New Front Door

Well, just three and a half years after I started it, the new front door has been installed. Hopefully, it won’t take me that long to finish the outdoor trim. There were some design changes made prior to, and during, manufacture, from the original design. We decided to abandon the idea of an operable window. There are enough windows that open, already. I also went with matching trim around the window, sanded flush. The three ash panels ended up being three different widths. I should claim some grand asthetic reason for this. The truth is that I goofed when I cut the first panel, so I had to figure out how to salvage the situation, using the remaining materials. I do like the new look, better, though.

Catch Plate
Catch Plate

We also decided to go with reproduction, hammered, black hardware. Bethann and I shopped at Knobs and Knockers at Peddler’s Village on one of my few good days the summer before last and each, independently, selected this lockset. It is a simple two handle, thumb lever latch with a separate deadbolt. They matched the lock to our current key. We ordered 3 heavy duty, 4-1/2″, black, ball-bearing hinges. (Even the store owner’s son was admiring them, when I picked them up.) We remembered to buy a matching black, hammered wreath hook.

Door handle
Door handle

During the course of building this door, I learned how to use many new tools. I have never had access to such an array of tools, or to such a patient teacher.  John Haggerty rescued me more times than I can count on this project. I not only learned how to properly put a door together, but why they are done this way. Don’t ask me to name most of these tools. I only know most of their names “in Elvish” as John says. He interprets pretty well, though.

For this door, I joined and planed the wood myself. John has a widebelt sander where you can feed boards through it to get them to get to a uniform thickness. That was exciting and dusty and loud. After I assembled the door, I routered the inset for the lite. I used a cool corner chisel to clip the corners. I needed to clean up a little smoother and deeper than the router bit would go into the corner, so I used a two handed knobber-do to get out the remaining scraps of wood. I think it’s a rabbet router plane. John will correct me. I will post a photo. I siliconed the insulated glass, laid it in the opening. I fastened purpleheart sticks to hold it in place. Then I sanded the whole door on a big table with a 15′ long sandpaper belt over it, known as a stroke sander. I then trimmed the stiles; those are the uprights on the door. Then I sanded it with ever finer grits with a palm sander.

Wreath Hook
Wreath Hook

I started to varnish the exterior side with water-based Varathane spar varnish and a terrible thing happened. It reacted with the purpleheart. It got gummy and bled gray onto the ash panels. I grabbed a paper towel and tried to get as much of it up as I could. Then I grabbed rags. John grabbed shellac and cut it by 50% with alcohol. I primed the exterior of the door with that. Then I varnished the purpleheart with four coats of Varathane. Then we scraped the ash panels with a rectangular piece of steel with sharpened edges, and varnished the ash panels. I flipped the door over and varnished the interior side with three coats of an interior, water based varnish.

The door is all beautiful. Now comes the scary part: surgery. I learned how to use the knobber-do, otherwise known as a line scribe. For that matter, I learned how to use a mallet and a chisel. At least, I learned how to use it a little bit better. I did end up splitting the front of my door at my lockset recess. You really need to have your wits about you when you are cutting your door for your hardware and understand how things go together. I walked back and forth several times between the shop and our house, measuring doorhandle heights and hinge placement.

New Door ExteriorBefore making any cuts on the opening side of the door, it needed to be beveled. If there is no bevel, it can’t open, or you would have to leave a huge gap. To make the bevel, I got to use the “Awsesome Tool 2″ otherwise known as the electric bevel plane. Set the tool for two degrees. Zip. Zip. And the bevel is done! Kwikset makes a tool for drilling holes for locksets. It is good for just about everyone they make and most of the ones any one else makes. You choose what your backset is for you door handle and your deadbolt are. Set the tool accordingly. tighten it to the door. It is self-centering. You use your 2-1/8″ hole saw from each side of the door and then your 15/16” hole saw through the edge of the door, before removing the jig. Easy as pie!

A door this beautiful needed a mailbox to go with it. From the scraps, I made a mailbox. It is not quite as finely crafted. I had to tell John to not watch at times. I just wanted to get it done. It does the job. I think it is quite beautiful.