Friday, April 9, 2010

Father Time: The Door Saga

This post has been substantially edited to remove the worst of the whining.

The amount of work it takes to make something look simple never fails to amaze me. Like a pirouette or a curve ball, things that look effortless and inevitable require hours and hours of complex preparation. In my case, completing the door (and only the door) of one assemblage.
 Father Time is housed in an old clock case that was missing its decorative finials. I was reluctant to use a clock case because Father Time in a clock equals boring. On the other hand, the proportions suited him. So I turned it upside down.
Still obviously a former clock, and awkwardly divided to boot. Since the hinges are mortised, flipping the door was beyond my skill and would have left the old mortised areas exposed. But I wanted the door to match the case, and that aged brass trim worked well with the circular theme developing on the interior.
This was the best I could do with my little jewelry saw.* So I asked my darling husband, who is good with power tools, to make the opening into a rectangle. Unfortunately his tools were not dainty enough for this scale, and the door got kinda mangled.
And there it sat for about 2 years until I finally made up my mind that the door absolutely positively had to be completed this week.

Took the door shopping. We hit the stores looking for thin moldings. (I live on an island off midcoast Maine, so this involved more mileage than it might for some.) Struck out at the local hardware store and frame store, so I hit the hardware stores, Home Depot, and hobby store on the mainland. Nope nope nope. Every additional store I had to visit got me that much more frustrated and impatient. I just wanted it done. Prowling the hobby store in desperation, I found strips of balsa wood. 3/16" x 1/8" looked just wide enough to cover the irregular edges with a little lip to hold the glass. And a 1/8" square piece to sit on the inside holding the glass and covering the edges. Bought 2 sticks of each, went home. Also attempted to find materials for Jack Frost, but that's a headache for a separate post.
Burnished the balsa bits and the raw edges of the door with a thick coat of Minwax Dark Walnut 2716 and waited about 36 hours for it to dry. That kicked off the next set of problem-solving.

1. Streaks in the wood refused to take the stain. Finally filled them with a black fine-point Sharpie.
2. While mitering the corners, discovered that a dull knife will crush balsa. Re-did the corners.
3. Not enough of a lip to hold the glass, so had to shorten the sides, redoing the corners again.
4. Portions would not touch the frame because of the uneven surface. The glass and inner molding will have to suffice as structural support for those areas. Finally glued down the basic outer frame with my old friend Elmers.
 Not too bad, when you step back and don't look with too critical an eye. Left it to dry overnight.
 Flipped the frame over and slid the glass into place, instantly re-entering problem-solving mode...
5. as one piece of balsa promptly popped off the short end. Ignored it. Secured the corners of the glass to the frame using my other old friend, Super Glue. Cut and glued the first piece of the inner molding (to the glass and to the wood frame).  
6. The inner frame is visible from the outside because the outer frame sits farther back than anticipated (in order to cover the irregular edge).
Continued gluing the inner frame, figuring that I had to redo the outer frame later anyway. All went reasonably well, with only a few interruptions and setbacks (like edges so irregular I had to carve the balsa to fit) until I 'finished' the interior and flipped it over.
7. The outer balsa had shifted, so the superglued glass and inner balsa were now sticking out beyond the edge of the frame. Swearing, I flipped it back over, slid the blade of my knife between the inside of the frame and the glass/balsa in the problem area, held my breath and pressed gently to pop it back in. Then applied super glue from the back (the inside of the door). Worked well enough. My standards sink as my frustration rises.
8. Pried the balsa off the front and tried to realign it. Had to cut a new piece for one side.
9. Got it all glued up neatly, looking pretty good ... until I realized the top balsa piece was about 1/8" off horizontal.
Left it for now. If I decide I can't stand it, I will have to pry off at least 2 sides (assuming I do no damage to the others in the process) and cut a new, 1/8" longer piece for the long side. Which means another trip off-island to the craft store, since all those other mistakes ran through my supply of balsa.
A final stain touch-up of areas where raw wood showed, a final dusting of the interior, and it was time to hang the door! I was beside myself with anticipation until I unfolded the hinges...
10. I have no idea where I put the screws when I took the case apart two years ago.

It's 5:45 and the hardware store closed half an hour ago. Screeching halt and a nasty case of Projectus Interruptus.

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