Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Photo courtesy Flickr

One of the joys of freelancing graphics out of my first, tiny apartment was working at an ironing board in the shallow bay window that faced the Sound. I could see from Mt. Rainier nearly to Mt. Baker and used the board, a patented wood one with metal hardware from the nineteen twenties, to stage projects.

The neighbor across the hall left it when she moved away, and it’s one of the best work surfaces I have ever used, probably because I am of average height for its period. There’s much to be said for having things the right size and height, and I have used the board in many period rooms, where it served whatever task was at hand with a portable, stable knock-down surface that slipped easily into an existing arrangement.

About ten years ago, I saw a World of Interiors article about a Belgian or French clothing designer who worked out of old industrial space. Many vintage wooden ironing boards were placed around the area, at least for the shoot. The boards were not padded, and their character and structure were a revelation.

Since I began to ape skate style in a low-profile way, my life is mercifully free of ironing, except for linens that can be managed on a simple table. My cold, dead hands will clutch the board, though, and for a couple of years I’ve been shifting it from one spot to another like a cat moving kittens.

I toyed with setting it up as a temporary bar in the dining room-pretty neat, but the padded cover frankly, well, it just sucked. I contemplated it with a beady eye for a minute and realized that for the amount of ironing I am likely to do, close to zero, I can improvise a cover with a bath towel. I flipped the board onto the dining table and spent the next half hour working down a series of horizons, a short history of twentieth-century ironing board cover and securement technology, from thumbtack to staple gun, old bedding to non-stick aluminized something or other with drawstrings.

The original timber top turned out to be a pair of immaculate, glowing pieces of pine, and the board is now an elegant working accent in my favorite clean production space.

Yesterday I set up a project that centers on a couple of slightly sooty old-growth cedar shakes from an 1875 smokehouse and decided to protect the board with butcher paper, a pleasant, functional, low-grade pun on the original cover. Gaffer’s tape made short, secure, no-residue work of that part of the job, and I’m set to go.


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