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Thread: Cutting down an Interior Door

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
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    WNY
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    Cutting down an Interior Door

    A friend asked if I could make a 24" w x 62" door like this one that accesses an attic space:




    Rather than build a new door I asked if she had or could find a standard height door like it. Turns out she had one in storage with no purpose and agreed to let me cut it down. The top and bottom rails had both been trimmed down earlier in life, but the bottom rail was still wide enough to reuse as the new top rail. So I would have to make a new bottom rail but that turned out to be pretty easy as I was able to reuse the sticking from the old top rail.

    The old shellac finish on the door stiles and rails was really bad so I had to sand it off, but it was plenty good on the panel so all I had to do was clean it and reuse it. I disassembled the door by boring from the ends to cut the dowel joinery, then pulled it apart with only a little prying and whacking. The door was made with stave core Douglas fir with QS mahogany skins. I made the new bottom rail from stave core poplar and used 1/8" ribbon grain Sapele veneer. I used TB II to glue on the skins, something I don't normally use but figured I'd try it after so many Creekers reported good results with it in their veneering work. It went very smoothly. You can see the sticking I cut off the old top rail in this photo of the new bottom rail.



    The old bottom rail ends had been coped to fit over the sticking on the stiles, but I couldn't do that with the new bottom rail, so I used a jack miter. After cutting mortises for loose tenons, I cut the sticking off the stiles where the new rail meets it.



    I used a shoulder plane to remove the last little bit of the sticking. I cut off the ends of the bottom rail right at the ends of the sticking, then cut mortises in it to correspond with those in the stiles.



    After it was glued up with epoxy, the joints flushed, the ends trimmed to final length, and finish sanded, I set about matching the aged shellac finish of the center panel. I ended up using a two step process. I started with orange shellac doped with Transtint Vintage Dark Maple dye. After several light coats I had this.



    Then I switched to Sealcoat shellac doped with a pretty healthy dose of Green Transtint and 1/4 of that amount of Bright Red to shift the color towards brown. And here's the finished door.



    I made a paint grade poplar jamb for the door, cut the mortises, and reinstalled all the hardware before delivery to the owner who would install it and trim it out. She was pleased.

    Nice little project.

    John

  2. #2
    The single panel was certainly the right way. It says handsome service door. Beautiful color.

  3. #3
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    Very nicely done, John. Great job on the color.

  4. #4
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    Dec 2010
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    Thanks. The panel was from the original door; all I did was cut it down to fit the new height. Of course, that made my job a little harder to match the color of the frame to it, but it came out pretty well. I got a note from the owner today with this picture of the door installed and trimmed out in it's new home. Pretty much a mirror image of the one across the room I showed in the first post.



    John
    Last edited by John TenEyck; 04-15-2019 at 1:52 PM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Issaquah, Washington
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    1,106
    Congratulations on upholding our craft. Kudos, Sir!

  6. #6
    John,

    Nice work on matching that finish. Why did you start yellow, and then add green/red to get brown? Why did you choose that instead of starting with a brown Transtint to get closer for the first step?

    I've tried matching some old finishes and it seems like black magic all the way around.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
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    SE PA - Central Bucks County
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    Nice work, John!

    Bryce, John used a common technique with mahogany/sapele to get to a particular shade that leverages the color of the species. Using the colors he did provides more of an "exact" match than using something "brown". It's quite common when using dye to utilize multiple dye colors to achieve a hue that works with a given wood species.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  8. #8
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    Great work.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  9. #9
    Join Date
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    WNY
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    Thanks Bryce. As Jim said, trying to use any of the brown Transtint dyes won't get you where I needed the color to go. They will kill that underlying yellow orange color you see in the ribbon grain of mahogany and Sapele. That's why I started with amber shellac with Dark Vintage Maple Transtint. (On a prior project where I needed a lighter final color I used Transtint Yellow in water as the base color.) Some of the test specimens I made suggested that mix alone would get me to the desired final color, but it became clear after I sprayed a couple of coats that it would take too many coats which is not a good thing with shellac, so I switched to the green + red mix. Had I made more test specimens I might have been able to get the correct color with just one dye mix, but that often takes a lot of time. (I once made 35 test specimens to get a color and finish match I was happy with.) This was a budget job and I have quite a lot of experience adjusting color with Transtint dyes, so I felt pretty confident I could adjust the color on the fly if needed. Turns out it was needed and that's where the green + red mix came from. I have to admit this was a new twist for me. I've had to move something too red towards brown many times. The standard approach in that case is to use green. But this was more orange/yellow so now you need something on the blue side of green. That's where the blend of green and red came from. Mixing those two colors gives you more flexibility than trying to just do it with blue, and it only took a couple of minutes to come up with the 4 parts green to 1 part red mix.

    I know it often seems like black magic but it's really more a matter of using the color wheel as a guide to what to try, observing what happens, and then adjusting until you get the desired result. Experience definitely helps, but persistence matters more.

    John

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
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    SE PA - Central Bucks County
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    To add further to John's excellent description, folks who do this generally get to a place where they kinda "know" what's going to be required to fix the hue based on experience and that cuts down the iterations of required test pieces. Understanding the color wheel is an important first step.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

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