UPPER NYACK, N.Y. – At age 67, I’ve handled more than a few broken windows that required removal, repair and replacement, but it wasn’t until the last half of 2010 that I learned almost everything I know about doing so. This thanks to a volunteer rehab project at the Old Stone Church in this village just north of Nyack on the Hudson River.
I’ve written about this before, and you may recall that Win Perry, Joe Diamond, Vince Morgan and I have spent about seven months removing paint from 19th century double-hung sash, replacing broken glass, re-puttying, re-varnishing, installing antique sash locks and reinstalling the windows. It is probable that the sash, with their hand-made wavy glass, had never been removed, so we mimicked the hands and the work of craftsmen so long gone now that they could have been our great-great grandfathers.
What satisfaction resulted from the joint effort – a bunch of older guys not saying too much, just intently working at their own tasks, as directed by Win, the Upper Nyack historian and an architect by trade who knows period detail. As I have noted, it was his insistence on detail in every phase of the project that changed my work habits.
When I was a youngster in Spring Valley, my grandfather Arthur Sr. took me to his own workshop since he knew I had an interest in wood. We did a project together, but when it came time to clean up, I was lazy. In fact, my finish work on the small woodworking project was sloppy. I can still recall my grandfather’s words to my father that I had to learn patience and task completion. Well, 55 years later I finally have done so.
I have lived in two homes of my own and have added onto and rehabbed them and a dozen others belonging to family and friends, with all manner of plumbing, electrical and carpentry projects. That work was at first passable and then improved with experience. But all along, my modus operandi has been to get the job done. I could always hide the mistakes, in carpentry at least. I never compromised on safety, but I found creative ways to let other things slide.
Win, Joe and Vince, do not do so. They are like craftsmen of old, and I learned on the Stone Church window detail that, well, detail really counts. And detail means patience. And patience brings you on a journey not unlike what those who toil in monasteries must feel. You reach a point of deep quiet where your pulse is slow, where concentration is effortless, where your hands seem to know what to do instinctively. It all gets better the longer you stay.
My grandfather is finally back in the room, and I think he is smiling.