Friday, August 29, 2014

Crawling Along

We're still working on the house but completion doesn't seem to be any closer. We've arrived at the stage of a thousand tiny little things, at least as far as the rear section of the house is concerned.

Here's what happened so far:

The bathroom floor is grouted. We used black grout and it was super-messy!
Getting all the black stuff off my fingers took TWO weeks! The floor is done except for the silicone along the walls.

We also did a lot of time consuming wood repairs. Thankfully one of my brothers actually had to do some basic carpentry practice at the university so he knew what he was doing to some extent. Our selection of tools is a bit limited. The table saw is an Aldi special from the late 90s and while I've used it to install over 800 sq. ft. of solid oak herringbone it definitely lacks features (fixed cutting depth) and precision. Our B&D handheld router was on clearance "as is", i.e. with a worn bit stuck in it and without any accessories. We do have a set of decent chisels and a Japanese saw that makes very smooth and straight cuts. This was used for cutting the tenons.

 Originally the door was assembled without any glue, only wedged mortice and tenon joints. I'd have liked to keep it that way but since we had to cut off one of the stiles right at the tenon we needed to use some glue. Since no one keeps 2 m C-clamps at home we used a few ratchet straps to pull the glue joints together. The work would have been a bit easier with quality lumber but we wanted to make do with what we had at hand and that was scaffolding planks - awful stuff for finish work! We had to use them for the door frames because they're essentially the only kind of 5 cm thick lumber wider than 8 cm (i.e. larger than a 2x3, 2-bys aren't standard in Europe except 2x3) and had some leftovers we used for the door repair. 2x3s would have done the trick but those we had were even worse. Here's the almost finished product minus cutting the tenon to size in the rabbet and sanding down the patch a bit with the belt sander. For some reason we cut the patch too short so we had to add onto the other side as well. The last patch was further up the door were a huge knot (3 cm in diametre or so) had fallen out during paint stripping.

Then we cut the casings to size, nailed them to the frame and I could hang the door, a first for me. As the door has a rabbet you can't simply screw hinges to the jamb. The modern solution is a screw-in hinge - essentially a 6 mm machine screw drilled into the wood. You can probably imagine the equation wood + machine screw + heavy door = trouble. Those hinges twist under the weight of the door or even rip out. The result is far too often a door that scrapes across the floor. Besides, compared to the old large hinges the modern ones look pathetic.

That's why I insisted on using traditional hinges. As you can see these are a bit more tricky to install as you need a long and very narrow (1.5 or 2 mm) pocket in the frame.

This pocket is made using a special chisel that is half chisel half rasp. Since these hinges are far more labour-intensive to install they fell out of favour in general construction in the 1960s and today only few carpenters still know how to work with the old type and have the tools. We did find a carpenter who hung two doors for us but he refused to do the bathroom and WC doors because he was afraid the frames would fall out of the wall. Long story short, after much hemming and hawing I bought a 2 mm chisel on eBay for little more than a cheap lunch and tried my hand at hanging doors. The first one was relatively smooth although I hammered the hinges a bit too far into the wood. That was easy to compensate by bending the hinges on the door.

The bathroom door was more problematic. If you look at the drawing in the second link above you'll see that the actual hinge is rather far from the opening on the left-hand side. Since we had mis-measured we widened the rabbet on the frame and that moved the hinges even further left. That means I ended up morticing the hinges into the wall instead of the door frame... which means we have to open the wall from the other side, double up the frame and replaster. *sigh* I also had to cut down the tiles so I could fit the door casings. First I tried a carbide file but that didn't work too well against the wall. Then I used a Multimaster knockoff with a carbide disc that had been sold to me as "good for tile". Needless to say that after roughly 60 cm of soft wall tile the disc was bare.
We already decided to rip out the kitchen door frame and widen it by 2 cm instead of playing this stupid game again.

I also discovered that every single door needs to have the paint stripped off. Some of the old paint jobs (or the prep underneath) are flat out horrible! One door has more than 5 mm globs of wood filler in the corners! It's a miracle the unknown painter didn't decide to fill in the panels completely to "modernise" the doors! Unfortunately more than half of our doors are from the same place and were painted by the same fool. Even worse, there are three coats of paint and the first two are crackled and chipping but in general rock-solid linseed oil paint. The heatgun doesn't do much but gum up the old paint. I bought a bottle of solvent-based stripper two years ago so I guess I'll give that a try. I just need to clear enough space and build some kind of large tub to catch the softened paint and stripper for disposal.

On the bright side the bathroom, rear hall, WC and small bedroom are whitewashed and look fairly finished!