Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Sublime Door

cierra la puerta

I was just searching old emails and bookmarks looking for a link I sent myself many months ago - a special bronze valve that I found that appeared to be a good fit for building prototype shower and possibly lavatory fittings for the remodel. I haven't found it, and am now faced with starting my search over from scratch.

But I did find this. It appears that I wrote it to a friend, probably of the facebook variety, in response to her query about "a door opening when love stands in front it" or something or other. I can't recall who I wrote it for/to.

I had to read and re-read it a few times, where it lay there in my email "sent" box, sent to myself over a year ago, to figure out if it was something I actually wrote or if it was attribute-able to someone else. It was that unfamiliar to me. I was thinking to myself, "Self, did you write this?" It somehow seemed too good for lil' 'ol me to have written. But maybe not. Who knows?

Anyway, I thought it interesting enough to dredge it up and copy and paste it and tack it up here.

Now that I think about it, I think it's actually less about actual doors, and more about men. A well-built door, a well-hung door - as a metaphor of a man. It's starting to come back to me. I think I remember who I wrote this for, and I think there's a new door in her life.

There are closed doors that blow open in a breeze, sliding doors that open with a gesture (if they're not off-track); those stupid bi-fold doors that open easily but never seem to work right; dummy knobs with catches that open with a gentle pull; passage sets with no locking function - just turn the knob; privacy sets with a simple push button lock that you can unlock with a paper clip; entry latchsets that do require a key to open; the single cylinder deadbolt - key outside, simple turn knob inside; and the double cylinder deadbolt requiring a key to unlock both inside and out. We mustn't forget the padlock and hasp, iron bars, and additional security measures folks elect to employ on their doors.

All that said, a door that doesn't open automatically when love stands in front of it (like at Target), is usually broken.

It's nice when a beautiful door works perfectly - plumb, level, square, reveals aligned, no sagging jambs, weatherstripping in order, no cracks or gaps or dings, properly mortised strike for a tight fit, raised panels properly constructed and sound, newly coated with an environmentally sustainable natural oil finish, heavy cast bronze hardware that feels good in your hand, hinges that glide smoothly and don't squeak, and finally, that opens effortlessly, and closes with a solid sounding "klunck".

But it takes a rare and talented carpenter to build and set a perfect door. Those doors are rare in my experience. Most doors are imperfect, selected without due diligence for the intended use, hastily installed so that the foundations for continued trouble-free operation for the lifetime of the door have not been laid, and usually not well maintained over the years. These doors can always be repaired, if the end-user and the carpenter have the desire to do so, and the stamina to stick with it until the task is completed. At which time the door will operate like a charm for many years to come.

Keep in mind that there are very inexpensive, paint-grade, thin-walled, hollow core masonite doors, sometimes with a corrugated cardboard torsion box inside. These are common at Home Depot - for about $50 bucks. These doors usually need to be replaced after a very short time of service.

There are solid core doors with particle board or solid lumber cores and a veneered exterior. Pretty, solid feeling and sounding when you knock, but only a veneer of wood - and if the particle board gets wet, the veneer will begin to peel away and the door will begin to fall apart. Again, nice while it lasted, but these types will need replacing eventually.

The most sublime door is 1-3/4" thick, 3'-0" wide, and 8'-0" tall. It is made by hand of solid wood with no veneers. Alder, cherry, mahogany - ideally locally sourced from a storm-fallen hardwood in someone's backyard. Mesquite is a nice wood species with a local Texas flavor, and is very durable. The individual pieces of wood to make the door should be kiln dried to a proper moisture content - 12-15%. They should be hand/eye selected for soundness and straightness, free from warp, bow, wane, knots, and other defects. Unless you want a door with a rustic character - then knots are desirable. Sound, tight knots that aren't loose and threatening to crumble and fall out and become peep holes. This door is built with impeccable joinery, and the highest quality exterior glue. Mortise & tenon, with a thick raised panel, and a full bolection mould if that is the end user's desire. The door should have 5/4" jambs, and bronze spring weather stripping. The casing should be wide, and thick. 5/4" by 6". A natural pigment stain, and natural oil will suffice - with periodic maintenance. Four hinges, not three. Forged and machined hinges not stamped. Ball bearing hinges - at least 5", perhaps 6". Sand-cast bronze, full-mortise latchset. All hand forged and machined if possible. This hardware will feel like none other when it is in your grasp. Solid. Precise. Peerless. Without fail. Every time.

Hand crafted with loving care is my motto. That love and care is imbued into the wood, the door, the jambs, the casing, the construction, the installation, the glue and nails that bind it all together. And most importantly, the day-to-day operation of the door. These doors return that imbued love with every passing person, every grasp and turn of the handle. Imagine a door that loves back.

This door is your opening to the world, and the portal to your inner being. This door is your protector. It protects you from the elements and the cold winds, wild bears, small mice and the occasional interloper or intruder. It is built soundly, and will last a lifetime, albeit with proper maintenance and care. It opens freely, gliding smoothly, yet closes with a thunk and locks solidly when needed. The warm tone of the wood is welcoming all who stand before it. Those who do can't help but touch. The smooth wood, possibly with natural distressing gained by many years of use, begs to be caressed. A door should say "come in", "you are welcome in my house", "mi casa es su casa". The world that these doors exist in remain unlocked - almost always.

These doors are rare, but they do exist out there in the world.

[sorry...got carried away with a little creative writing very early in the morning...but you get my drift...I hope...for future doors in your life...not that you needed any of my carpenter/door wisdom...hope you're okay...beso...a]

1 comment:

Elizabeth Brinton said...

Alex, it is so interesting that you posted this...just now.

I ordered a beautiful custom door for our house, and I am now lovingly finishing it before A installs it. I used a little money my dad left me. (Now love will always be standing there).
I will post a picture when it's up.
Doors...everyday we will touch it and the lovely new handle and lockset, first rate. Sublime.