Building Plantation Shutters

Solutions for building custom shutters, including hardware choices. February 12, 2009

I am a custom cabinet maker who has recently been asked to build three sets of white oak plantation shutters. I have no experience building these, and would like any advice out there. The client wants me to custom build, not outsource, and is willing to pay for this. Questions I have: are there special techniques for stapling louvers to adjustment rod? How are you spacing holes in stiles for louver pins? Any preference on louver pins? What is a good source for shutter hardware? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor K:
Many years ago I saw a show of This Old House where they visited a shutter shop. One of the few things I still remember from that is the unique modification to the stapler they had. They must have had the air pressure set just right for that stapler so not to sink the staples and to leave them stand proud about 1/8" or 3/16" from being flush. The cool part is that it looked as if they had a groove milled into the tip of the stapler in order to always cause it to properly straddle the staple in the edge of the louver that their stapling over. If you did this you would obviously need to buy some replacement parts so be sure to work that into the cost of the job.

Also, I believe they had a stapler built as a stationary tool on a table where they indexed a louver to drive the staple into its edge in a consistent manor. If I were building these, I would mill a round tenon on the ends of each louver with my Multi-Router. It makes quick work of it and very accurate. The machine is designed to receive a template fixture for producing the tenon consistently.

From contributor Z:
I too watched that show and Norm's. I have never had the need nor the urge to build shutters, however even I am thinking about the 12 deal just to toss on a shelf for that what if day.

From contributor J:
Yep, I knew there were some closet New Yankee Workshop fans out there besides me. I have to admit that show had a lot to do with my getting hooked on woodworking and ultimately making my living at it. Let us know how you make out with those shutters.

From contributor M:
I have been building shutters for 18 years, both on a large and small shop level. You will need a series of jigs to accomplish most of the difficult functions. The inline drilling of the stiles will hardest to accomplish without the proper equipment.

In regards to earlier posts, you may want to consider what louver size you will be using, this is usually the first question we ask a customer. Most common are 1 3/4", 2 1/2" and 3 1/2". The simplest and easiest to make on a small scale would be the 2 1/2", and this is also the most popular choice. If you do choose the 2 1/2" , all stile drilling for louver pins will done on a 2" center. Stile drilling by a drill press is very unforgiving, we use a Ritter drill that can drill 13 holes and has a good index system for repetition. If possible, you may want to have someone do this for you. Also the staples would be shot in the tiltrod on 2" centers. Use a 1/4" crown staple x 3/4" for this. (The staple should be 1/4" above the wood surface.) We then attach the tiltrod to the louvers using a 1/4" x 5/8" crown staple. Again, the staple should be 1/4" above the wood surface.

From contributor M:
A little more about shooting staples: to make the tiltrod, we set the stapler into a raised, fixed position jig so that it allows the staple to remain exposed above the wood surface by 1/4". We actually filed the strike in our stapler so that it could be positioned closer to the woodwork. It just works better that way. We also made a trough or guide that is perpendicular to the stapler so that the staple will be centered into the back of the tiltrod.

Originally we marked the back of the tiltrod with the proper spacing where we wanted the staples. This is best for just a few tiltrods. We later progressed to a story pole for marking tiltrods - made one each for 1 1/2" centers, 2" and 3" centers. Now that we shoot tiltrods in larger numbers, we have a index system in use so we no longer even mark the staple locations.