Every wood feature has a life story, visible in its scratches and finishes. How do you finish a very nice door that brings its past with it? Here is the story of how a solid oak door gained a new life.

Once Upon a Time at an Auction…

Montana Bowl of Cherries-solid oak door painted red

When the man first saw the solid oak door at an auction, he saw the door’s potential. That is where every journey with fine wood starts.

One day several years ago, a man in Nevada was at an auction.  One item up for auction was a solid oak door with a large leaded glass window in it.

The door had never been hung.  It didn’t even have holes cut for a handle or notches for hinges.  Essentially, it was a solid wood slab with a beautiful window in it.  A very heavy slab of wood, with a heavy window in it.

One side of the door was painted a terra cotta red.  In fact, that was one of the things that brought the door to the man’s attention.  It would look great at his house!

So, the man bought the door, took it home and propped it up in a covered porch. Soon he thought, he would have that door finished and installed.

Life Happens

Things don’t usually happen the way we plan them.  That is exactly how it was for the man and the door.  The door was not finished or hung.  The man moved several times, but he moved the door every time.

Along the way, the man met and married a lovely lady.  They decided they would like a home that belonged to both of them.  That is how the man and the solid oak door ended up in Miles City, Montana where they met Cam’s Custom Cabinets & Woodworking.

The Solid Oak Door-Next Chapter

Montana Bowl of Cherries-the water damage penetrated and warped the wood.

The unfinished side of the door had what we assumed was water damage. That liquid had also warped the wood trim around the window on that side of the door.

The house that the couple bought is a ranch-style painted blue with white trim and really needed a new front door. Here was a chance to use the solid oak door with the leaded-glass window.  The terra cotta red didn’t go with the style and color of the house.  What about the unfinished side of the door?  While it had never been painted or finished in any way, there was some sort of liquid damage that had stained the door and warped the trim around the window.

In order to give the door the elegance it needed to add the next chapter to its story, there was a list of things that needed to happen.  Cam’s mission, should he choose to accept it was to:

  • Cut the door down to fit the existing door frame.
  • Find out if the terra cotta paint could be stripped from the door.
  • Try to remove the liquid damage on the unfinished side of the door and repair the warped trim.
  • Stain and varnish the door if possible.  If that was impossible, the door was to be painted white.  It was an option to paint the outside white and stain and varnish the inside.
  • Install hinges, door knob and deadlock.
  • Install the solid oak door in the existing door frame.

OF COURSE he accepted the mission!  Who wouldn’t want to uncover the secret life of this door?

The Diagnosis

Montana Bowl of Cherries-sanding the unfinished side to get rid of the water damage

The water damage on the unfinished side sanded away beautifully. The warped trim was more of an issue.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t any primer between the wood and the terra cotta paint.  That meant the red got into the fiber of the wood.  After sanding and using paint stripper and sanding some more, we all agreed that this side would need to be painted white.

On the unfinished side, the water damage seemed to be sanding off nicely but there were places that would always show some damage.  That’s ok it’s part of the story of the door.

The real problem on the unfinished side was the trim around the window.  By carefully reshaping and refastening the trim to the door and filling in the cracks, it would look good as new-under paint.  So both sides of the door would need to be painted.  Would the solid oak door loose its beauty if the wood didn’t show?

Montana Bowl of Cherries-inside view of finished door

From the entryway of the house, the window lets in lots of light, brightening up the entryway. The leaded glass design creates prisms all over the room as the sunlight hits it.

As it turned out, it took 3 coats of primer on both sides of the door to get it ready for white paint.  On the terra-cotta side, the red kept bleeding through.  The liquid damage on the unfinished side appeared to sand out and look great.  However, whatever had damaged the door was oily and had penetrated the wood.  It bled through the primer twice before coating completely.  We were so glad that we had let the warped trim guide our decision to paint this side.







The Solid Oak Door-Living Its Purpose

Montana Bowl of Cherries-finished front door

We think that the Solid Oak Door With The Leaded Glass Window looks beautiful painted white!

The solid oak door with the leaded-glass window looks so elegant painted white.  We will never know the whole story of the solid oak door or where all of its character marks have come from.

It has started a splendid new chapter of its life as the front door of the new chapter in the life of the man and his lovely bride.  Finally, the door has a handle and hinges and hangs in the front of the house to both protect the family and welcome their visitors.

What a pleasure it has been to work with this beautiful solid oak door.  Thank you-We appreciate the opportunity!





Rhonda Brown lives in rural eastern Montana, surrounded by her family, chickens, gardens and dog. When she isn't writing or weeding, she loves spending time with her family, baking, and all things CHOCOLATE.


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