Finishing Split-Jamb Doors in the Shop

Advice on handling and stacking unwieldy split-jamb doors while finishing before installation. July 18, 2013

We've been asked if we can finish a bunch of pre-hung doors. Breakdown, prep, stain, and finish (WB lacquer). I have done these in the past, and the jambs are just a total pain in the butt. These are split jambs on top of that, so we're looking at pain in the butt x2. The assembled jambs are just unwieldy to handle, have to be finished on both edges, which makes laying them down problematic, and so on.

Has anyone come up with decent techniques in the shop for finishing assembled jambs? We have a drying rack for the slabs where we can shoot an entire door, all sides and ends, and hang a dozen at a time to dry, but the jambs are a complete nightmare.

I have been considering hanging them upside down from the shipping spreader on the bottom and adding a spreader to the extensions (split) and hanging them the same way, which would allow for full coat, then moving them for drying. But carrying a wet jamb from the spreader 7' off the ground seems problematic as well.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor M:
I don't spray door and trim packs, but when I do the occasional six panel door, this is what I do for the jamb.

I just fasten a piece of 1/4" plywood to the top of the jamb that overhangs the front and back by about an inch. Then I can lean it up against a wall and spray it standing up. I spray one side, grab it by the sides, spin it around, and spray the other side. You can carry them and move them around wet if you need to this way. Just lay some paper or clean cardboard on the floor when you spray them, so you don't kick up dust. This method works very well for me.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. A good option. Could just do that on both the splits and the main jamb. In the spiral of overthinking, I flaked on carrying them around by the outer faces. To make any time I would have to be able to finish a dozen or so at a go, so I would have to be able to move/stack them.

From contributor R:
We screw a piece of plywood, say 6" x 24-30", at the bottom of the jamb so they stand up. We also have made up some plywood L's to screw onto each upper corner - moving cheap jambs around tends to break them, and this helps. We can stand two up in the booth at once, so one guy is spraying while another is carrying wet out and dry in. They stack pretty tightly and it goes pretty well - other than they still are, shall we say, inconvenient.

From contributor J:
Only thing I'll add is that I keep a couple of milk crates in the booth for spraying jambs. I spray the top part of the jamb first, then grab the sides (which have no finish yet) and lift it onto the crates so I'm not spraying the bottoms at floor level.

From contributor C:
Why would someone take the time to pre-finish split jamb doors? You're going to have to shoot it up with a nail gun on site and color match the nail holes. That's after you have handled it gently enough to survive the trip from your shop to the job and then install. They could be finished just as good on site with the proper setup.

From contributor K:
What setup would you use to spray and create a relative dust free environment on site? I'm afraid setting up a spray operation for every job at every door location would be cost restrictive for you, the contractor and the customer, and just a pain in the butt.

From contributor Z:
That's the world I come from. All site finished trim. Our routine was to get trim in just after primer, and all unfinished. This allows for sanding-in as necessary (which is always necessary in my opinion). Then stain which doesn't have to be cut in because you can get it up on the unfinished wall. Finish coats are the same - careful masking or using shields is only minimal because of the unfinished walls.

The move here is to less worry about super tight and everything prefinished. For instance, baseboard is prefinished and set on top of finished floors like tile, with no attention paid to the unsightly gaps between the tile and the base. Similarly, rarely is attention paid to gaps between base and case and the drywall due to thick or hollow corners, heavy joints, etc. We always caulk these issues prior to paint if they can't be tight.

Anyway, not the case anymore. It's nail, color putty, and go. The trim is going up over finished walls which is another no-no in my opinion, because there will inevitably be damage that will have to be touched up, and touchups are for hacks, in my opinion. Far better to leave a final coat to the end and do any needed repairs and plow on one flawless final coat and walk away. But this means cutting around everything, and touchups are cheaper.

From contributor G:
I hear you on the lack of quality install. We do a lot of install ourselves - about a 50-50 split between building custom cabinets in the shop and the other onsite installing trim and stairs. We have a big church coming up in a month or so that's all prefinished stain grade red oak baseboards, crown, chair rail window and door casing. I'll still cope everything and glue joints and color match the putty for the nail holes. But we've done houses in the past that were all stain grade and we handled the install and the painters stained and poly after, and it all looks good.