It all starts with a sketch. This worked over and worn sketch is the original drawing for the "Crystal Cove" front entrance. I drafted a number of drawings before coming up with this. After eliminating a few elements (like the little squirrel) we agreed on the approach. I then sat back and scratched my head as to how I was actually going to build it. Initially I thought of building a standard jamb system and attaching carved moldings, similar to what I did for the "Forest Retreat" front entrance. I soon realized that in order for the design to have the power and presence I was looking for, the whole thing would need to be approached differently.
This was the main jamb structure, before any carving was done. I was able to get hold of some 4" x 4" yellow cedar, which I laminated into larger "trees". One 8" x 8" post and one 8" x 10" post became the two centre trees. I laminated up a 4" x 8" post and milled a taper in it, to create the effect of one tree leaning slightly to the right. All of these posts were mortised and tenoned to the outside frame and sill. If you look closely you can see the dados that were grooved into the side lites so that glass stops could be fitted in later.
With the jamb put together, carving began. Confidence was needed at this point, as carving was done directly on the jamb so there was no room for mistakes. Later, when carvings were added to the jamb, it was a little more relaxed. Tree trunks, roots, rocks and the ground were the initial carvings on the jamb itself.
It was odd to think that I was taking large round yellow cedar trees, milling them into beams, laminating them up and then carving them back into round trees.
After carving the jamb directly, a small carved tree and carved branches were added to the jamb. Duplicates were made of everything so that the inside and outside would be identical. (There is one small exception to this. The roots at the bottom right come past the opening on the outside. This was not possible on the inside or the door would not swing open) The outside carvings were fixed permanently to the jamb, while the inside carvings were applied moldings that could be installed after the glass thermal units were in. The inside carved moldings were also designed to be removable, in case of glass breakage.
Now it was time to focus on the door. The door was a massive 4 1/2 foot wide by 8 foot high archway. It was designed to give the feeling that the forest had grown this beautiful natural arbor through which you could walk. It was 2 1/4 inches thick and needed to hold the weight of the large glass centerpiece, so I pulled out all the stops. The base rail had haunched mortise and tenon joints with double through tenons 6 inches long, wedged from the outside. I did not want this door coming apart. When the front entrance was finished, I hung the door with four 4 inch heavy duty ball bearing hinges to carry the heavy load.
A closer look at the tenons
Both sides done
The arched top rail was a glued slip joint. This type of joint leaves the joint exposed at the top, unlike a mortise and tenon joint. It did, however, allow me to have a much larger gluing surface. It also made the joint easier to make, particularly when working with such large material. Because this was an in-swing door and there was quite a large overhang on the house, it was not going to be exposed to a lot of moisture so I was not concerned about the exposed joints. I did use a waterproof glue as an extra precaution.
Now you see door and carved jamb together
Starting to look impressive! This was an exciting stage as I began to see the drawing actually coming to life in 3D. If you follow the line drawn on the base of the door, you can see how the ground carries through from side lite to side lite, uniting all the different elements into one whole unit. As a small aside, you may have noticed a black swirl in the middle of the large tree on the left. This is a wire for the doorbell. I dadoed a small groove along the length of one of the original 4" x 4" cedar posts so that when I laminated them up to create the tree, a small buried tunnel ran the length of the tree. I then drilled a hole from the outside till it met the tunnel inside and fished the wire through to the top of the jamb.
My wife Helga, with our oldest son Markus and a friend holding the door in place to get a sense of the size of this front entrance.
Things are really cooking now. All the leaves were carved separately and then attached using various methods. The leaves in the side lites were permanently fixed to the glass stops on the side facing outside. On the inside, I built the leaves and moldings as one piece which were then applied after the thermal units were in, much like you would apply regular moldings on any door after installing a thermal unit. The big branches that we are putting on in the photo were mortised directly to the trunk and a rabbet was created in the branches to seat them both in front of the arch as well as on top of it.
Small adjustments needed to be made here and there.
(Wearing my oops-the-glue-spilled-out pants!)
This is one of my favorite photos. Tom Volquardsen, a very talented carver, worked with me on this door. We had a lot of fun on this project. He always had that white hat on. One of the nicest guys I ever worked with.
You may have noticed a vertical wood slat in the right side of the door. I milled a piece of wood to the precise thickness of the glass thermal units, and used this as a template to make sure that the applied carvings would fit exactly where they were supposed to after the thermal units were installed on site.
In she goes!
As you can see, installation was done without any of the glass in, but a clear finish was already on the jamb, door and applied carvings.
Here is the front door all by itself. This is another illustration of how the design works as a whole, since the door makes no sense on its own.
Everything is finally in place! Small pieces of chipped glass were used to create the scene of water, river and mountains. This mosaic of glass was then laminated to tempered glass panes and put together into double glazed thermal units. This made it possible to have the chipped glass in the air space of the thermal units, rather than on the outside. It gave the design texture, depth and movement, without the jagged sharp surfaces being on the outside. All the glass units were custom made by Jerry Ringrose, a glass artist from Salt Spring Island, BC. The house was still under construction when I took the photo, and you can see my reflection in the glass but I was just so excited to see it all in place!
Christmas in Whistler with "Crystal Cove" home for the holidays.