We’re renovating our 1855 house. Yesterday I built and installed a wooden door inspired by the antique four-panel doors in our house. The idea of a door is a wide, thin panel. Unfortunately trees don’t grow that way. Before the modern, hollow veneer doors, carpenters assembled doors out of boards and panels. In fact, the village of Cooksville, where we live, used to have a door and shutter factory. Luckily, the doors built 175 years ago were not complicated and are easily reproducible.
Cuts and Assembly
I bought 5/4-×-6 and 5/4-×-8 boards as well as 1/2-in-thick paneling. Five-fourths boards are about 1 1/8 in thick instead of just the 3/4 of an inch that “one-by” dimensional lumber usually is. These dimensions happen to match those of the old doors in our house.
Essentially this door is stacked together, starting with the inside. The stacking is facilitated by cutting out tongues and grooves on the boards that are the same thickness as the panels. This allows the panels to slot into the boards in order to build out the door. The boards form a grid and the panels fill in the space between the boards.
I ran the boards through the table saw, giving the long edges a 1/2-×-1/2-in groove and the ends got the inverse: a 1/2-×-1/2-in tongue. I found that laying the boards out in their eventual location helped me to see where to cut tongues and grooves as well as where to leave the edges alone (the exterior edges).
To assemble the door, I started with the bottom set of panels. I glued and slotted the four short panels into three short grooved boards. The tongues of these boards and the short ends of the panels created one long tongue that slotted into the bottom and middle boards with a bit more glue and judicious tapping with a rubber mallet.
The top set of panels was similarly assembled and slotted into the middle board and top board. Finally the two side boards that run the entire height of the door were slotted onto the tongue formed by the middle of the door.
At this point I lightly clamped the door onto a table and used ratchet straps to draw it all together. I let it sit for 24 hours before removing the straps and clamps and the rough door was done. It will need some planing, sanding, staining, and sealing but it is too cold right now to do it outside and the smells are too strong to do it in the house, so the door will be installed as is.
Although trendy, the “barn door” sliding track is a good solution for the location where we want to put this door: covering a nearly 4-ft opening. Pocket doors would have been preferable but not possible as the walls do not have space to accept them.
The track is installed above the opening using long lag screws. The door is hung on two wheels with hanging brackets. Stops are installed on the end of the track to prevent it from rolling off.
This took a little finagling to install. I had to cut through the molding to mount the track and heavy-duty drywall anchors (toggles) were used where no studs were available. Some extra washers were needed to shim out the track to match the local wall topography, but in all, we’re happy with this outcome.