The Ding Dong Hole

Since last summer the doorbell on the front porch has been MIA. 

We've had a replacement button that we bought at an antique show for years and years. It's not old, but was a great price and looks the part. When we redid some of the porch last year I took out the old 1970's glow-in-the-dark one and was set to fit in the new one when it didn't fit. The hole that is drilled into the door frame was too small to allow the cylinder that houses the electrical connects on the back of the door bell to fit in.

So for nearly a year the door frame has looked like this:

yeah, this was my front door for nearly a year. the wires held up fine, even if I did get a little paint on them when I painted the door frame.

Now, I hear you saying, well shoot, why didnt you just drill the hole bigger and get the danged job done. Dagnabit, I thought the same thing ... but, ya see, there are those 2 wires hanging out of that hole. Maybe you know a secret that I don't, or you have "magic", but I was really perplexed about how to drill a hole without damaging those wires. Or loosing them down into the hole from which they protruded. Either way, I'd have to replace them and I have NO patience for such stuff.

Something you may not know is that I hate electrical work—and plumbing, too. Oh, I do it, mind you. But I hate it. I hate those stiff fat wires that you're supposed to bend around a teeny tiny connector and screw down. I hate the fraying that multi-strand wires do. I hate how my arms feel like they've been drinking when I install ceiling lights. I hate fishing wires. Oh god I hate fishing. I think I'd rather face a tigress guarding her cubs than the prospect of fishing wires through a wall. 

So I waited to see if divine intervention would happen.

tap tap tap .....

nothing .....

When push finally came to shove, and I had to get this job off my list to get on to the next step in the porch restore, I posted a note to an online old house forum. I didn't expect much. I figured I wasn't asking what style of house I have (those posts always get the most attention) nor am I that much of a regular that others find me intriguing or fascinating. But within 24 hours a few good folks replied with —TA DA — the perfect answer.

They recommended that I use a gouge (essentially a scooped or rounded chisel) or a small round file or rasp to gently enlarge the hole without disturbing the wires. I swung by Lowes in the afternoon to pick up a gouge. I have secretly wanted a full set of gouges and Japanese chisels for years, but my pocketbook won't let me be so frivolous. Of course, they had nothing. While I was there I spied some 1/4 inch wide chisels and thought, "I could use one of the tiny chisels I already have at home and chisel out the circle I need."

Home I trudged and grabbed my 1/4 inch chisel (one of the good ones my dad gave me), a hammer and some other stuff I'd need, and went to work.

The first thing I did was make a template of the correct size hole I need to carve out.

 Tracing the pattern gave me the exact outline for the chisel work.

I love using red sharpies to trace things onto painted wood outside - like marking screw holes and such. It wont work for all situations, but the red marker is permanent so I don't worry about loosing my mark, and the red color tends to blend in to either the gold or green of the house without looking unsightly if it isn't completely covered.

I taped the wires out of the way and started to gently tap out the excess wood. The back of the hole was wood (the hole did not go through, but dead-ended in the wood) so I was extra careful to smooth out that back surface with the tiny chisel. I kept a flashlight handy to check the interior of the hole and to see where I needed more work.

Hole being resized. The wires were taped off to the opposite side of the area to keep them out of the way of the chisel. if you blow-up the photo you may be able to see that the wires come from the lower right. There was a hole drilled into that area through which the wires were fished to the door bell. chiseling around that part was very tedious.

Thankfully I was very careful and examined the hole before I began. The 2 wires for the doorbell came out of a tiny hole that was drilled in one "corner" of the back part of the hole. If you look closely you can see them protruding out of a small hole in the back lower right of the larger hole in the wood. 

Hole finished being resized, small holes drilled above and below for tiny screws to hold the new door bell in place.

Finally, after about 2 hours of careful slow, methodical chiseling, I had the hole the right size and cleaned out of wood debris (a bamboo skewer and shop vac made quick work of cleaning.) I test fit the doorbell and it fit just right. Screwing down the wires to the connectors on the back of the bell was the hardest part for me. But I am really pleased with the work and glad that the new doorbell is in place, looks great and actually works.

The completed door bell held in place by new brass screws. The only thing I wish I had done first was disassemble the bell and paint the white button black ... maybe one day.

A huge thank you to sombreuil_mongrel, columbusguy1 and rmtdoug
for their input on solving this little conundrum.


  1. Fantastic information! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Facing the same dilemma here, and I appreciate you sharing your solution!