Port Stanley Schoolhouse

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Overview of Woodwork Restoration

When I was hired to complete the restoration of the interior woodwork on the Port Stanley Schoolhouse the building had been vacant for many years. Mice, birds and bats had been living in the building and the existing woodwork was covered in guano. The woodwork had also been gouged, scratched and damaged in many areas. Hay had been stored in the building and there was dust and dirt everywhere. Almost two thirds of the woodwork, baseboards and trim was missing, some of it taken out to be used on other buildings. All the doors were missing and only a few of the windows were still salvageable.

I took on the job with a determination to honor the integrity of historic preservation.

The very first thing that I was asked to do was to finish the windows so that they could be installed. Most of the windows had to be replaced with new custom windows built to match the originals. All the windows needed to be painted on the exterior and finished on the interior to match the rest of the wood. The few old windows had to be carefully cleaned up. There were over three hundred glass panes which had to be masked on both sides and then the wood carefully finished.

Once the windows were all installed I was able to proceed with finishing the interior woodwork and doors. The first thing I did was to slowly clean the original woodwork, scraping off mud and guano and carefully revealing the finish below. Once I determined the original stain color and finish I set out to clean all the existing woodwork and restore it to its original look.

To replace the woodwork that was missing, the historical society was able to purchase vertical grain fir trim, doors, tack boards and chalk rails which came from an old Bellingham school that was being demolished. The school was from the same era so the wood was very similar except that this wood had all been painted. There were many layers of brown paint on all the wood pieces and doors and they all had to be stripped and then stained and finished to match the original woodwork.

There was still a need for more trim pieces and baseboards since the salvaged wood from the Bellingham school was not enough to complete the project. New vertical grain fir was purchased to fill in the gaps and this wood had to be stained and finished to blend with the rest of the wood.

The entire project was challenging and fun. I am very happy with the final result and was told by the State Preservationist that I had done a superior job. I used a dye stain, then a pigmented wiping stain and finally glazing to complete the aged appearance of the wood. All the woodwork had three coats of urethane over the stain. The final result is that you can not tell the difference between the different woods.

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