Re-instating a Georgian door in an amazing historic property
The project was to replace a modern glass in a Georgian house with an authentic one. To mitigate the loss of light that the solid door would create on the dark hallway the proposal was to remove the four upper panels and replace them with glass.
The door was purchased from a local reclamation yard and had been in Georgian house in Wellesbourne, Warwickshire. The 6 panel design and width was very similar to the other original doors in the house. After stripping all of the cracked and damaged lead paint the four upper panels were removed
The trim holding in the upper four panels was carefully removed but as can be seen, one of the panels had been broken in the past and replaced. The trim was not the same profile. Unfortunately there was no ‘off the shelf’ trim with a close enough profile so a new length of trim had to be made with the correct profile using a combination of router and hand finishing.
The largest challenge however was to recreate the original handle. After trying to scour various reclamation yards, ebay and the internet in general nothing could be found of the original proportins.
The handle has a simple elegance to it. The wood is ebony and mounted on a brass swept base. A mold of one of the original handles that still existed on a door was made first using specialist latex. Then a cast made in and cut up into the individual components (handle, ferrel, base).
The impressions of these could then be used in the Dutch sand which is jewellery grade casting sand designed to to retain fine details. A funnel is made at the top in which to pour the molten brass and vent holes to allow gasses to escape. Scrap pieces of brass were used, antique brass has a better quality to it compared to modern grade brass. In this case some original brass items of the customer were used which was nice to re-use. After casting, the various excess pieces need cutting off and it was sanded in finer and finer grades of sandpaper and eventually polished on a buffing machine.
Turning the replica ebony handle.
Ebony is no longer available to buy as most of the very slow growing trees have already been cut down in the 19thcentury and it is now a protected species under the CITES act. A very similar wood is however commercially available with almost identical grain and the same incredibly hard density. However it is not cheap, at £70 for enough wood to create two handles.
I have done lots of turning in the past, oak, beech, elm, ash and banksai. Turning this block was like chipping away at steel, more heavy and dense than anything I have never worked with.
One of the most challenging parts of the turning was replicating the dimple on the very front. This is because any fractional movement will cause the tool to jump and skip out and wreck the front face of the handle. A paper circle of the original was made to act as a template and a pencil circle made around the area. On normal woods this is tricky, on ebony it is simply frightening. Especially when there was not enough wood to make another if a mistake was made...
A really interesting project to help reverse some of the less sympathetic work on an amazing Georgian home. A huge amount of appreciation and respect to the original 19th century craftsman who made the handles. They are not easy to replicate.
Glass production in the 18th and 19th Century was still not perfect and plate glass still had a wobliness to it. Glass made with the same technique can still be purchased and this was added to make the door seem as authentic as possible.