If you missed Part I of this series, here’s a quick summary: I decided to build a door with recycled wood because the cost to have it custom-built was $600, more than I was willing to pay. Moreover, the price of knotty pine was so outrageous that I elected to construct my own door out of two-by-four-inch and two-by-six-inch salvaged spruce.
My idea was to keep the design simple by using a combination of biscuit joinery and #10 by three-inch screws to hold the rails and stiles together. Normally, mortise and tenon joints are used for this purpose.
But as I’ve become tired of labouriously chopping out mortises by hand, I stole a page from the playbook of the renowned American woodworker, Sam Maloof, who joined the legs to the seat of his elegant chairs with screws driven from the outside of the legs into the body of the seat. The screw holes were plugged and became one of Maloof’s signature motifs, even though woodworking purists reviled him for committing such a design no-no.
Interestingly, Maloof’s chair joints never came loose, a problem that still plagues those who rely only on mortise and tenon or other joinery to secure legs to chairs.
The wood I chose consisted of spruce studs leftover from an extension I added to my workshop. I found two straight two-by-sixes that I machined into four-inch wide by 1 ¼-inch thick stiles. I did the same for the three rails, which only needed to be about 17-inches long as the width of the door is 25-inches; the height, 78-inches. The machining can be accomplished on a table saw with a sharp, carbide-tipped 10-inch blade.
It’s always easier to install a lockset before a door is assembled, so after preparing my lumber, I cut the 2 1/4-inch hole for the knobs with a hole saw and drilled the 7/8-inch hole for the barrel with a spade bit on a drill press, though a half-inch hand drill will accomplish the same task (see photo).
I cut double slots for #20 biscuits with my biscuit jointer in the ends of the rails and sides of the stiles (see photo). I drilled 3/8-inch holes about one-inch deep into the end grain of the rails and plugged the holes with hardwood pegs to receive the #10 screws (see photo, a screw driven into end grain has very poor holding power and will work loose with time). I drilled pilot holes through the stiles for the screws, countersinking the holes about three-quarter-inches deep with a 3/8-inch bit to receive the hardwood plugs to cover the screw heads (see photo).
Whenever I glue up a frame, I check that all the joints fit before applying adhesive. I never join the whole frame in one go, preferring to square and glue two opposite corners first. I do this because my Grade 8 geometry teacher said that if two opposite corners are both 90 degrees, then the entire quadrilateral will be square. (I think he called this an axiom, or something.) Anyway, it’s comforting to know my door will be square before I start to glue the rest of the joints.
Attempting to square a frame when all the joints are being glued at one time can be a hair-pulling misadventure, especially if working with a fast setting adhesive. The final glue-up consists of joining the top, middle and bottom rails to each stile, using the screws to both join and clamp each joint.
The next step is to put the frame aside, allowing the adhesive a full 24-hours to completely set at room temperature. In the interim, I ripped my two-by-fours in half on the table saw. Each approximately 92-inch long board yielded two pieces of 5/8-inch thick by 3 1/2-inch wide panelling material. As the door panels are 17-inches wide, I ripped seven of the 3 1/2-inch panel boards to about 2 3/8-inches wide, allowing me to remove wane, rounded edges and loose knots. I then edge-joined the seven pieces using #0 biscuits and generic, inexpensive carpenter’s glue, in this case Home-Bond from Home Hardware.
Over the years, I have found no difference in performance between no-name white or yellow glues and highly-touted expensive adhesives such as Franklin’s Titebond I, II and III. Titebond III claims to be waterproof on the front label, but if you read the fine print on the back it says, “not for continuous immersion or below the water line.” Doesn’t that suggest it’s water resistant, not proof? If you really require a waterproof outdoor glue, then buy a two-part epoxy adhesive such as West System from Cargo East Marine in St. Boniface.
Where was I? Oh, yes. Before joining, you can shoot the edges of the panel boards with a hand plane (see photo), or use a machine to joint them. This will guarantee a good fit between the laminates, but it can also lead to tear out, especially with a soft, knotty wood like spruce.
In this case, I learned this trick from a cabinet maker named Eric who built exquisite furniture and whose motto was “the difference between an amateur and a professional is that the pro knows how to cover his tracks.” That’s not to the point, but this is: Eric did not own a jointer. He joined all of his boards by running them through a table saw equipped with a sharp, smooth-cutting carbide-tipped blade. I never saw a bad join in any of his furniture pieces, though he did know how to cover his tracks. The lesson being that sometimes you can cause yourself more grief in the form of tear out by using a plane or a machine to edge joint certain woods.
(Next time: part 3)