Your doors will be home for the holidays!! The restoration of pocket doors does not lend itself well to working on a deadline...especially where holidays are concerned. Nevertheless I have dealt with circumstances where a "short lead time" was certainly the order of the day! As someone recently noted, "unknown unknowns" can arise. Broken parts, uneven floors or warped doors can always make matters interesting. These tales involve problem solving including "off site machine work" and modifications. However, most jobs are done in one day.
Late fall 2009, several eastern Massachusetts households wanted their antique pocket doors brought back from "dormancy." These doors therefore, you could say, experienced awakening from hibernation before spring! Incorporated herein, I will recount my tale of a customer whose doors blew in from the windy city!!
"Olde Bostonian gave me your name. http://www.oldbostonian.com My husband grew up in this house. The doors haven't worked for decades. His parents covered over the opening (between the parlors), but we have just removed those boards. I would appreciate it very much if you could come over...and I will show you the pieces of broken cast iron we have."
Passing the Milton Public Library, I came to what appeared to be a farmhouse bereft of farmland. Indeed, I was soon told the house had been moved in the 1960s. They had overhead parallel wooden tracks on which roll 4" cast iron wheels. The door hangers were of a type I had not yet encountered. These hangers seemed ingenious, even elegant, even "swan like."
I assumed the age of the house to be from about 1890. The hangers bore the legend "Pat'd Feb 6 83" I entered this date into Google Advanced Patent search along with the name "door hanger." The owner nearly fell off her stool when we found the patent!! Meanwhile, I was admiring the brilliant design of George Hey. I was also wondering how I was going to get their doors rolling again. So...the plan was for 1) repair of the broken door hangers of Mr. Hey or 2) substitution with suitable antique door hangers of another manufacturer. (Therefore, we took some measurements-the existing wheel diameter & the amount of vertical clearance from the top of the door to the top of the wooden track. Everything in pocket doors is ratios (proportions) and clearance (fit).
These elegant "swan look-a-like" cast iron hangers underwent a rebuilding process. Like a shoemaker puts a sole on a shoe, I drilled into the bottom of the hanger, cut threads into holes and bolted a piece of steel to reconstruct the lowest part of the hangers which are fastened to the top of the doors. Lag bolts affixed to the door top are the method of connection. (not shown)
The "sponge painted" areas show original "two tined" or "two pronged" base of these unique hangers.
12 years passed...When he called me, he asked me if I did "new pocket doors." I fumbled for an answer and made references to how carpenters can buy kits, etc. When I said that I prefer to work on vintage pocket doors, he said "My house is old." Look up http://www.restorationresources.com Walter had been browsing at Restoration Resources-they are located midway between Boston's South End and Roxbury's Dudley Square. He was certainly looking in the right place-on two counts. 1) They gave him my flyer and 2) they have an overflowing showroom and warehouse of architectural salvage.
Why do bad things happen to new home buyers? This is the story of a man who decided to overcome an injustice inflicted upon him and his house. Really. On the day of "the passing of the papers" he received the keys and went to take possession of a wonderful Victorian home in Roxbury, MA. Incredulously and unscrupulously, someone had torn out the newel post and handrail of the main stairway. To add to the pain, the pair of 8' pocket doors-with beveled glass lites-was also wrested from the house (hours before the closing). Plain trim was nailed over the empty pockets-what else could he do?
Doors blow in from the windy city!
I am deemed worthy to work on a Hey hanger
In one hour I was at his house. He had taken off some of the boards from 12 years ago. I examined the opening and one pocket. It was evident that there was no overhead recess or mechanism of any kind-only an overhead soffit board with a groove for guide pins. I told my customer, "Your opening is not suited for top hung doors. Any doors you want to install will have to roll on the floor-that's just the setup here."
I went back to the house for another conference. Using two lengths of wood and a cabinet maker's clamp, we made exact measurements. The ground floor was receiving a lot of "freshening up" - wallpaper, a new masonry mantle and more. Plus, a new floor was going to be installed on both sides of the pocket door opening! I groaned because that was going to affect me in several ways. Walter browsed many architectural salvage listings online. Here are the doors purchased from http://www.urbanremainschicago.com
The doors were placed in his cavernous basement. Outside, the winds blew and the snow fell. Inside, I was sweating while I reviewed the calculations. Maybe it was the heat from the work lamps or the steam boiler, but I was about to cut (to length) his expensive purchase. With "bottom sheave" pocket doors the vertical clearances or allowances are about 1/8" to 3/16". Moreover, the measurements I had taken revealed different heights at the entrance to each of the pockets. Once the doors were cut (gulp!) I bored the bottoms to create mortises for the roller sheaves.
We were using Hatfield style anti-friction sheaves which I had found at Restoration Resources and the "gains" or mortises needed to house these assemblies are pretty big indeed. No power equipment here! Old fashioned bit and brace along with sharp chisels.
Once the doors were carried upstairs, I breathed a sigh of relief because they fit. Some fine tuning was necessary. This was carried out with trepidation because of the new floor. When the job was done, I was invited back for a cookout in the summer. I told Walter, "I will always turn up when you want me!" <:d)