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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Making a Front Door (Part I)

No, I did not make this door - its for illustration only.
Now that the holidays are over its time to finish up some projects around the house.

A major issue has been the fact that we still do not have a front door for our addition we added two years ago.  With the slowing of the economy it didn't seem prudent to buy the one we wanted given that we had the materials to make one.  Sadly of lot of other projects came up in the mean time which left us with a big, insulated, patched hole to fill.

So the goal here is a 3' 0 68 1-3/4" sold oak front door with two side lites on the side.  (Let me decode the door talk: 3' 0 means three feet (36" inches) wide, 68 means 6' 8" high, side lites are windows - not lights you turn on and off.)

The plan is to create the door first, then the frame, with a spot for the door and lights, then the lights. 

The image above shows the basic idea - though this is not our actual design.  The door itself will be made using mortise and tenon joints.

The mortises will be made in the stiles for the door.  The stiles are the long, vertical strips of wood running up and down on the left and right of the door (see picture and diagram below).  The tenon will be made in the rails which are the cross pieces.  Mortise and tenons are used because the door will be exposed on one side to the elements and subject to a certain amount of heating and cooling which will result in the wood expanding and contracting.  Things like glue-only assembly tend to fail in this sort of situation.

Below is a diagram of what components make up a door.

This is very old technology to be sure.

Our idea is to make the front door from the barn wood we have left over from our barn tear down.  So, rather than run down to the lumber yard and purchase the proper sized boards for this project we will instead make them.

Yes, you read correctly, we will be making oak boards. 

Given the thickness we need for this door we will need to start with 2 1/4" think "rough cut' oak.  Rough cut means that the boards are cut down from raw timber stock.   In our case we have saved the oak beams from the old barn - so instead of starting with logs we will start with beams.  We will plane the boards down to the finish size of 1 3/4".

(As it turns out all of this is a remarkably "green," recycling sort of a thing to do.  No logging will occur, no sawmill will be involved, etc.)

Unlike timber old barn beans have some advantages and some problems.  On the advantage side they are easy to manage - no limbs to remove, already in at least somewhat of a convenient size, already been drying out for the last 150 years or so and so forth.  On the down side there are nails.  Wood working equipment does not like metal and so all the metal has to be removed from barn beams.  Unfortunately, since the beams are part of a structure assembled in part with hammer and nails this can be a lot of work.

So, before doing any "rough cutting" we have to remove all of the nails.  To do this we need some plain old hand tools.  A mallet, chisels (and large screw drivers acting as chisels) and a one-handed adze - which I made out of something I found at Home Depot or Lowes.

The problem with the nails is that they rust off at the surface leaving only, at best, rusty remains flush with the surface.  To get these out you have to dig down around them removing wood until there is enough of the remaining nail exposed to pull out with a set of dikes or a wonder bar.

Once exposed you can usually get the nail out.

So after a hour or so of work we have our barn beam stripped of all the obvious nails.

Now at this point its important to realize that A) the beam is long enough and B) its thick enough.  Otherwise going through all this work might be a big frustrating.  So, to be sure, we can get at least one 2 1/2" cut out of this and its almost 90-some inches long - more than adequate for what we need.

To make the rough cuts we will use a chain saw.

(To be continued.  This will all take some time so there will be infrequent updates as various milestones are reached.)

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