Ever Make Your Own Handmade Door?

by ziggy on May 15, 2010 -- 13 comments -- Follow

For the small mud room addition to the house, April and I are considering making our own door(s). I’m really unsatisfied with most of the commercial doors out there. They really lack character. And it’s tough to find nice reclaimed doors, too.

But trying to dig up information on how to build your own exterior doors (esepecially insulated doors) is pretty tough. So I turn to you, readers – does anyone have links to resources on building your own exterior, insulated doors?

I have a good image in my mind of the door I’d like to build, but my experience with that level of carpentry is pretty nil. (I picture a nice heavy 32″ wide, left handed, solid wood door with two or three layers of wood, or two layers with some kind of insulation between, nice black strap hinges, preferably with some heavy glass in the upper half, and preferably arched.) Guidance is welcome!

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  • My friend of mine (http://heartwoodhomesteads.wordpress.com/) is working on a house with custom handmade doors right now. They’re very pretty wood and arched. I think they’re insulated but I don’t know for sure. He either built them or knows who did, so I bet he could help you out.

  • questionmarke

    Ziggy, have you seen the door and stair-building book in the DR library? It may be a starting point for you…

  • bryan beavers

    hey they was a video called “one mans wilderness” he lived in Alaska and made his own cabin in the snow see if you can find the video or you can watch some of it on youtube….also im thinking about applying for waok exchange there any one looking for some help….

  • You could check back issues of Fine Woodworking and Fine Homebuilding.

  • Steve Snowdon

    i too am building a set of doors 2mtrs wide each section the height of the doors are 2 .5mtrs . i have built the frame from old trees but as yet not built the 2 doors i havent found enough info to start , any clues as to hinges and weight ratios ?
    Thanks to ziggy my mud walls are going to look great , the main room ceilings are 4.5 mtrs high the lenght 16 mtrs long by 5mtrs wide when its finished it should resemble an old english banquet hall.
    if anyone can help with ideas for my doors it,s well appreciated…………
    email; snowdon_ipagroup@yahoo.com I,m in Thailand……….regards from Steve…….

  • James

    Ziggy,

    A lot will depend on the type of lumber resources you have a available or want to use, tools, and experience. An old style frame and panel door with the rail tenons mortised into, or all the way through the vertical members, or stiles, is quite a task. But I have made doors by gluing up sandwiches of (3) 1×6’s to make the stiles and rails. The advantage is that you can make the appropriate mortise cuts in the center 1×6 of the stile sandwiches using simple tools before you glue it up and you can do the same to make the tenons for the rails. Also, the center piece of the 1x material of the sandwich will be narrower on the inside of the stiles to make a groove, or dado, to accommodate a panel. The same is true of the top and bottom rails and any interior rails will have the groove on both edges.

    I suggest that you glue up the stiles and rails and let them dry before you assemble the whole door because you want to make sure the panel is not glued in place. It needs to be allowed to expand and contract.

    There are too many variables to go into too much detail here and this is just one idea of many.

    Good luck

  • Like @Bryan, the only thing I could think of helping you is that video “One Man’s Wilderness”, I saw it a while back and it may be the most helpful thing out there! It’s gonna be a ton of work!

  • steve neff

    Hi,
    My wife and I are planning to build our own cob cottage, and I am planning to make the doors. The main thing is to sandwich some sort of insulation between 2 sides. Styrofoam insulation is a good material for such a thing, but if you have an aversion to such materials, I suppose that anything cotton, cellulose fiber, wool, or perhaps anything would work….even newspaper, if you smashed it in there really well. Read up on R values of insulation. The idea is not to transfer heat/cold through the material. Wood will let the cold in because of the density. That’s why insulations are light and fluffy.
    You might also think of using a light kiln brick (like the ones in electric kilns). I used to teach ceramics, and those bricks would hold in 2000 degrees F!
    They are a great insulator! If you could get your hands on something like that, you could sandwich the brick inbetween the wood, it would be light weight, and very insulating!
    Good luck!

  • Keri

    We are in the process of building our on cob cottage in rural Iowa. We are building a beautiful arched door with a small window. We are having a welder make a welded arch for the frame and then wood the rest of the frame. We are getting rough wood from a lumber mill and putting a piece of styrofoam insulation between that and the back side (which is also rough wood. We are also putting a small window in the ‘arched portion’ of the door. Using big, black bolts and possibly some leather straps across the front. We want it to look castle-like/hobbit cottage type. I don’t know how else to explain it! Email me if you want more info. Good luck.

  • Josh in Iowa

    Keri; Whereabouts in Iowa? I live in Sioux City, but I’m guessing you’re probably quite aways East of here? The western half is not quite as ecologically (or socially) conscious.

  • John C

    Hey Ziggy, I’ve seen a beautiful book from the Bellevue library here near Seattle, from Rizzoli I think, about Italian farmhouses, and the doors in some of them were like, one by twelves going horozontally on one side, then vertically on the other, nailed together with black nails, then trimmed to fit the opening, which had a strip of wood all the way around for the door to shut against, then a quarter round at the bottom of the door to throw water away from the jamb. Very simple! ;p

  • John C

    Maybe put a sheet of 1/4″ foam inbetween the boards too or something.

  • John C

    I’ve seen an old Russian vacation house in Siberia pictured somewhere that had a vinyl leather over padding put on the outside of the door with upolstery tacks. It went over the hinges too.

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