When I was a kid, I couldn't figure out for the life of me what elbow grease was. I couldn't imagine why anyone would need to grease their elbows, nor could I ever find a can, bottle, or box labeled as such. And if you did need or want to grease your elbows, just how did you go about it? Did it involve a trip to the doctor and needles??? I remember hearing the term used most when my parents and my aunt talked about restoring old furniture, which only confused me further. What did greasing your elbows have to do with old tables and chairs? Yes indeed, elbow grease was definitely one of the great conundrums of my childhood.
I don't know when the light dawned. Perhaps it was just a slow realization that elbow grease was a fun way to describe hard work. At some point, though, I came to understand that elbow grease is a necessary element of many aspects of life. Sometimes it's necessary and sometimes it's a choice, but using a goodly amount of elbow grease most always results in some form of accomplishment.
Yesterday I applied some of this wonder-working elbow grease to an old cabinet from the farmhouse. It was mounted on the pantry wall for decades and collected numerous layers of grime and dirt. I scrubbed it with soap and water some time ago, which helped a little, but it obviously needed something more.
Devonne, who is helping me with paint removal in the farmhouse dining room, willingly shared the wonders of paste wax, superfine steel wool, and elbow grease.
The pungent aroma of paste wax awakened vague memories of restoration projects in my parents' garage. I remember listening with big ears to the grownup's conversations as they used that mysterious elbow grease, paste wax, and steel wool to bring an old piece of furniture back to life. As for our old cabinet, it only took a little bit of scrubbing to make visible progress, and within minutes I was peeling back layers of time as the grime disappeared.
Unfortunately, my obligation to attend a board meeting necessitated stopping after cleaning only half of the narrow top. Even that little bit, though, revealed dovetail construction that we had not been able to see before. The wood is rich and smooth and bears the marks of daily use and the passage of time.
When I get the entire cabinet cleaned and polished and back in the farmhouse, I'll show it to you. It's a wonderful testament to the sweet rewards of elbow grease, which is a mystery no more.