Old Classroom Door Restoration Project

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Blog entry by DrTebi posted 07-19-2009 12:40 PM 4399 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

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I just realized I never posted pictures of the finished door.

After reading a few books on finishing, I decided to use Linseed Oil, Shellac, and Wax. I like the fact that these products are all very “natural” and have been used for centuries. And I am really please with the results.

After one application of Linseed Oil (boiled) I mixed the shellac myself (there is a place here in San Francisco called Sinopia Pigments that sells shellac flakes) and applied four or five layers. I only sanded very little after each layer with 220 paper, and after a few days finished the door with Carnuba Wax. The last pictures show the finished door, although I don’t think the pictures give it justice.

I actually like this type of finish so much, I will continue to use it for another five antique doors I recently acquired, on windows and window casings, and on my Arts & Crafts coffee table that is still in it’s beginnings.

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During my remodel of a 1906 house we decided to opt for a larger and nicer living room door. Since I prefer to build “green,” my contractor and I went to a salvage yard here in San Francisco and found a great Oak door that was once a classroom door at the Berkeley University. The “historical” fact alone was great, especially since my beloved one will go to Berkeley soon :)

The door was in fairly good shape, just a couple of dents and hardly any signs of water damage. I took on this project and started removing the paint off one side (the one that doesn’t have the classroom number on it, not sure what to do with the other side yet). I used a scraper, then 36, 60, 100, and 120 sanding paper, and also some carving tools and lots of elbow grease. I have that side of the door now sanded down, with the final sanding of a 120 paper (mostly Random-Orbit sanding and hand sanding).

The beautiful lock mechanism by the way is dated from the early 1910s, I polished it down (with a vinegar-salt-flour mix), which was fairly easy, as it is pure brass.

I think it’s looking quite nice so far, but I am a bit hesitant about the next steps. I wonder if I should sand it further down with 220 paper, or start with the finishing now? I have read a bit about finishing (I am quite a beginner), and found Dan Kondra’s “secret mix” ( sounds really good to me. I suppose it will work good on Oak, and on a door which will get a fairly good amount of use (or abuse?).

I would really appreciate any comments regarding the next steps, prepping, finishing etc. My plan so far is to just blow off all dust and start Dan’s secret mix… but maybe there may be some better ideas for this particular project, tips, or things to be careful about.

Let me hear it all, I would really appreciate it :)

Thanks lumberjocks,


Below some photos:


Lock, polished

Side with classroom number

Closeup of room number

Halfway-through with sanding

Lock in place

Door sanded down

Closeup of tricky corners

After Finishing

After Finishing

7 comments so far

View hootr's profile


183 posts in 4565 days

#1 posted 07-19-2009 01:40 PM

pretty door, glad you saved it from somebody’s paint brush
i’m no expert but i’d tack rag it instead of just blowing off before the finish
good job so far

-- Ron, Missouri

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 4614 days

#2 posted 07-19-2009 03:12 PM

That door is FABULOUS!
I think you have the inward side cleaned up pretty well and some finish work is in order.
My personal choice for this job would be Danish Oil, but there are many finishes that will do it justice. There’s no one, best way.
Congratulations on your choice to save and use a beautiful, old door.
I realize the University must be under some pressure to “modernize”, but I regard it as regretful that they can dump things like your door.

Best regards,

-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View a1Jim's profile


118200 posts in 4796 days

#3 posted 07-19-2009 05:30 PM

super restoration work


View skydiveno1's profile


5 posts in 4457 days

#4 posted 07-19-2009 05:37 PM

How did you restore the door knob to look so nice?...........

-- Pat, Langhorne Pennsylvania

View DrTebi's profile


402 posts in 4485 days

#5 posted 07-20-2009 04:11 AM

Thanks for the nice comments. I will investigate danish oil, I have no experience with it yet. I do want to keep the finish pretty much in it’s original color, so probably no staining. I will get some tack rags too, thanks for the tip.

I found a great web site that has extensive information on how to clean brass:

I especially like it because they show many methods that use only average household products. I made the mix of vinegar, lemon, salt, and flour. I left that paste on the brass for about 15 minutes, than used a scotchpad and also some steel wool to clean and polish the piece. Finally I used mineral oil to protect the finish. Not much could go wrong though, because the entire lockset is made of pure brass (that was the quality in the good old days!).

View Thomas Keefe's profile

Thomas Keefe

131 posts in 4627 days

#6 posted 10-23-2009 08:55 PM

That is a beautiful door. Nice job restoring it. I live in the bay area as well. What salvage yard did you get this at. It might be good to go and have a look around. Thanks.


View DrTebi's profile


402 posts in 4485 days

#7 posted 10-24-2009 08:03 AM

I got this door at Builders Resources down on 3rd Street in San Francisco. The place has lots of old building stuff, not always in the greatest condition, but very fair prices. (I paid $180 for the door, and another $45 for the lockset).

There are two other places I frequently go to, one is Ohmega Salvage and the other Urban Ore . Both are in Berkeley. Urban Ore is quite large, they have tons of doors and most of them are stored inside (not so at Builders Resources). Ohmega is great for finding antique hardware, they have tons of buckets of it, but also larger things like complete fire mantels etc.

I have bought a lot of things there, in the “Antiques” section on eBay, or other antique shops elsewhere for my house remodel. It’s a bit of a hustle to hunt all these things down, but it’s really worth it. The quality of hardware was so much better back then, it’s “greener” to re-use these old parts, and I am just fed up with most of everything manufactured in China these days…

There are more doors in the works… I will probably post some pictures of those soon :)

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