I’ve been rushing to get a project done; it damn near killed me. It is thanks to a Bosch drill, the M-Power MERCPro bevel-edged chisel (sans replaceable chisel tip), and a Wolfcraft lock installation kit that is no longer made, that I’m not in the hospital – or dead. I will never again make fun of that chisel (though I do think learning to sharpen rather than replacing a chisel tip is the more enduring path to chisel success).
Late last Friday after the work day was over (read: there was no one else left at the office), I was in the shop trying to get a few more steps done on a project before heading home. While I always have a bit of trepidation about using machinery when there’s no one around to hear a scream, I needed to glue up a 1-1/2″-thick countertop from four pieces of plywood that I’d cut to size at lunchtime. So at this point, it was just a lot of glue, some sticks of wood, and some clamps. What could possibly go wrong?
I ran out of clamps. No – that’s not what went wrong. I simply went to our storeroom to grab more (we have a lot of clamps).
That storeroom has a metal fire door with a thumb-turn button on the shop side and a key slot on the storeroom side (no key). There is no other way in or out of that room. No windows. No other door. I’ve mentioned several times to the building manager over the last two years that the handle set should be non-locking, because I’ve a long-standing fear of someone getting locked in.
That someone was me.
I always confirm that the button is in the unlocked position before I go in there – always, apparently, except last Friday evening (unless someone came in the shop and locked me in – but as paranoid as I might sometimes be, I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen).
I’d left my phone on my bench. I may never let go of my phone again.
It was probably 5:30 p.m. by this time; no one would be in again until Monday morning. I’d had nothing to drink for at least a few hours (and of course, no water in hand). The room was in the high 80s, with 90 degree+ weather projected for the weekend. The roof is metal; the walls are cinderblock; there is no HVAC; there is no fire alarm. I had to get out.
I’d like to say I did it with a stick of chewing gum and a hairpin. But I don’t chew gum or use hairpins.
After succumbing to a few moments of abject panic, I started tearing apart boxes to see what was on hand – my first thought was a recip saw. No joy – and no other saw suitable to the task (I do like both the band saws pictured above, but when it comes to breaking out of a room, they’re useless). I considered a plunge router and a big-ass bit. I dug up a router and a big-ass bit, but could find no extension cord (probably for the best on that one…what can I say – I was desperate). I tried a lot of things. And succumbed to a few more moments of panic.
Then, in the deepest recesses of a disused cabinet, I found an old Wolfcraft hole saw kit. Promising. Now for a drill…
On one storeroom shelf, we have at a couple of drills with no batteries, lots of batteries with no drills, drills and batteries but no charger (they may or may not work), and several drills and batteries that are altogether non-functional. I do not know why we have any of those still – but I can tell you it’s damn depressing to encounter them in such a situation. But finally I opened a dark blue container and cried (really) with burgeoning hope: a Bosch “Brute Tough” drill with two batteries (one charged!) and a charger.
It was hard work of about 45 minutes, but it worked. The twist bit in the hole saw kit wasn’t long enough to span the door thickness with the steel saw blades in place, so I took them off, and drilled a series of holes just above the door handle.* The MERCPro chisel shaft served to pound through the bits of metal left between, using a length of pipe as a hammer (I can’t believe there are no hammers in the storeroom).
I was then able to reach through the hole with end of a narrow bar clamp (yes, the very clamps I went in there to get), and push down the handle on the other side enough to escape.
By that time, my first glue-up was dry – so I used the F-style clamps from that one for the second glue-up (after the shaking stopped and I’d downed a liter of water). No way was I going back into that storeroom to pick up that box of bar clamps.
But I reserved one clamp for the door; I’m not letting it close again until that handle is gone.
* On Monday, the building manager said I should have drilled out the lock instead of “ruining the door.” Maybe – but I don’t know if that bit could handle it – and after one hole, I knew it could handle drilling through the door. The building manager can bite me.