Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sandblasted Manzanita Branches - A Big Pain In the Butt

I set out to write my first post on sandblasted manzanita branches and my first thought was what do I call it. It needs to be informative, interesting, and relevant. Ha! And then it hit me

From a designers perspective I imagine hanging all those little crystals or live orchids on all those pokey brittle little branches makes you want to stick a fork in your eye, I fun and exhilarating - but in my humble opinion no task is as fascinating and...engaging, as the fine privilege of sandblasting the branches yourself.

I've been sandblasting, sanding, drilling, cutting, gathering, cussing at and receiving injuries from manzanita trees for about ten years now.  When I was 10 My brother, who started my first manzanita business with me worked as a sandblaster for a guy who made vases and tables out of manzanita burlwood. He would wake up in the morning hacking and coughing out chunks of well...sand. As anyone who sandblasts knows - silicosis was a big deal for a while there and all the sand companies got sued. Yadda yadda yadda nobody admits to using or selling sand for sandblasting anymore and on the bags of sand that they sell for sandblasting it sais Do Not Use To Sandblast...

For a little bit there I drove around the border roads with my little three wheeler and a trailer and collected burls and sold them to his boss for 50 a truckload, yah I know 50 a truckload is highway robbery for burlwood - this is a guy who had a 15 year old kid sandblasting with a bandana around his mouth and nose. So whats a little highway robbery?

My mom eventually made me stop collecting after one fateful day when as I was trundling down a hill uncontrollably a low lying manzanita branch hooked me through the eyepiece of my helmet and pulled me off my bike by the face. (lodged between the side of the helmet and the side of my face and broke off as it flung me back - missed my eye by a twig.) I landed a** over tea kettle on my back staring up through the dusty underbrush. tweet tweet, tweet tweet...

12 years later

...It get's quiet down here in the canyon...too quiet. Sitting here after a long day of exterior sand blasting (outside with a very hot sandy butted suit) I went though a ball valve, two eyepiece underlayments, a blown hose, and three sand clogs today plus my sand sifters vibrator blew out a bearing. The vultures aren't circling yet but they do seem to be very interested in what I'm doing. You know certain parts of "the back country" could come right out of 'the hills have eyes.' I believe it...especially in August. Stupid branches, stupid little branches.

Our equipment has come a long way in recent years and now its not such an ordeal but for the first four years we worked in a serious capacity it was ridiculous. Ive got a blasting cabinet now and it's nice blasting branches in an enclosed area that is not directly related to me or my face.

If the blasting isn't aggravating enough shipping them is just a pleasure, bulky, fragile, misshapen, brittle, tangly branches. And it costs a fortune. So next time your hanging a veritable plethora of crystal strands on 82 enormous sandblasted centerpieces...don't feel bad, some poor slob somewhere sat there and stared at those branches for a really long time through a dusty mask or awkward viewing port on a hot day trying to determine if he got the back side of every twig. Thanks for reading! Please comment!

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1 comment:

  1. Oh my Gosh! Thank you soooo much for this post!! LOL, here I was feeling sorry for myself... Making a sad attempt at sandblasting with a ridiculous 'state of the art' new gun that is really crapy and made my old gun look as good as Cinderellas glass slippers. First my air line split in three spots then the tip on my gun 'flew off' literally just flew away, blowing a hole through our equipment. Then the old gun's trigger broke. Then the thunder storm. And yes the backwoods creatures do come right out of the woods and in my case.. I felt like were laughing at me. This blog has really made my day and little does my Fed Ex driver know it made his day too, because bright and early this morning he called and said he doesn't think he'll make it out as far as our place today, he has plans for this evening that he doesn't want to be late for.... Right before reading this I was about to call in and take out my aggression on his boss. After all I do work really hard cutting and sanding and painting and wounding myself on these gorgeous branches that sometimes feel like secret torture weapons. How dare he call off on picking up all of my hard work! Again thank you for your blog. The very next wedding I am setting up manzanita centerpieces for, and gouge my finger or arm, I'm sure I will think of this blog & feel much better to know its not just me!