September 19, 2014

Two custom cedar storm doors

I needed two storm/screen doors for exterior entry doors at my house. Previously I had bought a custom spanish cedar door with matching storm unit from Vintage Doors, which was very nice but quite expensive. I got a quote from them for these two new storm doors for about $1600, which I felt was going to be painful to shell out. Pricing out two doors worth of 25mm spanish cedar at Anderson McQuaid indicated I would need maybe $300 worth of wood to do the project myself, and there are only a few joints to worry about, so I decided to just build them.

To make things go faster, I bought a Delta brand mortising attachment for my drill press. It works ok, but I am not entirely pleased with it. The clamping guide block for the table didn't really fit on my table, and the vertical hold down system was poorly designed and didn't work for the wider pieces of wood. The square chisel kept wanting to rotate out of position, and there was a bit of slop in the theta position of the chisel even when its set screw was holding tight. So I ended up needing to do a lot of cleanup with the hand chisel on the mortises afterwards, and the alignment of the holes to the wood faces was not stellar.

Probably the right thing to do is just suck it up and do it by hand, or else get a dedicated benchtop mortiser.

This is a test joint I made, which looks better than almost all the ones on the real doors:

The tenons I cut on my table saw with a dado blade and miter gauge.

These got a slight cleanup with chisel and block plane and a light sanding.

On the top and bottom rails, I needed to shorten the tenons a bit so there was more wood between the tenon and the top and bottom edges of the door. This was easily accomplished with japanese saws and a chisel.

The glue up was with West Systems epoxy.

Originally I was planning on doing a drawbore peg in each M&T joint, but I thought it was probably overkill with all that long grain contact and epoxy adhesive, and I was running short on time so I ditched it. Perhaps if any of the joints get loose in future I can reglue with drawbore pegs.

Though I thought I had enough wood for the two doors, I either miscalculated, mis-cut, or inadvertently used a piece for something else and in fact I was a little short. Doh! So I left out the lower vertical center element on one door, which also had to have some of it's tenons shortened. To compensate for the short tenons, I reinforced the joints with #10 stainless screws. The screws had their heads recessed and I cut some cedar plugs to glue over the top.

On the exterior sides, I put on a bevel on the vertical interior edges with a trim router, finished with a tiny bit of chisel work.

After gluing, I used some cut off strips to make a frame to hold the screen/storm inserts. This was epoxied and pinned to the main door.

The bottom element of the frame is thicker, with an integrated lip to hold the insert and drainage holes to let water through. Some plastic mirror clips from Rockler held in with stainless screws completed the insert mounting system.

The handle hardware and hinges were from Van Dyke's. They are decent if not outstanding.

The screen and storm inserts were from Glass & Mirror in Somerville. I have previously used them on a number of occasions and found their service to be good and prices competitive. But the glass storm inserts ended up being a lot more than I planned, on account of them needing to be tempered glass. For two doors worth of storm and screen inserts, I ended up spending about $650.

I installed the doors and adjusted some things to make them work in the doorways they needed to go in, then took them out again and removed the hardware for finishing. The swinging edges have a slight bevel, as doors should. Square edges are all eased with a bit of hand sanding.

I very much hope to someday get the exterior of my house fixed up, in which case these doors will need to be taken out and reinstalled. But I would be lucky to have that problem!

I have used the marine grade product from Waterlox on a few exterior wood projects I wanted to be clear, but have been discouraged by how fast it degrades (I love the regular Waterlox finish for indoor wood however). Reading online, this seems to be par for the course for clear exterior finish. Without the pigments of paint to block UV, the polymers in a clear finish just get destroyed by the sun and weather. One nice thing about using cedar is that even if I let the finish go too long between refinishing, at least the woodwork is rot resistant.

A product that got a good recommendation in an exterior clear finish roundup in Fine Woodworking was Sikkens Cetol, which also had some strong support in online forums. So I gave that a try on these doors. Conveniently it is sold nearby at City Paint in north Cambridge. I put on three coats everywhere, and an extra one on the horizontal surfaces and exterior face.

