Who makes historically-accurate door casing moldings?
April 13, 2007 8:27 AM   Subscribe

I have a bunch of wooden casing moldings around the interior doors of our Washington, DC home, and over the past 75 to 100 years, they've taken quite a beating. I'd love to slowly replace the worst of them with identical moldings, but despite a pretty exhaustive search on my own, I can't find anyone who still carries anything with the same profile. Does anyone have any tips for molding manufacturers/sellers that have good variety, especially of moldings that are accurate to the turn-of-the-century period?

For reference:

• Our house is on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, and is roughly Victorian in style.
• A somewhat blurry photo of the moldings I'm looking to replace is here; of note, I haven't been brave enough yet to take the trim apart to make sure I know what all the various pieces that abut the casing molding are.
• I'd also be happy to hear recommendations for restoring these moldings back to their shiny happy origins; there are areas on the bedroom door moldings where dents and dings are pretty significant, and there are clearly about 10 or 20 layers of paint on all of them.

posted by delfuego to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
Smoot Lumber: 6295 Edsall Rd # 20, Alexandria, 22312 - (703) 823-5600.

They have an extensive selection in stock and will custom-make moldings if necessary. I don't see a website on quick review, but they have a paper catalog that shows what they have in simple but beautiful old-school draftsman drawings. Don't go on a weekend though, it can be packed.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 8:54 AM on April 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Our neighbors where we used to live in Galveston were restoring a pre-1900 house. Unable to find identical moldings anywhere, they took some of the old moldings off and had a machine-shop create one or more custom router bits for them.

The advantage of this is that they (or their handyman, really) can use this to create as much molding as they need, whenever they need it. Their project will likely take a couple years to complete, one room to the next. And if they ever sell the house, the router bits can go to the buyer.
posted by Robert Angelo at 8:56 AM on April 13, 2007

Try Van Dyke's and then go pick up a copy of Old House Journal (here's their online resource directory).

Bear in mind that somewhere in those 20 layers of paint, there could be lead paint -- and you don't want to mess around with it.

I like Robert Angelo's solution, though.
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:17 AM on April 13, 2007

Even if it's packed they'll take their time with you. Bring coffee and someone to stand in line with, it's not so bad.

I used Smoot - at Mr Moon Pie's suggestion - to get some custom millwork as described on this question. The eventual cost was about $730 for 200 feet of clear pine.

That price reflects a big aprox $200 expense for Smoot to cut a custom knife to mill my stuff. Unfortunately the receipt didn't have a full breakdown so I'm working from memory, but it's about $50 per inch, so if you're getting 2" molding it'll be less. As Robert Angelo says, the advantage is that when I go back next time I won't pay that $200 - it'll be about $500 for those 200 ft, assuming lumber prices are the same.

Looking at that picture, that's not terribly unusual molding and I wouldn't pay for custom millwork before I'd pounded a lot of pavement looking for someone who already has it. You're not going to be the only person on Cap Hill who wants to do some renovation and keep true to the origins, and you're probably not the only person whose home was built by that builder. Someone - maybe Smoot - likely has already made that molding before.
posted by phearlez at 9:19 AM on April 13, 2007

Forgot to mention - another cost for my project at Smoot is their knife-mounting fee, for which they charge I think around $200 per 200 ft they run for you. So it's not economical to do less than 200 feet at a time, even if you intend to do this in dribs and drabs. You have a good place to store that much wood?
posted by phearlez at 9:21 AM on April 13, 2007

those moldings look great to me, but I've stripped all of the old moldings in our 1914 arts and crafts bungalow :)

You might do a cost benefits analysis as to what it would cost to have the molding professionally stripped versus replaced. You might be shocked at how well it would turn out. They can do it in place or you can carefully remove it, take it in, and then reinstall it.

Let me know if you need more info. Emails in the profile.
posted by jeanmari at 9:33 AM on April 13, 2007

Response by poster: Great ideas, all -- I'm excited to go to Smoot for a million reasons, the biggest being that I've never been. (In all honestly, I've not been yet because I called them a few times a month or two ago in the midst of a project, and when I asked about having wood cut there so that I could fit it into my car to take away, I got quite a little bit of attitude from them.)

And I'm not sure why, but I hadn't once thought about the idea of a router bit to recreate them. (It's weird, too -- I'm such a router whore, you'd think that would have occurred to me.) In any event, I just hunted around and found this router bit, which might work perfectly... I'll have to go home and do a bit of measuring.
posted by delfuego at 9:47 AM on April 13, 2007

phearlez writes "As Robert Angelo says, the advantage is that when I go back next time I won't pay that $200 - it'll be about $500 for those 200 ft, assuming lumber prices are the same."

Good news, SPF (both sheet material and solid stock) is down 40-50% over last year.
posted by Mitheral at 10:00 AM on April 13, 2007

It'll be more expensive than doing it yourself, but I work for a historic restoration company than can either match or make profiles. My email is in my profile.
posted by princelyfox at 10:34 AM on April 13, 2007

Smoots worth going to just to see just how many variations on molding exist, and to take home the catalog.

(And to see if they have the moldings you want, which don't look too extragavent, for less than the cost of the new bit + lumber + your time - satisfaction of having done it yourself.)
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 12:21 PM on April 13, 2007

Yes, that molding does not look particularly intricate. If you are serious about doing this yourself I would take a small sample of the molding and look down the profile of it and measure it with calipers across the entire width of the strip, noting the differentials between the high and low points. You can use this information to compare the mating profile of router bits that are locally available to you. You might be surprised how many "custom" moldings were made using a single router bit on one side and a different bit on another, or simply flipping the board and running it both directions. To me it appears to have an initial roundover on the inside edge, followed by a stepdown into the plateau area which is then hit with a three channel bit from the back edge. If you consider it from this perspective you will be looking at acquiring multiple "standard" router bits, a router and a table and that will start to add up real fast. Weigh that option against the cost of a custom milling job and see which is cheapest and most feasible for you.
posted by prostyle at 1:05 PM on April 13, 2007

Response by poster: Just to update this thread, both for everyone and for myself: I got a message via one of my Flickr pictures of the door molding in question saying that Mad River Woodworks might make the right molding, and sure enough they do! This place is awesome; I think I'll be doing a lot of business with them.
posted by delfuego at 9:53 AM on August 17, 2007

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