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Door Manufacturing with ODL Door Glass & a Sense of Retro at IBS


Drawing on his background as both a Door Technician and, well, as an Actor, Barry provides two-part coverage from the booth of ODL at the International Builders’ Show.

For Door Glass and their connection to Mid Century aesthetic and further pop culture, immediately below. For an intimate look inside Door Manufacturing jump to part one of this article here, ODL Door Glass at IBS.

We have covered Door Lite Kits previously as an affordable option to an Exterior Door Replacement. For much more on Exterior Doors, please see our category there.

See more from our coverage of Design & Construction Week, here.


Spotlights on ODL (Ottawa Door Lights)

Roger Finch and I walk over to an impressive and fun display of doors which make up one side of the ODL booth at the International Builders’ Show (IBS 2014) in Las Vegas. Roger is a marketing manger at ODL. As he speaks, you can hear how his job overlaps with research and development.

He says: “This is our Spotlights Program. A lot of consumers and homeowners today are downsizing and moving from the suburbs back to the inner city. One of the things that they are doing is – taking older homes on the market today, and they are rehabbing them back to their original architecture. Spotlights is our program for the architectural enthusiast.”

Door Lights Yield a Touch of Retro

He continues, “If you look at the different light arrangements, you can see that we have a door here that looks like the 1950’s and 60’s ‘Brady Bunch Home.’ We offer three different size light panels, either a 12 by 12 inch, a 7 1/2 by 7 1/2 inch or a 22 by 3 1/2 inch, and four different types of glass – you have clear, frosted, cubed or what we call ‘chain link,’ which is more of a modern type approach.”

* Brady Bunch

Looking at this array of doors, it is slightly difficult to tell just which “modern” Roger is talking about. Is it the 1960’s idea of modern or is it a more modern, modern? One thing is for certain, the first time I saw this four door display, I immediately thought Brady Bunch. Oddly, when I searched the BB house online I found no windows at all in their front door. But, Roger was absolutely right nonetheless, these doors do look as though they belong in the Brady home.

Famous Brady interior via the internet

* Mad Men

Or, say, the Draper apartment from Mad Men

Draper apartment via the internet

These Spotlight series door lights have a wonderful quality about them. It is an attention to detail that the designers/decorators of the sets from Mad Men may have more to do with driving than any honest-to-goodness sixties TV show. Perhaps due to the look of our moving media from the 1920’s through 1950’s, we Americans created a nostalgia (aka Retro) industry more about visual representation, than about the sensibilities behind the creation and use of an object.

Mid Century Modern and Enduring Pop Images

In a way, it makes sense – the enduring pop images from those four decades grew directly out of theater and live performance where sets are representational. Silent film had an entirely different personality than talkies.

Black and white demanded a different level of detail than did color. When we watch ourselves, in that context, things seem less real then they must have been. Now it is 2014, and the “born in the sixties” kids have high-definition to contend with when telling their stories. I think this how we end up with shows like “Mad Men” and “The Americans” and a sense of the past, which is palpable. Right down to our entry doors….

* The Spotlights Collection

As if Roger moved on without me: “The nice thing about our doors is the customization aspect of them. You can take any size door lights and mix and match any that you would like. Another thing that we have done is we have come out with a low profile, what we call a ‘modern frame’ (there is that word again), which looks a lot like the wood frame you would have seen in the older homes.”

The customization idea flew right by me and I ask Roger, “Are these the only four models?”

Roger gently recapitulated, “We are showing the four most popular configurations, as we have done our consumer research out in the marketplace, but…

…the real benefit is, again, that customization, where I can say I like this configuration, but…

…I want to put a cube here, and I want to put a cube here, to give me that customized look I want inside my own home.”

Thank so Roger Finch for allowing me to record this interview.

The Spotlight series is visually striking in its own right, but, for me, it strikes a larger chord as well. A chord that seemed to resound throughout IBS this year. Everywhere I looked, through color choice, style, product quality and even innovation – it seemed like “Retro” was evolving to take itself, well, seriously. No longer consigned to simply evoking a feeling, the concepts of “retro” and “nostalgia” seem to be back to the American table of ideas.

