The Door[s]…

We’ve long lamented about the condition of the front door at the Byrne residence. In short, years of extreme temperatures, (both hot and cold), driving rains, (they do happen), and ultraviolet rays really take their toll on exposed wood in the Sonoran Desert. This tender piece of maple was really starting to show its age!

I made a valiant attempt almost a year ago – April 2015 to be precise – to bring the exterior surface back to life but to no avail. Despite accolades from both Todd Laurent, (the master woodworker who fabricated the replacement door), and Will Bruder on the extraordinarily smooth finish I achieved with a brush, the flaws in the underlying veneer of the panel and cracks in the solid maple rails were just too severe for me to camouflage. Here are a handful of images highlighting some of what I was up against.


Fast forward to August 2015, when Todd and his father, Ken Laurent, paid us a visit to evaluate the relative merits of trying to re-face the door with a thin layer of maple veneer on the exterior surface vs. fabricating an entirely new door. After some careful inspecting, both Todd and Ken agreed replacement was the most prudent course of action, and we wholeheartedly agreed! While our intent was to have the new door in place to welcome those participating in the fall edition of “Taliesin West Weekend” in early November, Todd wasn’t satisfied with the first maple panel he received from his supplier, so we pressed the pause button, so-to-speak, and agreed on an early 2016 target installation date instead…

As I mentioned on the Recent News page several weeks ago, the new door is now in place! I’ll start with several photographs Todd captured while he was assembling it in his workshop, then a few more in-progress images as he was carefully moving the hardware and glass over from the original door to the new one, and finally several images of the finished door, in situ, toward the bottom of the post.


…and several images, (below), of Todd’s clever rack to hold the door upright while he applied several coats of Danish Oil to it in early January.


Before I delve into the on site installation details, I wanted to include a couple of images of a rather clever device Todd brought with him when he dropped the new door off the first week in January.

This small cart proved to be an absolute life – and back – saver during the project. At first, we used it to move the original door back and forth between the entry and the garage while Todd cut, routed, drilled and scribed on the new door. Once the new door was ready for test fitting, we used this cart to wheel the new door out of the garage and over to the entry, then back again for adjustments in the specially-built jig Todd had set up in the garage. At the end of the day, we’d wheel the original door out and reinstall it for the night.

This pattern repeated itself for almost two weeks, and I’m happy to report there is not a single dent, nick, scrape or scuff anywhere on the surface of the new door, despite having been moved back and forth between the garage and the entry some 10 to 12 times!


The corten steel jamb is 48 inches wide and 87 inches high. There are 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch corten steel stops welded to the jamb on all four sides, with a 1/4 inch gap between the wood surface of the door and the stop attached to the jamb to accommodate weather stripping. While the original door had rubber sweeps affixed to the top and bottom rails, Todd suggested brush sweeps be used on the new door, pointing out far less maple would have to be routed out to accommodate the narrow aluminum channel that grips the brush sweep. We were sold.


Todd had to remove the 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch corten steel stop running across the top of the jamb before we could remove the original door. This process took most of a day, because eight welds had to be carefully cut without gouging the corten jamb – yikes!

Todd suggested we improve the serviceability of the new door by using tiny stainless steel screws to attach the stop to the jamb instead of welding it back into place, which is exactly what he did.

Now we could take a look at the top and bottom pivot hardware and see what we were dealing with…

Happily, the pivot bearing, (bottom of door), was in perfect condition, as was the pin mechanism, (top of door). This meant we could plan on using virtually 100% of the original hardware again!


The one concern Todd had – and I shared – was the amount of maple removed from the bottom rail to accommodate the recessed pivot bearing receiver. All but 3/16 of an inch was routed out on both sides of the receiver, so the structural integrity of the bottom solid maple rail on the old door was compromised, and you can see that in these images, (below), first with the receiver in place, and then again with it removed.

Todd researched several alternatives, including the Rixon Model 117-3/4, Dorma CP440 Center Hung Pivot and the Rixon 217001-1, (pictured below), but in every case, we were facing a similar situation – the need to remove most of the bottom rail material to accommodate the receiver.

Hmmmm… What to do, what to do? Todd’s brother, Mickey Laurent, came up with a brilliant solution a number of years ago when they were confronted with a similar challenge on another pivot door. Their solution? A metal cap, typically used to seal the end of a piece of pipe – it could be steel, copper, or even bronze – is inserted into a cylindrical cavity bored into the bottom rail using a hole saw and then cemented permanently into place with epoxy. The cap, (let’s call it a “receiver” too), fits snugly over the bottom pivot bearing and requires far less material be removed from the bottom rail, thus preserving the structural integrity of the door itself.

