Saturday, February 7, 2015

New Life to an Old Door. Part Two - Rebuilding the body of the door.

What a privledge to breath new life into this beautiful antique entry door...

Having worked out the obvious repairs and issues in part one of this saga, it was time to pull the old girl apart in order to repair each of the structural joints and ensure the panels would be up to the task.

This door will be re-built and modified to replace the top timber panels with leadlight panels.
Step One: Getting started - removing the mouldings.
With the door laying on a pair of ever-handy tall saw horses, the first thing to do was to remove the  mouldings. A lot of it was in poor condition though this was sometimes disguised under multiple layers of thick paint. Carefully prising off the mouldings with a flat pry-bar and a couple of chisels, each section was removed, marked for identification, the nails removed, and put aside.
Moulding removal - starting on the back of the door. The easy ones...
The front side of the door was more challenging than the back.
Removing the front bolection mould showed the poor condition of the bottom panels.
Pulling the door apart carefully can tell you much. The original nails used were cut nails. I understand these were no longer being used here in Australia by about the First World War. The original nails used to fit the 3" wide bolection mould to the door and panels were cut nails : tapered, rectangular in section, small heads, and mostly two different sizes. An indication that the door is over a century old.

A selection of the old nails - the original cut nails plus some more "recent" ones.
However, over the years the mouldings had been re-attached (rather, further attached) several times. One of these was a "bush carpenter". A rough job with some of the nails protruding through the panels and out the other side! Nothing that huge globs of paint won't hide apparently.
The serious amount of nails (attempts to pin down the cupping wide mouldings) and the split lower panels with the starting signs of rot both would indicate that the door spent some of its life in the weather - or at least with the bottom half of the door getting wet. The upshot of all this is the damage done to some of the mouldings - both from deterioration and despite the careful removal process of the fragile mouldings.

Step 2: Pulling the door apart.
With the mouldings removed from both sides of the door, the next step was to pull the door apart at the joints. Many of the remaining wedges were loose, so the mortice and tenon joints could be carefully pulled apart. The joints which resisted were assisted by the reverse use of a sash cramp, to spread the stiles apart. It worked a treat.
Gently does it... Sash cramp in reverse pushing apart the two stiles at the joints. 
The door came apart into its component parts: the two stiles, the three rails, the two mullion sections, and the four panels. It was pretty easy. I reckon the only thing holding the door together was a century of dirt, several ancient coats of very thick paint on the front side, and all the nails in the front bolection mouldings!
One of the separated joints.
Step 3: Cleaning up the joints ready for re-gluing.
In order to re-glue and re-wedge the joints, they would need cleaning up to help the glue to key in to the wood, and a wire brush would help to do this.
Amazing how much dirt had penetrated the joints! Getting started on this one.

A clean face on the tenons and the shoulder. This was done each side of the rail.
To help with the glue-up, I also ran the grooved edges of the components over the buzzer, removing about 2mm (1/8"), to assist with clean shoulder joints on the glue-up. While this would reduce the height of the door by 8mm (5/16") and the width of the door by 4mm (3/16"), this was OK, as to fit the new opening the door would eventually be cut a little shorter and built-up a little wider. 
Before and after. The planed edge will better take the glue and give a "sharper" joint and edge.
Of course, the machining of the edges means the mortices needed to be adjusted to accommodate the small movement inwards of the end rails. These were chiselled to allow for the small shift of the rails in relation to the stiles.

Step 4: Sorting out the panels.
The panels are housed in the grooves all round, so the panels have to be prepared and ready for the glue-up. The original Western Red Cedar panels are 7/16" thick, to match the grooves. The primary modification to the door I'm required to do is to replace the top panels with leadlights. Given that the bolection moulds are 3 inches wide, it means the glass will be housed within the panel. The fragile nature of the old bolection moulding meant that I needed a more solid panel to affix the moulding to. This panel would also need to be rebated behind the moulding and panel, so that the glass can be housed.

My solution? To use marine ply panels at the tops of the door. The bolection moulds would be glued to these and the ply cut out in the matching shapes. I machined down some 1/2" marine ply to 7/16", so it would be a nice snug fit in the panel grooves, and cut the panels to fit in the housing. The better of the two original top panels I then cut into two to make new lower panels. Nice.
The two best sections of the best original top panel provided new bottom panels for the door. 
Step 5: The glue-up.
A test assembly was undertaken to make sure everything was good, and then taken apart again ready for gluing. New wedges were made in readiness, from some bits of oregon I had lying around.
The test fit - a dry run. All good. Time to do the glue-up!
The glue-up was undertaken as early as possible in the day, as it was forecast to be 38 degrees (100F) that day! Ya can't have the glue going off mid-way through a complex glue-up! While the lower timber panels would be floating, the top ply panels would be glued into their housings for rigidity and maximum strength for housing the glass. Two sash cramps were joined end to end, to run top to bottom on the door, closing up the centre mullions against the three rails. Six other sash cramps were laid across the door to pull up the joints were the rails met the stiles. 
New wedges and nice tight shoulders...
 The glue-up went well. It was like a new door, solid as a rock...
Glue dry, the protruding tenons and wedges were sawn off and the edges shot flush with a plane. 
With the body of the door rebuilt, it was time to deal with the front bolection moulds.
Good progress thus far!


  1. Really enjoying this series and look forward to part 3. Keep them coming and thanks.

    1. Thanks, Scott. I hope to post Part 3 of the saga sometime soon.