One of the selling features of hydraulic doors from Schweiss Doors’ is that they can be disguised from both the inside and out. A perfect example can be found in the southern Michigan mancave hangar of Gary Huffman. An avid pilot and outdoorsman, Huffman covered the interior of his 43’-7.5” Schweiss hydraulic hangar door with white pine planks that he personally harvested and milled, and then affixed deer antlers, maps and photos to it. The door is so convincing as a wall that his visitors are often left to wonder how he gets his planes in and out.
For those more mechanically minded, the wall door has a tell. It’s the signature red Hydraulic cylinders mounted at each end. The motor that drives them is hidden within a pine box that Huffman built.
Huffman has always been an enthusiastic outdoorsman, but his passion for hunting is rivaled by his love of planes and flying. A retired science teacher, principal and educational coordinator for the local conservation district, he spends most of his time either outdoors or in the air. His personal aircraft include a 1978 Cessna 206 Stationair and a pristine rebuilt 1948 four-place Stinson 108 Voyager. He takes off and lands from an 1,800-foot north/south runway and 1,300-foot east/west crosswind runway.
Huffman has been a flight instructor for approximately 35 years and has logged almost 20,000 hours in the air, either piloting or instructing. “I’ve flown all kinds of airplanes,” he said. “I still independently instruct using a lot of different airplanes because that is something I like to do.”
Huffman has owned planes for many years, but the upgraded hangar is still relatively new. It was constructed as an extension to an old barn
“Half of it is my workshop and the other half is my clean room/mancave,” Huffman explained. “I do a lot of hunting and have a lot of mounts; it’s like a natural history museum. I designed it to be climate controlled by nature. All of the windows are on the north side so you don’t have radiant heat coming in from the south. All the walls are 12 inches thick or more with a two-inch foam insulation and it has a heavily insulated cathedral ceiling. When it’s hot or humid outside, it’s 10-15 degrees cooler inside. I use dehumidifiers to keep the relative humidity at 35 percent or lower. In the winter, I have radiant heat for the living area. Inside the hangar is a bathroom, shower, kitchen and bedroom with bunk beds for grandchildren.”
The interior walls and ceiling beam of his mancave have Michigan white pine and the interior of the hydraulic door is clad in white pine that he planted in the 1970s and harvested outside his home. He took down 60 trees and used his neighbor’s portable sawmill to cut them up.
In the old barn, he had a hangar with homemade fiberglass doors and cables where he stored one of his previous planes. Huffman says he chose a hydraulic door over a bifold for the new hangar because it gave him more the look he wanted.
The selection of a door from Schweiss was something Huffman attributes to fate.
“Schweiss had a competitor who I bought a door from. I put a down payment deposit of about $3,000 on my MasterCard during the summer,” Huffman says. “I was going on a hiking trip to Arizona. I had the hangar built and with winter coming, I kept calling and calling and they said, ‘We’re coming, we’re coming.’ I got nervous about it, did some research online and got the owner’s name and phone number. On a whim, I called him and he told me he was the owner of the company and that he was in England. He said they were getting everything together and would be out here soon.
“The bells went off, so I called MasterCard and told them I thought I was getting scammed. They said other customers were having problems with that company and I would get a total refund. I can’t speak highly enough of MasterCard.”
Huffman says he remembered Schweiss Doors and called them up.
“We talked on the phone, they were super nice to me and said they knew all about the situation with that company from calls with past customers,” Huffman says. “I told Schweiss what I needed and they talked me through the whole thing and what I had to do. I wanted to put some load on the door and they told me how to calculate the weight. I sent them the specs on the door and what else I wanted and they got me scheduled. On a crappy fall day here out comes the truck. They slapped the door up and did an unbelievably great job. I like the ease of operation. It works flawlessly, I’ve never had an issue. It’s a beautiful door.”