Beechfield – Front door & strap hinge restoration

Beechfield – Front door & strap hinge restoration

This is the story of not only restoring the front door on a house called Beechfield in Helsby, Cheshire, but learning new skills whilst restoring iron strap hinges and making shaped bolts and washers.

It’s good business to stay in your lane – stick to what you know – become a master of one thing!

That being said, I like a challenge.

I’ve done little work with steel, bar a stint in a workshop at university. I milled and turned a hammer and a vice. But agreeing to restore Colin’s front door in Helsby, I also made a rod for my own back!

Stripping the front door

Restoring the door was not going to be a problem of course. We would do what we always do. Strip the paint completely down to the wood, fill what needs filling, fix what needs fixing, paint.

Well, that was the thinking. When we stripped the paint from the door we quickly noticed that it had been stripped before, and the wood was a wee bit scorched.

This all needs to be sanded out of course so definitely a job for the Festool Rotex. The most expensive sander you can imagine gets a shift in and I praise the day I bought it. The mouldings have to be sanded by hand though, and that’s getting close to a days work.

Discovering a Herringbone carved into the strap hinges

So, with Tom taking care of the wood, I’m left to scratch my head about the ironwork.

I started off stripping lots and lots of coats of paint to discover a herringbone pattern carved into each strap. To say I was thrilled would be an understatement. Colin had no idea of course, they only bought the house in 2014.

The only problem, and it was now a big one, was that I had planned on getting them sandblasted and powder-coated. The guy said that he couldn’t guarantee that the herringbone wouldn’t simply disappear under the thick powder coat. I didn’t know what Plan B was yet!

Chunk missing from one of the hinges

One of the straps had rusted so much that there was now a chunk at the end of it missing (didn’t get a photo)! Most of the hexagonal-headed bolts had rusted through and there were a couple of cross-shaped washers missing.

I used to take my cars to a local old-school mechanic, Dave The Welder we called him. I paid him a visit and a couple of days later picked up the strap hinge with the missing chunk welded in. I shaped the end again. We did a good job between the two of us.

Shaping the bolts & washers

We needed to replace a couple of the washers and add a new one that was missing, you can see on the inside of the door where someone has painted the shape in to look like one, funny.

No idea where but I found some 2mm thick square washers and simply took a small triangle out here and there, magic.

The original bolts had a square head. These are impossible to find.

Even getting a bolt with a 10mm shaft and a large enough head to shape was not happening so I decided to go for regular hexagonal-headed bolts and shape the head to look old. I ground the numbers off the head and chamferred the top edges, I did the same with the nuts. These would look nice with the octagonal ‘From The Anvil’ knob that Colin chose.

Of course, we don’t want the shaft of the bolt sticking out from the nut inside for someone to catch their hand or face on so the strap had to be fitted to the door with the bolts and cut exactly to length, each one a different length, so when removed they had to be kept in order during the shaping, sand blasting and painting processes.

Restoring the Beechfield name plaque

My step-son, Tom, works full time for us now. He actually started with us over 10 years ago but got distracted getting A-levels and a first in an International Business degree, stealing my MacBook along the way.

Anyway, he’s been back full-time now for about 3 years and he’s probably learned more than any other employee I’ve had – and there have been quite a few.

One thing I got him doing when he started back was restoring front door furniture. When a job comes to a standstill, waiting for glass or something, he’s always got a box of brass to dig into.

Let’s not pretent that he just rubbed this brass plate with Brasso. After stripping the paint from the letter recesses and soaking the plate in ‘a solution’, the worst of the tarnish was removed. He then used our ‘special machine’ and a polishing compound to polish the surface.

After a wash, he undercoated and hand-painted the lettering into the recesses, four coats in total.

The oak plinth that the brass name plate sits on would be sanded with the Rotex on the flat, hand-sanding the detailing along the edge. This was then stained and laquered, probably 4 coats in total. If you see this service in our shop, this section of the blog will alone justify the price.

When we have a name plate to restore with a front door restoration, there’s no extra cost, it’s just part of the service.

So what do you think of Tom’s efforts?

Making new leaded lights

After looking on Pinterest for ideas Colin knew what he wanted. He made a sketch, coloured it in and sent it over to me.

I drew up the design and paid him a visit to look at colours for the glass, got a palette together and made them up. The glass is obviously toughened since it’s in a front door with bronze spacer bar to tie in with the black furniture – in fact, I haven’t used silver spacer for years!

Fitting black hand-made door furniture

There was a time when I would either steer a client away from having black door furniture because not everything comes in black. Notably, the Yale night-latch and the deadlock cover and keep. Well, I found a black Yale night-latch and now I can sand blast the deadlock keeps and spray them black. Happy days.

Here’s a list of the front door furniture and links to our supplier if you fancy something:

Most of the black furniture that we bought and fitted on Colin’s front door is hand-made in Wales by From The Anvil.

The finished front door restoration

I love to learn. That’s why Colin’s front door is one of my favourites of all time. I think the photos show weeks of hard work, dedication and commitment to making our clients very happy

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