Sunday, June 10, 2007

Ingenuity Gone Wrong

To gain access to the attic of Quarter Acre we use fold-away stairs. I don't know how or when this stairway was developed, but it definitely strikes me as a bit of nifty American ingenuity. The door -- which is in the ceiling and faces the floor below is attached to the frame with some hinges so that it pivots up and down. On top of the door panel, inside of the attic, is a set of stairs, comprised of three parts, each attached to the other with hinges so that all pieces lie flush on top of one another and with the back of the door.

In this way about 7.5 feet of rise, and probably 9 feet of run fit into a footprint 4 feet long and 2 feet wide. The real business end of the stairs though is the pair of heavy springs and folding iron arms that run along the sides of the main stair section. The metal arms offer rigidity to the whole structure when it's opened. The springs, I learned this afternoon, actually keep the whole thing from falling open. I discovered this when one the springs wrenched the metal arm out of the frame, ripping one bolt completely out of the wood and bending the other.

One of the springs never laid flush with the back of the door, it always hung up over the top of the main portion of the stairs (it now strikes me that the stairway may not be plumb, and therefore was racking). I would move it off of the stair and align it -- no big deal, until this afternoon. The whole episode startled me and then freaked me out -- had the other bolt that holds the arm in place sheared out of the wood like its neighbor I might have been hit in the face with the whole apparatus.

I pulled the arm out of the frame and detached the spring. I left the door down -- because it would no longer stay up -- and cut two pieces of 1x3 that I screwed into the ceiling -- through the molding of the door into the frame -- with high quality screws securer the door. Now I, or Mrs. Agricola will begin calling around for prices on these doors and add another to-do to our list to replace our "bit of nifty of American ingenuity."

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