July 17, 2022
By Arthur H. Gunther III
Doors have a way of fitting in, just like long-gone Uncle Jack in town for a comfy visit. He gets that way fast. Or people who initially stand out and are somehow morphed into the crowd, hopefully adding to the whole. It’s as if the universe has a carpenter on staff who, in the secrecy and dark of night, planes here and sands there, making adjustments to assure a fit, whether it’s doors or people.
Some time ago, I replaced six interior doors in my 1973 home with more stylish, molded ones. Now, this house, like me, has lost its plumb and level a bit over the years, so just one factory-produced door actually fit without having to trim an edge, more deeply mortise a hinge or move the height of a lock.
The refitting took time, and when the work was done, despite the usual mistakes and miscalculations by this practiced but non-pro carpenter, and with almost a full vocabulary exercised in the cursing language that is always in my tool kit, the doors looked just fine and worked fairly well. Not perfect, you see, since they were not the original doors, which had been fitted to the jambs on an assembly line, but replacements made by another manufacturer decades later. Sizes were off, as they often are. So was my work, a tad.
It has taken some time since installation to give a nudge here and there to a few doors, and it is nearing heavy humidity, too, when the house moves a bit. That has required further adjustment to the doors.
All is now fine, yet something else is happening. Last night, I went into my office area and flipped the door closed, as I did with the old one. It smoothly went into position, as easily as would a machinist’s pin in a milled location. This is not my “fine” carpentry at work, though. I really believe the doors feel at home, that they finally fit in.
They are now part of the house, as its predecessors were for so long. I miss the history of those doors, two of which were on my sons’ bedrooms, with their signs and posters affixed, different in each season of growth. But today is today, and the hope is the doors will also open to tomorrow.
I am grateful that they fit so well. It must be the finish work of the unseen night carpenter, not me.
The writer is a retired newspaperman. This essay is adapted from an earlier version.