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Castle’s Exterior Door

Listing #3144   Listed on: 02/01/2011

Company Name: Hudson Cabinetmaking, Inc.

Contact Name:   Russell Hudson

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Our client’s home was built on a steep incline back in 1943. The foundation was stone and mortar, 19 “thick. There were a pair of carriage doors that were so old and racked out of square that they literally had to be lifted by the handle before they could be swung open or closed. They asked us about the best way to fix this exterior entrance to their basement.
The stone work was so substantial (even the windows sat 10” back from the walls face) that I felt the need for a rather old and heavy looking doorway. I envisioned one that might have adorned the entrance to a small castle. I quickly sketched a multi-paneled, ancient looking door with an arched glass opening in the top two panels. I also drew a paneled surround as the opening to be covered was wide and they no longer wished for double doors.
They liked the sketch, our estimate and the turn around time so we got to work. I elected to use 2’ thick Honduras mahogany. This was a good wood choice for this application as mahogany has a low coefficient of expansion (does not expand and contract very much with temperature and moisture changes). As well, the mahogany is beautiful and looked right in a natural finish. No paint. Not even any stain. We always try to use a specie of wood that is as close in color to the desired end result as possible. Stain can obscure, to some extent, the wood’s grain. Wood whose patina has darkened with age always looks far superior to new wood that has been stained to look older. Sometimes the answer is to build with really old reclaimed lumber.
Anyway, the first picture shows all the machined parts labeled and laid out on a work surface.
By doing this, I can check the overall measurements, check to see if we like the way it looks and establish / mark the positions of dowels or (in this case) bisquits used for joining. Because of the doors’s exterior exposure, I used a two-part resorcinol glue. The kind boat makers use.
Our client purchased some beautiful, well-made hardware in the Arts and Crafts style.
When completed, this doorway was perfectly suited for the old stone wall………

Russell Hudson /

View Larger, Higher Quality Image
laid out / dry fit

View Larger, Higher Quality Image
When finished, the door seems perfectly suited for the old stone walls

Viewer Comments:

Posted By: Sam Murdoch     [02/12/2011]
Very nicely done. Style of the door is very successful. I like the hand hewn timber frame & I appreciate your restraint with the side panels. I think lots of folks would have added details - the utter simplicity greatly enhances the door & its surround. Great job!

Posted By: Roger     [02/12/2011]
tee-toe-tally awesome! Oh yes

Posted By: Greg     [02/13/2011]
I am constantly amazed and inspired by true craftsmen. WELL DONE.

Posted By: kevin jenness     [02/22/2011]
Nice looking door. Did you really use biscuits as the primary joinery?

Posted By: Russell Hudson     [02/22/2011]
Yes, believe it or not. In each joint there are three biscuits, stacked 1/2" apart (over/under) and there are 18 joints to the door. I already raised hell on another woodworking forum where the thread had 30 replies of people arguing back and forth about the relative merits. I use mortise and tenon so seldom that next time I'll probably go with a Festool 'domino' machine. Now I can hardly wait to have some more guys on WW beat the crap out of me. Meanwhile, the door ain't goin' nowhere, But YES, it should be mortise and tenon.

Posted By: Matt     [02/23/2011]
There is more than one way to skin a cat. After 7 years and no problems, speaks for itself. Nice door!!!

Posted By: richard     [02/25/2011]
Russel I think you hit it on this one. Great looking door. You can tell a good artist when you see one. Have you ever tried 3/4" plywood for your mortise and tenon? If you try it you will never do it any other way. You are a true wood doctor.

Posted By: richard     [02/26/2011]
I just wanted to know if you always use solid wood to build your doors? Have you ever had a problem with warping building like that? Try laminating the inside core of the door - you will have no more problems with warping.

Posted By: Russell Hudson     [02/27/2011]
1) Do you mean cutting corresponding mortises in two faces and using a 'rectangle' of ply as the tenon that bridges both pieces? Or do you mean use the ply as a 'spline' that runs the full length
And... 2) I can see how your suggestion would help maintain the true plane of a door. In my case, I used absolutely 'select' mahogany. (I was afraid not to) The grain was all straight and parallel, all cuts made dead square. Door was sealed many times over. I just saw the door Friday night. It sits perfectly against the door stop (all the way around) as it did when installed seven years ago. I like your suggestion though. Think I'll try the laminated approach some time. It's like 'making' plywood. GOTTA be the best thing you can do to keep a large face 'flat'.

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