Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Folding Step Stool

When I was a kid, anytime we needed something that was higher than we could reach, we’d stand on a chair or maybe the bed. Sometimes we’d climb up on a counter or even a table if it was close enough to what we needed.

My dad had a couple of ladders but they were mostly for outside – like when he needed to get up onto the roof or fix something on the eaves trough or a high window. On occasion, he even used them to retrieve a wayward kite or ball from a tree.

I was never much for climbing – or heights for that matter, but there was one ladder that I didn’t mind using if I had to. That was the step ladder. It was sturdier than the others and you didn’t need someone else to hold onto it to keep it steady for you. It usually stayed in the garage but was brought into the house whenever my parents were painting or wallpapering.

It was a bit of a nuisance though, as even though it folded up, it was big and awkward to carry around. Mom often wished she had something smaller and lighter to get things from higher cupboards without standing on a chair.

Somewhere around 1970 or so, she finally got a folding step stool. It was a lime green colour which was popular at the time and even went with some of the other kitchen decor we had back then. None of us can remember now if she bought it herself or it was a gift of some kind, but it became a favourite thing for many in our family.

As the name implies, it could be used as both a stool and a mini ladder to stand on. We could use it to reach the things in the top shelves, change light bulbs in higher ceilings and of course to sit on.

It came in very handy when we were doing some longer jobs in the kitchen. We could sit on it while peeling or cutting produce by the sink or when there were a lot of dishes to wash. It was a nice place to sit by the counter when you were shaping umpteen dozens of cookies.

Of course it could also be used as an extra chair at the table in a pinch. Actually, I think that is where it got used the most – at least by the grandkids! As all of my nieces and nephews grew out of the high chair, they considered the step stool to be the logical next step before they graduated to the grown up chairs. Granted, we only had the one step stool so they’d have to take turns using it. Whoever didn’t get the chair had to sit on a booster of some kind in a regular chair. Over the years, there were several little arguments over who’s turn it was when they visited or stayed with grandma and grandpa!

I loved the stool and used it a lot when I was still living at home or when I’d go home on weekends. After I moved out on my own, I always meant to buy myself one but there just seemed to be other things that I needed more so never got around to buying my own.

Over the years, I often told mom that I wanted that stool someday! Well, she obviously heard me as it was one of the things that she had written down as things for me in her belongings list. She had started making this list years ago to make it easier to divide up hers and dads possessions when the time came. Kids and grandkids names were written beside a wide variety of things.

Mom hadn’t used it much over the last few years. The grandkids were all grown, moved away and raising kids of their own. They only made it back for a visit once a year or so. Mom’s mobility wasn’t as good either so she used a walker - at least part of the time. The walker had a seat built into it, so she really didn’t need the stool. Even so, I just never got around to getting it.

So, this past spring when I went out to the farm to sort through things after my mother moved to a seniors home, it was one of the things I knew I’d be bringing back with me. I didn’t find it at first, but then my gal pal spied it in a corner of the sunroom being used as a plant stand!

It wasn’t in the greatest of shape. Water had dripped down the legs and there were a few rust spots. There were stains on the vinyl seat and smudges of old dried paint in a number of places. It didn’t fold very easily.
Even so, I still wanted it. A little WD-40 would loosen up the folding mechanism and some scouring would get rid of most of the rust and paint smudges. The lime green colour – though retro – was chipped and peeling so painting it would be the best option. A fresh coat of paint and new vinyl for the seat – and voila - it would be good as new!

A few days later, I spent a couple of hours cleaning off as much paint and rust as I could. The ridged mat of the step wasn’t great but I took an old brush and cleaned it as thoroughly as I could. I bought a small can of black paint and a brush and carefully painted all of the green areas.

Now, the average person could have done the small painting job in no time, but because I am legally blind, it took quite a bit longer! I hadn’t touched a paint brush since losing sight in 1990, so my skills were even more rusty than the stool! No matter how hard I tried to keep things neat, I had to use a damp rag to clean drips off of the chrome a number of times. I had to get within a few inches of the surface to see where I was painting and since a folding stool has so many corners, angles and such – it seemed like I brushed my hair along the edge of the wet paint almost as much as if it were the brush! Okay, maybe not quite that bad but at least it was a water based latex paint!!

I did two coats, but also had to open the paint can a couple more times to touch up all the little spots I’d somehow missed. I guess I could have gotten someone to do the painting for me, but I wanted the pride of doing it myself – missed spots, smudges, painted hair and all!

The only part I didn’t attempt to do myself was the seat. I bought a piece of charcoal grey vinyl to recover the seat with but it took a while to find someone with a staple gun. I wasn’t brave - or crazy enough to try using a staple gun by myself!!
It looks great now even if I do say so myself! Sure, I could have just bought a new folding step stool for about $30-$40, but they aren’t nearly as sturdy as these older ones. It cost me about $18 for the paint, brush and vinyl. It took me about 5 hours over a few days to clean and paint. It took my friend about 10 minutes to do the seat.
I told my mom how I had fixed it up and she jokingly said she wanted it back now!

No way! It’s mine now and it will always have a lot of sentimental value!


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