It's not about the house.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Day Five, Project Four: Nice New Sashes

I am so glad I decided to take that door off yesterday!

I had about six hours this morning between the time I woke up and the time I was ready to start working. That is, I’d already spent three hours writing and one hour working out, I did a favor for one of the ladies I work for and made a quick run to the grocery for cat litter (because pew!) -- but after all of that I was finally ready to start working on the house. The point being, I’d had six hours to eye the sky from every angle and try to guess which weatherman was telling me the truth, try to figure out whether or not it was a good idea to strip paint in the yard. Was it going to be a hazy but rain-free? Were the skies going to open up and refuse to close? Were we going to get sudden, sneaky thundershowers? Or was there going to be hail?

(Speaking of which, can I tell you something about hail that has nothing whatsoever to do with anything I‘m talking about? I’ve never seen it. Hail. Not ever. People don’t believe me when I say this, but it’s true. Any time it’s happened anywhere near me I’ve always managed to be on the other side of town, or sleeping, or maybe temporarily blind or something, I don’t know. But I know I’ve never seen it. Every time I hear hail predicted in the area I get all excited, thinking maybe this time, after thirty-seven years… But of course now we have those skylights, so now I’m always torn. In fact, a large part of the reason I actually got around to informing the insurance company of the improvements that we’ve made, was so that I could continue to get excited over the possibility of hail, instead of worrying about how it would look in my new bedroom.)

Anyway, by 12:30 I’d decided it wasn’t worth the risk. Not only would I not be able to take the door with me if I had to run for cover, but there was also the fact that I’d be out there with a plugged-in heat gun in one hand and a metal scraper in the other. Stepping around the un-hung door in the back hall for a few more days seemed a minor inconvenience when compared to the possibility of winding up a walking, talking superconductor. Talk about your big bangs…

So I decided to put new sashes in the front windows instead. These windows here:

All three of them need it, but the middle one’s the worst. The other two you can get to stay up with a little fiddling, but the middle one usually won’t -- until the one time it spontaneously does and you forget that it’s not supposed to and forget to prop it, and then it waits for an opportune moment to go spontaneously SLAM! Maybe right away, maybe when you’re sleeping, maybe when you go to shut it and it crashes on your hand. For the first few summers we held it open with a box -- the box just happened to be handy the first time I realized it was necessary, and then the box became a semi-permanent window-holder-open tool. Semi-permanent because last fall we finally installed the porch light that’s been inside the box this whole time, and the box got thrown away, and when I opened the window for the first time this spring the other day, SLAM! I almost put my elbow through it when it startled me off balance. So… Puritan Manifesto to the rescue!

First I had to ask Johnny where to find the sash cord (he’s working in his garden for the day -- he kind of hopes it does rain, actually). He knew where it was, he told me where to look, and it actually was there. Bip bap boom, that’s some kind of miracle in this house. Down to the basement and up again with the cord, then out to the bedroom and back again with the screwdriver, and I’m ready to go. Really, this time.

A month ago I didn’t know how to do this, but when I opened the kitchen windows for the first time this spring, one of them got stuck and wouldn’t close -- which, everyone in New England knows, just because you’ve opened your windows doesn’t mean it isn’t going to snow and they can stay that way. I couldn’t convince Johnny to fix it right now, so I grabbed my girly screwdriver and took a stab. He got off the couch pretty darn quick when he saw that happening. It turned out the problem was that the sash had come off the pulley, and after 45 minutes of sweating, swearing and laughing we couldn’t get it to go back on and stay there, but by the time we’d taken it apart three times and put it back together, I pretty much knew what I was doing. (That window won’t open now, but I think it’s just possessed.)

Again, taking these window casings apart is something I really should have done at some point over the two years I spent stripping woodwork but, again, I didn’t feel like it. (And I do promise to stop talking about stripping woodwork very soon.) I thought someday I’d fix the sashes and while the casings were open I’d hit the corners that I’d missed -- but that ain’t gonna be happening now. In the process of dismantling the center window, though, I do discover a new use for my screwdriver: it chips paint very easily off antique brass screws and screw-casings (or whatever they‘re called)! The wood around the edges of the screw-case, though, I don’t know what you’re supposed to do with that. In my imagination, when I took the screws out these casings came off too, but in reality they just stayed on. So really, why should I bother to clean up all the other edges when these, which are most visible, are always going to look like this:

This is a very up close and blurry picture, but everybody says you can’t even see it in real life. So who cares?

The only thing that threw me (I’m back to the sash-cord, now) was when I got it all taken apart and there were two weights in the little weight-hole. At first I thought it was for the next-door window but no, that one’s got its own weight-hole. The only other explanation I can think of is that it’s for the… Yup. Apparently these are double-hung windows. Sheesh. I always assumed the tops did not come down because, well, because the tops do not come down. Even when I took a hammer and a scraping knife to every edge of them (I had not yet, at that point, discovered the joys of, and many uses for, a well-made screwdriver), it seemed as though I’d loosened everything and yet they still stayed stuck, so I just assumed they weren’t supposed to open. Apparently they are. Huh. Well, not today.

So… cut the old sash cord off the weight (I always feel sad when I see the weights sitting there forlornly in the bottom of the weight-hole, just waiting for somebody to come along and make it so that they can do their simple little job again. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, but I don’t want to dwell…). Measure a new piece of sash, slide it through the pulley. Drop one end through the weight-hole (look, I don’t know what you’re supposed to call the recess in the wall where the big dildo-looking metal weights are hanging, but I know that you know what I‘m talking about), and tie that end to the weight (those six weeks I spent in Girl Scouts at age eight or so have done me well over the years: I’ve been relying on a good square knot -- “right over left, left over right, makes your knot neat and sturdy and tight” -- to hold everything together ever since. If only I could figure out how to tie one around this house…). Now tie another knot at the top end and screw the wood pieces back over the weight-holes. Tuck the top knot into the knot-hole on the outside of the window, tuck the sash into the sash-slot, put the window back in place and we’re all set!

Ahem… put the window back in place and we’re all set


I put the pulleys in backwards.

How the hell did I bollix that up without noticing? Pulleys all flapping around in the air -- both of them -- like a couple of sticky-outy Howdy-Doody ears. No wonder I couldn’t match the screw holes up exactly. If only I could tie a square knot around my brain sometimes…

I managed to fix it without having to take the whole entire thing apart (I won’t go into all of how I got it done, but it involved holding the sash cord in my teeth which, I just now realized, is actually kind of disgusting when you consider what kind of weight-hole crap it had been marinating in. Ah well. Since I’m still alive I guess that means the rusty, hundred-year-old bug poop that I snacked on made me stronger.)

This took me way longer than I thought it would. Longer, even, than I’d planned to spend on stripping doors. No way those other two windows are getting done today. It’s supposed to rain through Thursday, anyway, so I can do them tomorrow (and tomorrow and tomorrow...).
Never did rain today, though. Not yet, anyway, and it’s almost five o’clock.

I am so glad I decided not to strip that door today!

Day Five: Accomplished
Total Time Spent: The second half of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” and the first half of “Weekend America” -- about an hour and a half.
Total Cost: Nothing!
Rusty, Hundred-Year Old Bug Poop In My Mouth: Priceless.

P.S. It just started raining…


jm said...


EGE said...

Really? Wow. And here I thought I was something of a tool, taking longer to write about changing a single sash cord than I took to actually change it. But JM is my inspiration behind this whole blog in the first place (not to mention a few other things I'm working on) and so if she's proud of me, then I guess I'll keep up this Manifesto project, after all. Thanks!

Sus said...

And if you pull that square knot just right it makes a double half hitch!!!