I was sanding the floors upstairs a couple of days aga, and the sander started smoking and throwing off sparks. Before it ignited and became a sanding fireball, the hot belt sander tripped a breaker and killed the lights in the room in which I was working.

We are redoing the floors upstairs. We can't help ourselves. When you have carpet, as we have had since we moved in 18 years ago, the possibility of discovering gleaming oak floors under stained oatmeal-colored carpet brings out the Christopher Columbus in people.

Especially when the house is 116 years old. Old houses are full of mysteries. Who knows what buried treasure lies within?

We'd peeked under the carpet but no one can just peek because then you peek some more, tearing it away from the corner of the room like you would loose skin from a sunburn.

Wood floors bring you closer to the bones of the house. Close to its essence. The sounds you hear are ancient and carry the voices of people who lived in the house before you but who are now departed.

"How long do you think it's going to take you to do it?" asked Sue, not one of the departed people.

Women would prefer that the job be done yesterday and arrive with neither dust nor a story attached to it.

Men see a project, a journey, and an opportunity to add to their personal mythology.

"This could take months," said Sue, the doubter.

"It won't take months," I said. "We can save money and use the money to recover the salmon-colored sofa downstairs."Months? Give me a break. I was feeling cocky. With the help of Francisco, we had torn out the carpet and pried up the tack strips in three days. I might as well be a floor refinishing god.

Know this, woman. It's all about equipment and I've accumulated some. Steve loaned me his large standup vibrating sander, Rudy his belt sander and Craig his small orbital sander.

"I have the equipment to handle this job," I said proudly.

What was the hard green stuff pasted to the stairs? Green stuff and then brown paint underneath it? That made two layers, but how many other layers lurked underneath?

I'd save the stairs for later. Looking for a confidence builder, I started in Katie's room with the stand-up vibrating sander. This was wide-open country, where a man might make his mark. I created piles of sawdust but after I swept them up, I realized the sander had tickled the paint rather than penetrate it.

Time to put on the knee pads, safety glasses and mask and turn on the belt sander. If Rudy could do it, I could too. Especially with my P 36 ceramic belts that had more texture than Tommy Lee Jones' face.

Wow. This was like taking Normandy. I had to fight for for every inch of that floor.

I was going through sandpaper like chocolate milk. I had used eight belts at $10 a pop and I had completed about 1/20 of the job.

At this rate, it would be cheaper to melt down some Krugerrands and spread gold leaf on top of the wood.

"Rudy, what do I do?" I asked. "Your sander is smoking, throwing off sparks, and it feels like it's ready to catch fire. Then I tripped the breakers."

"You need to upgrade the electrical circuitry in your home," he said.

Good idea. After I refinish the floors, I'll rewire the house. Then I'll add three floors, a roof-top observation deck with a telescope and an infinity pool.

I've abandoned the belt sander for a while. Now, I'm applying Stripeze, the miracle paint remover.

"You can't use that," Harry said. "You won't be able to have a pregnant woman living in your house for the next three months."

If we have a pregnant woman living in the house for the next three months, it will be a medical miracle, and we can sell our story for enough money to hire someone to finish the floors.

That and rewire the house.

These are Herb Benham's opinions and not necessarily those of The Californian. Email him at hbenham@bakersfield.com