You can find out more information about the Spotlights series door glass by downloading this press release from ODL’s site, or by talking with your local Jeld-Wen dealer.


IBS SpotLight || Inside Door Manufacturing :: Quality Comes Back with ODL


When I was a younger man, I briefly worked at a surplus door and window store in Georgetown, DE. I was hired as a fixer and was assigned a back room full of broken and bruised doors to repair. For three months, I used my wits, Bondo, glue and paint to cure or cover up a myriad of problems with these doors.

The doors were mostly pre-hung exterior, from a variety of makers. Every few days new patients would arrive. Some were budget doors at the outset. Others were the top of their manufacturer’s lines. But most all had one thing in common. Looking beyond the defects which landed them on my table. Upon close inspection of the manufacturing of the door, most appeared to be poorly constructed. Staples, shot hastily from a gun were blown out, fired on top of each other or not set and jambs were often not the same size.

It could be argued that these doors were seconds from the start. After leaving this job, I continued to take a good look at each pre-hung door I found/find in front of me. More often than not their manufacture appeared rough or shoddy as well. I chocked it up to the building boom and the speed with which folks had to work in the factories. For years, I have had a very low opinion of the quality of pre-hung doors.

It is hard to let go of a conception like this. Once it has taken hold and I believe that I may have been blind to a renaissance of quality in pre-hung door manufacture over the last few years. Fortunately, the 2014 International Builders’ Show helped me see things in a different light.

ODL and their Evolution in Door Glass Inserts

Ottawa Door Lights (ODL) began in the 1940’s as a cabinet making shop in Zeeland Michigan. (Zeeland is in Ottawa County and this is where the company gets its name.) Over the years, ODL has become a major manufacturer, concentrating, in their own words, on “bringing a tradition of craftsmanship and innovation to a diverse line of home atmosphere enhancing products.”

Currently they supply the door manufacturer Jeld-Wen with door lights. At IBS, I met Roger Finch, who is the Distribution Channel Marketing Manager at ODL, and according to his LinkedIn profile, is “responsible for all marketing activities to the distribution channel, new product launches, product line extensions and introductions.” Roger is also a genuinely nice person and knows a lot about his company’s products. He began by teaching me about Evolve, a newly designed door light frame the company introduced in early 2013.

“The nice thing about the Evolve frame is it uses an overlapped tape so you don’t have to worry about wet caulks anymore. You don’t have to mess with oozing, squeezing caulk clean up when you put this inside the hole.” (Roger means the hole cut through the door to accept the window, aka “light”. And who in our business has not cursed when they had to clean a door glass insert of dried caulk squeeze out before painting a door? This has personally annoyed me at least two decades.)

Roger continued, “The other thing that we have done to add structural stability, to the frame itself, is we have moved the screw bosses so that they are never any further than ten inches apart.”

“What were they previously?” I asked.

“Up to twelve inches.” He replied, and added, “When they were twelve inches apart we were finding they would give a little more flex. By going to ten inches it allows the frame to seat better against the door. The other thing we have done is to move them to within an inch an a half of the corners which gives good corner sit-down.”

Deciphering Exterior Door Construction – the Screw Boss

Now, you have probably figured out that a “screw boss” is the Male and Female part on either side of the frame. This is the point through which the screw passes to hold the two sides tightly together. When these are too far apart, there is not enough holding power on the frame and midway between the bosses. The center area tends to rise in a phenomena known to the door industry as “Scalloping“.

“Depending on the frame manufacturer,” Roger said, “you can get scalloping as deep as the depth of a dime.” When the corner of a frame rises due to misplaced pressure, this is known as “Flare“.

If you had to remove the Evolve frame, you would do so the same as a caulked insert. Once out, you would remove the sealant tape and replace it with one provided free-of-charge by the manufacturer. “You can call ODL at our 800 number and we’ll send it out at no charge.” Roger said.

I looked up the Evolve frame online. I learned that integrated into the new screw-boss design is a structural rib intended to bolster the frame further.

Evolve it seems is aptly named. You can download a PDF file about the Evolve frame HERE.


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