…and this is exactly what Todd opted to do in our case. He fabricated a steel receiver and welded two small flanges to either side, providing further structural support.

…and the original receiver for comparison purposes.  Isn’t it surprising how much more material has to be removed to make room for it?

Here’s another image of the prototype receiver Todd fabricated to test fit over the original pivot bearing and the original receiver, sitting next to one another for comparison, (both are resting on the edge of the old door).

The 2nd receiver Todd fabricated, (now permanently installed in the bottom rail of the new door), is even more refined than the prototype – the welds are perfectly smooth; the flanges perfectly square – all of it carefully buffed, despite the fact this particular piece of metal will never be seen by anyone other than the two of us!

This image, (below), shows the pivot bearing being aligned with the new receiver, (already installed in the bottom rail of the new door), and the image after that, (also below), is of the door being lowered onto the pivot bearing for an absolutely perfect fit!

The receiver for the pin at the top of the door was narrow enough, so we simply chose to route out the minimum amount of material to accommodate the original receiver in the top rail of the new door, cleaned it up with some steel wool, lubricated it, screwed it into place and called it a day.

You can imagine with an 18 year old house some settling may have taken place here and there. The Byrne residence is no exception – we measured the jamb as being about 1/8 of an inch out of square at the onset of this project – happily this was easily dealt with by scribing the door so it could be contoured for a precise fit. The finished margins on all four sides between the door and the jamb ended up being remarkably narrow, a big plus when cooling in 115 degree temperatures and heating in 35 degree temperatures!

After the top and bottom pivot receivers were seated in their respective spots in the new door, Todd’s attention turned to measuring for the deadbolt assembly, the two roller stops on the striker side of the jam and the eight holes needed for the two stainless steel handles mounted in front of the 8″ wide pane of solex glass on either side, (interior and exterior).


This image, (below), is of the new door, perfectly scribed and fully operational for the first time, complete with deadbolt assembly, August Smart Lock and a temporary wooden panel where the 8″ wide pane of solex glass would be installed the very next day!

We were able to successfully remove the solid maple stops holding the 8″ wide pane of solex glass in the original door, so even the glass was re-used in the new door!  Todd milled brand new solid maple stops, (four each, inside and out), and that’s what you catch a glimpse of in this image, (below), taken just a day or so after the second coat of spar varnish was applied, (there’s a detailed description of the finishing process later on in the post).

The sweeps were the last task requiring a router to create a shallow center channel on the top and bottom edges of the solid maple rails.

With a fully-functioning door in place, our attention turned to metal fabrication… Todd discovered he had to relocate the stainless steel door stop since the bottom sweep came close to scraping across the top of the stainless steel electrical outlet receptacle recessed in the slab when the door was fully opened.

Todd had to also re-install the 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch corten steel stop along the top of the jamb, with three small stainless steel screws, (see earlier image).  He took this opportunity to tack weld the bottom stop back into place – the weld in the corner weakened at some point in the past, so Todd tacked it with two carefully-placed welds, then I cut out, and reapplied, the bronze silicone caulking on the exterior side of the stop, (as seen below).


At this point the door itself was done – no more fabrication was necessary – we were down to applying a protective finish that would last several years, even in this harsh desert climate…

Todd applied a minimum of two coats of Watco Danish Oil roughly four weeks before the first of what would ultimately ending up being three coats of McCloskey® Man O’War® Spar Marine Varnish were applied, at two week intervals. This two-step procedure was recommended by Bill Bair, the professional painter contracted for our job.  He said applying the oil first, letting it soak in, and then applying multiple coats of varnish should help prolong the life of the exterior surface of the new door.

Before Bill began, I removed all of the old weather stripping from the four stops, (top, bottom, striker side and pivot side of the jamb).  This meant there was an air gap ranging from 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch between the surface of the door and the corten steel stops – just enough to let the varnish dry completely.

The final step was to replace the weather stripping, though I waited almost four weeks after the door was sealed with the third coat of spar varnish before doing so.

…and here are a couple of images of the door in its finished state!

As I said at the beginning of the post, we could not be more pleased with the outcome. Yes, this was a rather involved – and time-consuming – project, but it was well worth it. Todd Laurent did a masterful job, and we are justifiably proud of the end result, (as is he).

Wow man, the doors! 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.