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Shed Doors 4: Curved Rails


Last summer, I added a small shed to my old garage. I hung some temporary plywood doors, and built the real doors in the shop here at American Woodworker. Here are links to the first three parts of the story: Shed Doors 1 and Shed Doors 2 and Shed Doors 3.

I've cut the mortises and made the tenons. And the doors go together! Those are moments worth savoring, aren't they?

Now it's on to laying out a curve on the top rails. This is a bird's eye view, taken from the next-to-last step of a six-foot ladder. I've clamped the two doors together, and the top rails are at left. (I've omitted the middle rails for now.)

What I want to do is to draw one continuous arc across the top rails. First, I have to find the arc's centerpoint. Step 1, I marked a point in the middle of the two doors representing the high point of the arc. Next, I laid a 2-ft. rule from that point to the end of the rail, the low point of the arc, and drew a straight line. I marked the center of the line (that's what the black pencil at left is pointing to).

I've illustrated the next step at the top of the photo, on the other door. I put a square on that pencil line, and laid a yardstick on the square to increase the length of the square's long leg. The point where the yardstick intersects the middle of the door is the center of the arc (that's what the pencil at right is pointing to). I made a trammel this length, drew the arc, took apart the doors, and bandsawed the top rails.

After sawing, I sanded the arc. I'm using a sanding block that has a face that's very slight convex, perfect for the this kind of job. It's just an ordinary shop-made block, with a flat piece of cork glued to a piece of plywood. I made the cork convex by sanding it with a narrow block. It's very easy to do. The curve of the block doesn't have to match the curve of the rail–in fact, it's best if the block has a smaller radius.

I've made three set of blocks like this, with matching convex and concave shapes, and slightly different curves. They've come in handy many times. I don't think you can buy anything like that, can you?

I had cut the grooves for the panels in all the other rails way back when, in Shed Doors 1. And now I needed to cut the same groove in the curved rails. Hmmm.... This wasn't going to be so easy.

I used a 1/4" slot cutter with a bearing, making two cuts to form a 1/2" wide groove. This operation really requires a starting pin to safely begin the cut, and I couldn't find mine anywhere. Sound familiar? So I made one from a square piece of maple, rounded one end with a file, and jammed it in one of the holes in the router table. It worked OK, but I'm still looking for the real McCoy!


Together again. I hope that curved rail business makes sense now. The curve adds a nice touch-but it's going to complicate making the panels.

That's it for now-panels in the next blog.

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jak wrote re: Shed Doors 4
on 04-15-2009 8:58 AM

What a timely project!  Looks great.  I've been looking into door building techniques (stave core and others) but this is the first project that I've seen that got beyond the pencil drawing stage.

I need to make doors (rough opening 7' x 8') for the tractor storage side of my workshop.  I am currently planning to use western red cedar (withstands weather, light) but will consider other woods.

Looking forward to more posts.

Jim K.