The other night over diner with friends Martin commented that our house was held together with cobwebs, and he was right. Though I would modify that to say that the house is held together with a delicate balance of cobwebs, dust and paint. Layers and layers of paint. And while in some places those many layers of oil, latex and likely lead paint are holding this puppy together, in other places there just a good old fashioned pain in the ass. Like on screws. Flat head screws no less, with so many layers of paint that one has to look at them at just the right angle to even see where the slot once was under those 13 layers of paint -- green, yellow, blue, white, brown, green again, yellow, turquoise, and on and on.
It was precisely because of the well painted flat screws on the door knobs that I originally thought I would just carry on the tradition and paint right over top of them. But after living with a few door handles painted primer white for a month or so know the folly of my ways became abundantly clear. You see all the knobs and trim in the house came in a kind of dirty pastel yellow colour (undoubtedly not dirty when it was first painted) which is inoffesive at best, cloying at its worst, but certainly great at hiding dirt and grime -- a handy quality in a door knob let me tell you. White doorknobs? Not so much. After a month, which included plenty of cleaning and wiping of said knobs, they were filthy and grey. And so, before Sarah and I set out to paint the livingroom trim this weekend (more on that in a separate post) I bought a can of "Paint Strippa" (no really that's what is called) and spent a frustrating hour trying to get a flat headed screwdriving into painted over brass screws. It was not my idea of a good time.
While we were not exactly religious folks growing up, there were a few universal "truths" in our childhood. Those espoused by my father included: flat headed screws are the brain child of one sadistic mofo; duct tape can fix anything (for real); celery holds court as the most offensive of all vegetables; and something about Joe Strummer and the second coming. While I may not buy into all that my dad preaches, I'm totally on board with the flat headed screws thing, as I suspect anyone who has ever tried to use one is. But when you're trying to pry those suckers out of numerous doorknobs and need to try to keep them in tact because you'll have a heck of time trying to replace 60 year old brass screws from 60 year old doorknobs at Home Depot, you'll really develop a personal hate-on for that guy who invented them.
Moving on. Once those puppies were all out of there, I took the knobs in their painty glory out to garage where I carefully painted them in highly toxic gel. And voila! Those many layers of equally toxic paint bubbled and cracked and in some cases just bubbled right off. In others, not so much. There was a second coat. Later in the day there was some scraping help from Sarah. And the next day Martin and I took some steel wool to them and buffed off the remaining bits and paint residue. By the end, the knobs all came out a bit different from one another, which is kind of fun to be honest. Most of them lost their brass plating to the brutal stripping experience, others maintained bits of it in places. One came out as shiny and chrome-y as can be (that one is my favorite, if you can play favorites with your door knobs). All in all, they've got what you'd probably call character, so they fit in just fabulously with our wee home held together with spiderwebs and paint and lordisa knows what else. And now everytime I use a door handle I get a little thrill....