We recently completed a small custom entry door project for a home being renovated near the shop. The style and materials aren’t important for this exploration. I’d like to instead spend this post exploring the techniques employed for this door’s construction and door construction in general.
For years, we’ve built doors using various techniques and methods. We’ve built stain grade cypress door slabs in groups of 50 with varying widths and heights, single replication slabs to be retrofit into existing entryways, interior door slabs only 1” thick, swinging-wall torsion box slabs 4” thick and 12’ 0” tall, and multiple pairs of pocket doors 111” wide. When a door leaves our shop it’s with the understanding that it will be functional, sturdy and in service for generations.
With that goal always in mind, we choose construction methods that are best suited to the frequency of use, style and location of installation. Of course our techniques, methods, tools and skill have improved over the years.
There have been countless studies done discussing the viability and longevity of doweled doors, doors with integrated tenons, floating tenons, even doors held together with biscuits. We use floating tenons. My favorite machine in the shop is our Maka – by far. It is cleaner, faster, more predictable and precise than any other machine I’ve ever used to create a mortise. And, yes, I started out making them with a combination square, paddle bit, chisel and crossed fingers.
Door building techniques for us evolved from hand cut tenons to router-made mortises; doors assembled completely then drilled and dowelled; doors built using a Knapp slot mortiser and the tenoner; to our present and favorite method.
We prefer floating tenons because the Maka is so precise that we are able to create perfectly located mortises in the rails and stiles. The lonesome but beautiful belt driven, single end Poitras tenoner sits there dusty and unused (sometimes these days I roll it out just to hear it run). It doesn’t make much sense to set up a custom cope set and adjust the whole thing to make a one-off door. Even if it were a number of door slabs, cutting the cope and stick on the shaper and mortising with the Maka is faster, more precise and I believe, superior.
Does anyone else use a mortiser for end grain mortises on rails? What are your opinions on the subject?