Since we’re not going to be in our apartment/flat very long, we didn’t want to put lots of holes in walls and make other sorts of changes that would require either lots of work to fix or cover, or that would lose us money on our deposit.  There were some nails in the walls left by previous tenants, so we made good use of those.  The other solution we came up with was wall stickers, which (it is claimed) can be easily peeled off with no loss of paint (though I’m skeptical about that).  Our first attempt was next to Zak’s bed – a tree that came out pretty well:

Next came some animals next to Eli’s bed:

A clock in the kitchen:

And finally, a height chart to keep track of any growth that happens over the course of the year:

Oh, and some “chalkboard” stickers:

Additionally, I thought it might be good to whip up a few pieces of furniture that would be practical/useful (while not necessarily artful or aesthetically pleasing).  I fancy myself an amateur woodworker (emphasis on amateur), picking up some knowledge from my father, who worked with wood most of his life, and a few odd jobs I’d worked at over the years.  And the internet.

I found out that two of my brothers-in-law, Zeeshan and Faizan, were interested as well.  I pointed them to a website that’s been a great resource for me, called Instructables.  They actually have a woodworking course on the site that you can work through and which includes small projects that help you to master basic woodworking skills like cutting, sanding, finishing, gluing, etc.  The first project is a set of wooden dice, which we did – with pretty good results:

But to take a step back, before we started these projects, we had to get some wood.   There are no Home Depots or Lowe’s in Pune (not yet, anyway).  And while most anything else that you buy can be found locally, for wood, you have to travel to a different part of the city.  There’s a neighborhood centered around the aptly named Timber Market Road that is the place in Pune to go to buy wood.

We were looking for some plywood as well as some 2×4 type lumber to get started.  Faizan knew a friend who worked in the area, so we went to him for plywood, and then he took us to a sawmill that sold the lumber we were looking for at low prices.

Much of the lumber that we looked at was of the hardwood variety – like teak, mahogany and sandalwood.  Softer woods like pine are much easier to work with (and easier on the tools), and we did manage to find some.  Also, something called silverwood, which I hadn’t heard off before, but is harder than pine.  It was the same price, though, so we decided to get some.

Now, I may be an amateur, but I know enough to look for straight (unbowed) boards that lack obvious problems (e.g. huge knotholes, dampness/mold, etc.).  But as I began looking through the stacks of lumber (like the ones in the above pic), a manager of the mill came over, obviously angry.  He started arguing with Faizan, and Faizan’s friend (the one who worked in the timber market).  It was all in Hindi, and happening very fast, so I just stood back and tried to make sense of whatever words/sentences I could understand.   Things were getting louder, and when I saw some nose-to-nose action, I thought things might get ugly.  But someone else from the shop finally stepped in and tempers calmed a bit.  At that point I thought we should get the hell out of there, but I was told to go pick out the boards I wanted – which I resisted at first (I still wasn’t sure if that’s what set things off in the first place!), but did – just so we could get out of there fast.

Since we traveled to the timber market on two-wheelers, we had to rent a small truck – called a Tempo – to carry the wood back to the apartment.  We ended up buying two big sheets of plywood and a bunch of 4x4s.  As we were looking for a Tempo, I confirmed that the argument had indeed broken out because I had been looking through the lumber and selecting the “good” boards, while setting aside the bad.  This, apparently, wasn’t allowed.  Or at least, the manager who started the argument didn’t think it was allowed — other employees of the mill told us otherwise, and assured us that this other guy was just a hothead.  We finally got the wood back to the apartment, paid the Tempo driver (this was before demonetization), and realized that nothing we bought would fit in the building’s elevator.  So it all had to be carried up five flights.  Not easy when you’ve got 4′ x 8′ sheets of plywood.  It’s good to have young, robust, brothers-in-law.

Anyway, back to our projects.  Next up, Zeeshan made a nice box and lid out of plywood:

And painted it black (I should’ve played some Rolling Stones for that), with the paint we bought to color the dots on the dice – which I discovered, are called “pips”:

Then we built some plywood shelves for kitchen use.

(I’m the skinny one on the left).

Our next project is a bit more ambitious – a dining table that can actually be dined on.  We’ve got it started, but ran out of wood.  Amazingly, we went back to the same place we bought wood previously.  Why?  Because it’s now after demonetization and this place is significantly cheaper than anyplace else.  And I’ll be damned if the same exact thing didn’t happen!

This time, I was very careful to ask before sorting through boards.  But sure enough, after a few minutes a guy in a suit came into the mill and started yelling.  Angry words in Hindi…nose-to-nose yelling (Zeeshan, this time)…imminent fisticuffs (I thought)…but then a settling of tempers and us carrying out the boards of our choice.  This time, I discovered it was the owner of the place who was yelling (he had been watching us from the upstairs office on CCTV).  I objected: “but we asked if we could sort through the boards this time!”  Didn’t matter.  The owner didn’t like it.

Buying wood in India isn’t like buying wood in the US.  You’ve got to be tougher to be a woodworker here, I guess.