Vacation pace

One of the joys of life is helping out with little chores around our children’s homes. It somehow feels different than tackling similar projects in our own home. Part of the reason is that I don’t feel much pressure to do home repair for our children. They will sometimes identify a project because they know I like projects. Our daughter and son-in-law are preparing to move out of their home. They have a buyer and a closing date set and soon will be moving out of this house in preparation for a move to Japan, where they will live for four years. There are plenty of projects as they prepare to move. Yesterday, my wife and daughter were sorting the kitchen, identifying which items would be moved, which would be stored and which would be sold or disposed. I decided to check into a bit of brick moulding around an exterior door that needed scraping and painting. Except scraping revealed a bit of rotted wood, so I decided to replace the moulding. And removing the moulding revealed a bit of rot at the bottom of the door jam.

I ended up replacing all of the door framing, including the jam, That meant having to mitre in new insets for the hinges and door latch, make several trips to the lumber yard for the appropriate supplies, and a variety of other tasks. I don’t have very many tools with me on this trip, so some of the work had to be done by hand - tasks for which I would normally use power tools. The project ended up taking all day and I still have to do some calking this morning. And, in the inspecting of the outdoor doors, I discovered another one that needs essentially the same work.

Were I at home, such a discovery would be frustrating. A project that I though might take an hour expanding into a dozen hours would mean rearranging schedules, making plans, and sometimes even hiring someone else to get the work done as I pursue other projects that take precedence when it comes to my time. But there is a different quality to vacation time. On vacation I am allowed to do things at my own pace, and to pursue one project at a time. I probably won’t tackle the second door today, but let it go to tomorrow, because I know I have the time. As is true with other tasks, the second door will take a lot less time than the first because I know what needs to be done, I can assemble all of the required materials easily and don’t have the same learning curve in terms of solving the problem.

When they build a home, they don’t take time for the kinds of work that I did yesterday. The door, I’m sure, came pre-hung with the jam and stop already installed. The hinges and latch stops had been routed out using jigs in a factory setting and the door simply set in the opening. In the case of this particular door, it was installed without any shims and with gaps that would seem too big in our cold environment. Here in a slightly warmer part of the world, I guess a little air leaking in around the door was deemed to be acceptable. If a contractor were hired to do the job, or if I had done it at home where I had access to all my tools, the insets would have been done with a roto-zip tool and would have taken just a few seconds. However, I carefully measured and marked the cut outs and used a chisel and hammer to chip away the wood, a little at a time. The work is similar to the way my grandfather would have hung a door, except he would have had the advantage of separating hinges to ease the process a bit. It is fairly satisfying to work wood with a good sharp chisel. I bought a new chisel for the project yesterday as I don’t travel with wood chisels, but the tool had to be sharpened before it would work properly. Fortunately I had a stone for sharpening knives along on the trip.

The fact that the lumberyard - or big box home improvement store as they call them these days - sells a chisel that needs to be sharpened before it is used says something about how home repairs are done these days. I suspect that if I had asked a clerk about the work I wanted to do he wouldn’t have thought of a chisel and would have said that one has to use a power tool to do that particular job. One clerk in another part of the store suggested that I replace the entire door with a pre-hung unit before discerning that I simply wanted to replace the jam. Then he tried to “upsell” me a new threshold for the door to go with the jam kit that I bought. I suppose that a Habitat for Humanity restore would accept the donation of the used door, but when I have volunteered with Habitat we have installed pre-hung doors. I remember trimming in a closet door in a Habitat house a decade or so ago, but it was considered to be a bit unusual even then.

We are a society that looks for quick fixes and solutions. Virtually every door in every home is of a standard size so they can be made in factories and mass produced. I remember the door to my father’s office when I was a kid. My father, like me, was not a tall man. The remodeling of his shop that included a new showroom required a large beam to bear the load above the new hole in the wall cut to get into his office. He simply left the beam in place and installed a door that was six inches shorter than standard. It didn’t bother him and he used to say that people over six feet tall could duck a little as they passed in. In my grandparents’ house there were doors that were narrower than the current standard. Each was custom made and hung by hand. Those skills are no longer regularly used these days.

Then again, I wouldn’t be setting doors with hand tools if I weren’t on vacation. Life moves too quickly. That is why it is good to pause, from time to time and reconnect with life at a slower pace.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!