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Screen Door

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This project appeared in our July 5, 2008 Newsletter.

Screen Door

We have been wanting a screen door on our front door for some time now but coming up with the right design took a while. We wanted a screen door that was more like the ones we remembered when growing up rather than some plastic or metal manufactured door. We definitely wanted it to be able to slam and hopefully squeak. We didn't want any fancy closers but instead just an old fashion spring.
I went to the lumber store to get the wood for my screen door and the guy at the yard asked what I was building. I told him a screen door and he said, "We have a screen door kit for only $154." I said, "No thank you it will be more fun to design and build my own."

The first thing you'll need to know is the size of your screen door. Mine turned out to be 3'0" X 6'0". You'll also have to decide on a design. You can copy ours or come up with your own.

Here's what you'll need:
5/4" X 6" lumber. I used clear, straight grain fir. Choose a good stable wood that won't warp in the weather.
3/8" or 1/2" oak or walnut dowel.
Screen material to cover the openings. I used good old metal screen, trying to keep the old fashion effect.
(2) 3" X 1" hinges, I used brass. A screen door spring or closer if you are so inclined.
A handle and latch. Again I opted for just an old fashioned handle and for the latch I used a hook and eye.
(80) #6 X 1" brass screws.

I made the side and center stile's 4 1/2" wide and the top, center and bottom rail's 5 1/4" wide.
You can adjust the dimensions to fit your door.

Opening Dimensions

Once you have all your dimensions figured out it's time to start making sawdust. It's important to size your wood so that everything matches up when you assemble it. I used my planer to get all the wood to the same thickness.

These little 13" planners work great!

It's a good idea to run the edges of the boards over a jointer to true them up. If like me you don't have a jointer I've found that the Frued Glue Line Rip blade is a close second.

The real work in making this door is the tenon and mortise joints. If you are very careful in your layout and measuring everything will come together perfectly in the end.
Start out by making the tenon's. I made the tenon's on the top, center and bottom rail's 4" X 2" X 1/2", the tenon's for the center stile are 3 1/2" x 2" X 1/2".
The way I set the height for the tenon shoulders is using a height gage attached to my combination square.

Then I transfer that dimension to my saw blade.

Notice that I'm using the table saw sled that we built from my Table Saw Sled project.
To make sure that every shoulder is exact clamp a block to the tablesaw sled.

Next you'll want to cut the cheeks of the tenon's. I like using my Heavy Duty Tenoning Jig.

I can use it for the narrow side of the cheeks but I needed to add a support board to my tablesaw miter for cutting the wide cheeks.

Again I attached a stop block to get them all exact.
Next it was on to the mortise's. I found the center of each mortise and then marked the ends using my cool Incra Precision Centering Tool.

I placed the center of the rule over my mark and then marked each end of the mortise. I continued the line using a small square.
Then I marked the center line of the mortise using my Incra Precision T-rule. These are very cool for this application.

I just place my pencil in a hole on the rule that lines up with my center and then drag the square bar along the edge of the wood. It makes a nice centerline to follow when drilling out the mortise's.
Now drill out the mortise using a 1/2" forstner bit 2 1/16" deep, following the centerline. Be sure to start and stop at the ends without going over the line.

Clean out the mortise's using a sharp chisel.
Do a dry fit with all the pieces before you drill the holes for the pegs or do any gluing.

Mark the width of the pegs, 3/4" in from each side, on the tenon and transfer them to the mortise.

Measure 1" in from the edge to the mark and using a forstner bit that matches your dowel, drill through the front of the door and half way through the back of the door.

Clean out the mortise to make sure that any tear out from the drill is cleaned up.

Put the door together and square it up by measuring from corner to corner and then the opposite corners. They should be the exact same measurement. If not "tweak" to door into square.
Using the same forstner bit that you drilled the peg holes with, mark the center of each hole on the tenon.

To make a draw fit joint, where the pegs will actually pull the door together tightly, mark the hole centers 1/32" inside the point marks from the forstner bit.

Be very accurate when you drill these holes. On wood like fir there is a tendency for the drill bit to drift off the hard part of the grain. Hold the wood tight and use a drill press.

Cut 1" pegs from dowel and round over the end that will be driven into the peg holes.
Before you glue up your door it's a good idea to sand all the pieces first.
Now it's time to glue everything together. You'll need to work fast depending on the type of glue you use. Try to use the slowest drying glue you can find such as Titebond II Extend Wood Glue, it has a fifteen minute working time.

Check for square and clamp the door using bar clamps or pipe clamps.
Apply glue and drive the pegs in using a dead blow mallet.
Once the glue is dry flush cut the pegs using a good flush cut saw. Sand smooth along with the rest of the door.
I set the door into the molding of our front door and found that the moulding was askew a little bit so I had to trim it to fit exactly. I used my metal edge but you can use a straight piece of lumber and a skill saw.

Install the hinges in the molding and in the door. Check the fit one more time.
I made the molding to go over the screen using the left over pieces from trimming the door stiles.
They are 1" X 1/4". I cut a 1/16" dado in them using my table saw and fence.

Next I rounded over the outside edge using a 1/4" round over bit in my router.

I used a fence since the wood was too thin to run along the ball bearing of the router bit.
I used a 1/2" radius round over bit for the front side of the door frames. This is a personal option and you can use any number of different router bits for the design you want.

Sand and apply stain and finish before installing the screen and the molding.
Cut the screen to fit 5/8" inside the screen frames.

Staple in place all the way around.

Miter cut the molding's to perfectly fit the inside frame of the door.
Pre-drill and countersink the screw holes in the molding.

I used self centering bits to drill the holes through the frames and into the doors.

Rockler/Insty-Drive Self-Centering Bits
Rockler/Insty-Drive Self-Centering Bits

Screw the molding over the edges of the screen.<

Install the spring, handle and latch and you should now have a beautiful screen door that should last for many years.

Here's an inside view of the completed door.

That's about it. We hope you liked this project. If you build it and your friends ask where you got such a clever idea, please tell them that you got it at

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