If you are lucky enough to own a 100-year-old home, then you also know the challenges of maintaining your abode, especially when a door falls apart or a window cracks. Not only does a replacement have to be found, but it has to look right.
That’s when it pays to have an experienced woodworker, who can craft windows, doors and other architectural necessities that will not only fit properly, but also be true to the style in which the home was built.
For many pre-1950s houses, “You can’t buy pieces for them anymore,” said Deven Finnie, operations manager for Ocean Woodworks of Sand City, California. So if you do have to get a new door or window, you can’t just run down to Home Depot for it – it has to be a custom job.
Ocean Woodworks specializes in re-creating those often hard-to-replace doors and windows, crafting them to fit not just the space, but also the historic character of the home or building.
What Finnie and his employees do is to make items that appear to be vintage but with unobtrusive modern touches, like UV-filtering glass and insulation, that make them even better than the original piece.
However, Ocean Woodworks does much more than historic restoration. The company also builds everything from custom cabinetry and furniture to architectural details like staircases, moldings, real and faux beam work, and interior doors. The company can make items in whatever style the client wants, from modern to Spanish colonial, using a variety of woods, textures and finishes to get the desired look.
Depending on what’s involved in the project, Finnie works with general contractors, homeowners, interior designers and architects.
When it comes to historic homes, the challenge is in the upkeep, Finnie said.
“It’s important to keep fixing them before they’re too far gone,” he said.
And of course, you can’t just go to a big-box store and find the right window for your Victorian home. In pre-building code days, homes were often built to the whims of the architect, builder or homeowner, resulting in non-standard and sometimes oddly sized doors and windows.
The techniques that Finnie and his crew use are ancient. In traditional Old World woodworking, pieces are made using mortise and tenon joints, made to fit precisely together even without adhesives. The technique makes the door, window or other item much stronger and thus able to last longer.
Finnie’s intent is to create wood pieces that last not just 20 or 30 years, but a hundred or more. “Joints don’t fall apart,” he said.
You might be able to buy a much cheaper door, he said, but “if you cut it in half, you’ll find air, cardboard and mystery stuff.” He notes that off-the-shelf doors and windows are often made using particle board and inferior techniques, and don’t hold up to heavy use.
Finnie said that when it comes to what he does, the possibilities are endless.
“It’s like art for me,” he said.
Interview with Deven Finnie, November 2012