Tuesday, 3 March 2009

I'm not done yet, not by a long chalk, but I'm happy

I went to bed at 4am.

I have tried to strip the door in the middle bedroom and I'm getting fed up.

It's the door which is on the cupboard which allows access to the loft. There is a thumb latch lock which is activated from the outside of the door. The thinking behind that was security obviously.

The lock on the outside of the door prevented someone accessing the house from the roof which is part of a long terrace. Anyone could up into the loft and get into anyone else's house in the terrace through these loft hatches.

The thick loads of paint that stretch back nearly 120 years is clinging to the door by its fingernails. I know, paint doesn't have fingernails, it's a figure of speech.

Heat gunning it reduces the older layers to a kind of tar that sticks to any scraper I'm using.

Heat gunning the lock did nothing. The paint refused to budge.

So, I used paint stripper on the lock which was completely seized with paint. The paint was larded on so thickly, that I couldn't even see the slots on the screwheads.

Hours later, after gassing myself with huge amounts of paint stripper and then scraping, poking and worrying at the lock and screws with scalpels, bradawls, scrapers and screwdrivers - I was able to unscrew the lock from the door.

Then, after more paint stripper, I was able to take the lock apart to give it a really good clean. That's right. I took the entire lock apart.

Living in the Black Country where people are so proud of their manufacturing heritage, you very quickly learn that lock making played a huge part in the local economy of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries.

From metal production, manufacturing the parts, coating the exposed metal (japanning) and assembling the finished locks, there are books, museum exhibits, statues and newspaper articles about how important lock making was to the Black Country and Wolverhampton and Willenhall in particular.

The locals' capacity for maudlin nostalgia extends to a local history weekly newspaper called The Bugle which routinely shows sepia printed photos on its cover every issue. Poor people outside their homes in the street, women in crinolines, men at work in dreadful looking workshops, shopkeepers posing outside their shops which has all manner of meat and poultry hooked up in the open air and posed studio photographs usually with an appeal for information on who the photograph is of.

Google a guy called Carl Chinn. Every Thursday (jobs day), he has a two page article in the Express and Star usually including the reminiscences of some old pensioner biddy who remembers horse and carts, how they went on the tram on special occasions, the name of some local shopkeeper and how life was so hard but everyone was poor and happy. Every. Bloody. Week.

He also has a series of columns in the Mail newspapers, The Birmingham Post and is a massively popular local speaker. Carl Chinn, the professional Brummie who is trying to preserve the local accents. Jeebus.

Anyway, back to the lock. The mechanism is so simple it's genius. That was the whole point. The simple mechanism meant anyone could put the lock together as quickly and cheaply as possible. Any uneducated chimp could put the lock together in a matter of minutes. Hundreds could be assembled by one person in a day.

The layers of paint had built up and the thumb latch was completely seized with paint. I took it apart, cleaned everything with paintstripper and Brasso, thoroughly dried all the pieces and drenched everything in WD40. After reassembling the lock, I tried it and it worked. It. Worked. IT WORKED. Whoo hoo.

The paint seized thumb latch meant the door knobs on either side of the door worked, but the lock couldn't be, well, locked.

So some bright spark unscrewed the knob on the inside of the door - putting it's little screw back into the spindle to stop the spindle being pulled free of the door every time someone opened it. So the door was effectively locked for anyone inside the cupboard.

Of course, that could have been decades ago and there is no sign of any door knob lying around the house anywhere.

I need one small brass cottage rim knob and a washer. Imperial measure.

And hey, guess what, they come in pairs. And metric.

But, I'm happy. I've got the last original feature in my house working.

And the furniture has arrived.