Learning Tool Girl Humility: doors, locksets, trim

The big trim nailer, not nearly as cute or easy to use as the small one, but necessary to attach the trim securely to the studs.

It’s official: I’ve gone Tool Girl.

First clue: I told myself I would quit work by four o’clock this afternoon, so I’d have time to walk some errands. At four, I unplugged the air compressor, detached the nailer from the hose to bleed the pressure, unplugged the bench sander, and as I was tidying up around the table saw and chop saw, I thought, “It won’t take very long to rip one more board, and then I’d have the uprights ready to trim the front side of the bathroom door tomorrow….”

Half an hour later, I leaned two 80-5/8-inch long pieces of trim, ripped from a 12-foot length of 1X6 pine board, cut to length, ripped-edges sanded, against the door, threw a log into the shop woodstove and raced to the house.

An apprentice trim carpenter’s pocket contents

Second clue: Before changing out of my carpentry clothes, I emptied my pockets. In addition to sawdust, two screws, and a piece of a door shim, I found the mechanical pencil Richard used for woodworking, plus an eraser, my Phillips screwdriver, Richard’s pocket knife, a nail set and tape measure.

In the last week, I’ve learned Tool-Girl humility too. Chapter One was hanging doors with my friend Bob Spencer, now retired from the days when he was a contractor known as “Mr. Door.” Bob supervised the renovation of Richard’s shop this spring and summer, and then bravely offered to teach me how to hang doors.

Pre-hung doors, “hanging out” in the shop before being installed.

That morning, the lumberyard delivered five pre-hung doors. (Four for the house, one for the shop) At my request, we started with the most challenging, the door for the bathroom in the shop.

The walls are rough-cut lumber dating back some 70 years to when the building was a millwork shop. Those true 2X4s are lovely, but no longer straight, nor are the old walls plumb.

Hence the course in humility. My head spun as Bob demonstrated how to compensate for out-of-plumb door frames, the strategic placement of shims, and how to rip, plane, and install a jamb extension. By the time we moved to the house and finished hanging the door for the front hall closet in the house, I was ready for a nap.

The closet door with handle, latch and latchplate installed. (But no trim yet.)

I may never earn the title of “Ms Door,” but I expect I’ll eventually master the basics. And I have new respect for those, like Bob, who do it well.

I did install the locksets on both doors today. And I’m actually looking forward to “Door 102,” my next session with Bob, Thursday afternoon. I’m hoping we can get the other three doors hung, which will leave me with “just” the sliding doors for three closet openings.

Chapter Two of my humility lesson came today when I started on the approximately 700 miles of interior door and window trim in the house. I’m exaggerating, of course, but this is a passive solar house, with a lot of glazing on the long south wall. I have 37 door and window openings to frame, plus the bathroom door in the shop.

When I raced out of the shop this afternoon headed for  errands, I had managed to trim half of one door: the inside of the shop bathroom door. I did mention that the walls aren’t plumb. And that I’m ripping 1X6s in half for the trim. After those pretty pine boards go through the table saw, some acquire quite a curve, so I have to straighten them as I nail them up. (Now I know why Richard was so fond of clamps in every shape and size.)

Trim on the inside of the shop bathroom door. It’s a start….

Humility or no, I’m feeling pretty good about what I’m learning. After all, I never so much as turned on a table saw until a few weeks ago….


On another subject: My heart goes out to the children, families, staff, and community of the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

May they find healing, compassion and peace. May we all–everyone, everywhere. Out of that tragedy, and others in this difficult year, may we grow a more loving world. For everyone, everywhere, every day.