Tag Archives: refinishing wood

The Front Door – The Plan and Cold Feet

I’m hoping to start facade restoration next year as soon as there’s no risk of frost. In the meantime, I need to take my front door off and refinish it while the awnings are still up. I will be locking the house with an old fashioned skeleton key in the vestibule door in the meantime. Can you see how bad the varnish stain is right now?


But this gets me to something I’ve been ignoring. I get a lot of compliments on this door, some of them from people I care deeply about. And this style of door is all over the place. But I look at it and think, “meh.” So anyways, if you strongly disagree with me here, please call me crazy since that crazy sounds better than a huge snob.

This is not how I react to old doors. In case you need a reminder, I said that the day I found a matched set of 5 doors that were pretty much period correct was the happiest in my life.


And I spent about 100 hours refinishing them. (These doors are in fact a smidge too fancy with reeded details on the panels, but I can live with that.)


I used trigonometry, the arctangent function, to cut framing lumber for this sloped ceiling in the back bedroom to make the room fit these (definitely not period correct but definitely awesome) closet doors.


I carried these home when I had literally no use for them just because the idea of them going in the trash upset me. They got passed around to 3 different people but have hopefully now found their forever home. Important: the parallelogram panels in between the triangles were originally glass.


And when the renovation got me stressed out, I laid out my door hardware and looked at it just to cheer myself up.


So, old doors get an emotional reaction out of me. And actually so do the hollow core doors I started with.


But a mahogany door in a not quite historically accurate Victorian style? Meh. But I’ve already put money into things that revolve around keeping it, and I still can’t afford to back out of that and dump more money into something else. The Irishman built nice jamb extensions and casings on the inside and when I needed a new lock I went one from Baldwin, the closest approximation I could find of the mortise locks I covet with the modern tubular design.


For perspective, the oldest doors on my block or the next, which has identical houses, appear to be from the 1930’s.


And there are others behind storm doors that look more like this wider door on a wider house. Note the starburst cut into the glass.


Meanwhile, the fanciest houses in the neighborhood seem to hold onto their original doors more often.


Even this weird effort to suburbanize a brownstone makes one side of me almost happy. Yes, I’m a fan of that mid-mod/colonial hybrid door if not the rest of what’s going on here.


So, I’m not counting on ever looking at my door and being in awe of it.


But can we drag its appearance a little closer to the doors I really love?


Because when I take a second look at it, I realize that what I like least about this door is the faux-Victorian glass.


So, like I said, I’m taking the door off to refinish it. And I’m thinking about my options here. What do you think? I’ll post some ideas next time but maybe yours are better than mine. For now, let’s just say that I have mixed feelings about clear glass.

2 steps forward, 1 step back

The doors are done! But I’m holding out on you. Next post you can really see them. For now here’s a bit of the process. I already said I’d be using General Finishes High Performance top coat in satin gloss with TransTint dark mahogany dye mixed into it. I applied this with rags. My parents have an abundant supply of old rags, but my dad gave me even older rags that he was hoarding in the garage. I could tell from the size of his underpants that these rags were REALLY old. The idea was to make a stain that would sit on top of the wood and even out all the different colors. Which means I had a few moments of truth.

I used a walnut colored wood filler in those big holes. I figured it would be dark enough to blend in and disappear. Was I right?


Yup, it blends in pretty well! Then there were the edges of the doors that were cut off exposing new wood and the one door where the Irishman spliced poplar onto the bottom of a pine door. IMG_5850

That doesn’t stand a chance, does it?


But then I have another type of a story. You remember this vintage light fixture I put up in my front bedroom?


Well here’s the deal. The paper insulators around the bulb sockets are toast. I found pieces of them falling out before. But everything still worked so I decided that danger or not, this can wait till after Phase 1. But here’s the deal. My electrician put the upstairs lights on a ground fault interrupter. I don’t know why. But I took a door off a set of saw horses and smacked it into this light, and enough insulator fragments fell out that now the ground and neutral are shorted out and I can’t use any of my upstairs light fixtures. This also means that if I were using them this light would be live, but worrying about that is just splitting hairs. Anyways, I have a new priority 1 item added to the punchlist.

Anyways, the doors are done. I’ll be tackling small jobs and definitely owe you some pretty reveal photos soon.