Thursday, February 25, 2010

Jumping the Gun

If a toilet won't stop running, a pipe is spraying all over the basement, or a spigot drips, I can take off with my man-bag and return several hours later to a quiet home.  If our house is cooler than usual, I can stoke the woodstove, sink a dipstick to discover our huge ugly oil tank is empty, and telephone Canada or the Middle East, or maybe the co-op, to order fuel oil number 2.  Then I can disappear, confident that Karen will open our ancient Old Milwaukee furnace and bleed the fuel line or whatever she does down there with a wrench, rag and bucket.

Today was my turn, highly unusual because we believe in assigning tasks to the more competent.  For mechanical matters, Karen wears the overalls, I'm the suit.

"Someone might say you knew what you were doing," says Virginia.

"Barely," I say.  "I started sliding my dad's plane before I remembered the easy stuff -- tightening screws."

In the cabin, which I suppose is more mine than Karen's even though her name is on the title, French doors separate the heated from the unheated areas.  For years the doors have pushed back and forth against each other and sometimes locked in aggravation.  Yesterday, Karen bought a couple brass surface bolts to hold one door in place.  Today, I installed them.

Of course, tasks like this one rarely are as simple as I hope.  After deciding to install the floor bolt first -- good move -- I drilled a hole in the floor, then screwed the sliding bolt mechanism onto the door and the strike plate over the hole I'd drilled.  The bolt slides perfectly.  Next, I fastened a similar bolt to the top of the door, without a strike plate.  Voila!

But the sister door, the mover with the door handle, closed like a square peg in a round hole.  That's when I got out the plane (wood plane; no, I didn't fly off to consult).  After a few swipes, brilliance struck.  Maybe I could solve this problem by tightening the hinge screws.  Correct!  A few more slides of the plane and the door closed like a cabinet made by Phillip Welch (not quite, but I like the simile -- check out his amazing work at

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