Restoring the Doors

Current # of doors completed = 38 out of 38

All of the doors in the house were hand painted to look like oak, but were in fact pine.  This was not an uncommon practice in the late 19th century.  The restoration of the doors in the house has been going on for over a year now with no end in sight.  There are always a few doors in the basement undergoing the process shown on this page.  This is usually a side project that gets attention during the lulls of other larger efforts.  There are 38 doors in total that need to be done. (God be with me!) For the purpose of this page, I am going to use the Servant's Passage door as the example.

Most of the doors in the house have been cut to accommodate carpeting that was installed over the years.  This particular door was used in a different part of the house at one time and had several inches removed from the top and bottom.  I found this door in the attic, covered with years of dust and bird poop. (don't ask).  I hung the door in the frame, and drew a line parallel with the floor on the bottom and the frame at the top.  I then cut the door at marks and re-hung the door.  This made it easy to measure for the size of the pieces needed for the top and bottom as they are now the same width on both edges.  (sorry, if this isn't clear, but there is no easy way to state this)


Next, I removed the original brass hardware.  The brass had been painted over with six or seven thick layers of paint.  Why?  The center of this door was plugged with a cork and painted over.  Love to hear the story behind that one...


Taking the measurements from earlier, a new extension plate was installed using biscuit joints.  I used a planing machine to match the width of the wood.  The joint was then filled with wood filler and sanded off, making a nice even surface.


The same was done for the top edge of the door.


I re-hung the door one more time to ensure that it fit the door frame properly.  I placed pieces  flooring under the door to make sure it will swing freely when the new floor is laid.


The old hinges were made of cast iron and were quite a bit thicker than the new decorative brass hinges we intend to use throughout the house.  This requires a custom wooden shim be installed to make up the difference in thickness so that the new hinges sit flush against the edge of the door and work properly. (Note the inevitable Home Depot receipt on the floor, these are quite common around here, that's for sure...)


A little wood glue and a couple tiny finishing nails work great here.  The visible edge is then filled with wood filler and sanded off.  Nobody will ever know...


Now it is time to sand, and sand some more.  I used three different grades of sandpaper and wood filler between sandings to get the surface very smooth.


The door is then coated in primer and lightly sanded again.  Note the other doors taxiing on the runway.  My work is never done.  Now we get to flip the doors and do it again...


And now begins the Faux Graining process...

The next step is to paint all of the flat surfaces with an oil based enamel paint.  I use a basic Almond color as my base.


After the Almond base coat was allowed to thoroughly dry, I taped off all of the non-flat surfaces (the moldings) using blue Painter's tape.


Using the Gel Stain, a healthy coat is applied to all of the trim molding.


Once the Gel Stain is completely dried, The tape is removed.  More tape is then applied around each of the panels that will get grained.  This is to protect the alternating panels from any overlap.


Using a brush, a coat of Gel Stain is painted on the panel to be grained.


Using a graining comb, the Gel Stain is combed along both long edges of the panel.


A graining tool is then used with a slight rocking motion to create wood-like patterns.


This picture shows a small Graining Comb being used to touch up some mistakes.  The nice part about using Gel Stain is that it is very forgiving and allows for easy touch-up while still wet.


This shows what a grained panel looks like when complete.


After allowing the stain to dry for 48 hours, the tape is removed.  New tape is applied to protect the grained panels and the rest of the panels go through the same process.


Here is the same door, now fully grained.  Pretty cool eh?  Once again, the stain is allowed to dry for 48 hours and the door is flipped over and the whole process is repeated...


Using the same Gel Stain product we now begin the tinting process.  I have found that doing this in a couple thin coats gives a much more realistic appearance than one thick coat.  This is applied following the grain patterns.


This is what the panels look like after the first coat is applied and allowed to dry. I generally wait a full 24 hours (in dry weather) before applying another tinting coat.


This is what the panels look like after a second coat.  This is the tone I was trying to achieve.


From this point on the finishing process is just like any regular piece of wood.  I use two coats of  Minwax Satin Polyurethane.  If the finish is too shiny, it won't look original.


The final step before hanging is to put on all of the restored brass hardware.


This is a picture of one of the doors completed.


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