Making a Front Door

I'm considering making a new front door for my house. Maybe something with a little glass, about 6' 7" tall, 38" wide.
Anyone ever do this? What lumber did you use? What (if anything) was tricky?
TIA...
-Mike
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Making a door is not for beginners. Do you have some woodworking history behind you? Doors have special construction requirements. The lumber is much thicker than cabinet doors, the stresses are much greater, there can be extreme temperature differentials between the outside and the inside and other stuff. I am not trying to discourage you, but the lumber and time invested can deal a crushing blow to ones ego if it warps or something. I have made a few doors, and have a couple of failures and a few successes. max

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I have never made a door but I would start by looking at the good doors at an upper end lumber yard. Notice the grain patterns. You probably are going to pay close attention to the moisture content and pay close attention to the way the panels are installed.
Another thing I might do is go to a millwork shop and chat it up. They will probably be happy to explain what goes into a good door.
As a locksmith I have seen my share of swollen doors. In my experience if the door has a good finish on it (especially the top and the bottom where the end grain is exposed.) and is protected from direct southern exposure they do fairly well.
--

Roger Shoaf

About the time I had mastered getting the toothpaste back in the tube, then
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I've done it twice, unfortunately for the same doorway (front door). The first time I tried to build a mission-style door in oak. Damn thing only lasted a few months (I live in Chicago) before I had a 1/2" twist from top to bottom along the outside edge. Even the smallest movement can render a door un-shuttable, or at the very least drafty.
I took this door off, cut it down in size a bit and hand planed it square again, then remounted it indoors. It is definitely the loveliest furnace-room door you've ever seen.
The second time, I used well-seasoned hard maple in thicker stock (3" along the frame) and was super careful with the joinery. I seasoned the maple on the front porch. Joinery is deep tenons for the most part. I then polyurethaned the heck out of the thing to seal it up. It has lasted over a year now with no signs of movement whatsoever. It is heavy enough to knock out the proselytizers when I slam the door shut on them.
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Maybe that's why vertical grain fir is often used for exterior doors. Often the doors you buy are laminated blocks with a thick veneer applied. That's how they achieve uniformity in grain patterns. I suspect cypress would be a good wood to use. Just my thoughts on the matter. I have rebuilt several doors with good success. I will be making a new on soon.
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Current issue, or maybe the last one, of Woodwork magazine. Very detailed project description of a mahoghany door, including some nice veneer, glass and inlay. I don't remember the craftsperson, except that he was not a fulltime woodworking pro. He used a clever, shopmade approach to the deep mortises, which he cut with a plunge router.
Also covered in a half-hour program: David Marks "Wood Works", on DIYnet. His was made of jarrah, and, of course, drop-dead beautiful.
Your climate may influence your choice of materials. See what the better builders are using, and check out some of the older, historic buildings.
And good luck!
Patriarch
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Go for it! How awesome to come home and touch you work everyday.
Straight grain fir is very common and inexpensive and can look really nice. However, if you want to drop some bucks, go for Quartersawn White Oak, even flat sawn WO would be OK. Very stable and weather tolerant.
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I made a 36"x 80" raised panel (6 panel) front door plus sidelights about 18 months ago. I used 8/4 Red Oak for the rails and stiles, but cheated and used 3/4" stock glued back-to-back for the panels. It was considerably cheaper, and the joints are invisible. The door has held up perfectly, although the oak threshold is ready for a sanding and another coat of Spar Varnish. I should note that I've got a South facing front porch, although it is covered, so the door gets little direct sunlight. Also, I live in Colorado, and the humidity is pretty constant (low).
In general, building and entry door requires some skill, but isn't much different than an "ordinary" raised panel door. I did all of the cope and stick joints and panel raising on a router table, using a 3+ hp, variable speed Milwuakee router. The bits were purchased from MLCS, and I went with their Katana bits, since the Cope and Stick cutters included the elements needed for booth 1/2 and 1/4 inch slots for the panels. I was also making several matching interior doors, and needed both.
Probably the biggest problem I had was running the rails through the Jointer and Planer. I've got a 6" Jet jointer and a 13 in Jet Molder/Planer. Both have plenty of oomph, but handling 80 inch lengths of 8/4 stock can be a challenge. Joints were all mortice and loose tenon on the front door, but I relied on the cope and stick for the interior doors.
Having done it once, I wouldn't hesitate to take it on again. I had priced a similar door and sidelights at around $3500, without installation, and I figure I've got around $1200 in this one, including the Milwuakee router and the bits.
Good luck, Ron Kolakowski
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