own a ladder? Home Depot! Oh–grown ups with houses own nails that they can’t for the life of them find even though they have got to be in one of these goddamned boxes and then as soon as you buy them and get them home you find them in the next box you open? Home Depot–return aisle! Don’t get me wrong–I love it. I love that it smells like sawdust and potting soil and has a thousand Martha Stewart paint colors (pre-coordinated!!). PLUS, some super awesome relatives gave us Home Depot gift cards as housewarming gifts (thank you!). But I don’t love all the millions of trips to and from the store, especially for something as potentially melodramatic as a lead paint testing kit. If the test were positive I would certainly die since I had touched the chairs, but first I would have to suck up my pride and get rid of the chairs because there was no way I was sending them to a professional refinisher. Suffice it to say when I arrived at Home Depot I knew exactly where to find the paint aisle and the kit retrieval was a success.

At home my mood improved immediately once the box was open: testing for lead paint is essentially a science experiment! Yay! I don’t know why I was expecting any different (a lead paint divining rod, perhaps?). Nonetheless I was pumped to do some science-ing since the last experiment I could remember completing was in physics class in high school but I had always loved doing them; the Type A in me just adores the extremely strict set of rules and procedures to follow and detailed notes to record. One problem: I didn’t have any rubber gloves and the warning on the kit instructed me to CALL POISON CONTROL IMMEDIATELY in case of skin or eye contact. Now, you’d think a doctor would have at one point brought home a pair of rubber gloves, right? Yes. He did. I know it. But apparently they got packed in the same box as those nails. Home Depot!

With rubber gloves on hand (excuse the pun) I began the testing process. First: use a tiny metal straw thing and a hammer to delicately but firmly create a miniscule circular paint sample. It took four attempts because paint, as it turns out, gets brittle when it’s old. Or maybe not even when it’s old. How would I know? This was my first paint sampling for heaven’s sake, but I wanted to get it right because the kit’s instructions implied that my poor future children using these chairs would most certainly contract all sorts of terrible diseases because their mother hadn’t supplied a sample of the correct diameter so the lead paint test was a false negative. Second: scoop the tiny sample into Vial 1 and shake for 10 seconds. Third: add exactly 5 drops of some chemical from Vial 2 and shake for another 10 seconds. And–drum roll please–the test was negative! Ta-da! For security, the instructions say to let the mixture sit for 10 minutes if the first result comes out negative just to be extra sure. After 10 minutes–another drum roll please–the test was still negative! Hooray!

The liquid’s lighter than the sticker, so it’s lead-negative!

With my conscience satisfied I was cleared to start the next step: stripping the paint off the chairs. Unfortunately, you can’t (or shouldn’t) use paint stripper in 90+ degree weather. So I waited–lead-free chairs sitting contentedly in the basement–for the heat to break. Stay tuned…

*=I’m totally kidding. I absolutely love and respect public libraries and since the time I started writing this post I have in fact proven my address and retrieved my library card. I knew you were worried.

One thought on “Science!

  1. Dan says:

    I can’t read your blog without hearing your voice saying it in my head. You really have a great, unique writing style Annie! Let’s do science sometime.


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Dr. O is an otorhinolaryngology resident. Mrs. O was an English major and is easily grossed out by blood and guts. This is the blog where Mrs. O documents their adventures in (not bloody) detail. Enjoy!

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