This project near Santa Barbara was to take part in installing 19 antique doors
in the masonry walls of a faithful re-creation of a Spanish villa under construction.
The clients were antique dealers and had an extensive collection of antique
architectural pieces, mostly from real Spanish villas, 300-400 years old,
including carved marble fireplaces, marble doorways and floors; iron window
grates and these beautiful old tablero, plank and panel doors.
The first challenge was to make "antique" door jambs to match the individual doors;
the irregular shape a door becomes after hanging on hinges for 3 centuries, never
square, often warped; had to be built into the jambs and plastered permanently into
masonry doorways in a way that they will hang and close naturally.
The second part of the project was to build 20 new plank and panel doors using mortise
and tennon construction and hand-carved panels in a way that authentically mimicked the
antiques we had been studying, repairing and installing.
The wood used in the making the jambs and doors was of a special character also.
There was an enormous pile of timbers on the jobsite reclaimed from a large tobacco
drying building that had been built around 1850 in North Carolina. The wood is a red pine
with such tight grain and high resin content that it's virtually a hardwood. The resin
gums up your tools...We called it devilwood. Some of it had been used for the open beam
ceilings and lintels in the residence.
At first we milled the timbers with an "alaska" mill, a chain saw attachment,
but that was too time consuming, noisy and and left an irregular surface. To move
things along faster, a man was hired to come on site with a "wood-mizer". This is a
gasoline powered band saw mounted on a trailer that has hydraulic lifts to pick up
and handle the large timbers and hold them in place. Then the saw moves along
cutting off a slab of whatever thickness desired, with a much smoother result than
the chain saw method.
From there we attacked the wood with a combination of modern power tools and antique
hand tools so that every visible element was a hand-crafted surface, and every joint
was of authentic old-world design.
I still don't have pictures of the reproductions after the finish was put on, and the doors
hung, but it's my plan to complete this album when I get them.
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© 2000 John Oliver, General Contractor
California Contractor's License Number 380756
707 477 2891