Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bann Nah 22 - Gotta Watch These Guys!

I grew up in New England and the North Shore of Long Island, New York. Nearly every wooden surface was painted. Only exceptions were the school’s gymnasium floor and our elementary school desks which, when I got to junior and senior high, were replaced with metal.

The first new church my father helped design and oversaw the building of had a lot of stained wood in it and I think this is my first memory of how beautiful wood gain is and what a shame it is to point over it, most of the time.

As I grew older and was exposed to many more and different buildings, my appreciation for stained wood only grew. So, it is only logical that given the chance to design my own home, I lay strong emphasis on being able to view natural wood grain. At Bann Nah, there is not a painted surface on the building except for the smartboard under the eaves.

It does not come easily, however. I have stained most every surface at our country home, so far. The ceiling and inside wall teak alone have taken months to do – you know, not an 8-hour/day job, but several hours most days.

The time it has taken me to stain could have been cut in half, but my wife talked me into a gloss coat when I would have preferred a flat – or matte – coat. She wanted glossy because all Thais feel that if something is shiny, it looks new.

In my mind, a non-glossy coat for inside teak walls and ceiling is better because the surface shine (actually, the lack thereof) looks uniform. To get a uniform shine with a glossy coat, where some sections of the wood soak the stain in differently, requires you to brush the stain in twice, in two separate sessions; sometimes more.

The Thai tendency to highly value “shiny” got me one day at Bann Nah.

Our workers had completed putting up the outside imitation wood planks and, I guess, were excited about that. I had visited the job site in the morning, just as they were finishing up. It was looking good! When I returned in the late afternoon, Lott and Naht proudly pointed to their finished, “shiny” job. They had polyurethaned the imitation wood to make it look more “new.”

I looked sideways at them and, while Thip translated, I asked if they’d ever done this before?

Oh, sure, many hi-so homes in Bangkok that they had worked on (and probably never saw again).

I told them that the polyurethane was made as a protectorant for wood, not fiber cement (which is what the Shera wood planks mostly consist of).

They assured me that this way, the “new” look of the Shera would last longer and protect it from the sun.

What if it starts peeling? I asked them.

Oh, it won’t peel, they said.

I immediately thought about Bann Nah’s wooden posts; how they had been polyurethaned before they had had a chance to dry and already the polyurethane was peeling off; and that’s with a protectorant designed to work for wood.

OK, I said with a laugh. If it starts peeling, I know where you guys live.

Oh, it won’t peel, they assured me again.

Thankfully, our workers had applied the polyurethane on the eastside of the building, facing the klong, which is the least visible side of the structure.

(east wall on right)

Later, I reminded myself that this is yet another example of why I couldn’t leave, this year, for my trip back to the USA to visit family:

You gotta watch these guys!

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