Archive for August, 2010
The only thing I hate worse than watching glue dry is watching clear finish dry. I have post office box banks and lazy susans sitting all around the shop after putting their first clear coat finish on this morning. When this happens, I can’t machine anything that would create dust. Fortunately, I had a shipment of post office doors come in Saturday and I spent the rest of today cleaning doors. It’s time consuming, but it’s also a lot like quiet time so I enjoyed the change of pace.
It’s rare to get a hold of these vintage doors in like new condition. They were all in service somewhere at one time. Many were bought in large lots and stored in basements and barns for years until re-discovered. I probably spend at least 30 minutes cleaning each door. Some doors may take an hour or more depending on the condition. Hard to open locks, bent frames, and stuck hinges contribute to the reconditioning process. I’m not trying to make them look brand new, but they need to work and fit into the box correctly.
The first thing I do is remove the glass and wash each door with Dawn detergent while scrubbing with a soft wire brush. This gets the dirt and crud off the door, but it’s still dull and tarnished. If the lock doesn’t turn or work smoothly, which happens about 50% of the time, it gets disassembled, repaired, and lubricated. Once all this is done, I use Brasso and start polishing to get the original shine back. Sometimes I have to resort to using a Dremel tool with a spinning wire brush to get hard crud off some of the metal parts.
This is a before and after of the doors I just received. The one on the left is representative of how they came to me. The one on the right is what it looks like cleaned up. The majority of these doors had smooth operating locks, so I just had to clean them and be done with it.
I recently received a few of these 1902 double dial eagles. I got them cleaned up before I took a picture, but the dials and locking mechanism had to be completely disassembled, cleaned, and oiled to just get the dials to turn. The effort was worth it because they now operate smooth. These are beautiful, heavy, and well-built doors.
I finally got some boxes finished to hold the early 1900s Post Office doors that I recently acquired. These are white oak and jatoba. Jatoba is also referred to as Brazilian cherry. I really don’t know why, because it is not related to the cherry tree and looks more like mahogany than cherry. It’s still a very pretty wood and easy to work with.
Like the walnut in my previous post, the jatoba dovetails really stand out against the lighter white oak. These doors are a 1902 Star Dial, and a circa 1920 flying eagle. Both are old and rare, however the 108 year old 1902 is the rarest and also my favorite. It has a two digit combination where all the other doors are three digit.