Sippican Cottage

glue in block


A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Fast and Furious: Grain Painting

I’m short on pictures of stuff I’m doing. I’m usually going too quickly and sloppily to allow time for snaps. My wife, who I adore, can’t take a picture to save her life. Her doctor told her that even her x-rays come out fuzzy. My children are too busy being morose while they help me to add documenting their morosity to their workload. I generally take bad pictures myself, and I’m too busy thinking about important things like is morosity a word? Dammit, it should be, to take photos of what I’m doing while I’m doing it. I never carry a cellphone on my person if I can avoid it, and that adds to the vast interregnums in the visual feast. So you’re stuck with me describing things, and telling hoary old stories. Sorry.

Hey, do you want to grain-paint a door? I have a few pictures of that. This door was about the worst job I ever did using the technique, but I have several fuzzy pictures of it. I could regale you with stories of my time in the faux bois milieu, the faux marbre scene, man, or my time in the trompe l’oeil salt mines, chained to a scaffold. I will testify that I was pretty good at it — as long as there’s nobody around who’s actually seen my work. I dabbled in it. You have to work at it for a long time to get really good.

But one aspect of it I did master was how to do a slapdash job going really fast. That I can show you. Let’s grain a door in less time than it takes to paint it properly, and see how it turns out.

Here’s our victim. It’s a salvage door, stuck in one of the 723 empty door frames we found in our house. The former occupants seemed to have spent most of their waking hours removing doors and losing them somewhere, in between bouts of adding ceiling fans. These pictures are from years back. That’s the foyer beyond the door, and the office where I’m typing this further on. It got colder than a tax assessor’s heart right there between the front door and the staircase. We got tired of having cold fronts moving through the living room, and stratocumulus clouds forming around the light fixture, so I rammed a salvage door in the opening. There were problems, of course, because I breed trouble like minks. I wrap myself in problems to keep warm with fixing them. Well, warm-ish.

The doors in my house are were a full 7′ tall. It’s a big Victorian with high ceilings, and millwork to match. The knobs are lower than the more modern arrangement, because people back then were raised on a diet of suet, gruel, and cigars, and it stunted their growth, I gather. I couldn’t afford a new door for the opening, or even a salvage door from a vendor. But I saved this glass door from a dumpster years back, and figured I could use that. I glued a couple of strips on the edges to make it wide enough for the opening, and a block on the top to make it tall enough. I screwed a piece of shingle over the bored hole for the knob, to keep the interior weather from passing through.

You might wonder why I didn’t flip the door and keep the knob hole where it was. Well, this is where I admit embarrassing things. The doorframe was solid oak, and if you think I’m going to chisel out two new hinge mortises and a striker plate mortise out of solid oak, when I can keep them and chisel them out of a soft pine door, you don’t know me very well.

OK, take the door down and remove the patch over the borehole. As you can see, even if I wasn’t too lazy to chisel out the oak door frames, the knob hole is in the wrong place anyway (it’s too far from the edge of the newly widened door. It’s a pain in the arse to fill something like that in solid, and then bore a neat hole right next to where it was, right through your patch. So I was smart to give up and do a lousy job, see? This is how I live with myself, by convincing myself I’m smart, not lazy. But I am beset by doubts.

So we make two blocks (one for each side of the door) from the fat end of a shingle (you heard me). It doesn’t matter how big it is, it’s just got to be larger than the hole you’re covering.

There’s that straight router bit again. There are all sorts of fancy router bits and jigs for cutting the inside and outside of a patch like this. I think I own some, actually, but where they might be is a mystery. I wouldn’t use them if I could find them. We’re not setting up the tools over and over, and worrying about how marvelous this job turns out. Quick and dirty, remember? You never measure anything if you don’t have to. Lay the patch on the router base, adjust the router so its depth is slightly less than the patch (we don’t want a square swimming pool in the door. We prefer a lump, thanks). Rout it out freehand, and finish it off with a chisel and mallet. The router makes a nice, flat surface to glue on.

Glue the block in, and then flip the door over and do it again. Remind yourself not to take pictures with an atrocious knot on display. No one will suspect that you cut a 2 x 4 in half to make the new door edges, so don’t leave evidence like that to put them on the scent.

Sand the block flush with a belt sander if you have one. This is why you use a shingle for the block. If the block is softer than the door, you’ll sand it flush and the patch will disappear. If the block is harder wood than the door, you’ll gouge the door around the block trying to get it flat, and end up with a valley with a mesa in the middle. When it’s painted it won’t matter what it’s made of, really.

There’s the door, ready to go. If you’re smart (lazy) like me, you’ll tape out the glass with painter’s tape. I can paint straight lines against glass panes all day long without missing, but I doubt you can, and we’re not going to be painting straight lines anyway. We’re going to be slopping and mooshing and generally making a mess, and it’s easier to peel tape than get coatings off of glass.

[To be continued. If you’d like to support Sippican Cottage, keep reading, leave a comment, tell a friend about us, buy a book, or dump some toll change in the tip jar. Thanks!]

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