This is a supplemental article to accompany my Youtube video “Making a traditional framed ledge and brace door in Oak” and will hopefully answer some questions and fill in information gaps in the video.
A regular customer of my HiFi related woodwork asked me to make this door for his new outbuilding which originally would be home for an ever increasing collection of expensive race bicycles, but gradually evolved into a quite nicely fitted out office and occasional guest room with a nice modern wood burner, small kitchenette and wet room, it is amazing what you can fit into a single garage size building with an open plan!
I have lost count of the youtube comments saying what a beautiful door to put on a crappy cinder-block garage or shed! The door was fitted somewhat prematurely and the video climaxes with the door fitted while the rest of the building is still under construction. The cinder block wall will eventually be rendered and I am sure will compliment the nice Oak door quite nicely when complete.
Talking about which tools to use on a project like this is honestly a little facile. A hundred and fifty years ago this door would have been made entirely by hand at a traditional workbench and only the raw lumber might have been cut to size at the mill, while fifty years later it might have been planed and thickness-ed on a planing machine and the battens tongued and grooved on a rudimentary spindle moulder in a “modern for the day” workshop.
My workshop really isn’t geared up to do this kind of job regularly so it was done in a kind of ‘get the job done with what I have got’ attitude. While I have a spindle moulder I don’t have a special tongue and groove cutter set and wasn’t going to buy one just for one door! So I stacked some slitting saw blades to cut the grooves in the battens and set up an adjustable groove cutter with a spacer between the two parts for the tongue.
If you do not have the luxury of a spindle moulder then a router will easily do the job; a 4mm biscuit cutter could cut the grooves and a standard straight cutter run along both faces would cut the tongue. If you want to go full old school then a router plane could be used.
The only other major machining I did was the tenons which were cut using a stacked dado set, this could also be done in any number of other ways; the most obvious of which are on the band saw or by hand with a good old fashioned tenon saw (the clue is in the name!) an then cleaned up with a chisel or shoulder plane where necessary.
And the mortises; My mortising machine is one of the cheapest available and although it struggles through the Oak a little it does the job well and saves quite a lot of time. These could of course be chiselled out entirely by hand, or a template could be made for routing out the bulk of the material leaving rounded corners to be cleaned up with a chisel. I used this method on my Victorian front door because the stiles were 140mm wide and beyond the capacity of the mortiser.
I did chisel out the haunches simply to avoid setting up the depth stop on the cheapo mortiser and because I knew I could quickly do a neater job of it anyway. The bottoms of a blind mortise cut with a mortiser can be quite messy, especially when the bit is set with too much stick out to avoid it squealing against the chisel on account of the severe run out!
I actually happened to have just enough European Oak on my rack for this door, which I had bought in as a back up plan should I run out of pitch pine for my Victorian front door, but as luck would have it I didn’t need it. European Oak is the most durable (resistant to decay when exposed to the outside elements) of the readily available oaks with American white Oak coming in second. Avoid red Oak completely for exterior doors as it is not at all durable.
I started with 12 foot lengths of 1″ sawn lumber for the battens but only around 7 foot lengths were needed, that is just what i happened to have. and the stiles were cut from a single 7″ wide x 2.5″ thick board. The braces are the only parts I bought in especially and one 8 foot length was enough. Ultimately it was cut and planed according to the following cutting list for a standard 838mm x 1981mm door (6’6″ x 2’9″)-
- Length Width and Thickness-
- Stiles- 1981mm x 75mm x 44mm
- Top rail- 838mm x 75mm x 44mm
- ledgers top and bottom x2- 838mm x 180mm x 44mm
- Braces x2- 1100mm x 155mm x 29mm intentionally left long
- Battens x6- 2000mm x 118mmx 15mm intentionally left long
Update to add hardware used;
The multipoint lock was from ebay and is- Winkhaus Cobra STV 2 Hook Key Wind 20mm Faceplate
The lock cylinder was from homesecureshop.co.uk and is- Avocet ABS High Security Euro Cylinder – Anti Snap Lock – TS007 3 Star
· Colour: Brass, Size (INT) – (EXT): 35mm – 35mm
Hinges were Brass Double Ball Bearing Hinges (pair) Size=101 x 76
and handle is uPVC Door Handle Series 140 (Select Type=Right Handed;Select Size & Finish=Polished Brass 92mm Centre
Hinges and handle were from worldofbrass.co.uk
Strictly speaking you really should not need to glue any part of this door, wedging the tenons in the fashion shown in the video should be more than enough to hold the joints together and even negate the use of clamps in the assembly. That said it is a good idea to glue at least the plugs that cover over the screws as they can can shrink and fall out, this is at least one reason not to need to revisit a job!
IF you do glue it then it makes sense to use something water proof, I used polyurethane adhesive to glue the door just for belt and braces, and probably just force of habit, I admit!
Termination of the braces
I see so many braced doors (and gates for that matter) where the braces are taken all the way to the corner where the ledge meets the stile, and are sometimes cut off to sit squarely at the stile. What happens when the weight of the door is pressing down on the braces? the braces will naturally push against the stile and eventually might push it off its shoulder!
Cutting the braces into the ledges with a short 90 degree cut will prevent this form happening. The 90 degree cut locks it in place and prevents it from moving out toward the stile. Some joiners might also use an oblique tenon as a belt and braces approach.
“Thousands of screws”
Im sure one of my wonderful youtube viewers asked; “why did you ruin it with thousands of screws” but cant find the comment, maybe I deleted it! and one other definitely said “why not just throw as many screws at it as possible” and “a nice set of hidden screws would be better”. Im sure they weren’t watching the same video because the screws ARE hidden!
Traditionally the battens would have been fixed with huge square cut nails and cleated over on the inside, very strong but not very attractive. The iron nails would have rusted and stained the oak if it wasn’t painted. It isn’t exactly traditional to use stainless steel screws but they will last forever and wont cause rust stains should moisture get to them. It also leaves a very clean look from the outside even with a clear varnish, and on the inside the screw holes are countersunk and plugged for a pretty neat finish. The screw holes are drilled over-size to allow some movement.
Battens expansion gap and moisture content
All timbers will naturally expand and contract with changes in moisture levels, the extent to which is dictated by exposure to the elements, humidity and temperature. The expansion/contraction occurs mostly across the width of the grain, or in this case across the entire with of the door since it has battens stacked next to each other, those battens can easily expand by 2-3 millimetres per batten, depending on initial moisture content.
Moisture content for an exposed door should be at least 20%. I allowed a 2.5mm joint on each batten giving a total of 17.5mm of expansion (seven joints, including against the stiles). If your moisture content is lower than 20% then allow more, likewise if the door is particularly exposed then allow more still. I cut spacers from some Oak off-cuts to evenly space the battens then clamped in place while screwing from the other side.
On this particular job it was left to the customer to finish the door and Rustins water based varnish was used. Personally I would use linseed oil which will allow the Oak to age naturally while giving some protection from direct rain. It is Oak though which will do perfectly fine without any finish, although it will very quickly start to look quite rustic!
I have included a Sketchup model for download below, this is drawn after the fact to represent how it was made in the video. I have excluded the lock and handle cut outs since these are variable depending on hardware. All the different parts are made as select-able components so you can just hide the parts you don’t want to see and pick measurement where necessary, then un-hide to see the other parts again.