Building an exterior door - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 08-13-2017, 10:33 AM Thread Starter
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Building an exterior door

I enjoy woodworking and have done a fair amount over the years as a hobby, but my knowledge is still pretty basic. I'd like advice and opinions on my upcoming project.
I'm planning on building an exterior back door for our Arizona room (along with a wall of windows, but that's the easy part). The door needs to be very strong as it will be around 50 inches wide, and it will have double glazed low E glass instead of wood panels. So I'm thinking for timber of using white oak (reasonable price compared to mahogany) and doing a conventional mortise and tenon frame. with fairly wide boards. 6 inches for the stiles, 10 inches for the bottom rail and 6 inches for the uppers, with full through mortises and using wedges and glue. Double mortises on the bottom rail. No to floating tenons.
This will be the most complex thing I've built in many years, and I want to avoid making mistakes, so please weigh in with any suggestions and tips.
I will have to build a large table to start with, just to have a good flat surface to assemble it on (I don't have a woodworking shop just a small 10x12 shed with a small contractors saw). I'll need to make the tenons using a dado blade to cut the rails as a tenon jig with the boards held vertical is out of the question (40 inch rails on the saw would be too tall for the shed) and I'm trying to figure out how to do mortises this deep... we're talking 6 inch deep mortises! I don't have a mortiser, and was thinking I could build a sled for my router to cut the mortise, but even with the deepest spiral bit I can't see how to make them deeper than maybe 3 inches. I suppose if I was clever AND lucky I might be able to cut the mortise on both sides and meet in the middle?
Any recommendations, folks?

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post #2 of 14 Old 08-13-2017, 12:00 PM
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Without the right equipment it pretty much leaves you the 18th century method of carving out the mortises with a mallet and chisel. A router you would never be able to mortise deep enough or accurate enough. You might be able to take some of the material out and finish by hand but a router doesn't like cutting that deep at all. It would take multiple cuts and still once you got down 3" the router would be wanting to throw the bit out. It might be worth investing in a hollow punch mortising machine.
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post #3 of 14 Old 08-13-2017, 01:22 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Steve Neul View Post
Without the right equipment it pretty much leaves you the 18th century method of carving out the mortises with a mallet and chisel. A router you would never be able to mortise deep enough or accurate enough. You might be able to take some of the material out and finish by hand but a router doesn't like cutting that deep at all. It would take multiple cuts and still once you got down 3" the router would be wanting to throw the bit out. It might be worth investing in a hollow punch mortising machine.
You're right, I'm thinking maybe start the cuts with a router and finishing by hand. Investing in any machine isn't worth it to me - I don't have the space, and at 62 I'm not looking to start a woodworking career to support my tool habit :). I'm happy to make jigs - and buy a bit or two - but that's as far as I go. So I'm thinking I'll route as deeply as I can (going very slowly!) on both sides and then finishing with chisel and mallet. As the mortises will be exactly in the middle, there's no reason that I can't build a decent jig which lets me flip the stile over and repeat the cut perfectly on the other side, for each mortise (4 total if I do a double tenon on the bottom rail). My plan is to use 8/4 wood, so maybe planed down to 1 5/8 a half inch wide mortise in the middle could be easily set up with a jig and a template and a 1/2 inch fluted 3 inch long bit should get me somewhere close to finished...
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post #4 of 14 Old 08-13-2017, 01:36 PM
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Originally Posted by tucsonguy1 View Post
You're right, I'm thinking maybe start the cuts with a router and finishing by hand. Investing in any machine isn't worth it to me - I don't have the space, and at 62 I'm not looking to start a woodworking career to support my tool habit :). I'm happy to make jigs - and buy a bit or two - but that's as far as I go. So I'm thinking I'll route as deeply as I can (going very slowly!) on both sides and then finishing with chisel and mallet. As the mortises will be exactly in the middle, there's no reason that I can't build a decent jig which lets me flip the stile over and repeat the cut perfectly on the other side, for each mortise (4 total if I do a double tenon on the bottom rail). My plan is to use 8/4 wood, so maybe planed down to 1 5/8 a half inch wide mortise in the middle could be easily set up with a jig and a template and a 1/2 inch fluted 3 inch long bit should get me somewhere close to finished...
Another option you might consider is to use a tongue and groove joint. Then where the rails meet the stiles dowel them with 1/2" dowels. It would be equivalent to making a door with coping and sticking. I just use a doweling jig to drill the dowel holes. Use a brad point bit and it drills very well.

