Little Antonio the Cabinetmaker, part 2

You will remember that in my previous post, I was writing about all the decision-making that goes into having a piece of furniture handmade….and how shocked I was by it all. Here’s what I was talking about.

Having handed little Antonio the cabinetmaker the two printed out photos of the unit my landlady Nonie would like [shown above], I pretty much thought I was finished.  But, noooooo.  It was only then that the questions really started.

First question:  What type of wood does Senora Nonie want?  Aha!  I knew the answer to that one and I had written it down.  She wants pine, I told little Antonio.  Unfortunately, I got so flustered speaking Spanish that I’m pretty sure that I told him that she wanted pineapple.  But nary a smirk from either little Antonio or from Zaca, my all-around helper and fixit guy.  They just repeated the correct word (pino) back to me and little Antonio nodded his head knowingly.

I then remembered that Nonie had specified what type of door openers she wanted on the unit, and made little Antonio and Zaca come into the kitchen/dining room area so that I could show them.  The kitchen cabinets and the china cabinet in the dining room have similar hardware, although they are different in size.  Having established the type of hardware preferred, little Antonio wanted to know what size for the entertainment center door pulls.

Oh, gosh, my first independent decision!  I needed to make it based on my knowledge of having used these door openers nearly every day for the past two years as well as on aesthetic grounds.  So I rather cleverly, I thought, opted for something in the middle!  After all, the kitchen cabinets were smaller, heightwise, than the entertainment center’s doors, and the china cabinet’s doors were larger.  Yep, in the middle is the answer!

I mean, here’s what some of the kitchen cabinets and their pulls look like:

And here’s what the china cabinet and its pulls look like:

So I (proud of myself for making this tough decision) announced to little Ant0nio, “Medio!”  Which, around these parts, usually means “half” and which, understandably confused the hell out of little Antonio.  (Apparently what I really needed to say was something like “en el medio.”)

But Zaca asked me in English what I meant and then translated my response to little Antonio and all was right with the world.  Or not.

Next came a translated by Zaca barrage of questions from little Antonio.  Did the whole unit need to be made to pine, or could he use plywood for the skirting?  I felt pretty good about that one and responded “totos pino.”

But then the really hard questions started.  Did the 36-inch height include the feet on the unit or not, and either way, how tall were the feet supposed to be?  Er, hmm, I don’t really know.   But a decision must be made.  So little Antonio, Zaca, and I wandered around the house again looking at the feet on furniture.

Well, the china cabinet has some very low feet on it.  The table on which the TV now sits has some larger feet.  The nightstands which little Antonio also made have feet somewhere in-between.  Oh, and I also have to think that it might be nice to be able to clean under the entertainment center somewhere down the road.  Okay, let’s go with two inches.  Another decision made!  And I’m through; right?

Well, not so much.

So, they asked, is that two inches in addition to the 36-inch height given in the specs for the entertainment center which I had already given little Antonio?  I’m pretty sure it should be part of the 36-inch height, not in addition to, but I’m going to have to provide Nonie with some empirical data upon which I have based my decision.  And how does one do that?  One flops oneself onto the couch….in both prone and sitting positions….and says, “Okay, show me where the TV screen will be on a 36-inch unit and then show me where it will be on a 38-inch unit.”

And so they did.  Since they weren’t actually lifting the screen up, I had to envision it in my head, pretending that the measuring tape included a wide-screen TV.  The amazing thing to me was how much difference two inches can make.  [Oh, sure, dear readers with dirty minds, we know it matters in other areas, but who knew that a screen two inches higher would lead to such discomfort in the neck area when viewed from a prone position?  Yikes, this paragraph just keeps getting more and more pornographic, so I will move on.]

At any rate, we now had a decision about the feet on the cabinet.  Their two inches was to be included in the 36-inch height measurement, not added to it.

By this time, we’d been at it for half an hour and surely little Antonio knows what Nonie wants and I can get back to playing games on the computer.  But, nooooooooo, again.

We need to talk about the hinges, little Antonio said.  “The hinges?,” I thought to myself.  “What’s to talk about?  Hinges are hinges; right?”  Well, no.  So off we went again for another tour of the house.  See, little Antonio and Zaca said, there are three types of hinges right here, and that’s not counting the ones on the doors.  And they were correct, of course.

The kitchen cabinets have interior hinges, as seen above.  Hmmm, those look nice, but the photos of the entertainment center show exterior hinges, so I guess that’s not the right answer.

Okay, let’s look at the hinges on the china cabinet glass doors.  Now these are interesting because very little shows on the outside, but inside there’s a lot.  They look like some long headless nail driven into the door and the frame and then spread out in the interior to keep them in place.  They don’t look like they would work at all, but they work fine.  “Very rustico,” I think to myself, “and Nonie likes rustico.”  So maybe these are a possibility.

Then little Antonio and Zaca dragged me over to the bookcase so I could take a look at its hinges.  Ah, now these I recognize!  They’re what I think a hinge should be and they kinda look like the photos Nonie sent me.  Yep, that’s the ticket!

Except, of course, they need to be black like the door pulls.  Okay, good, we’ve gotten everything settled and I can pour my first vodka and Kermato of the day since we’re now into the afternoon by a couple of minutes.

But not so fast, girl.  There are MORE questions to be answered.  How is that possible?  This is a relatively simple piece of furniture.  How many things can there be to discuss?  As it turns out, several more.  Sigh.

