Monday, August 16, 2010

How Repairing a LaFlamme Window Is Theraputic

One of the many distracting things about owning a house is the ongoing need to fix something.
Fixing is all the more important when you are trying to sell this house, as Shirley and I are. Ergo the distractions of fixing are a frequent draw away from my 'other work', which my or may not be welcomed, depending on how well the writing is going.
Some distractions are always annoying. Some are necessary but brief. Some seem to lure you away from the computer with the siren call of 'this won't take a minute...' and you answer the enchantress at your peril.
That happened a few days ago. I was in Adrian's vacant room. Shirley wanted me to remove the screen and check out the windows, which I did. There was something wrong with his window, she said. I looked proudly at the LaFlamme wood frame double-glazed windows which we had ordered all the way from Quebec when the house was built 21 years ago.
I looked closer.
There was an insidious intruder - rot.
The bottom of the wood frame of the window had a significant darkening of the wood grain right at the join. When I cranked the window open, it separated slightly at the tongue-and-groove joint at the corner.
No problem! thought the former shop-teacher.
Tomorrow, maybe, I'll remove the window - to ensure a good job - and use some long robertson screws and outdoor grade carpenter's glue and firm up the window. I planned it in my head.
Back to the computer.
A few days later I looked at it again. No problemo. Within an hour I can remove it, have it glued, then I'll let it dry overnight and then BOFFO! I'll reinstall it in the morning.
I visualized the finished window and that gave me comfort as I went back to Top Ten, the latest adventures of Sydney Kowalski.
The next day I planned a two hour break to attack (wrong word, - solve) the window dilemma. But it was not to be. We removed the window and brought it down to the workbench and found the bottom edge of the window was so far gone it fell apart when I tried to work on it.

The rotted wood

That left two choices a) to order another window from LaFlamme in Quebec, hoping they are still in business, have the same size, match, style, wood mouldings, and a decent delivery cost
or b) I build a new bottom edge to the window.
Now I own a table saw, various saw blades, sanders, skill saw, portable jig saw, stationary scroll saw, a lathe, two routers, hand tools, lots of sandpaper, and many good steel rulers and squares. Even so it was tempting not to do the work myself.
I am not particularly patient at the best of times, and though I have been known to do careful work, I really have to try at it. And to do this job would require all my patience.
My two hour job was already more than two hours spent. I had to buy some straight-grain cedar, high quality stuff, and cut it about a dozen times in various places and angles to duplicate the rotted piece. I measured twice for every one cut, just like I taught the kids years ago. I measured to the nearest millimeter and cut to the very edge of the line. I even watched for parallax error! The result was actually surprising. A good fit. Four hours of disassembly, cutting, sanding and assembly, 2 hours staining and varathaning, 10 hours drying time...
But then, seeing the window actually look like it should, seeing the hardware track along in the way it should and feeling the finish of the wood frame being the same as the rest of the window was satisfying. Almost as satisfying as getting a positive letter from an editor.
(I'd better check that email account again!)

The finished product

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