Home Improvement Oops

I learned to measure things at my dad’s sheet metal shop. Two things about working with sheet metal and my dad: metal doesn’t change dimensions much with humidity; and a 10th of an inch is close enough but hardly fussy.

Ever since I started working with wood, I’ve had problems: wood, at least along 2 out of 3 axes, does change dimensions with humidity, and a 10th of an inch is way less than the amount the width and thickness of wood change as it dries and absorbs moisture. I keep telling myself not to cut things so tight, and I keep cutting it too close anyway.

Current case in point: this oak door I made for the brick oven:


Weeeell, I was shooting for about 3/8″ of clearance on the sides, which I more or less achieved – during the heat and dry of summer. Should have shot for 1/2″ at least. One problem is that the old, recycled bricks that form the arch into which the door fits are hardly consistent and smooth. They have uneven surfaces even apart from any inconsistency in my brick work. My 3/8th” theoretical clearance was not achieved in practice.

So: While it rained maybe a week before, had a few nice days over Thanksgiving and the almost 22 year old son was in town only a couple days before his birthday, and so was thinking about firing the oven up. The door, while maybe a bit snug this summer, at the time still fit without too much falderal.

When we last used the oven, we left the door in. On Friday, it had swollen to the point of complete immobility. I yanked. I pushed. I wiggled. Nothing – stuck so that any more force seemed likely to break it.

Found a little fan, ran it for a day straight – nothing. I’m considering seeing if I can whack it from the inside with a sledge stuck down the chimney (kind of doubt it). Seriously getting worried it may destroy the brickwork if it swells any more.

If I ever get it out of there, will trim the sides a bit – and store it somewhere dry for the winter.

Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

11 thoughts on “Home Improvement Oops”

  1. Good lesson for others, thanks!

    By the way I was just wondering, that oven is totally approved and permitted and compliant with code, right?

    1. Um….

      The code I’m not complying with: any permanent structure must be 5′ from any property line. It’s too close. Don’t know what I was thinking – could have put it elsewhere. Old timer’s disease… I have wondered how hard it would be to move it about 10′ – a crane, at least….

      I didn’t research it exhaustively, but I think that all.

      1. Yeah, the photo made me wonder whether it was right next to your neighbor’s fence and how they felt about having a furnace right there. : )

        I built a shed in my backyard several years ago and as I recall, it only had to be 3 feet from the property line. Different city though, obviously.

      2. We fortunately get by very well with that neighbor, so it will only be an issue if either of us sells… long hoped that if he ever sold (he’s in his 80s) we might buy. But houses are expensive here and money is not that bountiful…

  2. After pondering your predicament the inky thought I came up with was to use a drill bit size matching the amount of theoretical waste you will be trimming off the edge. Drill very carefully around the perimeter a series of linked holes. It may relieve the pressure enough?

    1. Inky or maybe only. Dang auto correct. You will need a pretty long drill bit. And chances of damaging your awesome brickwork is perhaps too high…

    2. That’s not a bad idea. Was thinking a draw saw, which, if it worked at all would take about the rest of my life to cut off a thin sliver of door. Power tools would be better. Maybe drill/draw saw in combo?

  3. By “draw saw” are you saying a coping saw blade used without a frame? By hand? If so: yes that might take the rest of the winter. But using that to clear material between overlapping drilled holes seems reasonable.

    1. Pull saw? One of those little Japanese-style thin-bladed saws. Whateveryacallem. They cut nice thin lines and you don’t need much room, is all I’m thinking.

      Yes, using one to clean up after drilling holes might save a lot of time. Stay tuned.

      1. Ah! Now I getcha. I don’t any high-falutin Japanese tools, although I understand they are awesome.

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