On an exterior door the standard thickness is 1 3/4". I would stick with that in case you are someone else replaces the door they don't have to replace the jamb as well.
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post #5 of 14 Old 08-13-2017, 02:13 PM
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Easy mortise and tenons...?

You can create a mortise by the "leave a gap" method, my own words. If you make your styles using 3 layers of wood you can just leave a space/gap for the tenon during the glue up. The tenon is made long to extend the full width of the style on either side of the rails. I used that approach here. Notice the groove on the far post to accept the 1/4" panel:


In this Mission headboard build:
http://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f2/mi...d-build-37911/

See how the tenons run long and out the sides of the posts?





This Mission quilt rack required a bunch of mortise and tenon joints. I made almost all of the mortises using a plunge router and a centering jig I designed. I started out using a hollow chisel mortiser, but the router was way faster:



The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)

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post #6 of 14 Old 08-13-2017, 02:16 PM Thread Starter
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Another option you might consider is to use a tongue and groove joint. Then where the rails meet the stiles dowel them with 1/2" dowels. It would be equivalent to making a door with coping and sticking. I just use a doweling jig to drill the dowel holes. Use a brad point bit and it drills very well.

On an exterior door the standard thickness is 1 3/4". I would stick with that in case you are someone else replaces the door they don't have to replace the jamb as well.
You're right about thickness; I'm just thinking that unless the wood is pretty much perfect, it may well require planing to get it flat that takes it down under 1 3/4. 8/4 is I think the thickest oak I can find here in Tucson, and that only leaves 1/16 I can take out of the board to handle warping etc. It may need more. If I can find thicker wood I'll use it...

As far as dowels etc, I had been thinking of that as an additional strengthening. Mortise through, then wedge, then dowel through with 2 or 4 dowels right through. The fact that it will be a wide door, it will be heavy, and the heavy glass panels which unlike glued wooden panels, add no strength, has me focused on doing anything I can to make the strongest possible joints...
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post #7 of 14 Old 08-13-2017, 02:41 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by woodnthings View Post
You can create a mortise by the "leave a gap" method, my own words. If you make your styles using 3 layers of wood you can just leave a space/gap for the tenon during the glue up. The tenon is made long to extend the full width of the style on either side of the rails. I used that approach here. Notice the groove on the far post to accept the 1/4" panel:

Wow! Great approach! It's very intriguing, and worth pursuing. My only thought here is that (as I mentioned before) due to the width and weight of the door (plus glass) I want to create the ultimate in strong joinery here, and I'm not sure a glued up method would be quite as strong as solid oak. Additionally, it poses issues for me in terms of setup and clamping I'm not quite sure I'm ready for...

But great idea, and I'm definitely going to mull it over!
And thanks for the pictures, definitely helped in understanding...
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post #8 of 14 Old 08-13-2017, 02:51 PM
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The glue is stronger than solid wood!

Laminations are stronger than solid wood! Tests have proven it many times over. The strength in a mortise and tenon joints comes not only from the surface area of the glue, the larger the better, BUT in the shoulders acting against the surrounding wood. In your case I would recommend this method ... Oh, that's right I already did....DUH.

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #9 of 14 Old 08-13-2017, 02:56 PM Thread Starter
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Laminations are stronger than solid wood! Tests have proven it many times over. The strength in a mortise and tenon joints comes not only from the surface area of the glue, the larger the better, BUT in the shoulders acting against the surrounding wood. In your case I would recommend this method ... Oh, that's right I already did....DUH.
I'm thinking on it. As I said, it also poses significant setup and clamping issues. Three times the complexity :)
But very interesting. I may well use this method. I would think that a 3 layer approach also offers better resistance to warpage over time. Any particular glue you would recommend?
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post #10 of 14 Old 08-13-2017, 03:18 PM
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I'm thinking on it. As I said, it also poses significant setup and clamping issues. Three times the complexity :)
But very interesting. I may well use this method. I would think that a 3 layer approach also offers better resistance to warpage over time. Any particular glue you would recommend?
It looks a lot more complex that it is, you actually have a harder time trying to cut the mortise from a solid piece. Takes a lot of clamps, but the one constant rule of woodworking is you always need more clamps.

