Saturday, September 8, 2012

Not What I Had in Mind

When I got up this morning, I was a woman on a mission.

Now that the stripped-screw, hinge-hanging, barely-closing-anymore aluminum screen/storm door and its frame are off the back entry, it was time to finish what I started two days ago when I gave into the temptation to peel the paint off the outside of the big wooden entry door.  I was up by 6:30, and by 8:00 my breakfast was eaten and my morning chores were done.  The good baby gate (the one with the pedal-operated door) was wedged in the open back doorway to keep the pets in the house.  I'd confiscated a dead chipmunk from my going-on-fourteen-year-old calico, sent her inside, and given the rodent a proper burial-- in the garbage can.  Time to demount the big wooden door, lay it across the sawhorses on the back porch, take the Wood Doctor to its exterior to finish the stripping, fill the bad gouges, sand it as required, lay on four or five coats of shellac (to the exterior only), and hang it back up.  Today.  Before I went to bed.  I didn't want to have to wrestle that door back onto its hinges more than once, and I certainly wasn't leaving the back side of the house wide open while I was catching my Zzzzzs upstairs.  So if it meant staying up till 3:00 in the morning to get this done, by gum, I'd do it.

What is it they (maybe it was Bobby Burns) said about the best laid plans . . . ?

First off, I seriously underestimated how much paint still had to be removed from the stop moulding profiles.  Over two hours worth with the door still hanging, using the heatgun while sitting on a low stool in the open doorway with a cold rain and wind lashing the yard outside the deep back porch.  

Well, fine.  Don't want the door out on the porch till the weather settled down a bit anyway.

But then came the hardware malfunction.  A little after 9:00, I was ready to bubble off the paint trapped behind the knob and lock.   The deadbolt assembly came off easily enough, though there was a piece of metal I didn't notice until I was putting the parts into the berry picking carton for safekeeping.  (I hoped I could figure out where it belonged.)  And when the deadbolt cylinder casing came away from the interior face of the door, it pulled off a lot of the red paint and exposed the beigey-cream color underneath.  Boy, that'll look great repainted . . . not . . . (Cue ominous music.)

Likewise, it was simple getting the interior knob detached, too.

But the exterior knob, and the latch assembly . . .  ?  Oh, my.  It wouldn't budge.  Yes, I knew those little holes in the knob shaft probably gave access to some release mechanism.  Got the finest gauge brads I could find out of my workshop and found one small enough to go in.

Didn't do any good.

I put off thinking about it.  Finished heat-gunning the paint off the outside of the door, trying not to give in to the low blood sugar/useless adrenalin influx my setback with the knob was inflicting on me.  By around 10:15, I'd taken off all the paint I could reach and I had to deal with it.  Took several trips upstairs to look up sites on the Internet that might help me (this, and the Schlage spec sheet, were the most useful).  Repeatedly pushed, pulled, and turned the knob, to no avail.  Wandered outside to see if any of my neighbors had ever changed out a knobset.  Sorry, no.

Around 11:30, I called the local hardware store that cut all my keys.  Clerk suggested I try the hole on the other side of the knob.  Hmm.  Substituted an unbent paper clip for the little brad and tried to poke it in.  Not going.  Maybe, I suggested to the hardware store clerk, the holes in the knob stem are misaligned.  I'll try fixing that.  Still on phone, I pushed in the latch bolt so the innards of the knob stem wouldn't move, and turned the knob.  It clicked around, then stopped.  Oh, joy, now I've got the knob frozen up and the latch bolt is stuck retracted in door.  And the store's locksmith isn't in today.  Maybe Monday?

I really didn't want to have to spend money on a locksmith.  It wasn't what I'd had in mind.  But after more futile pulling and turning, I called and talked to one.  Despite my very specific explanation, he didn't have a clue what I was talking about.  Had I tried removing the screws from the rose?  No, I repeated patiently, this model has little holes, and no visible screws. He quoted me a price:  $29 just to come out plus $35 labor, not including parts and tax.  I found his patronizing lack of imagination disquieting.  Told him it was early yet (12:30 PM), and I'd like to call some other locksmiths to compare.

Back downstairs.  More turning (rather, not turning), pulling, and frustration.  More lightheadedness.  Not that many locksmiths in the phone book.  Called what there were.  No answer, or got an answering machine, or the same company as I called the first time, under a different name.  Ate something, felt a little better.

And got a sensible idea. Why not try Craig's in New Brighton, the hardware store I'm in an out of every weekend and ask what locksmith they recommend?  Clerk gave me the name and number for a guy named  Elmer W., and said he was good.

The reason I don't give Elmer's full name and with it a reference is that, strangely, he didn't bring any tools in with him-- he used mine.  But he arrived at the house in very good time and got the job done in short order, primarily by knack and main force.  Took a certain amount of pushing and pounding to get the outer knob cylinder free of the door.  When it and the latch assembly came out, he showed me the point of a nail protruding 1/8" or more into the circle of the bore hole.  Probably it was there to hold in the block that filled the mortise where the original mortise lock used to be.  And that's what everything was getting hung up on-- a little present from a previous owner.

