Saturday, April 16, 2016

Stubborn … who me?… or DIY


Now we all know that I can be stubborn – or if you don’t, it’s simply because you haven’t met me or been long around me – my family and probably more friends than should will admit that, yes she can be stubborn: of course if they’re being polite they’ll couch it in such terms as “she sees it through”, “she sticks to it until the job is done”, “she proceeds until the end” or “she won’t give up”.

Hold that thought.

Several weeks ago I happened to be walking home (remember the period when I had to do everything by foot or bus? I do too – it’s still fresh in my mind) when I saw one of my neighbors picking up his mail. Hadn’t seen them in awhile so crossed over to say hello and realized that he was having trouble getting his mail: apparently the key to the upper letter-box had been lost. I have rather thin hands and was able to fish out that lot with minimal trouble, but had been ready to return home and bring back my “pincher” appliance if not.

I promised to round up all the loose small keys in my house and return to try and see if we couldn’t at least jimmy the lock.

I was unable to do so right away and what with one thing or the other it was several weeks later before that happened. Unfortunately none of them made the slightest dent in the problem.

Yesterday I had absolutely nothing on my agenda so decided to finally return to the large DIY center across town that I had been unable to visit for the past 5 months. I was also looking for a carbon monoxide detector for another friend and remembered the keyless neighbor. Bought a new cylinder as I was confident in my ability to somehow pry the box open and knew that I could replace the cylinder as have done so before: purchased a universal one as although I had the approximate size well in mind too many had specific labels on them.

Later in the afternoon went up, but no sooner had I arrived than it starting pouring (weather was not good yesterday, not much better today and is supposed to be even worse tomorrow – sigh). I was not well-equipped so we tabled the project until today as they were going to be home.

After coffee with M I went – again for the first time in months – to the grocery store in France for such favorites as salty butter and sparkling wine.

Then I was at sixes and sevens: most of the morning disappeared without accomplishing anything so when I wasn’t able to get ahold of son 1 (had thought of going into town and having lunch with him – but needed nothing) and the weather became marginally sunnier I thought: ah ha – see if J is available and tackle the letter box.

He was, we did.
I am not going to say that we were very professional and I will also avoid detailing the whole painful process, just most of it. I could feel the bit that fits behind the frame move but couldn’t force it up to release the door from the frame; I could also feel that the “washer” could turn but wasn’t making progress fast. J realized that there was a wire holding the other side to the box and reckoned that that could be forced. Then it turned out to be attached all the way through the second, or “milk” box part so involved breaking it. I had already made a couple of trips back home for better pliers/screw drivers and the like, now went to find my wire cutters (he had sawed it with a metal saw, but it was very difficult to re-thread so we considered using other wire to put it back together).

Of course, meanwhile what I had thought was a “washer” turned out to have been a screw and I could have easily simply unscrewed it, which would have allowed us to pull
out the cylinder with minimal input and no materials, never mind having had to take off the entire other side!

In the beginning - with a lock although I forgot the picture
 Now to put it back together again. Remember the line “and all the king’s men couldn’t…” so did I. I almost gave up a couple of times, but what with the addition of some WD40, some logic and a lot of patience, we were able to put the right “hinge” back together. However, no cylinder as the universal one that I had bought would have fit fine, but the bolt bit used to hold it to the letter-box frame inside once the key turned, was not long enough – argh….

Halfway there after an hour

Halfway from the outside
some of the tools used - together with those piled on the top


Appearances however, have been maintained, as unless one looks closely, it does look like a normal letterbox (by-the-way the lower or “milk” box bit no longer had the wire to re-attach so I simply made a hinge with duct tape).

In the end - lock needs replacing

J has orders to take the old cylinder to a hardware store and get exactly the same at which point he will be able to re-lock the letter part.

Would it have been easier to simply replace the letterbox: of course!
Would it have been also easier to call a locksmith and let him do it, again of course!
But those solutions are costly – we are both retired so the one and a half hours spent doing this don’t count and I probably shouldn’t mention that he has a PhD. from Harvard either.
Sometimes stubborn gets one somewhere.