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Man vs. screw: Who will prevail?

March 11, 2013

Here’s an actual email exchange between a friend and me (my responses in red):

“From what you are relating in your blog, you seem to be living the old saying: “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong”!! Surely there must have been some projects that went off without a hitch? Maybe you should devote a blog to those positive projects. Here’s the criteria:

– came in at or under cost. No. I didn’t even know that was possible.
– was completed on time. Are you kidding?
– you did not discover or cause any other problems as a result of the project. Oh come on—this house is 100 years old!!
– the job was NOT more difficult than anticipated. NO. (Duh!)
– everything turned out as expected (or maybe better than expected). Yes—the bathroom really looks nice. The livingroom floor used to.
– (here you add your own) Did not require purchase of expensive new power tools. Uh … no.

Of course, I am assuming that you have actually had some projects that fit the criteria – you have, right? I suppose the front walkway comes close to fitting the criteria, but Eric did come down with serious pneumonia in the middle of that project … so ‘on time’ went out the window.”

My friend’s conclusion: “How depressing!”

No! I thought. It’s not depressing at all! It’s frustrating, aggravating, patience-testing, discouraging, maddening … but it’s not depressing. I know home renovation doesn’t appeal to everyone. In fact, I bet it doesn’t appeal to most people. But to those of us with the vision, it’s a labor of love and a great adventure.

That was so last month. I’ve been stalling this post until I could report the “ta-da!” moment when we installed the upper cabinet’s glass doors. We have been fighting with those doors for three weeks. And counting.

glass doors

Attempt No. 1: We marked and pre-drilled holes for the hinge screws. I carefully supported the doors (rather heavy, with glass in them) while Eric screwed them in. Left and middle doors didn’t fit properly. What the … ? We installed them upside down! On perfectly rectangular doors, why would that make a difference? Read on. Down they came.

Attempt No. 2: The doors fit much better turned right-side-up … except now they have visible ugly screw holes on the edges, which need to be filled. The middle door hung too low and none of the doors would close. The hinge sides seemed to be binding against the shelves. (I should explain that this is not a proper cabinet mounted to the wall. No—these are just stout shelves with three doors on the front! In hindsight, we should have torn it all down and built from scratch, but sentimental me wanted to retain the original 1913 shelves. When Eric built the new doors he discovered that he had to rebuild the face framing as well, because new wood is a different dimension than old wood.) We took the doors down.

old shelves

Eric sanded the hell off the front edges of the shelves. I gritted my teeth because I’d already cleaned the shelves and laid shelf paper twice, and now everything was covered in sanding dust AGAIN. I reprimed and painted the shelf edges, and we rehung the doors. Right door closed nicely. Middle and left doors obstinately popped open. More sanding. Yet they popped open. I am holding off on repainting the shelves. We took the middle door down.

Attempt No. 3 (or was it 33?): We redrilled and rehung the middle door. It’s now straight and level. And it still pops open. Eric determined that the hinge screws are not sunk quite deep enough, and they won’t go in any further. In fact, they are as deep as the hinge will allow them to go. And … they are stripping. The hinges themselves are fine, but the screws are evidently made of pot metal and are crap. Eric cleverly created an impression where the screw meets the wood of the frame, so that when the door closes, the screw head fits into a little custom depression. Did it help? Somewhat. Does the door close completely? No.

hinge problems

This is what happens when you try force a May/December marriage between new construction and an original structure. A straightedge proved that the doors are straight and plumb, but the shelves, and therefore the face frames, are not. I’m not flummoxed by out-of-kilter antique shelves. But THE DOORS MUST CLOSE!

To cheer me up, Eric attached a latch to the well-behaved right door. That’s when I heard the F-bomb explode in the kitchen–never a good sign. The latches are solid brass and not junk … but three of the screws sheared off in the door, under only moderate pressure! Crappy material strikes again!! Now Eric will have to drill them out (somehow!) and I’ll have to patch and repaint the door and hope the latch can be reattached in the very same place and that it will cover the scar. And of course, we’ll buy stainless steel screws to finish the rest of the job.

latch problem

Dejected, we threw in the towel for the night. Will I ever get to show you our beautiful glass doors?

I’m so tired of writing blog posts about how things are not working as we’d hoped. Yes, I cry “uncle!” It’s depressing. We’re beaten … the damned little screws have won.

19132013new

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From → Kitchen

6 Comments
  1. Well, like ANY good story, there is a peak where all the trouble comes together and the audience (and you!!) think “this can never work out well!” And then, after this climax, everything comes together and the guy and the girl (and their kitchen) live happily ever after! So, based on this tried and true formula, you are almost there!

    • Maybe … but there is also the type of story where the heroine throws herself under a train!

  2. Judy permalink

    You will eventually have your glass door cabinets which will close as they are supposed to. Hang in there. Are there other projects going on around the house, in addition to the kitchen doors? Maybe give the cabinets a break and do something else for awhile. Tom & Judy

    • Oh, we have a list as long as both our arms … and in this case all we need to do is turn around and face the other side of the room!

  3. I do not think that your friend knows what he is talking about. Your readers are probably more interested in hearing about your failures because most of them are likely DIY homeowners who want reassurance that other people are having as much difficulty as they are. These little snafus are cause for despair in the moment, but not depression, because the elation you feel when it finally all comes together is so great. This post is a great reminder to always buy good screws for projects because so many companies cut costs by using crap screws. Don’t worry, this will turn out in the end!

  4. Agreed, Jessica! And crap ANCHORS. I have found it to be of great necessity to buy packs of decent screws and anchors. Of many sizes. To always have on hand! I agree – the people that enjoy DIY don’t see failures as obstacles – just learning experiences!

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