After months of work stripping and patching this set, the glorious double doors are finally installed!!
A few weeks ago I shared the first part of restoring these doors. I was rarin’ to go and ready to get those doors stripped down and refinished.
But I ran headlong into a glaring problem. I haven’t stripped a ton of stuff in my day, but I stripped a mantle and 2.5 doors before embarking on these puppies.
So I…sort of know what I’m doing. Kinda. A little bit.
But when I got down to the original coating on this door set…it was like tar. Absolutely nothing I tried could get this stuff off.
Eventually I had reasonable success with a heat gun on low and a set of dental picks. While I managed to get most of what I think was shellac off, progress ground to a halt after that.
The entire door was covered in a pinkish haze. The original wood was Douglas Fir or Pine, which is usually more yellow or orange in color.
I tried mineral spirits, denatured alcohol, heat gun, paint stripper, and absolutely nothing worked. Whatever this rosy pestilence is would not come off by any methods I tried.
I resorted to sanding. Sanding seemed to take off the top 1/32″ of the wood that held the pink stain, leaving clear wood underneath.
I have to tell you I tried. I did. I really, honestly, tried to get the doors down to bare wood. I worked for several weeks on one side and didn’t even manage to get it looking acceptable.
A Fruitless Endeavor
At some point while scrubbing away with the millionth piece of tiny sandpaper, I stepped back and took stock of the doors.
As much as I adored them, they really were in bad shape. Many holes from previous locks, nicks and damages, part of the trim detail rotted out and missing.
Even if I managed to get the wood pristine, the door would always bear signs of this damage. And NOTHING I did would make it completely better.
After fretting over this decision for several weeks, I came to an annoying but necessary conclusion: these doors were never going to look good stripped down to bare wood.
Honor the House and the History
Let me take a quick detour here to talk about some renovation philosophy. We are not restorationists. We are not preservationists. We took on a badly neglected, average farmhouse and are doing our best to bring it back to what it might have been.
Key phrase: might have been. So much of the character of this house was stripped by previous owners. What diminutive, insubstantial evidence I’ve been able to find is the all I have to go on for this project.
And with that, I do my best to honor the house respectfully. There are certain aspects I can’t save. There are some features I will paint over. But any deviation from the original house I do not take lightly.
Each and every room is a series of decisions about how best to honor the house. How to be respectful of the history. How to showcase each historic piece we have to its best advantage.
My mother always told me that just because something is old doesn’t mean it has to look it. Anything can be neat and tidy with some paint, a good cleaning, or some repairs. Neglect, despite what may be a current design trend, isn’t always my favorite way to showcase history.
I explain all this because this thinking guided me when deciding how to handle these doors. I could remove 90% of the pinkish stain, leave the holes and damage, and let the doors be as they are. No doubt some people would do that.
For me, I knew that the level I could reasonably strip the doors would leave them looking half completed and shabby to my eyes. That is not respectful of their history. That does not present them to their best advantage.
So, with a heavy but determined heart, I chose to repair and paint them completely.
To repair the doors I used this WoodEpox to fill in the holes. I’ve heard of people using Bondo to fill in wood, but it doesn’t flex quite like WoodEpox. So I’ve read there is a higher chance of cracking when the wood changes with humidity.
Finally I sanded the resulting surface smooth. After paint you can hardly tell there was ever an issue.
The Paint Color
We had a bit of a plot twist with the pantry color earlier in which my make-shift tinted primer turned out to be several orders of magnitude better than my original pantry plans.
Custom colors abound in this kitchen first with the wall color and then with the pantry. I wondered if I had one more piece of magic up my sleeve.
Welp. I did. Finally I added just a touch of the new pantry color to some white paint, resulting in the most peaceful green-tinged off-white color.
Then I tested the color on the doors and could absolutely feel the house yelling at me. It was just so RIGHT. I had my color.
The Final Doors
We still have a little bit left to do. The bottom gap needs a threshold, and I need to pick an exterior color. But after all the work and effort and time spent on these beauties, I could not love them more if I tried.
We are positively screaming down the finish line of this kitchen. Just a few more posts and we’ll move on to the reveal. And I can hardly WAIT.
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