Laminated custom interior doors

Laminated custom interior doors

cover1I’m in the process of a massive renovation. For a builder like me, that’s usually good news, but it’s my own house, which I’m working on between other jobs. An addition and a radical rearrangement of the existing floor plan are nearly complete, but it turned out I needed 10 interior doors.

I wanted them to be made of white oak in a Craftsman style. After searching locally, the closest I could come to my ideal was a unit in red oak that wasn’t quite what I had in mind. Also, at $670 each, they were a budget buster.

I’d been thinking about making laminated interior doors for some time. The benefits were that I could choose the individual boards, bookmatched if I pleased, and control the design. So I decided to make my own. I didn’t want to build mortiseand-tenon doors, figuring it would take too long to get up to speed. Instead, I decided to laminate three layers of solid wood to form a frame and add finishgrade plywood or glass as panels. The rails’ middle layer would extend through the stiles like a built-up bridle joint—
strong, flat, and less likely to move seasonally. Gluing and clamping a project like this isn’t for the faint of heart. A completely
flat door is essential.

It all came together one day when a friend at the local hardwood mill mentioned a vacuum press. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It would give me substantial, perfectly even clamping pressure with a finished product as flat as the form it was in. It seemed perfect for making laminated doors. I built the form and used a compressor and vacuum bag to clamp the entire assembly. That way, once I had finished the setup, I could replicate the remaining nine frames easily. From the first door, they’ve turned out even better than I
imagined—flat, square, and good-looking. The best part was the cost. With the pump, the bag, and the materials factored in, the total cost of each door was about $200. Now I know I can offer custom doors to my customers and make money, too.

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