It’s seven-something in the morning. Not really awake yet, I pull the shop door too hard and it shoots way off to the side and part way off the track.
The shop door is eight feet by eight feet and about three inches thick, ply over two by fours. And it hangs from a barn door track, suspended like a monorail from pairs of wheels rolling within a metal channel that is attached to the wall above it.
I’ve been awake for less than an hour and, having finished putting away the materials from Friday’s open house I’d made a silly little flourish of completion.
And now I’m bloody well standing there, looking at one end of the door, which is sitting on the stained, pitted concrete floor, a good foot and a half or so past the end of the track.
I try to lift it back into place. Yeah, that’s funny. The door probably weighs more than I do and at that angle I’ve got no leverage whatsoever. I’ve had about four hours of sleep, I’m logy anyway. And it being not even seven-thirty yet none of the guys I know who work nearby may well get there for another two hours. It being a summer monday, quite possibly none of them will show up at all.
I try to lift it again and feel my back just barely start to scream. Okay, maybe not. I look up and calculate that I need to lift the right side about three inches. Maybe four.
I walk semiaimlessly about the shop for a minute trying to remember if I have anything that will act like a large crowbar. And wondering, if so, how I’ll hold the vast, ungainly, silly beast in place if I even can lift it.
I push the rounded smooth edge of a shelving upright in under the door just as far over as it will go. And I try to push it over towards the knocked loose side a smidge. Maybe at least that’ll get me started.
My brain, still entirely coffeeless, reluctantly starts to turn on.
Which is unfair, doggone it. I was a good boy. I got up early and got the whole place back into shape before the Monday morning shift arrived, needing to park where my setup had been put. I had rolled up the rug, put it away, found a place for the seven foot by five foot wooden frame. Put away the steel collating rack. And so on. Everything rolled, stowed, and out of the way, and all well before nine a.m. So why can’t I go now?
Sometimes it sucks not having a boss to hand over responsibility to.
Okay, okay. Fine. I’ll wake up for real.
I go into my drawer of hammers and pull out a mallet. I go to the scrap wood bin and pull out some blocks of ply and the end of a two-by-four. I don’t, in fact, own a full sized crowbar but I do have a mini one and some hammers with pry ends, so I grab those as well.
I pull up the dropped end of the door juuuuust enough to be able to push some ply under it. I hit the ply with the mallet a few times to see if I can get it a little further over. Looking up I see that, just as I’d feared, the door is starting to lean AWAY from the wall. Which means that if I push too hard and the other wheels give the whole track will tear and the entire door and frame will rip loose and fall. That would probably not be good.
And now it’s a game of fractions of an inch at a time. Lift with the crowbar or hammer, move a piece of wood over to the right or, even better, slide another beneath it. Pry, raise, slide in another support. Pry again. They built pyramids this way. Surely I can lift a wooden door.
Looking up I can see another problem.
I used to slide the door off the track all the time and now I’m remembering the cob job solution that I’d put in place to stop that. I’d screwed an anchor through a hole in the top of the track and I can now see that the thin steel of the bolt has bent most the way over. Too far out of skew to keep the wheels ON the track but still projecting plenty far enough to block the opening and keep the wheels OFF.
Back into the shop I go once more to grab a ladder, climb up, break off the rest of the bolt of the anchor, and try to unscrew the rest. Nope. Jammed.
I finish raising the door, watching it lean further and further from the wall the whole time, unsettlingly aware of the image of what happens if it tears loose, leaving me standing there, nobody to call for help, trying to hold it in place while I inch over to the side and climb down the ladder, slowly lower the door to the ground (assuming that it hasn’t fallen entirely over on its own and maybe gotten damaged), and then REALLY being up shit creek.
I climb back up the ladder and manage to get the wheels back in the track. The door is now working again, sliding properly.
Looking around I spot a magnetic block, meant to hold workpieces in place on a drill press. I grab it and manage to push it up into the track where it holds firmly and looks to be keeping the door from sliding off.
I put away the tools, the blocks of wood, and the ladder.
It’s not yet eight a.m.
What are the lessons to be seen in this?
Firstly, have good tools, know how to use them, and know where they are. Keep them accessible. The times that you’ll need them most urgently are the times that you’ll least be in a position to root around trying to find them, let alone figure them out.
Being a sole proprietor is both hard and sometimes even dangerous. That entire saga above would have taken a third as long and not been risky at all if there had been three of of us working together well at all. DIY is a wonderful movement but let’s remember that there are very good reason to partner with others.
Be careful about working when you’re short on sleep. I got away with it. But it could have gone quite badly very quickly and much of that was simply fatigue. If I hadn’t been so zonked out I wouldn’t have pulled the door off the track in the first place.
All of which adds up to, hey, anybody looking to join a studio in inner southeast? ;->
Have a good week, everybody. I’ll see you out there.