Barrister Book Case Tutorial #8: A Door Dilemma

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Blog entry by Scarcraig01 posted 09-03-2009 10:30 PM 4519 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 7: Building the sides Part 8 of Barrister Book Case Tutorial series Part 9: Starting assembly »

Building will resume on the maple barristers this weekend and I should post on the progress sometime Sunday afternoon, but I’ve been thinking this week about how I should approach the doors.

I have three potential joinery options that I’ve decided to consider, they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. I’d like to show them here and summarize what I see as their pros and cons, and I’d value any feedback or suggestions from you as well. So let me here from you.

I’ve used each of these options before on different barrister sets so I have pics of each.

Option 1: Cope and Stick

Cope and Stick pros:

Aesthetically this one is my first choice, I just think it looks the nicest. I also like how the glass is held in with a rubber spline that makes replacement, if necessary, very easy. I like the way the joinery looks when viewed from its edge, and I also dropped almost $200 on the router bit set and would like to get as much use out of it as possible!

Cope and Stick cons:

Its a weak joint, with not a whole lot of glue surface area, and a tiny, almost worthless tenon. In order to increase the surface area for the glue, I think its wise and necessary to increase the width of the rails and stiles a bit, (which I don’t really want to do because I like the look of the thin rails and stiles that the bridle joint makes possible). I want these doors to last for generations, and I’m just not certain that this joint is up to the challenge. I’d like to hear your thoughts. Is modern PVA glue more than strong enough to handle this joint for a very long time?

Option 2: Miter (reinforced with a domino or a spline)

Miter pros:

A clean continuous look, and very easy to make.

Miter cons:

The weakest of the three choices, (despite what a recent FWW article recently stated) and it also has the very real possibility of the miter joint opening up worse than the others as it ages, and causing a very noticeable gap. It also has no interest at all when viewed from its edge since there is no joinery to see. This one also needs the widest rail and stile to make room for the diagonal domino loose tenon. (A spline would work, but the pin that needs to go into the side of the door would be right where the spline is.)

Option 3: The Bridle joint.

Bridle Pros:

The largest surface area for the glue of the three, probably the strongest, longest lasting choice. It has a nice edge view, and allows for the thinnest rails and stiles.

Bridle Cons:

Very plain and uninteresting when viewed straight on. Uses quarter round strips tacked in to hold the glass in, making replacement if necessary, a pain in the butt.

So, I value your wisdom and comments on this matter! Is anything I stated incorrect? Please send me your comments and suggestions!

-- Craig, Springfield Ohio

4 comments so far

View BeachedBones's profile


201 posts in 3367 days

#1 posted 09-04-2009 12:27 AM

My opinion is to dump the miter joint right off. It doesn’t fit the style, and the torsion of opening the case from the bottom rail might open the joint up.

Cope and stick, by far the most beautiful joint. My antique cases are built like this, with the exception that the rails extend across the opening and the styles are set into it. (opposite joint to the pic shown) This hides the joint when the door is open. This joint looks the most professional to me, I’d love to make some cases with this joint.

Bridle joint. This is how I’ll probably do mine because I don’t have the router bits and am probably too cheap to buy them. It IS more of a utility grade look, but I’m fine with that.

To me, door thickness is not important, it has little effect on the look of the case, as long as the door feels solid and not too heavy.

-- You know.... I think that old wood needs to be furniture.

View knothead's profile


163 posts in 3913 days

#2 posted 09-04-2009 01:52 AM

I Love your work!!

I have been following your blog on these bookcases looking for techniques and inspiration, I think there is a set of these in my near future!

I agree with BeachedBones above The miter joint, while elegant, seems out of place. could be dressed up and strengthened with a contrasting spline or maybe a bow tie or similar inlay on the face of the joint for visual appeal.

Cope and Stick is also astheticially pleasing but maybe a little weak when you consider the weight of the glass.

As for the Bridle joint, I might consider not using that one, due to it’s utilitarian look in favor of a haunched tenon, also utilitarian, but just as strong, but where I am going here is that once I saw a video with Frank Klausz and he was talking about his kitchen cabinets, when he pointed out the door construction there were the most beautiful wedged through mortises you have ever seen. They really added a lot astheticially and structurally to the doors, and were seen when the door was open much like the barrister bookcase door you are making. The wedges were of contrasting wood and they would have been strong with a capital “S”. Especially with the thinner rails and stiles used in these doors.

Just a thought!

Have a great day! – Chris

-- So Much Wood - So Little Time! --

View CaptainSkully's profile


1590 posts in 3523 days

#3 posted 09-04-2009 04:59 AM

The bridle joint will be the strongest, pretty easy to square up, and is relatively decorative, as you can see it from both edges. If you want to pin it, it invites people to explore the joint.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View Scarcraig01's profile


72 posts in 3159 days

#4 posted 09-04-2009 07:04 AM

So Beached, you’re saying that I might have the rail and stile the wrong way? I wondered about that, on most cabinet doors the cope is applied to the short piece. I applied the cope to the long piece to keep the right and left outside edges smooth from top to bottom like a rail on a cabinet door. (This also has the effect of showing the joint to the user when they open the door, as you mentioned) I wonder which way is the most proper or professional?

Knothead, a haunch is not a bad option, although from the edge it just looks like a stub tenon. I wonder how I would install the glass with this option and still make it removable, because the haunch would require a center groove, this works great for framing a wood panel, but not so good for framing glass because the user cant replace it without taking apart the frame. I love the idea of having it pegged or wedged, this would surely make the joint stand the test of time.

Captain, your approach is exactly how I was thinking when I built my white oak set with the frame and panel sides. With that project I didn’t feel as bad about the doors being so plain because I figured the frame and panel sides spiced things up a bit, also I built this one to last; its all solid wood, (as opposed to ply), and I wanted a joint that was sure to go the distance. With this maple set the sides are just flat ply, so I’m feeling more of a draw to include the fancier doors. I’d liked to have raised the panels on that project as well, but there’s another hundred dollar bit!

You also make a good point that its the only joint that can be viewed from all edges.

Thanks to all of you for your comments. I still have a couple of weeks to consider it, right now I’m leaning toward the cope and stick, I like the idea of getting some use out of those damn bits, and the fancy, expensive coping sled that I bought with them!

-- Craig, Springfield Ohio

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