Elmer only charged me $10.  As I was writing the check, I asked him what that little tongue of metal was that had come out of the deadbolt.  It's the piece that actually makes the bolt go in and out, and shouldn't there be another one of them?  Hadn't seen any, I told him.  Well, then, maybe not.

By the time the locksmith left, it was rising 3:00 o'clock.  It was nearly seven hours since I started this morning.  The door was finally on the sawhorses-- I moved it while waiting for Elmer to get here-- but   the ancient alligatored shellac was still on the door.  And it remained on the door, and remains to this time, because . . .

Because I took a good hard look at the inside face of  this door.  I saw the paint I'd pulled away with the deadbolt cylinder.  I saw how the red color I applied in 2004 had begun to chip and fade.  I visualized the effect of liquid stripper running down the edges and making inroads into the paint.  I imagined how impossible it would be to remove that paint at some future time without destroying the shellac job I was about to apply.  It wasn't what I had in mind, but it had to be done:  The interior surface had to be stripped.

First, then, I had to remove the metal retainer piece from the long-departed weatherstripping at the bottom of the door.   Screws painted over a million times took repeated heatings to clear off enough paint to get at the slots.  Once the metal strip was off, I saw that it was original to the door-- the wood underneath it was bare.

Then there was the sliding bolt my previous owners attached to the bottom of the door.  I hated losing that, in a way.  But it was loose and bent and I needed to get at the paint under it.  But try as I might, I couldn't convince it to reveal its screws.  Had to pry it off.  Some of the wood came off with it.  Oops, well, that's some more patching to do.

Ate something to recruit my strength.  Then finally, finally, got to the stripping.  On the painted side of the door.  Barring 45 minutes or so for supper, I worked nearly six hours straight. Used the best heat gun, the one that goes to 1200 watts, which I now read isn't the best idea with lead paint, since it vaporizes it.  I admit, my throat was a little irritated until I had the sense to put on a mask.  That side of the door has, as I suspected, always been painted, so though the paint came up pretty well under the heat, it didn't sit up and beg to come off the way the two layers of latex on the exterior had.  The scraper jumps, gets stuck, and hesitates from time to time.  Result?  Some not-so-pretty five-in-one tool marks in the wood.  In fact, the inner surface of the door looks downright rustic.  It'll need sanded, or filled.  It needs sanded anyway, because the bottom-most layer of paint isn't entirely off.  Yeah, that'.s the thick white leadbased one.

At 9:10 PM I still had paint in the profiles.  Not to mention what there was around the window glass which I wasn't going to tackle with that heat gun, for fear of breakage.  Time to give up for the evening.  Didn't have enough light to keep myself from gouging the wood, and my left hand holding the heatgun was literally shaking.  It's not what I had in mind, but I wrestled the door back and rehung it.  Then I shop vac'd the back porch, and cleaned up all the hard crunchy curlicues of paint.  And set out to reinstall the deadbolt for the night.

This is where I learned that Elmer the locksmith had been right the first time:  There were supposed to be two of those metal tongues in that lock.  And it dawned on me that the metallic-looking "strip of paint" I'd vacuumed off the backdoor welcome mat a few minutes before was probably the piece I needed.

Not to panic.  That's one thing nice about shop vacs-- if necessary, you can open them up and retrieve what's been sucked inside.  Gloved up again, selected a metal plant prop from my gardening tools, and began to fish around.

No joy. But here's where I had a sensible idea, and it worked.  Fetched a strong magnet and stuck it on the end of the plant prop.  My "rod" thus baited, I did better.  The missing tongue soon attached itself and I hauled it up.

And believe it or not, I didn't have too much trouble getting the lock back together-- once I'd consulted a photo I took earlier and got it oriented the right way up.  It locks just fine, and the knob hole I've stuffed with an old towel. 

I am knackered.  Don't know how much I'll get done on this tomorrow.  At the moment, I'm too tired and achy to have much of anything in mind.  In consideration of the luckless chipmunk my kitteh slew this morning and the shellac that's still on the door, I sign off with this:


But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy! 

                            ---Robert Burns, "To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough"

5 comments:

Shasha Kidd said...

This sounds a bit like our all-day door stripping project last summer. I had intended to just repair the glass, but then ended up spending all day stripping paint. Luckily, I had help so we actually finished the door in the one day allotted.

Karen Anne said...

I would give yourself a pass until next weekend. Exhaustion breeds mistakes.

Kate H. said...

Karen Anne, point taken. But I have to try to do what I can this week. Next weekend is already devoted to hanging living room wallpaper (Frieda* is coming over to help), and I have to get this back door worked on and refinished while the weather is still warm. And we've had some pretty chilly days and nights already.

Shasha, I take it you used stripper around the glass mouldings?

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