After spending a few weeks in the basement for finishing, I put the hardware back on and the doors back up. They look great!

Exterior access is now a slightly more difficult, but on the other hand it is nice to have a screen door so you can leave the main door open if the weather is pleasant. And the storms will help protect the main doors and sills, as well as perhaps slightly lessening heat loss from the house in winter.

All in, I probably spent $1K on these two doors including the mortising attachment. Start to finish, it took me more than a year. In retrospect I probably should have just bought the doors from Vintage Door. Have I learned my lesson? Somehow, I really doubt it!

September 1, 2014

Glories of the Past: Vegetable theme dresses

Becky and I got fired up about learning how to quilt. Becky in fact finished a small baby quilt with the fabric she ordered, while I only succeeded in putting together a couple test blocks (so far!). My aim was to make some lovely hexagon quilts, and I ordered some vegetable themed quilting fabric from FatQuarterShop. This came with a panel of fabric with multiple prints on it, as if it were already a quilt. Cutting it up and sewing it back together again to make a quilt seemed silly, so in the spring of 2010 I decided to make it into some little dresses for Violet and Millie.

A Contoured Hand Rail

One of the last things I needed to do to close out a building permit I opened 6 years ago was to make a handrail for the back stairway from the kitchen down to the back door. There was only rail for a little bit of the stairs when we moved in, but the building inspector said I should have a rail. Of course I had to make this simple sounding project into a complex journey.

July 21, 2014

The Virtues of Wooden Shoes

The virtues of wood shoes are manifold
  • 100% renewable, biodegradable materials
  • Durable, long lasting, and can be renovated
  • Impact, pierce, and crush resistant
  • Heat, cold, and chemical resistant
  • Waterproof
  • Luxurious comfort, at least for standing on hard surfaces and light walking
  • Meet CE standards for safety shoes
  • Fashionable, even dare I say cute?

July 10, 2014

Spanish Cedar doll beds, to furnish tiny apartments

The kids made some row houses with Becky from cardboard boxes for their little animal figurines. They pasted on some pattern paper for wall paper, and cut out some pictures from magazines for decorations.

Drum Building with Deerhide

This spring, Becky ran a once a week native american club at the Somerville Growing Center for the kids and some other local homeschoolers. They did a number of neat things, one of which was making some hand drums from deerhide.

June 10, 2014

Urban Micro Orchard: Planning and Planting

As part of the grand backyard landscape plan, we reserved the southwest facing back fence for a line of espaliered apple trees. The idea is to train the trees in a two dimensional plane, parallel to that of the fence, thus taking up little space, enabling considerable fruit production, and hopefully looking great.

I've been an admirer of espalier since I read about it years ago, and have wanted to incorporate the principles into some plants of my own. The espalier propaganda says fruit production is high per square meter of ground space because all parts of the tree and growing fruit are exposed to sun. And disease pressure may be lower because of uniform circulation of fresh air. Most of all, I think espaliered trees are a beautiful and inspiring example of Nature shaped by the hand of Man.

June 5, 2014

Violet Sews a Library Bag

The other week Violet asked me to help her make a bag for transporting her books to and from the library.

May 29, 2014

Converting to Natural Leavening for Bread

I've been baking bread for a few years, and always been a little interested in sourdough. But I generally don't favor the very sour versions you typically find labeled as sourdough, and the process seemed like a lot of extra work. However, I recently read Cooked by Michael Pollan, which has a section on bread that made me excited to try 100% natural leavening.

April 23, 2014

Homemade cat shaped grease bar: A viable lotion replacement

Making lotion is not too hard, and quite interesting from a chemistry point of view. But it does take a little time and it is unfortunate that emulsifiers and preservatives are required. I read about anhydrous moisturizing products at the excellent Point of Interest! blog, and have wanted to try making such a product.