December 20, 2011
Plastic bag drying rack
Photo by Jim Ruen
One of the most cherished homemade gifts in our home is this plastic-bag drying rack that I helped my daughter make.

The other day, I was reminiscing about gifts of Christmas past. In particular, I was thinking about things that I had made for my son, daughter and wife. Many were very simple, such as a pull toy for my son and a sturdy (if unrefined) doll’s bed for my daughter.

A very special gift some years ago was exceedingly simple, yet very fulfilling. My then pre-adolescent daughter wanted to make something for her mother, so I suggested a drying rack for plastic bags that can be a pain to dry otherwise. She agreed, and so we started.

Looking around our wooded lot, we found an interesting piece of hickory. It had a branch shooting off from one side, rather like a thumb. What caught my eye was the spalting that had occurred. When a piece of wood lies out, especially in contact with soil, fungi quickly colonize and begin the digestion process. When caught in time, the fungi produce a discoloration in the wood but don’t affect its structure and strength.

I cut off a short length of wood for her and helped her drill some holes for pieces of dowel sticks that would form the rack. We drilled a large one in the center for our largest dowel and four others around the perimeter, including one in the “thumb”. It then became her project solely as she sanded it smooth. To finish the job, she rubbed some boiled linseed oil into the base and over the dowel sticks.

She had the satisfaction of making a useful object with its own well-defined “character.” I had the satisfaction of helping her, and my wife had a gift that we have now used for more than 10 years. What more can one ask?

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