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The Gruesome Tale of FrankenDoor

Some original bones and mashed up meat make a door with skeletons in it's closet
October 31, 2023

This is a story about how a simple request can become a gruesome mess.

Such extreme surgery may hurl away many carpenters, but to the Timber Tailor, it’s just another day at the office.

Hahaha, yeah. Well the reason for the project was

FrankenDOOR was born from a seemingly innocent bathroom remodel.

The existing bathroom had a 24 inch door...

...and they wanted to widen it to 30 inches.

If I could have gone to Restore or any lumber yard and bought a new 30-inch door that was made out of Hem-Fir that had a pattern that was similar to this, I would have just bought another door, stuck it in, and taken these down to ReStore.

Turns out, looking for vertical grain hem-fir doors around Rapid City is like looking through a ghost town.

The good news? The two existing ‘specimens’ were available to—carve up for parts

After realizing I had these two doors to work with, how can I chop these up…

and end up with a door that's six inches wider.

Timber Tailor drew a surgical map

The green pieces are what I saved from the original six-panel door. And all the white lines are all the glue splices that I ended up doing.

To make the raised panels wide enough, he ripped the panels from the 6-panel door in half. And grafted meat to the middle by carving off the beveled edges of the three-panel door.

The outside edges are from the original six-panel door and the middle strips are from the original three-panel door.

But grafting thin old bones together is not like gluing up a butcher block

They were barely 7/16 inch thick, and you put the kind of clamping pressure they's need, and no matter that you do they're going to fold under the clamps.

So, out of some junk 2x4s. I made some slotted pieces so whwn I clamp those panels, they wouldn't buckle when I put the clamping pressure to them.

Its all vertical grain, so the grain matched up—pretty good, as good as any of the original panels were.

I saved the two good rails from the 6-panel door plus the center bars from the 6-panel door …

From the smaller door, he was able to chop down the vertical stiles into horizontal rails for FrankenDoor. The top two rails required only minor modification, but the bottom rail required invasive surgical tactics.

The rail where the lockset goes, I took two pieces, almost the full width of those old stiles, cut them in half, jointed them, put them together so that when I glued them up they’d be the same width as the existing one was.

The bottom rail, that one really got crazy…

Building up 10 inches of meat meant combining an arm, a leg, and the pelvic region with its telltale knob hole.

He strategically carved the parts so that…

I had the absolute minimum of the lockset hole left to patch in

Cutting a cheek from the discarded pelvis and grafting it into the hole will help hide the evidence of surgery.

To match the profile on the stiles, Matt coped the ends by nibbling away at it beginning with…

...a blade on the tablesaw to act like a dado blade for the square notches and then I found a core box bit that matched that radius pretty nicely. And so with a number of passes on each end of those rails, I was able to mimic it, and it worked pretty darned good, actually.

A new skeleton

The original door was put together with a some pretty good dowels, it was a pretty good setup, but I didn’t want to have to duplicate everything. So instead of using a lot of dowels and a little bit if glue, I used no dowels and a lot of glue.

My first glue up was to glue the rails with the center stiles. There's so much going on with all the pieces of the door, I didn't attempt to glue up the whole thing at once.

There was a little bit of twict to the door so the extra clamps at the top and the bottom are to make sure that the side stiles are in the same plane as everything else.

Concealing the surgical evidence

I originally thought that I’d be able to clamp this thing up and do most of this work without having to restain the door ....

But that’s now how it unfolded.

But as it turned out...

Turns out there was a lot of sanding to do

When they made the original panels they just threw them through a thickness sander or something like that. And so, the segments I had were all different thicknesses.
...all different thicknesses.

A belt sander over the whole surface scrapes the face of this experiment down to the fresh skin, but Frankendoor’s blotchy past still shows through.

There are smudges in there because the original stain soaked in to that grain pertty well. It must have been pretty thin stain, they probably didn't use any stain conditioner.

But because I got to restain it the same color, I didn't have to worry about getting those smudges out of there like I would have had to if I had changed the color of the door.

With the door on that rack, I can stain it up, work on evening the stain out the best I can and then I use compressed air to blow in around the edges of the raised panels, if there's a little extra stain puddled in there, thr compresses air blows it out so that when I flip the door over it doesn't—

—It doesn’t bleed back out onto FrankenDOOR’s beautiful Face…

—Matt Jackson, aka the Timber Tailor, is a master carpenter, remodeler, and YouTuber in Rapid City, South Dakota

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