Monday, January 9, 2012

Doorknobs and Broomsticks

Sometimes I think that whoever built my house was just having one on.

When we did our window project a couple of years ago, for example, we discovered that our window frames were about a quarter inch narrower than what has been the industry standard since roughly the Civil War, and that the insides were lined with all kinds of fancy molding that made measuring for the new windows a chore even for my neighbor, a certified union carpenter who did that sort of thing for a living.

Today I am working through my to-do list, which is rather disturbing in its length and breadth, and I decided that I would take a small break from the various projects that involved sitting in my chair and tapping away at my keyboard. There are a few household tasks to be done.

Ordinarily I don’t really get into such projects, since my Mr. Goodwrench gene contains the “Reverse King Midas” mutation that makes me a danger to myself and others when in control of any tool more complicated than a Philips screwdriver.

But how hard could it be to replace an interior doorknob? Really, how hard?

This is why I don’t go to horror movies either, by the way. Split up and check out that noise in the basement? Sure! Why not? How bad could it get?

The first task was to remove the old doorknob, preferably without destroying the door or anything nearby. There appeared to be two screws holding the plate to the side of the door, and if experience is any guide once those were removed the plate should come off. Hell, if I had been the one to put it on, the merest tap on those screws would have been enough to send the plate ricocheting around the room until it lodged in something softer such as the drywall or my leg.

Unfortunately, I was not the guy who installed that plate. Even without the screws, it took the better part of forty minutes, two screwdrivers and a hammer to remove the plate. I hope the military found that guy and made him design tanks for them.

Solving the code for removing the rest of the doorknob was somewhat faster once I figured out that there was a 1.5mm-wide button hidden on the shaft of the outside knob that needed to be pressed in while I pulled on the knob itself. After that there was indeed some ricocheting, so I felt things were moving along smartly.

Then I tried to install the new one.

I started by examining the instructions that came with it, but these were printed in 3-point font and appeared to have been written by baboons. They made no sense in several different languages, and the illustrations were obviously clipped from combat scenes in cut-rate manga novels. I gave that tactic up as a bad cause.

So I stared at the pieces of the doorknob and just started trying to fit them into the slots. The horizontal bit went in quite well. The outside knob seemed okay. And then I tried the inside knob.

This is where I discovered that the interior screws for the industry-standard new doorknob are set exactly 1/8” too wide for the hole where the old doorknob used to be.

So I’m not entirely sure what to do now. I could put the old one back on, but that doesn’t solve the original problem. I could try to widen the hole somehow, but that would mean purchasing and understanding new tools, which would likely involve bloodshed. I could see if there are narrower doorknobs for sale, which would mean going to one of those home improvement stores that exist for the sole purpose of making me feel like a failure even before I make it to the cash register.

Or I could go back in time and tell the guy who built this house to lay off the whiskey and use standard-sized parts.

It would probably be simpler.


Random Michelle K said...

Our house was built in the 30s, and we've found all kinds of surprises.

When my grandmother moved in, we replaced the handles for her bedroom door and the bathroom door with lever handles. Unfortunately, because the doors were older, they had to drill out the door to get the new lever handles to fit.

We have solid oak doors that I spent more than a month stripping and refinishing. They're really quite nice now.

I left the house while they were replacing the handles.

Worst part? The closet door in what was her bedroom STILL doesn't shut.

House repairs are an adventure.

David said...

Solid oak doors! That sounds like quite a house.

I finally did get the new doorknob on, through the expedient of filing the sides of the hole until it was rather oblate and then cramming the doorknob in. And you know what? It works.

Beat to fit. Paint to match.

John the Scientist said...

Aaaaargh. I had the same problem, but I'm a bit more OCD than you, so I went out and bought this hole saw bit for my hand drill. Worked like a charm, but it is a bit hard to keep straight when a large hole is already drilled. The drill bit in the middle of the hole saw is meant to be placed in an undrilled door on the pencil mark you placed to set the center position of the konb assembly. With a mis-sized hole already drilled, the bit is useless,and you have to draw the new hole yourself with a protractor so that it's even around the old hole, then close the door and hold it against the frame with your shoulder. Then you push the hole saw blade against the penciled circle really hard, only then turning the drill on and keeping the pressure up against the door until you've drilled a bit of a guiding groove. Once the groove is drilled a few mm into the door, rest is gravy.

John the Scientist said...

Grrr. Slow brain day. Compass, not protractor. That can be the tricky bit, too.