I Was Never Very Good at Juggling

A number of small projects were begun over the past several months. Some were intentional, and others were forced upon us by fate. I told myself that we would be much further along with these projects by now…much like I was supposed to have already begun taking my architectural licensing exams. Here’s a list of the loose ends yet to be tied:

  • Strip, repair, and repaint side entry door sill. (We got it stripped and primed, just no finish coats yet.)
  • Replace side entry door hardware. (Got the hardware and installed it…still need to repair the door from the gaping hole left by the modern doorknob we removed.
  • Rewire and finally hang the last few light fixtures.
  • Strip, repair, reglaze, and repaint the original front screen door (we found it in the garage).
  • Strip and sand the kitchen cabinetry. To be followed by repainting and installing new hardware to match the original.
  • Clean and refinish front door and screen hardware. (Stubborn paint refuses to succumb to the powers of the crock-pot.)
  • Scrape the master bedroom ceiling down to plaster.
  • Refinish bathroom medicine cabinet and replace mirror (this one was not planned).
  • Replace/rewire all toggle switches and outlets on the first and second floor.

The side door is nothing too special, but has held up well to the passage of time. We stripped and primed the door sill but have yet to put any finish coats on. We intend to paint the exterior and stain the interior of the door itself, much like the front door, but the furtherst we got was replacing the ugly modern door knob with something more period appropriate. We got the beautiful patina’ed brass entry set seen below from Historic Houseparts. They have a huge selection of entry set pieces (escutcheons, mortise locks, knobs, strikeplates etc), but they also have a  selection of complete sets with everything included, which we went for. The backplates and mortise lock almost perfectly matched the shadows from the originals, but some adjustments were required. For anyone wanting to do this, it really is not a very daunting task if you have used a chisel before. The finish product looks great…although I couldn’t find any slotted head screws so don’t look too closely at the backplate!

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Despite having now owned the house for nearly two years, there are still three original lights that I took down to rewire, and have still not put back up. The upstairs hall light is currently a lightbulb and socket dangling from the junction-box. Add to that the vestibule light and the bathroom light, which currently has a home-depot $15 special in its place…at least its brushed nickel.

The original front screen door is fantastic, we were quite happy to find it and to confirm that it was not warped after holding up eight car tires for god knows how long. We will be painting it red to match the door. It should look pretty sharp! The kitchen cabinetry has been at a halt now for a few months. All of the upper cabinet doors have been brought downstairs, stripped, glass and hardware removed, and are ready to be repaired, repainted, and reinstalled. The work on the cabinets themselves has only just begun. I used the infrared stripper on a section to see what was in store for us come summer. It came off with relative ease exposing the pine/fir used for the cabinet sides and poplar used for the fronts….there is definitely no way we are every going to stain these! Our plan is to have the upper cabinets completed by the end of the summer and to wait on doing the lower cabinets until the fall or next year. We are also restoring the hardware. At some point, likely in the 1940s, the original cabinet latches and surface mount butterfly hinges were replaced with modern chrome pulls, and brass mortise hinges. We finally tracked down a matching set of 1920s cabinet latches that match the shadows left on the doors, however finding the correct butterfly hinges has been harder.

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The medicine cabinet has been quite the adventure. One evening as Kit and I were getting ready to see friends, she closed the door on the cabinet, at which point the mirror promptly split into three pieces and fell to the floor. It if had not been for the pedestal sink, Kit may not have been able to count to twenty anymore. After studying the photos we have from the 1928 newspaper articles on the house, it appears that the mirror has been replaced at least once before, because the original had a beveled edge and an etched design in the arched top. The one that fell to the floor had neither of these. It turns out that whoever installed the previous mirror had neglected to use sleeves on the machine screws that mount the mirror to the metal cabinet. This allowed the mirror to rest directly on the screws creating a pressure point that was then exaggerated when the plastic mirror rosettes (decorative washers) broke down…so it really was only a matter of time. Ordering the new mirror required removing the medicine cabinet from the wall to make a template of its arched shape. In an effort to restore what was broken, we took the plunge on having the new mirror fabricated with a continuous edge bevel like the original (note this increased the price by 150%). We also took advantage of this situation to dress up the medicine cabinet a bit by ordering new silver and black rosettes, and sanding, priming and repainting the cabinet in gloss block enamel paint, and switching the clear cut glass pull with a black glass version of the same. I cannot wait until its all done…seeing as we had to wait nearly 8 weeks to get the mirror made.

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As an outgrowth of my light fixture rewiring efforts I have been slowly replacing all of the original 2-prong outlets with new grounded versions and swapping out the mish-mash of toggle switches for a consistent design. I can’t help but feel a little guilty for removing the few original toggle switches that remain as they are so cool, in a exposed mechanical kind of way. Our house, likely as a result of being a “Master Model Home’ (more on that in another post) was blessed with conduit for carrying all of the original electric lines, which are solid copper 14 gauge wire with insulation that has remained supple. Thus I have been able to just run a ground pigtail wire to the junction boxes instead of rewiring the house. As long as you use common sense and read up a bit on basic wiring, doing this kind of upgrading is quite easy and safe.

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As promised I will have a brief post up soon on some of the frivolous finishing touches that we have been able to make. We have also been getting some landscaping work done during Rochester’s chaotic spring weather.


One thought on “I Was Never Very Good at Juggling

  1. Looks like fun! I absolutely love “Time Capsule” houses! What a treasure! I am a Certified Historic House Specialist practicing in the Austin Metro/Central Texas Region. The last true time capsule home I came across was in Georgetown TX. It still had the original push button light switches, wall paper and more! Amazing. One I sold in Smithville TX was pretty original too. Had the old hand pump fro the water cistern on the back porch. I just wish the previous owner had not removed the dumbwaiter as well as the speaking tube that went from the kitchen to the master. Thanks for sharing your adventures!

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