Super snaps to reader TappanTrailerTami for prompting today’s story by sending me this find: A company in California that still manufacturers 1950s style “mill finish screen doors.” This style of door was ubiquitous throughout mid century America.
I guess that mill finish screen doors were … cheap, cheerful — and effective. Back in the day, folks didn’t have air conditioning, so the doors at the front and back of the house were kept open to promote cross-breezes. The decorative scrolls kept the kids from busting the screen along the bottom half.
We olden folk remember, too, that you could get custom letters to insert into a particular design of scroll panel. I see these old capital letters sometimes on ebay or etsy or at estate sales — salvaged from the door when it was finally tossed out.
Hey: I love mill finish screen doors — and have two vintage one salvaged from estate sales right now, in my basement hoard (ugh) just waiting for the right opportunity. I also have a “K” insert I picked up somewhere. My basement is a museum, I am not kidding you, oh yes, it is.
What is “mill finish”?
What is ‘mill finish’ exactly. I quick-like found this info on finishing.com, “the home page of the finishing industry”:
“Mill Finish” is the natural appearance of the aluminum as it comes from the rolling mill (Alcoa, Reynolds, Kaiser, or Alcan) or the extrusion mill. It is “as is” with no external mechanical or chemical finishing…
Where to buy a mill finish screen doors:
Drum roll, please…
(NOTE: as of February 2016 we hear that Precision Screen has discontinued their Expando mill finish screen.) The vintage style mill finish screen door that Tami found is called the Expando. It’s available in three widths — manufactured by Precision Screen and Security Products, which is based in Redlands, California. Note, though, that Precision is a manufacturer, you need to email them — use this form — and they promise to email you back with where you can actually buy it. You can find this door in Precision’s catalog PDF. There are some others that are “close”, but I would say: None quite right, certainly not in comparison to the Expando.
Interestingly — but not surprisingly — this company got its start in California during the post World War II housing boom. Their history page says:
Superior’s history is one of continual growth and expansion. In 1954 Paul and Angeline Oddo began a business called A-1 Louvre Window Company, located on Western Avenue in Los Angeles. They sold louvre windows to both retail and wholesale customers. Requests for window screens and components led to the expansion of A-1 to include these in their sales and distribution. Due to the constant growth A-1 was experiencing, they moved to a larger location in Los Angeles to accommodate the business.
A-1 continued to experience a need for expansion which lead to their third move in 1961. This location was at 60th and Broadway in Los Angeles, which almost tripled their size. It was here that A-1 began it’s production of sliding windows and a new rollforming division called Precision Rollforming saw it’s start.
Then in 1963 Precision Rollforming moved to Gardena to house the developing line of rollformers, making it one of the largest rollforming plants in Southern California. A-1 Louvre began the construction of yet another building directly behind Precision to accommodate an upsurge in business. In 1966 A-1 moved to Gardena, California.
Sales of sliding windows continued to increase, while the volume of louvre windows declined, resulting in the need for a name change. They were now known as A-1 Aluminum Products. 1971 began a series of changes for A-1 Aluminum. Paul and his son David decided to split off the new screen door department. This new company was developed under the name of Superior Aluminum Products by David Oddo…
[the history continues to the present]
Despite our best efforts, most every story we do here turns out to want to be epic. (Right, Kate?) So I went googling just to be sure there weren’t other mill finish screen doors out there, and I immediately came across this story by Uncle Atom. He found mill finish screen doors by Croft readily available… although he says the model he purchased from a local store was not nearly as heavy duty at the screen doors from back in the 1950s and 1960s. I don’t know about the heftiness of the Expando.
The Croft catalogs also are online (the 575 door to the right is in the Continental series). Looks like there are a number of models, of varying gauge and designs — although the illustrations are difficult to judge. For example, the 575 design on the right might be promising — if that’s an attached decorative scroll like the one we see on the Expando.
Third source, yes, this one will not be easy:
Measure your door opening and note which way each screen door would need to swing. Put this info in your smart phone. Start looking at estate sales and at ReStores and in dumpsters and the like. The Retro Decorating Gods may smile upon you and deliver you just what you “need” just when you “need” it.
I suspect there may be more suppliers. But, my eyes ’bout popped out of my head researching this one. Let me know — in the Comments — if you know of more companies who make these and I will add them to the list! Again, though: Must be the classic mill finish!