Fingers, Friends and a new Front Door

My New Front Door!

My New Front Door!

April 13, 2015

Fingers, friendship and front doors. That was the order of importance yesterday and I’m happy to report that success on all three fronts. No digits were lost, I got to spend the whole day with a new friend and tiny house enthusiast who taught me all kinds of new woodworking techniques and best of all, I finally have a new front door for my tiny house!

The front door is something I have been worrying about, thinking about and stressing about ever since I started building the house over year ago. Building my own door was way outside my comfort zone and something I really, really didn’t want to do. Unfortunately, as most people who are into tiny houses know, tiny house doors are usually … well, tiny. That means they need to be custom-made which means either shelling out big bucks or doing it yourself. I did not discover that I was going to need a custom door until I had already built the door opening and there was no going back. After that, I got books out of the library and started watching videos on YouTube about door construction. I learned about things like mortises and tenons that seemed impossible to create given my current level of woodworking expertise (actually, at that point, they seemed kind of impossible all together). Every time I tried to learn more about it, I just got more overwhelmed.

And then something amazing happened. Somebody who lives in the same town as me and who is getting ready to build his own tiny house, discovered my blog and came over to visit with his wife, LeeLee. That person was Gregory. When Gregory asked me what my biggest challenge was and I told him it was my door, he said not to worry about it because he would help me to build it. All I could think to myself after that was how lucky I was. Somehow, God keeps sending me everything I need with this tiny house just when I need it.

True to his word, Gregory met me at the TechShop in San Jose at 8:30 AM yesterday morning and at 5:30 PM, we had a door. It took both of us all day, but I think it turned out really well. The day even went pretty smoothly. In fact, we only ran into one major problem (see problems we encountered below for more detail).

I really can’t express how happy I am to finally have a door for my tiny house. Every time I walked past it in the garage, I get a little bit giddy. It’s amazing to have finally completed something that had intimidated me for so long and it’s especially nice to know that I did it myself (or at least had a few hands in it myself).

If you’re reading this blog, you might be wondering how to build custom front door for your tiny house and you might be feeling just as overwhelmed as I was. If so, I want to reassure you that building a door is something you can do. I’m not going to say that it’s easy or that it will be quick. I’m just going to say that it’s possible and that when you’re done, you’ll have created something that you will hopefully be proud of for the rest of your life.

To help arm you with the information necessary to get started, I have written a complete set of instructions for building the door specified in the tumbleweed plans. I wrote these instructions while I was creating my door and I think they’re fairly complete. I also took as many photographs as I could. I didn’t take as many as I wanted, but I think it’s enough to give you the idea. If you want more information, I also recommend watching the tumbleweed video which has a short section on door construction. That section is not as long as I would have liked, but it does have some useful tidbits that may complement my instructions. After that, watch your fingers, find a friend to help you and go build yourself a front door!

To read my instructions, click here.

Favorite parts of the day:

  • Spending time with and getting to know Gregory a little bit better.
  • Being able to work with somebody who really knew what they were doing and could show me all kinds of new woodworking tricks.
  • Lunch at the mexican restaurant across the street from the TechShop. Great fish tacos!
  • Waiting for the glue to dry on my door. I know this doesn’t sound enjoyable, but we worked pretty hard during the day and when the door was finally put together, it was great to just sit, relax and admire it for a while.

Today’s tiny epiphanies:

  • Everything is easier with the right tools. I could have cut all of the mortises in my door by running all of my wood through a single table saw blade over and over again, but it was so much easier to just make one pass across the dado blade.

Problems we Encountered:

  • We only experienced one major problem which happened at the very end of the day when we were already tired and when I was least expecting it. I didn’t expect that it was going to be difficult to glue all the pieces of the door together. I kind of thought that would be the easy part. Boy, was I wrong. By the time we got around to gluing the door, we had already tested all of the pieces several times and knew that they all went together properly. What we did not anticipate was how much more difficult it would be to wedge all the pieces together when they were slathered with glue that seemed to be drying about as fast as we could put it on. We chose to use normal yellow wood glue and maybe there’s something more appropriate for doors. I don’t know. I did a lot of research on glue before getting to the TechShop and I didn’t find a better option. Perhaps the real mistake we made was trying to glue all of the parts of the door at the same time instead of gluing part of the door and then gluing the rest of the door. In any case, it was only when we finally had glue on all the surfaces that we discovered that the door would not actually go together anymore. It partially went together, but a couple of pieces seemed to simply refuse to be knocked into place no matter how hard we whacked them with a wooden mallet. I was starting to stress because I knew that every second we spent trying to get it together was one more second the glue had to set up. With enough banging at the right angle, Gregory eventually got the bottom rail to seat properly. Unfortunately, the left door stile was still slightly crooked, leaving a 1/8 inch gap between it and the rail at the top of the door. I whacked on that end of the stile as hard as I could to no avail. I was about to give up when Gregory finally thought to start use the mallet at the bottom end of the door and work his way slowly to the top. He repeated this process about three times and each time the gap closed up a little bit until the whole door finally came together. Phew! I’m not sure I could have handled starting my door from scratch again.
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