Building my Exterior Door

Though I endeavoured this year to post weekly, it is typically only once I have come out of a rather sullen mood, that I find the desire to tap into a bit of reflective writing. I am sure this is no individual quirk. It only makes sense if you consider the tortured artist. And though I would never go so far to claim my writings as equally glorious, significant or moving as the works of the masters, it is typically when I produce my best work. Well, perhaps not. But something gets written, so surely I get bonus points for that. Truth be told, when I am smashing goals, or conquering dovetails, I simply am having too much fun to sit down and think. (Not that I have EVER ‘conquered’ a dovetail, and ‘fun’ may be pushing it.)

Having opened this post in such a fashion, I too would suspect that we are about to dig deep into the who, why and how of yesterday’s foul mood but despair not, this is not a pity post, but rather, a celebration of a very fruitful last fortnight! In fact, the only reason I think I fell into a black mood yesterday was that I was simply fatigued from all the success. (Such a sweet, modest gal.) A window was glazed and the couch was sanded and stained, but today I am going to focus on my tolerably decent exterior door! So my dear readers, please find below a blow by blow, minute by minute recounting of how I built, and nearly finished my first door ever.

1. Routing the Remaining Accoya

IMPORTANT: The most critical aspect when thicknessing timber with a router is to set up a flat surface. Reason being is that if your workbench is not straight, then the wood you sit on top of it won’t be either. I faced this problem on my second batch of timber. I only have access to a pretty dodgy, beat up table which I set up on a concrete floor that is cracked and consequently far from flat. I can get around this by propping up the table legs with thin squares of cardboard until the table is square along each edge. I then use steel rails to create a flat surface to run my router jig along. [This jig is based on the ones you see on Google Images if you search ‘thicknessing router jig’.] Now, this would all work fine if you had a decent table, however, what I failed to take note of is that the table surface dips in the centre, out to one of the edges. Therefore when I sat the timber on this surface, it wasn’t square with the jig, so the timber cut on a slight angle, one side thicker than the other. I ended up sandwiching a piece of ply between two steel lengths, as shown below. This worked so much better and was a lot less time consuming to set up.

My router jig: Not sure how I achieved such flattering mood lighting.
I had one length of timber with a dramatic bow, (which is likely why it was the last neglected piece left at the timber yard.) I attempted to straighten the piece with hot water, towels and weight but regrettably it didn't work in the slighest. By cutting this piece into smaller pieces of the door, I could router it down without losing too much timber.

2. Cut timber to size

As mentioned in my previous post, this design in based on the Fouch Families Exterior Door. I ended up reducing the width of my door to 720mm, as this ensured it wouldn’t interfere with the Murphy bed. Here are the key pieces of the door cut to size roughly to size. Well obviously except those top pieces..

I fixed down small offcuts at each end of the smaller pieces to keep the lengths in place whilst routering.

3. Cutting the Dado's with the Table Saw

The design of the door is captured in the below illustration- the pink represents dados, the yellow, the tenons. In theory each piece fits into each other so I decided that the table saw would be my best bet at accuracy. (I used coloured chalk to mark each piece to ensure I wouldn’t mix them up- VERY IMPORTANT.)

The thickness of the door is 35mm and the dado’s should be approximately one third of this thickness. For my door I set the blade to leave 12mm for the shoulders, and 11mm for the mortises. I cut the 12mm shoulders of each piece first, then dialled the fence in to cut out the excess. For the short edges, I used my mortise and tenon jig to support the longer pieces (ie; middle rail).

Mortise and Tenon jig that I used for the windows.

You may notice that the dado’s don’t extend the entire length of the stiles. This is for the glass pane. To avoid cutting this section I marked it out on the timber, and made a mark on the table saw at the start of the blade. When the two marks met up, I would stop the saw. This left incomplete chanels but they were easy enough to chisel out. We then fed the timber in from the top end and repeated the process.

4. Cutting the Tenons

Lucky for me, Dad has been on Long Service Leave, so he could help me out with the cutting of the more awkward lengths. (He has his own blog, which has nothing to do with Tiny Houses, unless you mean of the scale 1:72.)

5. Test Fit

The test fit was pretty successful, but I admit there was a fair amount of hand fitting involved. I made the mistake of cutting the tenon cheeks 2mm too long and a tad fat, so spent too much time trimming these down with hand saw and plane. It is one thing to be on the safe side, but really it pays to have confidence in your measurements and cut to the right size. Though not pictured here, the door is now pretty much ready for glue up, but I will keep that for another post. All in all, I have so far truly enjoyed building this door. It has been incredibly satisfying and I am really rather proud. I would love to have the chance to build another at some point. Now that I have done it once, I know just how much better the next one would be!

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