Fishermen hauling nets get a lot of attention from painters. So do farmers and cowboys. Residential builders and remodelers? Not so much. But there’s one noteworthy exception: a large canvas by French Impressionist Gustave Caillebotte called “Les Raboteurs de Parquet” (“the floor planers”), depicting three tradesmen hard at work on a hot day, long before the appearance of drum sanders, power planes, and electric fans.

The floorboards have cupped, and the worker on the right in the painting (below) is using a rabot — a heavy scraper plane — to knock down the raised edges, while the central figure uses a racloir, or metal hand scraper, to flatten them, leaving an expanse of smooth, raw wood. The third worker, on the left, is reaching for a file to freshen up...

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