For exterior use or anything subjected to the elements, titebond 3 is the go-to. Everything else gets titebond 2

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post #11 of 14 Old 08-13-2017, 03:29 PM Thread Starter
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It looks a lot more complex that it is, you actually have a harder time trying to cut the mortise from a solid piece. Takes a lot of clamps, but the one constant rule of woodworking is you always need more clamps.

For exterior use or anything subjected to the elements, titebond 3 is the go-to. Everything else gets titebond 2
It also probably needs about three times the milling and dimensioning. As I don't have either a planer or a thicknesser, I'll have to pay to have this done. First getting all the boards planed flat; then gluing and assembling each board into a laminate; then planing/thicknessing again to final dimensions.

Advantages: OK, I buy it will be stronger. It also means I can definitely get to 1 3/4 thickness final dimensions, while I might have to go slightly lower if I'm working entirely from 8/4 boards. Cost would be higher as 3x the number of 4/4 boards at $7/bf vs 1x the amount of 8/4 at $12/bf

And yes, no mortising needed, neat.

Interesting, very interesting!
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post #12 of 14 Old 08-13-2017, 04:45 PM
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You're right about thickness; I'm just thinking that unless the wood is pretty much perfect, it may well require planing to get it flat that takes it down under 1 3/4. 8/4 is I think the thickest oak I can find here in Tucson, and that only leaves 1/16 I can take out of the board to handle warping etc. It may need more. If I can find thicker wood I'll use it...

As far as dowels etc, I had been thinking of that as an additional strengthening. Mortise through, then wedge, then dowel through with 2 or 4 dowels right through. The fact that it will be a wide door, it will be heavy, and the heavy glass panels which unlike glued wooden panels, add no strength, has me focused on doing anything I can to make the strongest possible joints...
When I make doors I get unsurfaced lumber. 8/4 gets me full 2" thick lumber. Then I pick the straightest wood for the stiles and flatten them on a jointer before I surface them. It's a lot more work but you could flatten lumber with a router sled or hand plane.

As far as gluing panels in that is never done. Panels have to be left loose like it was a piece of glass. If they were glued in when the wood shrinks it would cause the panel to break.

The through mortise is a better system but doweled doors would last for a very long time. Not having the proper equipment I don't know if it's worth it or not. Through mortising is pretty much extinct now. You go buy a door anywhere and it will be doweled together. You're the same age I am. You will never live to see the doweled joints fail.
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post #13 of 14 Old 08-13-2017, 04:52 PM Thread Starter
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When I make doors I get unsurfaced lumber. 8/4 gets me full 2" thick lumber. Then I pick the straightest wood for the stiles and flatten them on a jointer before I surface them. It's a lot more work but you could flatten lumber with a router sled or hand plane.

As far as gluing panels in that is never done. Panels have to be left loose like it was a piece of glass. If they were glued in when the wood shrinks it would cause the panel to break.

The through mortise is a better system but doweled doors would last for a very long time. Not having the proper equipment I don't know if it's worth it or not. Through mortising is pretty much extinct now. You go buy a door anywhere and it will be doweled together. You're the same age I am. You will never live to see the doweled joints fail.
I still probably have sources to research, but here in Tucson the wood I have gotten has been from either Woodwoorkerssource.com or woodcraft. I don't see anything thicker than 8/4, which they say MAY surface to 1 3/4 (they list it as 1 13/16) but which also MAY not :).
You are right about panels, I hadn't thought about that. Then again, I've never built a door before. Always learning.
As far as mortises, yes I'm sure new doors don't have them. But as this is going to be an old school door, and probably only stained and varnished, I want to see those mortises!
I do like the idea of assembling as laminates though!
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post #14 of 14 Old 08-24-2017, 05:23 AM
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Very interesting post. I would like to add on a point about the safety and security of the door.
The recent records reveal a shocking fact that the number of break-ins through the entry and exit doors are at a very high rate in the last year compared to previous years. The burglars don't even bother whether people are inside or not. So ......Hurry up to an emergency locksmith to get the entry and exit doors secured with deadbolt locks. Ensure that your loved ones and belongings are safe at home. Since you are building a new door, I just wanted you to keep this in mind.
Here is a small guide that will help you in building an exterior door (http://www.doityourself.com/stry/how...-exterior-door)
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