Saturday, July 12, 2014

Fixing a Window Screen

When I bought my townhouse four and a half years ago, I noticed that one of the kitchen windows had a tattered screen.  (My younger son has theorized that a cat clawed it.)  Today I finally summoned the initiative to replace the screen material. 

You might attribute my delay in making repairs to my deep-seated psychological inhibitions, if you wished to indulge your charitable impulses -- or to ordinary sloth, if you wished to stoop to common sense.

The first order of business was to gather the required materials.  My younger son and I went to Lowe's hardware store and purchased fiberglass screen material, a length of rubber spline cord, and a spline tool.  These implements are used as follows.  The screen material is laid atop the rectangular aluminum frame.  Then, by forcefully rolling the spline tool, one presses the spline and the underlying screen material into a channel that runs along the inside edge of the frame.  Thus the screen material is secured in place.

The spline tool is highly specialized.  It's useful for nothing else but splinework, and no other tool in the toolbox can effectively substitute for it, not even its half brother the pizza cutter (shown below for the sake of comparison).


Upon our return home from Lowe's my son noticed that I had chosen light colored screen material instead of the charcoal gray that matched the other kitchen window screens.  Also, I had selected spline cord that was too thin, according to the precision calipers my son fetched from the garage.  A second visit to Lowe's corrected these blunders.

It was time to begin.  I was feeling a bit weak in the knees about the whole endeavor.  Fortunately, my son had performed screen repair before.  He walked me through each step in the process and provided supplemental tools to make the job easier, such as the clamps and shims to flex the frame and give a little slack during the spline process.  After the spline was pressed into place, he provided a utility knife to neatly trim off surplus screen material on the outer edge of the spline channel. 

The work went smoothly.  I followed my son's guidance and did everything right.  Well, almost everything.  The spline tool slipped in my hand at one point and I severed about an inch of the screen material next to the frame.  But I refuse to feel ashamed about it.  Those who love me will overlook the imperfection.  And those who don't love me can kindly keep their opinions to themselves.

Now it was time to reinstall the freshly repaired window screen. 

Earlier I had struggled when removing the screen frame, pushing and prying with a screw driver and nearly dropping the frame onto the asphalt alley below.  I resigned myself to another bout of pushing and prying.  However, son asked me to wait before attempting the reinstallation.  He disappeared into the garage and then returned to the kitchen several minutes later with a brass rod that was bent on one end.  Here it is, shown balanced on a cork for ease of viewing.

I proceeded with the reinstallation and got the top and the left edge of the screen frame in position.  All that remained was to lift the lower right corner of the screen frame above the metal lip running along the bottom of the window.  But instead of clumsily forcing the screen frame up with a screwdriver, this time I hooked the little spoon-like end of the brass rod under the corner of the frame and gave a gentle pull.  The frame eased into its proper place.  Brilliant! 

That is, my son was brilliant in inventing and fabricating the perfect tool for the job.

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