“How do you want the wood stained?”, asked little Antonio.  “Um, what are my choices?”, I ask him.  And here even Zaca’s translation skills broke down, so we proceeded to take yet another tour of the house while little Antonio pointed out various stains on various pieces of furniture:  on the dining room table; on the china cabinet; on the bookcase; on the table upon which the TV now sits; on the bedroom door which little Antonio also made; on the bed headboard and footboard; on the nightstands; and on the dresser in the bedroom.

On the good news side of things, by the time we were through looking at surfaces, I pretty much understood the question.  Did we want high gloss, gloss, semi-gloss, semi-matte, or matte?  I do not believe I will ever understand the difference between semi-gloss and semi-matte, but I finally opted for semi-matte.  The afternoon sun shines through the high window in the kitchen and through the windows in the living room and at some point pretty much directly strikes the TV and its stand.  I’m not sure  how Nonie feels about this, but I personally don’t wanna be blinded by rays bouncing off a reflective surface, which I’m pretty sure happens a lot but nobody tells you about it.  So semi-matte it is!

That decision having been made, I headed to the kitchen to make myself a drink and asked the guys if they would like a cerveza.  “No, no,” they both responded, “we need to make some more decisions.”  Well, if that’s the case, I’m DEFINITELY making myself a drink.  So I do and then head back into the living room, drink in hand.

And actually, it wasn’t too bad after that.  I don’t know if I was just ready and willing to make decisions or if the decisions were easier to make or if everything goes down better with a vodka and Kermato.  Probably a combination of all three.  But I readily whipped off the answers to the measurements for the open area on the new cabinet (which had been included on Nonie’s spec sheet, but which I slightly altered after we measured the height of a DVD case which may or may not need to go there) and where the holes in the rear of the unit needed to be drilled so that we could run the electrical cords for the DVD player and satellite box.

I could also tell them that the shelves in the side cabinets need to be adjustable and how wide those side cabinets need to be and made a decision about the external crossbars (flat or beveled?) and reiterated that the crossbars in the unit needed to be exactly level with the shelves inside the glassed-in area and with the top and bottom on the glass doors.

And, so, about two hours after we had started, I shook hands with little Antonio and sent him on his way to get me an estimate, and then sat down to write Nonie and David a very lengthy email to tell them what decisions I had made….and went on to drink many, many vodkas and Kermatos that afternoon.

Honestly, people, I don’t know how you ever managed to have anything built or how any of you contractors/builders ever managed to get anything done aside from asking questions about what people want.  My hat is off to you all and, yes, I think I’ll just have a little vodka and Kermato in your honor!


About Barbara

in april of 2008, i moved from the united states to mexico. during my working days, i held lots and lots of jobs....almost all chosen because they were fun or interesting instead of how much they paid. when i started thinking about retirement (in my 40s), i realized that i would never be able to retire to a country where english was the native language. and although i had traveled to every state in the US -- and lived in lots of them -- i had never been outside the country with the exception of canada and mexico. and since you now know that i could never afford to retire in canada (even to the french-speaking area), mexico won by default.
This entry was posted in Fun Stuff, General, Getting Older, Lake Chapala, Uncategorized, Work in Mexico and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Little Antonio the Cabinetmaker, part 2

  1. K says:

    Good grief! What an accomplishment! Bravo for you!

  2. Barbara says:

    I’m not sure if I’ve ever commented here before and if not it’s past time. I absolutely love your blog. Your posts about churches are the best I’ve ever seen. Thank you so much for that (everything – but especially that).

    And this had me snorting coffee through my nose (the part about the two inches) – I didn’t expect that! Well, truth is, I thought it, too, but didn’t expect you to go on and say it. Love that you did.

    So hello, and thank you for all your posts and photos!


  3. Mike Osborn says:

    Barbara, When is the next installment? I’m dying here!! I’ve got to hear about and see the finished project! So enjoying this journey though the building of a TV cabinet and no, I’m not being facetious. Hugs

    • Barbara says:

      Well, Mike, as you know, everything done here in Mexico has a possible time frame and a real time frame. The suggested arrival date of the new entertainment center is about three weeks from today (i.e. a month from the start). Now this date could change, based on whether Little Antonio’s brother is available to help him and how many days of work Little Antonio gets at the shop where he works. (He’s building the entertainment center in his home.) I’m going to see if I can go by Little Antonio’s house a week or so from now (i.e. at the projected mid-way point) and get a few fotos. That’s always iffy, though. But I’ll definitely have a followup post when the unit is here!

  4. Sandy Gottmer says:

    Barb, I too can’t wait to see the finished product. I am enjoying your adventures so much. When you describe everything & everyone I feel as if I’m right there with you. I can just imagine everything in my head. Thanks for putting your adventures out there for all to read. I for one am thoroughly enjoying them!! 🙂

    • Barbara says:

      Sandy, as I told Mike, I’ll definitely keep you all posted. I’m so glad that you like the blog. You and I go back a loooong time; eh?

  5. Peggy says:

    It is amazing that you can even remember all of the questions and decisions about this project. I accomplished some restoration and renovation in my 100 year old house in Nashville, TN around 1997 which included two rental apartments while working full-time and I have not fully recovered mentally. Kudos to you and your support system (the vodka and Kermato). Thanks for all the entertainment offered to your loyal readers. Here is a photo of my Nashville house.

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