Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Proof is in the Pudding

Door parts waiting for my blog post to begin.

When leaving you last, I had just wrapped up making a cut-list for my current project.  I promised to go through the cutting and building process of making doors.  I made full use of my cheat sheet, and I'm glad I did.  With just over 800 individual pieces of wood, only ONE (1) was incorrect. That is .00125%.  Those are odds anyone can hit Vegas with.

Keep on reading, and I show you a few time saving tips.

Today's post will be pretty "woodworker" heavy, (AND will be the longest post of all time) however I would encourage DIY'ers, and homeowners to have a browse as well so that you understand what is going into hand made doors.

Now for the brave that want to continue....

The single most frustrating thing when assembling doors, is finding out in the middle of the assembly stage that your parts don't line up properly or are the wrong size,  OHHHH, no wait. Hold the press.  There IS one thing more annoying than that.  It is not being able to FIND the right pieces that go together.  13-11/16" looks a lot like 11-13/16" especially late in the day.


Making neat stacks of rails and separate stacks for stiles helps keep all of your parts within reach.  In this case, choosing to keep the parts to each room separate at well added another level of organization.  It may seem silly, however parts that are 1/16" different in size can create a seriously annoying and time consuming walk of shame down the road.

Now that we have our nice OCD stacks, I set the router up for cutting the rails.  You can see the sled that holds the piece to be routed. 

With a bit of adjusting, the cutter is set at the correct height to cut the ends of the rails.

The coping sled looks more complicated than it is.
You can see the cope joint being cut.  This piece will fit into the vertical stile.

When feeding the rails through to be cut, the router has the tendency to "blow-out" a bit of the profile as the cutter exits the back of the work piece.  By putting a backer as shown below, this "blow-out" is minimized.

Backer board.

Now that we have all of the rails, stiles, panels and mullions cut, spending a bit of time prepping them for assembly is next on the docket.

As much as I hate to admit it, the last time I had these bits sharpened was right after dirt was invented.  I would be pulling your leg if I told you they were "sharp."

As a result, you can see what happens to the coped cut even if the backer board is used when routing.

Note the 'tail' like end of the freshly cut piece.

This is obviously not acceptable.  If I didn't use the backer while cutting, you wouldn't even recognize the wood.  It would be VERY ugly.  We don't want that.  So, here's the simple fix.

The chisel placed at 45 degrees.

Grab are REALLY sharp chisel or razor blade and scrap of wood.  Hold the sharp edge up to the piece at a 45 degree angle and push strait down.  Don't even THINK about 'slicing" the wood like it's a loaf of bread.  You will tear the little wood fibers apart.  Instead, think guillotine.  "Chop! Off with her head!"

The result is delicious.

Tight and clean cut.

When making large doors with glass or beveled mirrors, it's important not to forget that glass is heavy!  For each of these doors I like to add a bit more meat to the joints by using the Domino.  This provides a lot of gluing surface, and also produces a good mechanical bond as well.
Floating Domino tenons greatly increases the strength of this door.

Now that all of the pieces are cut, it is time to pull out some sand paper.   I smooth all of routed profile,  In this case the ogee.   Keep an eye peeled for blow out, burning, and and inconsistent quality to the wood.  I also like to break the edges on the grove where the panel will sit.  By wrapping a piece of 180 grit sandpaper around a block of wood, making a couple light passes in the grove makes the line splinter free.  For this particular job, it's not necessary, because the joints will be caulked and painted.  However, I still do it.  It helps me sleep at night.  Also sanding the panels before assembly is a good idea.  That's your call.  Do what feels best for you.

Now we move on to the clamping phase.  For every door glue up, I have a few things that are by my side at all times.
  1. 2 clamps for each door.  1 for pulling it square if needed across the diagonal.
  2. Dead-blow hammer.
  3. My favorite square.
  4. Tape measure.
  5. Bottle of glue, small brush and damp rag.
  6. Fully loaded ipod.
  7. A positive attitude waiting to be destroyed by doors that don't work right.
We're off to the races.  After a bit of practice and time you will be able to figured how many doors can be assembled in an hour. This helps to gauge your day (and it helps with pricing as well)  These doors have the divided light, so they take a bit longer, but the process is the same.

Divided light pieces are positioned with space blocks.

When EVERY single piece fits EXACTLY like it's supposed to, A Happy Dance is always acceptable.  No matter who's watching.  Don't be shy.

Everything went great, well except for that one lonely piece.  Which by the way, the only reason it wasn't the correct size was because I had a human/dyslexic moment and swapped 2 numbers when walking from the cut-list to the saw.  It was EXACTLY 7" too long.  :)

1 of 3 stacks of completed Doors.

That's about it.  The doors are together.  I wish we were done at this point, but NOOOO, this post isn't over yet.  Now comes the fun part.  Sanding.  And lots of it!

I run every door through a wide-belt sander.  It's amazing what a $150K machine can do.  I head over to my good friends at Creative Woodworking NW, and rent some time on the big 53" sander.  This way I know every door is flat and smooth.  Any minor inconsistencies from machining are cleaned up. It will likely take more time to transport the materials than it will to sand them.

The alternative to this is to pull out the orbital hand sander and go to town.  Do your best to keep the sander flat on the door and don't just sand the corners where the 'problem' areas are.  Sand the entire face of the door to keep the thickness consistent.

Once the doors are flat, we can feed them through the saw to trim them to size.  Every door is made slightly over-sized so that it can be trimmed and squared to fit.
    Here's another little tip that took me way to long to learn.  When trimming doors, DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT use a thin kerf blade.  You are taking so little material off that they tend drift badly, and your edge will not be square or clean.  Use that big fat 1/8" kerf blade.  Your cuts will require much less touch up sanding, and that will make your sanity last just a bit longer.

    Were back to more sanding.  This time, the edges.  I use a belt sander turned on it's side in a shop made jig.  Someday I'll get a large edge sander, however for the time being this works very well.  This is something that anybody with a belt sander can make in about 10 minutes. 

    The next step is to ease/break the edges of all corners.  On the outer parameter using a small router for consistency ideal.  If you don't have one, that's ok too.  Use a block of sandpaper and gently ease the edges a consistent amount.  At this time its also a good idea to go back check inside corners for glue and anything that could have been missed.

    Now we route for the hinges.  In this case, 2 1/2" barrel hinges.  Using a shop made gig, the face-frames and doors should perfectly align.

    Hinge routing gig with fixed stops used to eliminate measuring inaccuracies.

    Well, you did it!  You made it through a VERY long blog post and you should have at least one door to look at and admire!  Well done.  With a bit more practice, and your cheat sheet, you can design your next project around all the doors you can easily make.

    I would love to hear the thoughts of other makers out there as well.  Did I miss anything?  Is there a flaw in my system that you think could be improved?

    Share your opinion in the comments below!  Thanks for reading.


    1. Well, I am glad you have access to the sander as well as the hinge jig because I was thinking about half way through your post about all the sanding and the hinges :o can't wait to see the finished project.

    2. WOW! Thanks for making it all the way through Jeff. :)

      Indeed, the big sander is nice! I am very lucky. My first job I had in a cabinet shop was a doozy. They had a large belt sander as well, but it was broken, so I would spend weeks at a time sanding doors by hand, all the while looking across the room at the big beast just collecting dust. I don't think they are in business anymore. Shocking! :)