I designed my new shop to look like an old horse barn, so it would blend in with the rural area of Southern Oregon where I now live. Being from Los Angeles, I went all the way with insulation and energy efficiency when I designed and built the shop. I even put in a radiant slab so my timid feet would stay warm in the cold, cold winters (it gets down in the low 20s here; sometimes even below 20 degrees!). So when it came to the 12-ft. wide x 9-ft. tall roll-up door, in order to get a good R-rating, I knew I had to use an insulated steel door. I found one rated at R-17, but it looked like something you’d see on a commercial building.
You can buy custom-made wooden sectional roll-up doors, but not with a high R-rating. And I wanted the door to fit in with the overall design of my shop, which meant using the same “Windswept” siding and trim material, too. So I decided to build decorative carriage doors myself and apply them to the insulated steel roll-up door, which meant they had to be laid out carefully so that the ‘cuts’ or panel separations landed on rails whenever possible.
A big set of saw horses
My plan was to make the four carriage doors, glue and screw them (from the back!) to the steel roll-up panels, then cut through the carriage doors along each of the roll-up panels, using a Festool TS75 saw and long guide rail. So the first step was assembling the roll-up door on a large set of horses. To be sure the saw kerfs would close up tightly after I cut through the carriage doors, I separated each of the roll-up panels with an 8d box nail. Then I screwed blocks down to the horses so the panels wouldn’t move.
The rollup door was 3 in. wider than the I.D. of the door jamb, which allowed the panels to fit inside the tracks. I wanted to be sure the exposure on the carriage door stiles remained the same, even on the first and last doors. I allowed for that additional 1 1/2 in. on each side by making the end stiles wider, so when I laid out and measured the width of the carriage doors, I first measured in 1 1/2 in. on each side of the roll-up door, and then measured the remaining space between.
Assembling the panels
Once I had the O.D. dimensions of each carriage door, I made the panels first, so I could glue them up and let them sit in clamps while I cut and assembled the stiles and rails. The siding is all ship-lap, which wouldn’t have made a very strong panel. I ripped the rabbets off both sides of the panel boards, then reinforced the glue joints with dominos.
|Behind me on my right you can see the temporary door we built to secure the shop.|
|Because I was installing so many dominos, in a lot of boards, I made a story pole. The story pole also ensured that none of the dominos would land on the cut lines along the roll-up panels.|
I cut the mortises at each end of the boards, tight, using the index pins on the Domino to register the mortise locations, that way the boards aligned flush on both ends.
I cut the field mortises loose, allowing some wiggle room so it would be easier to assemble the panels.
Because the panels were being installed outside, I made sure to coat all the unfinished edges with a liberal amount of glue. I used Titebond II because I find it easier to work with than Titebond III. Titebond II is water resistant. Titebond III is waterpoof, but I prefer using Titebond II because it seems to have a longer open time, even though the manufacturer says that Titebond III has a longer open time.
When I assembled the boards, I relied on my bar clamps to keep the panels flat, applying squeeze clamps to draw the panels tight against the rigid bar clamps.
Assembling the frames
Mortise and tenon joinery used to be a time-consuming task. But jobs that I used to sub out to millwork shops, I can now do myself with a Domino XL.
|All I need is a fair sized workbench and a story pole for the stiles and rails, too—to ensure that all the doors are exactly the same.|
I use story poles for almost everything, after all, nearly everything we do is repetitive, and these carriage doors—four of them—are a perfect example. The story pole ensured that all the pieces would fit precisely, and that they were interchangeable, too, so I could match or mix grain and finish colors between boards.
|After marking the mortise locations on the stiles, I transferred marks to the rails.|
|To cut the center mortises in the rails, I aligned the layout lines with the center mark on the Domino.|
|To cut the mortises near the edge of the rails, I used the first index pin, placing the mortises 20mm from the edge of the board.|
To cut the corresponding mortises in the stiles, I used the 20mm offset mark on the Domino index plate.
