Sunday, August 5, 2007

Making The Front Door "Old" Again

In this circa 1920 photo of Mrs. Hall and the twin daughters you get a good glimpse of the original door and side lites. I was told by a neighbor that the side glass was frosted and the door was beveled glass. The PO replaced it with about 5 years ago with a pre-hung steel unit from the big box store. At the time maybe it was the nicest thing in the house, but with the restoration of the foyer, a white steel door and imitation gold leaded glass side lites stand out like a sore thumb to the nice oak woodwork and other original features now taking shape.

about 1920

Very early after buying the house I decided that I would restore this back as close to original as I could and picked up a nice original fir door with beveled glass and a pair of side lites also featuring beveled glass - the door and side lites were not from the same source or originally a set. Also worth mentioning is that I picked these up before I found the Hall's and obtained early pics of the house - so I really didn't know what the original looked like other than my neighbors description.

salvaged pieces I bought

With a rough plan and not having access to see the layout of the original jamb that new door was fitted into, my buddy John and I knocked out (carefully - I hope to get a few bucks for it!) the steel door assembly and look at what we had to work with.

steel unit removed - note notches in top header for original posts

The original construction consisted of two main 3x6's that served as the jamb for the door and also mounted one side of the side lites. This made the large opening into three openings - all of which were rabbited out to receive the door and side lites. These main post were notched to fit into a hole in the floor and anchored to the sill, and up top into a notch in the header. So obviously these were the key pieces to come up with. What we ended up using was making them from the side pieces that once made up the garage opening framing and was removed when the new framing and door were installed. These were 2x10's which we ripped down to 6 and planed both side - into nice old yellow pine studs. The originals were rabbited, but we will be adding a 1x4 to each side to achieve the same effect. This will also give us an extra inch we we need, because the original side lites were 16" wide and the ones I have are 12" - so some space needs to be made up. Next the notches were made and the we fitted them into place. I made the notches loose so we could stick the door in place and fine tune the fit to the door.

fitting the door and posts

Next I got a good lesson from John about setting up and mortising door hinges. We marked everything first before securing so we could take the post back out and do the chiseling on saw horses - much easier that way. Then everything went back together and was secured down. When all was finished the door action was flawless, hung true, and stayed in any position we put it. With just a little nudge the door swings around - closes - and latches shut.... what more could you want?

Next time I'll show how we mounted and trimmed in the side lites. Time to play with the new router table again!!

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