Story of the Door

In the mid 19th century, the forests from southern Virginia to the Florida Panhandle and as far west as Texas were filled with Long Leaf Yellow Pine. The wood from these trees is strong and durable so it was harvested to reconstruct the south after the Civil War. Much of the wood went into the flooring of the mills that sprang up in abundance throughout the south. But Long Leaf Yellow Pine is a slow grower, so after it was harvested, Lob Lolly Pine was planted in its place to the point where Long Leaf Yellow Pine is almost nowhere to be found...except in the flooring of all of the mills that have since closed. 

One such mill is Chronicle Mills on Catawba Street in Belmont which is currently owned by members of our parish, John and Jennifer Church. They are also the proprietors of Chronicle Millworks which uses the reclaimed wood to build beautiful furniture, featured in local restaurants as well as the Belmont Public Library. 

During the planning phases for the new church, John proposed building the doors of the new church out of this wood, not only for its beauty but also to retain the historical aspect of our community. Fr. Frank readily agreed with this and the work began. 

The first step was to select the boards to be used. Most of the boards are 10 to 12 feet long by 9 inches wide and 4.5 inches thick. Having been on the floor of the mill for over 100 years, the boards are dirty, stained and loaded with nails, some as long as 7 inches! Once the nails are extracted, the process begins to cut, plane and join the boards down to size to create a five board door that measures 8 feet by 3 feet by 2.75 inches and weighs about 225 pounds. 

Planing the doors is an amazing process as all of the grit and grime gets removed after 2 or 3 passes and the beauty of the wood is visible. Once each board is properly sized, they are joined together with glue and elliptical dowels called dominoes which are made out of beech, a particularly dense wood which strengthens the joints between each board. Steel is then added to the top and bottom of the door to reinforce them. 

After the door is assembled, the final sanding and finishing is done. All of the nail holes are filled with epoxy. Of particular interest are the four circular holes which can be seen on the middle board. These holes are where the knitting machines were screwed into the floor. The door was finished with a clear seal so as not to take away from the natural beauty of the wood which gets its yellow and orange tints from our red clay, one of the only benefits of the clay!!!

Now that the first door has been completed, only 5 more to go! But no worries, they will be done in plenty of time and will adorn our new church for many years to come.

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