Trust me, laying out and cutting the mortises didn’t take much longer than writing the last few paragraphs. And I was so confident the system would work that I didn’t even take the time to test the joinery with a dry-fit.
|I glued up the mortises first, using an acid brush to coat the entire cavity.|
|I made sure all the end grain was painted thoroughly with glue, too, so it wouldn’t wick moisture and swell up and maybe even rot.|
|I clamped one stile to my workbench, which made it easy to insert the 12mm x 100mm dominos, and then I assembled the frames, smacking the stiles and rails together with a mallet.|
Installing the panels
I left the four frames in bar clamps overnight, then I went at each opening with a router and rabbeting bit. I cut a 1/2-in. deep by 1/2-in. wide rabbet to accept the panels.
|I squared up the corners with a sharp chisel.|
|Next I sealed all the bare wood and installed the muntin bar for the top panels. I re-sawed the muntins so that they’d be flush to the face of the door and flush with the rabbet, too, then fastened them in place with pocket screws.|
With all the routing done, I was ready to cut and install the panels.
The stiles and rails were already at 11% MC, so I knew they wouldn’t swell much at all. When I cut the panels to size, I measured from the top of each rabbet and subtracted 3/8 in., adding a little extra for swelling and wiggle room. After all, those 1/2 in. wide rabbets were pretty forgiving.
Next I ran the panels through a Shaker-style raised-panel bit mounted in my router table, which both rabbeted the outer edges of the 3/4-in. thick panels and cut a bevel around the inner edge of each rabbet.
The rabbeted panels lay flat and flush with the rabbeted doors.
|A few screws is all it took to secure the pine panels. I kept my story pole handy while driving those screws, just to be sure one of them wouldn’t land where I’d be cutting the panel lines.|
|I made the Douglas fir panels for the upper “lites” exactly the same way, then prefinished the raw wood and installed all the panels into the backs of the carriage doors.|
Installing the carriage doors
After all the careful layout and woodwork, the rest of the job was pretty easy.
|For each carriage door, I applied about 2 tubes of PL Premium Advanced to the front of the roll-up doors. That adhesive adheres to just about anything—wood, steel, plastic, glass, etc.|
I set the wooden doors down in the wet adhesive and positioned clamps wherever I could.
With all the doors in place, I crawled around under the horses (thanking myself for using tall saw horses!), and drove a few hundred 3-in. self-tapping coated screws through the backs of the roll-up panels into the stiles and rails of the carriage doors. In a few places, where a roll-up panel broke across the 3/4-in. wooden panel, I used shorter screws.
I let the adhesive dry for two days before cutting through the doors. I set the saw at a 2%-bevel, so any water collecting on the edges of the panels would shed off. I positioned the guide rail by eye, so the kerf would land pretty close to center on each space between the roll-up panels.
The rest of the job was even easier! I just got on the phone and called the commercial door company to come out and install the track and doors! Everything was pretty normal, as far as a rollup-door installation goes. They installed the track on both jambs first, then started stacking each panel in the opening.
|After sliding each panel into place, they attached hinges and rollers.|
|Once all the doors were in the opening, they adjusted the springs until the doors were completely weightless (all together, they weighed just under 600lbs).|
Once we installed the shop door, and all the tapered casing and head trim, the final look was far more than I’d hoped for.
Now it’s four years later and I expect some of you will want to know how the doors are holding up. They look great—from three to four feet away.
I expected some movement, but not quite so much; after all, I checked the moisture content of the wood before installing it. It was pretty close to 10%, which I anticipated would be the equilibrium moisture content outside my shop.
Dissimilar materials, that’s what happened. The steel door expands in the heat and shrinks in the cold, exactly the opposite of the wood panels. And each winter the cracks and gaps in the doors close right up, proving that the doors contract. What’s the answer? Maybe I should have built the doors from wood, too, which wouldn’t have been that hard, but I didn’t have the time and I didn’t have the know-how. I think these will do just fine for me. After all, from four feet away, they look great!