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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Wood Screws

Two weeks ago we drove down to Eugene to hang the new, trimmed to fit, curtains in Ross's apartment. Never mind the wisdom of doing this. The decision has been made and it's my job to do it. You would think this would be a simple job, but it's like one of those stair climbing machines at the gym: up two steps to see where the curtain rod should be mounted. Down two steps. Up two steps to measure and mark. Down. Up to drill. Down. Up to put the screws in. Down. Up to hang the curtain rod. Down. Multiply by four windows and two or three brackets per window and you can see it's a little wearing. Especially since it never is quite that simple.

The screws were all the same, #8's I think, about an inch long. I start with a 3/32" drill bit, which is a little small. A "correctly" sized hole is liable to strip in soft wood. I'm using my cordless drill to drive the screws and it works pretty well, for a while, and then it twists the head off of one of the screws?!?!? There is an 1/8" of an inch of the screw protruding from the wood trim and I use a small pair of vise grips to try and unscrew it from the wood. It twists that 1/8" piece off, leaving the broken end of the screw flush with the trim. Maybe the 3/32" pilot holes are a little small.

Maybe this wood isn't all that soft. I work up through 7/64", 1/8" and finally to a 9/64" diameter drill bit. The wood is probably as old as the house, which is at least 50, maybe 100 years old. The rest of the screws go in fine.

Then there is the bathroom. Someone mounted a bunch of oak towel bars, or rather, put some screws in the wall. Most of the screws just went into the drywall, which means these pieces are loose and just barely hanging on. Fortunately I have a kit of plastic anchors. Some of them are oversized, originally intended for concrete, but they work just fine here.

Lastly we have the front door latch plate. The deadbolt has a solid latch plate, but the plate for the regular latch is just kind of floating in space. I brought some 4" long screws thinking I could just replace the screws. I pull out the old screws and they are like 6" long and are not even screwed into anything. It is like a cavern. I brought along a "fixit" latch plate that has two latch holes, one for the dead bolt and one for the latch, but the holes are too close together for this door. I also brought a can of wood putty. We start stuffing wood putty in the hole, and stuffing, and stuffing. Eventually it seems to be full. Supposed to dry in ten minutes, but evidently that is only if you are patching something, not trying to restore the dead to life. I get tired of waiting and push the giant screws and latch plate into the putty and call it good.

We stopped there on the way back from SF, and while it looks pretty ugly, it seems to be holding. Wood putty is nasty stuff. It's basically Bondo. Since I did not have a putty knife, I used my pocket knife to push the putty in the hole. I got some on the handle and the stuff just does not come off. My knife is still encrusted with it. My younger son thought using his hands would work better than the knife, and maybe it did, but he spent 15 mintues scrubbing his hands with a brush to get the putty off.

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