First Project snafu.. please advise

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Forum topic by indianwoodchipper posted 10-18-2012 02:08 PM 1993 views 0 times favorited 50 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View indianwoodchipper's profile


12 posts in 2245 days

10-18-2012 02:08 PM

I am a novice who has been following this site for quite sometime. I finally signed up since I needed to ask all you experts a question which is causing much tension at home…

I decided to take the plunge a year ago bought a few basic machines from Grizzly, an HF dust collector, some pipe clamps on craigslist some 4/4 Ash lumber from CR Mutterspaw & started making some sawdust. The goal was a interior (hanging) sliding door (which my wife rough sketched see attached jpg)

The door dims are 48” wide x 83” tall x 1.5” thick (including frame thickness)

Following the advice on this site, I let the lumber adjust to my garage, jointed and planed it and let is sit some more. Then planed it to final dims.

I built the door frame (see attached door.jpg rear side) using mortise & tenon joinery for all joints… it was quite an experience. Checked for squareness and did the glue-up

Then I did an edge to edge glue-up of all the panels and joined it to the frame using #10 screws, countersunk them. I learned about cauls too late & had to touch up a few misaligned glue joints with a low angle block plane & a brand new handheld orbital sander … as you can imagine the $$ are adding up and still no door :-).. but who is questioning anyway

Finally door was completed, i primed & painted it (ours is not to question why..) per request. The inlay panel which you can see in the pictures were stained and finished with some Varathane protectant.

The door was heavy (of course) but in decent shape. I attached the hardware and hung it. Within a couple of days the door has bowed making it a sore topic….There cannot be that much difference since this was assembled in our 2-car attached garage. Please see picture.

What can I do to salvage this? Can it be salvaged? What did I do to screw this up? Any advice would be huge
thanks all

-- With ambitions always far exceeding my skill

50 replies so far

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3356 days

#1 posted 10-18-2012 02:47 PM

I’d do one of two things…

Either bolt some angle iron down the length of the sides, painted white to match the door. Or, I would rip a groove in the sides (edges) and put in a metal truss (square bar). You can get either from a big box store.

If you choose angle iron, you could remove material to make the angle iron sit flush with the wood.

I cannot think of a solution without using metal at this point unless you are willing to really plane down the thickness of the door itself. That would relax the wood and perhaps solve the problem. Aluminum is an option if weight is a concern.

And, yes, there could be a huge difference in your shop environment and your home. That appears rather obvious right now.

-- jay,

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2446 days

#2 posted 10-18-2012 02:49 PM

Not that this helps a lot, but I am having a miserable time building a table out of Ash. No matter what I do, this wood does not want to stay square.

With pieces THAT big, I would think warping is unavoidable. Since it’s painted, I probably would have saved the ash and used MDF or baltic birch plywood. I’ve never made a door (or anything that large) though. I can say that I have never seen an 83” piece of solid lumber remain perfectly straight/flat.


View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3356 days

#3 posted 10-18-2012 02:53 PM

BTW, you might just try pulling it down and clamping it up along its length for a while. I doubt it will remove the entire bow because of spring back, but it’ll help…especially since you’ll. have to do that to apply other solutions.

Another option is to run some eyelets in the top and bottom and cable it up with some tout airplane cable. Thus would pull door back into shape and allow you to actually hyperextend past the bow. Think of it like braces for your teeth.

Just some additional brainstorming there.

-- jay,

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3356 days

#4 posted 10-18-2012 03:04 PM

I hear you on that, Joe. I haven’t ever worked ash, but I know that such boards work better when they are quarter sawn. That will help resist movement longitudinally. If there’s a mistake that the OP made, it’s probably that…and perhaps not building in some reinforcement.

-- jay,

View jim C's profile

jim C

1472 posts in 3296 days

#5 posted 10-18-2012 03:08 PM

I like the idea of bolting angle iron to the edges and forcing it flat. It would add some architecture as well.

View GregD's profile


788 posts in 3334 days

#6 posted 10-18-2012 03:10 PM

How much trouble would it be to separate the frame from the panel? I might try pulling them apart, force the panel flat (maybe a slight bow in the opposite direction) and re-attach the frame. Another coat of paint on the frame side of the door might also help a bit.

