Shop Tour: Adams Architectural Millwork

We take a behind-the-scenes look at Adams Architectural Millwork.

Once, every part of a house was hand-made specifically for that structure, especially the windows and doors. While that hasn’t been true in residential construction for decades, it is still the modus operandi at Adams Architectural Millwork of Dubuque, Iowa. Here, all joinery is mortise-and-tenon, fastened permanently with sash pins. Sash and jamb sections are carefully matched by hand, and all windows are hand glazed. The company can replicate virtually any style of window or door.

Radius windows are a specialty.

Courtesy Adams Architectural

Remarkably—or perhaps understandably—the company has never been busier. About two years ago, the firm acquired venerable maker of wood shutters and blinds Americana/     DeVenco. As with their windows and doors, most of the shutters are made to order. “Anything that involves an opening in the house, we’ve got it covered,” says Chad Lueken, who has owned the 100-year-old company since 2008.

A few of the 10′-high radius windows that Adams Architectural constructed for a project in northern Minnesota.

Courtesy Adams Architectural

A favorite of museums and historic institutions alike, Adams not only makes wood doors and windows to exact specifications, but also builds storm doors and windows in wood. While about 50 percent of the business involves making windows and doors for high-end construction, the rest is restoration work. Some projects are both large and challenging, like a recent order for 20 large, bowed windows in St. Cloud, Minnesota. A glass supplier was able to supply the bent glass at the radius Adams requested, but the process was a tricky one—as was installing the glass in the frames. 

A workman cleaning a just-completed arched window, part of a complex arch installation.

Courtesy Adams Architectural

Still, the company does a lot of smaller jobs for individual homeowners. Every door and window is drawn in 3D and then submitted to the owner for approval. “That way, there are no surprises when it shows up on the job site.”

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The double mahogany door with arched sidelights.

Courtesy Adams Architectural

For complex windows, the team sometimes relies on storey poles, on which are marked the measured locations of top, bottom, and side rails. Some team members still use them to double-check computer-drawn measurements, even on simpler jobs. 

A craftsman working on half of a paneled entry door.

Courtesy Adams Architectural

It’s all part of the dedication to craftsmanship that characterizes the work here. “Everything we do goes back to the craftsmen,” says Chad Lueken. “Their talent brings everything together.”

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Trapezoidal replacement windows for the historic mansion Brucemore required precise computer-aided measurements.

Courtesy Adams Architectural

Owner Chad Lueken on the shop floor.

Courtesy Adams Architectural

Real divided-light muntins are precisely cut, then fitted together with dowels, glue, and pressure.

Courtesy Adams Architectural


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