Grant Taylor Describes How I Build Doors
I make custom, high-quality hardwood doors for a living, but no matter how many doors I see. I always marvel at the craftmanshio involved: The way a door maker can bring out the wood grain by using quartersawn boards, for example, or how the mortise-and-tenon joinery makes a joint that won't open up for 100 years or more. But there's something else besides the craftmanship that always strikes me. It doesn't matter whether it's a thick oak door on a medieval English castle or a modern stained-glass assembly with a delicate arching sash. In some way, all doors are magic, offering us the possibilty of mystery or the unexpected, just beyond the turn of the knob.
I build my doors much as door builders of old worked, For starters, I use local wood that has been cut and milled by woodmen I know. When the felled trees are lying in fresh stacks, I climb over the logs and select prime pieces for milling. Those rough boards are later dropped off at my shop-a stone structure that I built myself in rural New Hampshire-where I carefully mill them to reveal their unique grain patterns. I select the finest specimens and then dry them in a solar kiln that I also constructed. After proper aging and drying-a process that gives optimum stability to the wood-I finally bring into my shop a piece of wood that probably has been touched by only a couple of people since it stood as a tree in the forest.
Cherry and oak are my favorite woods, and they grow wonderfully strong in the area where I live. Their grain patterns are invariably spectacular, and no matter how many times I assemble a door-typically I work from custom design plans, so every one is unique-there is always a thrill when I pull the milled boards out of the planer and marvel at the pattern that is revealed.
Though I use many traditional hand tools to assemble my doors, I rely on power tools to get the precision my clients come to expect: Tolerances of 1/10000 inch in door pieces such as stiles, rails, and panels are common in my shop.
I am proud of what I produce, and it's never boring. The range of styles that people look for in custom doors always keeps me on my toes, always doing something interesting. Whether I'm working with a local blacksmith to fabricate some wroughtiron hinges for a Tudor-style door or figuring out the complicated geometry of cutting center ovals in a door that's taken me a week to complete, I never have a dull day. The only thing I find disagreeable is when the process comes to an end. These doors are something I have poured my heart into, something I've sweated over to make beautiful. I just hate to see them go.