I’ve been hunting for four solid-wood doors for a while now.
Not new doors — old ones, suitable for cleaning up and putting into doorframes in an old house.
The house has four hollow-core wood doors upstairs now, and replacing them is part of the long game. (Pretty much everything I do has some component of the long game; it’s just my way of kicking back at the fact that, the older you get, the faster time moves. I figure that, the more I have left to do, the more likely I’ll be around to do it.)
But back to the doors. Their statistics live on a folded, light-blue Post-it note folded in half in my wallet, all measurements imperial: 73 ½ by 28 ¼, 75 by 28 ¾, 73 ½ by 29, 73 ½ by 28 7/8. (It didn’t occur to me right away that somehow, all four door frames on one floor were different sizes.)
I take the paper out now and then, and think about how good the place will look with its four new old doors. I think about cutting the doors down to the right size, planing them to a perfect fit, about stripping them and finding new hardware, about the way a properly hung door swings with virtually no effort.
It’s my favourite kind of project. It’s not like fixing a roof leak, where the work has to be done immediately, and it’s not the forced march of painting window trim. No, hanging imaginary replacement doors is the perfect job. It doesn’t have to be done right away, it doesn’t involve sunburn and flies, and best of all, it’s open to the kind of low-stress pondering and re-pondering that makes it like counting sheep at bedtime. After all, there are already doors there — you’re just going to make them better. So, one moment, you’re thinking about future doors, the next, out like a light. You can use it every single night, and never actually apply a block plane to the edge of the door.
But I made a mistake this weekend.
I think about cutting the doors down to the right size, planing them to a perfect fit, about stripping them and finding new hardware, about the way a properly hung door swings with virtually no effort.
Yes, I made a tragic mistake.
I was talking to Wanda at the store about finding materials to fix a persistent leak in the shed roof when I jokingly let slip that, once I got the roof patched, I was looking for doors. I showed her the sticky note.
Wanda, it turns out, is an admitted door-hoarder. (Sorry — not “door hoarder” — I meant to say “lifelong connoisseur of tangible architectural heritage.”)
And she had a few that she was willing to part with. They were buried deep in a shed — three doors, in fact, but one, with white and red stained-glass inserts that she wasn’t ready to part with.
The two doors she would sell are a mismatched matching set. One has six horizontal inset panels, five of them wood, the top one glass, while the other has four vertical panels, sitting two-by-two, with a horizontal glass panel along the top. The glass is in the same place as on the first door. The glass is high enough to let light into the room, too high to look through. The doors are roughly the same size, the right size for two of the doorways, and heavy.
Problem is, they’re beautiful.
These, my friends, are breathtaking doors, their simple lines obvious through the caked dust and paint.
I only realized, taking the doors off the car’s roof rack as a fast-moving rain squall headed down the valley, that I’m suddenly moving towards finishing the door job.
But given the speed at which I’m moving, I’ll have to live to be 100.
Watch for a door update in 2021.
Russell Wangersky’s column appears in 39 SaltWire newspapers and websites in Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at [email protected] — Twitter: @wangersky.