Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Door to Happiness Remains Unfinished

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Door to Happiness Remains Unfinished

Article excerpt

Why, you might reasonably ask, do I have a copy of "Fuller's Earth, a History," by Robert H.S. Robertson (1986) sitting plumply on my desk?

Actually, this scrupulous tome, tracing the story of calcium montmorillonite from ancient times, is more enlightening than I expected. Mr. Robertson presents his material with clarity and wit, and - if there were world enough and time - reading all 421 pages might not be too burdensome.

However, my interest in fuller's earth does have certain limits, beginning with ignorance of its very existence until about a month ago. As I have gotten by so far without fuller's earth, I am slightly unconvinced of its indispensability hereafter. So how did this book find its way through our front door? Apart from the Willy factor, it is the front door itself that is mainly accountable. This Scottish 1900 house in which we live has, like many others locally, a remarkable front door, size-wise: It is almost 10 feet high. It is what is known as a "storm door," the outer of two front doors. Three paces away, there is a second. This storm door was painted white by the previous incumbents, and we followed suit. Until recently. What persuaded us to strip it down, both sides, to its bare wood was the new door knocker. This one is iron, the inventive work of a young Welsh craftswoman, Ann Catrin Evans. She has also designed for us special new handles and escutcheons. And she promises a letter box, a cover for the doorbell button, and a new nameplate. All this fine, original work deserves the naturalness of real timber as its background, rather than the accretions of paint that had buried the door's details like snow over a garden. "I tell you what," I said, "I'll strip and sand a small part, just to see." It turned out to be a blond, knotless wood that was irresistible. Alternately attacked by paint-remover and the ferocity of a new heat gun, the white surface began to give way to the agitations of my scrapers, of which I have several - none of them quite satisfactory. What works for a panel tends to dig dangerously into a molding; what edges into the intricate crevices of the moldings disastrously gouges the paneling. I have supplemented them with chisels, knives, spikes, and wire brushes - all of which clog up, grow blunt, splinter delicate corners, or have no effect. But it was underneath the white layers that the real challenge emerged. Here were profoundly glutinous and darksome coatings of underpaint, varnish, primer, stain - you name it - all of which had been applied with a determination meant to resist not merely any future removal tools, manual or electrical, but also the combined forces of vandalism, holocaust, and Scottish weather. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.