Several days ago, I was asked to rebuild a few storm door inserts destroyed by some overzealous dogs.
Dogs – 1 || Door Insert – 0
I hesitated a bit because it seemed liked a boring production item, but I am not one to usually turn down a woodworking project.
No better softwood
So I got some high-grade Douglass Fir and went to work replicating the screened versions.
The mangled model was made with bridal joints in each corner and separate strips of wood throughout with mortises for the cross rails. I decided to use half-lap joints in the corners, all one piece with Festool Dominoes to connect the cross rails. The screen keepers had to be separate strips though.
A stacked dado setup took care of most of the initial precision milling following planing for thickness.
Feather-boards make this kind of work simple and accurate. Using my reliable Incra Miter gauge, I made the half-lap joints the same way, but instead of measuring, I lined up the rails and stiles and marked them off of each other.
Once the outer frame was complete and dry-fit, I moved to the cross rails.
Cross rails – Dominoed
The example had 3/4″ tall strips, but that wouldn’t work with the smallest dominos from Festool, so I went with 1″ instead, which was unnoticeable and stronger. Those who have used this Festool machine know its usefulness and excellence. (Disclosure: I am still not affiliated or sponsored by anyone or thing).
Extremely well engineered tools…
The tool works like a biscuit joiner with the same purpose of dowels, except that it is far stronger, doesn’t allow rotating and provides much more gluing surface. I seriously doubt that there is a better way to glue up butt joints.
With all pieces prepared, a full-frame glue up was the next step. The corners received finish nails from an air tool as well as glue. For some reason, I pulled out one of the nailers, removed the nails within it, compared them to the frame thickness, realized they were too long, got out the shorter nails, put the original ones back into the nailer and proceeded to secure one end of the frame to the table. Luckily, they bent and twisted out cleanly and recessed easily with a punch.
Once the assembly was dry, the next step involved mimicking the inner-edge profile as close as possible.
Larger bearing for shallow profile
After some comparison, it was clear that I could accomplish this well enough with a Roman-Ogee router bit fitted with a larger bearing. Since the rails and stiles were so narrow, the router table became the only reliable option – with good results. Of course, the corners required a bit of chisel work.
The -44 part of this sander did well
After some sanding, including edge and flat, I had to figure out how to color match somewhat. I tried several variations of shellac and dyes. I ran out of fresh shellac so I went to HD to get more and reluctantly purchased amber-colored as well. That decision turned out to be money…it matched near perfect, esp with a couple drops of brown dye.
I think I found the universal rustic finish color-match
Following that, I used spar urethane for the top coat. Since all surfaces were so narrow, I opted to brush after debating on whether or not to use the spray system. Brushing certainly reduced waste, but created unpleasant problems. The shellac would build up on the underside and leave darker splotches and the spar would leave dried-up drip bumps. Fortunately the shellac was easy to clean up with denatured alcohol and the spar could be leveled with a plane iron and blended effectively.
After a night of pseudo-baking the spar, it was time to secure the screen material. Each keeper strip was evenly drilled with pilot holes with a little countersinking. Instead of using nails like those found on the destroyed version, I went with screws. Trying to remove the nails from the example only further ripped apart the strips. Screws allow anyone to easily replace the screen as needed; nails don’t.
Pilot holes countersunk
The longer strips were secured at the first hole with a screw in order to ensure the rest of the holes lined up throughout. The screen material had straight edges, but no straight ends so it was necessary to establish straight lines on each bottom.
Gotta have clean lines
I used tin-snips to cut out each panel of screen a half-inch shy from length and width measurements.
Using the clean side and starting from the middle outwards, the first side strip was secured, as well as the opposite side.
Middle out prevents bunching
The last two screws from each end were left out in order to tighten up the corners after securing the ends in the same manner.
Use a level surface to assist with tightening
Believe me, less than great results show in obvious ways that such as bumps and creases as opposed to a smooth and flat surface.
Although this project was far more functional than aesthetically pleasant, the inserts still provided a degree of challenge and skill.
Chalk it up – done
Not all commissions or jobs will be epic design and master builds. When those times arrive though, any and all woodworking experience will come into play.
Thanks for reading!
Your Arctic Woodworking Friend,
-- Troy Bouffard || Master Sergeant, US Army (Retired) || http://www.birchhillwoodcrafts.com