Pokeberry Plants thumb

Saturday started as a day filled with great promise.  Mild temperatures, low humidity, and gentle breezes were in the forecast.  The wife was going to be gone for the day, leaving me eight hours of uninterrupted shop time.  There was leftover brisket in the fridge for a sandwich.

I started my morning with a nice online chat with a knowledgeable wood smith that inhabits a woodworking web site I like to frequent.

Then I went out to the shop to finish some desk clocks that were, as the old commercial promised, 99 and 44/100% done.  I rubbed out the last coat of finish with a Scotch-brite pad, wiped the clocks down, and they were ready for the finish coat.  I brushed that on, wiped it off.  Set the clocks on the rack to dry.  I cleaned my brush and disposed of the rags.  Then I decided to get out some pen blanks.  My online friend and I had chatted about pens so turning pens seemed to be a pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

Shortly after noon I heard the call of the brisket in the fridge.  I put the pens aside, already dreaming of lunch, and went back to the house.  There I slathered bread with mustard, layered on slices of brisket.  With a pickle and a cold glass of tea, I was ready. Life is good.

When I finished eating, I cleaned up my mess. Didn’t want any trouble with the “missus” on her return.

Then I headed back to the shop.  Even from a distance, I noticed something was wrong.  My shop door was ajar.

As I stepped across the threshold, my eye was immediately drawn to a huge splat of purple pokeberry poop on the gleaming cast iron wing of my table saw.  And another one, a streak of purple ten inches long streaming down the side of my band saw and ending in another splat of pokeberry poop on the table.

Pokeberries thumb

Purple pokeberry poop! For those of you not acquainted with this, I will explain.  Around here, in the middle of North Carolina, we are scourged with a vile weed known as “pokeweed”.  Pokeweed grows on purple-tinged green stalks and has purple veined leaves.  This plant grows to 3, 4, 5 feet or more.  When the fleshy stalks are cut, they exude a sticky, milky sap.  According to legend, this sap is capable of causing maladies ranging from dementia to necrophilia.  Some say the sap is poisonous and can even cause death.

The pokeweeds produce stalks of green berries that turn a bright purple when ripe.  Some species of birds are immune to pokeberry toxins.  These birds go to special flight schools to become poopoo bombardiers.  They learn to eat the purple pokeberries and then deposit the aftermath on windshields, patio furniture, window screens, and white vinyl siding.  Particularly skilled birds, no doubt the “top guns” in every class, are even able to deposit their splats of putrid purple poop directly in the center of the upper glass panel of your front storm door fifteen minutes before dinner guests arrive.

So now you see what I’m talking about.

Back to the shop…I heard a flapping noise and an angry squawk.  At last I saw him, a frantic, diarrheic mockingbird, my uninvited guest, trying to find his way out of my shop.

Mockingbird and Pokeberries thumb

Diarrheic?  You ask… how does he know?  That will become apparent later.

After several attempts, I managed to chase the bird out of the shop.  Let me tell you something.  I’m a gentle man, no hunter am I, but I wanted to kill that bird.  And, yes, I know it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.  Saw the movie, read the book, liked them both.  But what this mockingbird did to my shop deserved punishment by barbecue spit.

I found splats of purple poop on my lathe bed, on the white pegboard, streaming down my squares, marking gauges, and awls, on my workbench, and on my router table.  Two fluorescent fixtures dripped steaming purple pokeberry poop.  I cleaned up at least ten splats.

Pokeberry Stain thumb

You know how you find something in the last place you look.  Well, I found something in the last place I looked.  That vile poopoo bombardier had dropped a splat of purple pokeberry poop so large that a yak, a gnu, or even a moo cow would be proud to call it his own, directly onto two of the clocks I had almost finished.

My clocks are like boxes with lids that lift off so you can hide something inside.  And hidden in two of them was purple pokeberry poop.  Right down in the bottom of the boxes.  Luke Skywalker could not have done it any better.

I’ve been subscribing to woodworking magazines and home improvement journals most of my adult life. I always read the “Reader’s Hints” and “Expert Advice” sections.  Would you believe that I’ve never seen any hints or advice about how you get purple pokeberry poop out of partially dry oil/varnish?  Not once can I recall Bob Flexner or Norm Abram or any other expert addressing this issue.

I receive dozens of tool catalogs.  In none of them have I ever seen any specialty tools that will facilitate removal of purple pokeberry poop.  Are there special nook and cranny chisels or scrapers for removing purple pokeberry poop from inside little desk clock/boxes?  Does Festool make something to remove purple pokeberry poop?  It seems not!

So, my friends, I seek your advice and I offer you mine.  First, please tell me, how do you remove a mixture of oil/varnish and purple pokeberry poop?

And now my advice to you…take a minute to be sure that you have secured the door to your shop even when you have a lunch of brisket waiting.  Keep out unwanted guests, particularly poopoo bombardiers!

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Saturday the 18th. Thanks for visiting Woodturners Unlimited.