When I decided to take up my best friend on his invitation to see his new home in Norway, and meet my newborn niece, I expected long fishing trips, dinner with the family and the occasional Viking drunken brawl. We did all of that, so my expectations were met, but our fishing trips were cut in half because my friend’s better half, Margrete, wanted to join the children’s rooms through a simple square portal and since she knew I had handled several such projects back in Maine, she asked for my help.
Now, I know what you are thinking: a portal is as simple as punching a whole through a wall and smoothing back the edges, but you have to remember, I did not bring my tools with me. Luckily, or sadly, depending on how you want to look at it, contractor prices in Norway are so high, that it was cheaper for us to buy some of the essential tool we – and by we, I mean I – would need.
I started off with a Portal Cable reciprocating saw because I thought that would give me the best maneuverability and would allow me to do everything I needed throughout the project. We decided on the height and the width of the portal, drew the guiding lines straight on to the wall, and I made the first cut. This was a double wall, with insulating blanket squeezed between gypsum boards. So once I cut the first whole through the wall I removed the blanket and used a nail to punch a hole through the other board, marking the upper corners of the portal. From there all I had to do was draw on the other wall and make the cuts there too. And here is where I had to face my first challenge: the blade on my reciprocating saw was too short to cut through the support beams in one go, and i did not have a table saw anywhere near me. They were not that thick because their only function was to support the gypsum boards, but still they were just big enough for me to have to cut from both sides. Obviously the cuts did not match perfectly so I had to waste about 2 hours with a make shift block of wood and sand paper to smooth them over. Having to do even something as simple as this without the necessary tools can be very frustrating.
After I finished making the hole I decided to use the support beams I had just cut to create the edges of the portal, between the 2 layers of gypsum boards. I actually counted myself very lucky at this point because I managed to get the cuts perfectly aligned, so the edge of the beams ended up being perfectly flushed with the sides of boards. So all I had to do at this point was to get the necessary liners, some screws and some filler. I thought I would be done in just a few more hours, but then I realized the stainless steel liners were not cut at the length I needed and, of course, I did not have my liner cutters. So I got my friend to help me and we started using the reciprocating saw to cut the liners. Obviously they warped so I had to use a hammer to straighten the edges back. And then the nightmare began, because, if you have never used a simple screw driver to set up 6, 2 meter liners, you do not know what a lengthy process that can be.
Still, I was able to finish setting up the liners, and getting everything nice and flush with the filler. So we were finally down to the painting. I will not go into details about how long it took to sand everything by hand, sufficient to say that it actually was not as difficult as I feared it would be. The real challenge was that Margrete, wanted to the boy’s side of the wall to be blue, the girl’s side to be pink, the inner edge to be white. She had not told me that before so we had to rush down to the store for the fourth time to get masking tape, a thin brush – I had hoped to get everything done with a wide brush for corners and a paint roller – and while we were there we also decided to go for a different shade of pink.
Eventually I managed to finish the portal and the kid’s reaction was phenomenal. Well, I say kids, but actually just Tor, the boy, had a reaction, since his sister was at the time a 6 month infant so she could not care less about my efforts. Still, the entire thing did make for an interesting build during what was supposed to be my 2 weeks fishing adventure in Norway.