Today I started tackling the most dreaded of the painting jobs, taking down the old doors to prep them for painting. Since I worked a long time last night, I only got about an hour’s sleep and then got back up and tackled it some more. I did a little necessary utility stuff around the house, picking up trash, moving stuff around and other non-project related stuff. But I finally got around to the front door.

Just like much of the rest of the house, the doors are in bad shape. From the prior photos you have seen a glimpse of the doors: flaking paint, with old green paint underneath and more recent white latex on top. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the previous owners did not bother masking off hardware and instead just painted over it, and over it, and over it…

I positively hate that. Nothing about a wall looks worse to me than a having an outlet or a brass part attached, and then painted over. It looks trashy. It screams, “LAZY!!” It just looks… bad.

There are elements to any wall or door. We have switches, and outlets, and doorknobs and latches and hinges and all kinds of things. Yes, you can paint over them. But the result is a hurried, messy, sloppy appearance.  Not my cup of tea at all.  And the front door is a focal point of the house, so I’m not going to subject it to the treatment it has received in the past. I want clean. Pretty. Attractive. Detailed.  Which as you can see from the photos, it is not.

So, the door comes off. As does the brass knocker, the two deadbolts, the doorknob and the hinges. In short, anything and everything on this door comes off. So, I started unscrewing and unbolting, and with all the hardware off, then I got the door off. The second picture is a closet door, but you see the same thing: more sloppy painting.

This actually took awhile. The paint was deep and thick and hard. I had to chisel a lot of it off to get to the screws underneath.  One way to get them was to take a thin screwdriver and after chipping the main paint covering off, chiseling out the groove so the blade of the screwdriver fits neatly again.

It’s a big, heavy door. I guesstimate it weighs nearly a hundred pounds. I put a piece of cardboard under one end and dragged it outside to where I had two saw-horses set up.  So, then it was time to sand.

Starting with a belt sander, I covered the entire door except for the recessed moldings. For that I switched to a rotary paint stripper, attached to my drill.

This is a 3M coarse sanding wheel, available at Wal-Mart or most hardware stores for about $4.00. They can last a long time.

It isn’t necessary to take every single bit of paint off, but it is essential to have it all smooth. No chip lines, in other words, or places where it could peel up in the future.

A couple of words on sanding. Please use a good, HEPA-quality dust mask. Especially when working with very old paint such as this. It almost certainly is lead paint.

Secondly, the belt sander and sanding wheel both generate a lot of speed, and heat. It is prudent to back off every so often for two reasons. One is to give the machine time to cool down. Another is a principle of adhesion, related to the Blish Principle. In the early 1900’s a Navy Captain by the name of John Blish noticed a peculiar and dangerous phenomenon. When Navy crews fired the big five-inch guns with live rounds, there was generally no problem. But in training, they used much weaker blank loads. And the barrels of these big guns would often violently unscrew and kill or maim crew members working in the turrets.

Blish noticed it never happened on the full-strength loads, so he realized the excess heat and pressure formed a metallic adhesion strong enough to prevent the barrels from becoming unscrewed. This principle was patented in a single-shot gun he designed, which caught the eye of General John Thompson, who used the Blish lock in his invention, the world’s first, and most famous, submachine gun, known as the Tommy Gun.

What does that have to do with sanding old paint? Nothing at all. Except this: old paint under heat and friction also has a tendency to adhere strongly to surfaces. If I kept sanding and sanding, I would likely still be out there now. But if I take a moment, really just a few seconds, and then begin again, that short interval of lifting the sander off the surface, allowing it to cool, and beginning again allows it to expand and then contract in rapid fashion, and then it loses its grip on the surface and flakes off easily.

So, after an hour of sanding, I was down to bare wood or the first primer surface. With a few flecks of green paint here and there, but the main thing is to get it smooth. If the paint didn’t come off on all that sanding, it isn’t likely to come off at all.

It was half done when I took this shot, and was sanded one more time before calling it a day.

We’ll pick it up again tomorrow as we start the painting of this nearly 70 year-old door.

Oh, before we close, a quick tech tip:

I have a TV, an old analog unit, that I keep in my garage. With all the analog signals now history, there’s no way to watch TV without the digital converter. So, I got one. When the hurricane hit last week I hung out there to keep an eye on things and watch the news reports. I brought the TV into the house, along with the converter box and was stumped.  I had no antenna.

But I did have this:

The older generation in their forties on up have seen these: before cable TV and coaxial connectors came, all antennas were connected via screw connectors. When newer TV’s came out with only coaxial connections, people either had to buy new antennas or get these coaxial adapters for their old antennas. So, I had one of these in my electronics box, and some wire.

I have digital antennas and older rabbit ears, and even some amplified ones. (Unfortunately not at the house.) But all I did here was to attach a length of speaker wire to the terminals, about five feet of it, and just hang it up on the wall. I had doubts it would work, but I gave it a shot. And I got more channels with a piece of wire and this connector than any of those other antennas, some of which cost more than $60.00!

Go figure.

Previous total:  $174.00

New total:          $174.00, still no new purchases, continuing with the trim and door work.