Janet Combs

Janet Combs

Let us ponder arches — not the ones in our feet, nor the golden ones of McFame — but the architectural ones.

There is something innately pleasing about the shape of an arch: the symmetry and uniformity of these structures exude a calming sense of balance. Nature probably inspired humans to create arches in the hope that the man-made structures would emanate the same quiet yet powerful spirituality of the natural ones, even in a crowded metropolis. Some exceptional examples come to mind: the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Roosevelt Arch in Montana, and the Tangerine Kitchen Arch in South Carolina.

You may not have heard of this last one, but believe me, it is spectacular. We began creating it the first weekend we moved in by cutting out a semicircle of drywall to indicate where it would be. Then we had to attend to other stuff, like getting a working toilet, a few appliances and a couple of light fixtures. But all the while, the outline of the kitchen arch calmed us, reassuring us that one day it would become a reality.

I planned on providing you with step-by-step instructions for creating an arch, but I can only do so up to a point, after which my memory of the whole project becomes foggy and incoherent. This cliffhanger plot device is designed to make you read on; please do not disappoint.

Step 1/Human Protractor: One of you holds the housing of a tape measure at a predetermined central point and provides a running commentary of advice to the other person, who is standing on the counter, holding a carpenter’s pencil against the extended tape at the opposite end. Use the pencil to pull a curved line against the tape in a sweeping arc down the wall to create the outline of the arch. Repeat on the wall’s other side.

Step 2/Stand Back: Cut the drywall neatly along the outline with an oscillating saw. This should be done by a professional, while the freelance writer stands back and makes succinct, encouraging remarks between the roars of the power saw.

Step 3/Take That, Nancyann Russo! Remember that kid who used to torment you in elementary school? Think of her as you smack the drywall with a hammer and yank it off the supporting 2x4s underneath, and you’ll make quick work of the demolition. The professional will then step in and cut the supports hanging below the arch with a Sawzall, while the writer is on dust-reduction detail, trailing behind with a shop-vac.

Step 4/Head to your Day Job: Your spouse will do all sorts of complicated things, inserting “dead wood” at strategic points around the arch, then painstakingly dampening and bending drywall strips to fill the openings and screwing them into these previously placed supports. When you come home, you will be amazed at the progress — but there’s a critical two-person job to do before the finishing coats of drywall mud and final tangerine paint.

Step 5/Unicorns: The writer holds a strip of prefabricated plastic arch material over the deck outside where the professional coats it liberally with industrial spray adhesive. The writer remarks that it smells like we’re trapped in an unventilated nail salon. That handsome guy explains that this product will give our arch edges a nice clean line. You just hold it in place while I tack it. Who, me? No, problem, the unicorns are here to help. I need a manicure.

Step 12/Work Quickly: Wow, it’s hot in here. This stuff sticks to my fingers. You have to work quickly. Prickly, sickly. When’s my birthday? I’m fine. How are you doing up there with the air stapler? Can I borrow it for the office? It would make short work of thick documents.

Step B/Everything is beautiful: I have a slight headache. The edges look great. How do my wings look?

Step 101/Naptime: The arch is finished. It was easy. Breezy, queasy.

Janet Combs is a freelance writer living in Georgetown County. Her column is published regularly in the Georgetown Times. Contact her at https://janetfrickecombs.wordpress.com.