Bad Door Made Good (Part 1)

Several weeks ago, while building the side table, I made a brief mention that my mum had purchased a cheap (£60!) “exterior” door from B&Q. It’s identical to this door only, it’s not painted and, of course, it was less than half that price. As it’s made from spruce (a cheap, lightweight, fast-growing softwood) and the joints are clearly dowelled together, the only real “exterior” quality within this product has got to be the double-glazed unit (DGU).

Dowelling Despair...

It’s been sat in my workshop (on edge) for several weeks. I wasn’t impressed with it when it arrived and, for that reason, I’ve been shying away from even looking at the thing in the time since (I have also been a bit busy). First of all, there were two things that I noticed – all of the joints were ‘open’ on one side and, you could clearly see that the stiles weren’t fitted squarely up against the ends of the rails. There was just something fundamentally wrong with the way this door was made… I tried squeezing some glue in and reclamping the joints but, that proved to be a waste of time.

One door you WOULDN'T want to hang!!

It would have been a nightmare trying to hang it like that; the door never would’ve closed or fitted properly! What didn’t help, either, was how the door itself was completely p****d – below, you can see that one corner was a good 15mm (5/8in) higher than the rest!!

Friday night?... Or Saturday morning?!

A closer inspection revealed that one of the stiles – the closing stile, as well! – was severely bowed along its length. Look closely and you’ll see that the timber has followed the curve of the grain:

Signifying the importance of grain direction.

It may well be that the timber was planed flat and true at some stage. But, I’ve learnt in my time that most species will ‘relax’ to follow the grain direction in time. With timbers that have interlocked-grain, like sapele and iroko [not that I use those two myself! :-P], I’ve seen it happy the very next morning, after planing up one length the previous afternoon! This why we should always look for straight-grained boards when creating a table top or, even, for the legs. The longer the component, the greater the significance of careful timber selection.

If this was on the hinge-side, it may have possible to have ‘corrected’ this by fitting a central hinge… Though, I cannot be certain! It probably wouldn’t pull the frame back in to shape, either.

At no point did I honestly consider trying to return or exchange the door, even for my mum to get her £60 back. Our old door is begin to show signs of rot, it lets draughts and condensation through and it’s crumbling away – but, it’s still in much better shape than this pile of… Spruce! I’d previously told her to go for a door at twice the price she’d payed for this one (she makes a habit of ignoring my suggestions…). I expect it would also have been dowelled but, it was made from hemlock, which should outlast spruce and even joinery-grade redwood through most external conditions. So, I decided I would purchase some redwood and re-make the frame myself; proper mortise and tenon joints, and all. 😉 I still believe it was worth keeping for the sake of the double-glazed unit…

I started to break the joints apart, using a jigsaw to cut straight through the dowels on one side. Then, I could free the timber panel quite easily from its rebate (which I will be re-using in the re-make) but, getting the DGU out proved to be more problematic – it was sealed in very well, to the manufacturer’s credit. I didn’t fancy brute force approach, armed with a hammer and a block of wood so, I had to carefully try and cut through the sealant without damaging or scratching the glass; using a sharp ruler (!) where a utility knife wouldn’t fit. Freeing the stile from the other ends of the rails also helped a lot. In fact, one sharp tap was enough to break the glue-joint (if ever there was one!!) and set each rail free from its dowels!

Having recently demolished my third incarnation of saw horse as well, this has left me with a good amount of usable spruce for odd-jobs around the workshop:

…Still, it doesn’t compare to my year-old collection of 1in English oak boards!! 😳

At this point, I feel it would be best to end this post here and start afresh with construction details of the new frame in another post.

Thanks for reading.

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