How to Make French Doors

It’s been a while so I thought I had better pull my finger out and post something.

Recently I was asked to install a pair of french doors for a family that I had done some work for a long time ago. They have since moved to a new house and had a list of things they wanted done to the place. So I made up a list and gave them a quote.  One of the items was these doors.  They were happy with the price and so asked me to go ahead. Only, when I returned to the joiner who had originally given me a price to make them, their turn around time was just too long – so I decided to make them myself.


So off to the timber yard to choose some timber.  Firstly I had to trim it to the right width before running it through the thicknesser to achieve the right thickness, all in my professional backyard driveway workshop!


A point to note when making doors is the way in which the grain of the timber runs, particularly in the stile’s (sides) of the door.  Timber will always move over time, with differences in temperature and moisture content, the direction the grain runs effects how the thing you are making does or doesn’t move.  So to minimise any warping in the doors over time the stile’s of doors are usually from quarter sawn timber.


I’ll use this for the stile, as its nice and straight and will probably stay that way

And these pieces can be for all the rails, as although they will be more likely to move, and if you look closely already have a bow across the length, the rails of the door will only be about 500mm long and wont be effected by a little movement.

The doors are going to be double glazed units, so I had to find a place that would make me some IGU’s (insulated glazing units) to put in the door, which wasn’t as easy as I thought it might be, but I found Dreamhaven Glass in Epping, www.dhg.com.au who seemed reasonable and quick.  As they are doors i ordered two sheets of toughened 4mm glass with a 6mm spacer.  They would take a week to arrive.

I set up my trusty home made bench router to take a 10 mm rebate out of the stiles and rails to allow for the double glazing to sit in.

So after cutting all the pieces roughly to length I mark up the timber for the joins.  I’m joining the rails and stiles using mortise and tenon joins, which is basically a peg in a hole.  It’s traditionally how doors are made, and provides a strong join. These doors will have what they call a blind tenon, meaning that the tenon doesn’t go all the way through the stile so can’t be seen from the other side.

So I mark out the tenon.

Traditionally this is then cut out using a nice sharp tenon saw by hand, which takes off the bulk of what is not wanted, and then neatened up with some nice sharp chisels.

But I haven’t got all week, and I do have one of these puppies. So I take off the bulk of the waste with the drop saw and neaten up the tenons with the table mounted router.







Until we have thisI did spend some time sharpening up some chisels, I do like sharp things. Besides, you still can’t do it without them.

The tenons are all done, now the mortise’s

After marking out the mortise, the bulk of the waste is removed using a drill with a spade bit, being careful not to go too deep and puncture though the other side of the stile.  You then get those lovely sharp chisels and neaten up the holes. This is the time consuming part. Joinery shops have specialist mortise presses that do this, they are a little on the expensive side, however my driveway is limited for space as it is.

And when its all done, after a bit of tweaking here and few choice words there…

Everything should fit nicely.

Just do this seven more times and you have the makings of a pair of double glazed french doors.

Once all the mortise and tenons were finished I glued the whole doors together using a polyurethane glue that is waterproof, and also expands like a foam. The idea behind this is to fill any space that is within the joint making it firmer and stronger.  I hadn’t used this glue before, but am reasonably confidant about it as it is still on my hands a week after I put it on the joins.

After the glue has cured overnight I take off the clamps and square off the corners of the glass rebate for the glass units to fit in.

After the glass units have arrived I sit them into the rebate, firstly to satisfy myself that I haven’t fucked up the order and they do fit and secondly to allow me to cut the glazing beads that I machined up from some of the off cuts from the making of the door.

Once I have everything ready, I remove the glass unit and place a bead of glazing silicon around the lip of the rebate.  The glass can then be put back in and the glazing beads attached.

With a bit of sanding, the doors are basically done.

These are the doors that are being replaced.

and my finger

Attach hinges to the new door.

Attach new door to old jamb

Slap up the other one, whack on a door knob and a lock and you’re done. ( of course this bit takes a little time, maybe a day, maybe longer if you buy the wrong bits and have to do a couple of rush trips to Schotts to exchange the wrongly purchased part only to get another… a lesson one should learn the first time, but never does)

Overall I think they turned out really well, and I really enjoyed making them, but if I was to look at the time it took me compared to the price that the joiners quoted, I would probably have been better off having them made – less fun though.

On to the next project

One thought on “How to Make French Doors

  1. Very interesting blog Adrian! Nice work on the doors! Looking forward to the next installment! Keep them coming!

    Ps Kylie loved it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s