Friday, May 22, 2009

More wildlife

But this I'll put up with:


The house has a beautiful old (huge) front door that gets comments from many visitors. Not clearly visible in the pictures is that the door use to hang the other way and it was switched probably well over 60 years ago. It needs some refinishing and a couple of accent bits but those can come later. Meanwhile, functionality is obviously paramount.

A few months back, though, the door began rubbing in its frame more and more. Mishandling (slamming) didn't help things and the situation got worse. I took a look at the frame and found a couple of things. First, there are at least three different types of screws in the hinges, indicating it was patched over time and probably not in the best way.

Second, the door stop was adjusted at some point and when it was reattached to the frame - with just a screw or two - it wasn't properly lined up.

Straightening the stop was an easy fix, and it made it a bit easier to close the door. But it was still rubbing, and getting worse. The top hinge was the worst culprit, and I tried a temporary solution of tightening the screws as far as they'd go. This helped, but was definitely temporary - and more slamming worsened the problem quickly. Soon, the screw holes - already over-wide and partly stripped from the patch jobs - weren't holding the threads and the door was essentially leaning on two hinges.

Talking with several friends and carpenters the diagnosis wasn't great - while some were more than willing to help make it happen, we were talking about replacing an entire side of the door frame. It would be time intensive. With expert friends, it might not cost too much, but it would still be a pretty big project.

Fortunately I emailed one other friend to confirm the diagnosis - O.T. emailed right back with a quick, simple, cheap fix he's found extremely effective: chopsticks. Worth a try, he said, before getting into a costly, big repair.

Rather than pack the old screw holes with putty or replace the entire frame side to give the screws something to sink into, all that might be needed is enough strong wood to surround most of the threads. Typical takeout chopsticks are still bamboo, which is very strong.

A few quick steps and this job is done:

1) Pull one screw at a time. Push in a chopstick as far as it'll go, mark off.
2) Cut the stick - heavy kitchen shears worked for me. Because of the thickness of the hinges, I clipped at least 1/4" shorter than my mark - cutting short in this situation is fine - cutting too long will just screw you over since it'll be hard to pull the chopstick back out.
3) O.T. said wood glue couldn't hurt - I used it on about half of the sticks, just a quick coat on two sides.
4) Put the shortened stick all the way in (use another chopstick to firmly seat it). If you used wood glue, you might as well wait a little while for the glue to dry. Otherwise, just put the screw back in - I felt immediate results with the hinge tightening back into place.
5) For really drilled out holes or thick diameter screws, multiple chopstick pieces can be necessary.

Doing this repair is pretty easy, but it only works if the screw holes are at least the diameter of the chopstick. Doors are often hung with heavier screws, so you'll probably be fine - I would have been very reticent to drill out the holes if the chopsticks didn't fit.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

What the....??

Was just sitting in my dining room when something in my semi-dark living room caught my eye. Turns out it was a bat. A bat flying about my living room, trying to get out. When/how it got into the house, I have no idea. Fortunately a quick dash around to the front door and it flew itself straight out.

Tomorrow, must check for previously unknown gaping holes in exterior...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Compost bin

Maybe I'll catch up on some - what, two months? - missed posts at some point (treasure hunt, circus, now summer theatre festival all conspire to suck my time from updating this blog, if not also updating the house). Meanwhile, let's go with what we know (and have pictures of). Today's illustrated lesson: how to make a compost bin for $4.

Start with scrap wood. I took some 1"-square posts - probably from an old wooden swingset - cut them down to 3' with a 45-degree cut at one end so they became stakes. Miscellaneous scrap of a huge variety of widths cut to 3' gave me the planking for the sides.

Depending on the weight of the scrap wood you'll probably want to assemble (or at least connect the sides to each other) closer to where you plan to place the bin. This next image shows three completed sides, leaving about a foot of each post at the bottom to be driven into the earth. This turned out to be unnecessary (and hard to do) so I wound up driving them about 6" deep, and moving the top plank on each side to close the bottom. I think planning for 6" of clearance at the bottom of each post should be fine.

Locate the bin, pound into the ground with a mallet or hammer and woodblock. Here you can see the 'swapped' planking, leaving some space at the top of each stake - handy if I ever string or fit a cover over the top.

As luck would have it, I stumble across what looks like part of a shipping crate in a junk pile - and it was the perfect width to serve as the bin's gate. If you don't have handy piles of pre-built salvage lying around your neighborhood, just remember that the gate you build out of scrap won't be as wide as the other 'walls'. Two hinges and a hook from the hardware store were the only materials costs on this project - about four bucks in all.