The width of the framing is very small for such a large piece.

-- Greg D.

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3356 days

#7 posted 10-18-2012 03:10 PM

I agree, Jim. I think it’d add a nice little trick.

Just because we are woodworkers I think we forget that it’s okay to use metal sometimes. Heck, last I checked nails and screws were metal!

-- jay,

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2446 days

#8 posted 10-18-2012 03:12 PM

I also think there is a misconception that using man made materials is “cheeping out”. On extremely large pieces like this that are painted, I would definitely opt for the dimensional stability of plywood or MDF.


View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2673 days

#9 posted 10-18-2012 03:29 PM

Cosmic’s solution is the only way, I have used the iron square trick to straighten beams.

I think the question you should ask yourself is why did it bow? Now you know your construction method was not appropriate. If I am seeing your diagram correctly, you screwed the front part to the frame, a 1.5” frame this long is not stiff enough to prevent the wood from moving, which is what happened to the front.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3356 days

#10 posted 10-18-2012 03:34 PM

Good idea, Jonathan.

@Indianwoodchipper – If look at a bookshelf, there’s normally a face board attached to the shelve edge. The principle is to prevent the shelf from bowing under weight of the books. For tables, the apron serves the same purpose. Jonathan is advocating the same type of thing, and it adds a functional element at the same time. The maple is a heavy, stiff wood that would help bind the door in place once you have the ash straightened. The only real question is whether or not it will be enough to hold it? I would suggest that the maple needs a bit more mass than Jonathan has drawn, but the principle is solid. You could even figure a way to sandwich such a board to a piece of metal plate between the maple and the existing door. Or, for that matter, just use the plate itself.

-- jay,

View jdmaher's profile


437 posts in 2777 days

#11 posted 10-18-2012 03:38 PM


I wonder where the bow is coming from? It seems that the panels are a series of shorter Ash boards, edge glued to make a panel. I don’t see why those would bow. So that might indicate that the frame is the issue. So, as GregD asked, can you separate the panel from the frame? If they are just screwed to the frame and not glued, this should be doable.

What I hope you’ll find is that the panels are far less bowed than the frame – because the frame is what was pulling them into a bow. You might still have to flatten the panels by laying them flat and piling lots of weight on them for a couple weeks (IN the house), but you may find that they are still quite usable.

Which would mean you just have to replace the frame. Since its painted, MDF or birch plywood might be a good choice.

For the future (as several have pointed out), three things to watch out for are:

1. Garage is not house. Acclimate lumber to the target environment.

2. Man-made materials are more stable. For painted pieces, use man-made where practical.

3. I, too, find that Ash is unstable, especially long pieces. The greater the length, the more stable material I want to use.

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30050 posts in 2536 days

#12 posted 10-18-2012 03:40 PM

I cut ash slabs at 2” thick and haven’t had problems with twisting. My Elm or Willow goes everywhere.

Life is a lot different in a climate controlled house over your shop.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View thebigvise's profile


191 posts in 3098 days

#13 posted 10-18-2012 03:44 PM

In my humble opinion, only 1 1/2” angle iron can save this door. Your wife is the hero for originally wanting the project painted. As stated above, the steel can be hidden in any of several ways.

-- Paul, Clinton, NC

View Rex B's profile

Rex B

320 posts in 2448 days

#14 posted 10-18-2012 03:53 PM

I think you have some good ideas here for a fix, but I can add some insight as to why this may have happened. Most of the boards on the door are running horizontally, with the frame boards running vertically (aka perpendicular to each other). I’m sure you’ve read about the difference in wood shrinkage/expansion across the grain compared to with the grain.

It looks to me like the humidity was higher in the house, causing the boards to swell. When this happens there is more expansion across the width of the boards than along their length. So the horizontal boards of the front swelled more in the vertical direction than the frame boards did, causing the bow.

I hope this isn’t too confusing!

-- Rex

View jap's profile


1251 posts in 2252 days

#15 posted 10-18-2012 03:56 PM

is it a door to a shower, where one side would get steamy and moist, while the other side is dry? that could cause it to bow

-- Joel

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