Open the mural door … better make it first.

IMG_0692This is a copy of the door to a wall cupboard, or mural cupboard (just the same word but from a Latin stem, posh). I wrote briefly about this local cupboard now in Cliffe Castle Museum here.  Wow that was back in November 2014!  Well now, I’ve lots of pieces of oak hanging around from past projects so I sorted out eight pieces for the door frame and for the door itself plus a broader piece for the center panel.  Then lots of planing to get them all dimensioned, lots of shavings, lots of fire lighting materials, it does burn well does oak, this really is hardly green any longer (better wait until it’s been installed for a while before you get carried away. Ed.).

imageSome of this stuff too.

I think it best to do most of the carving before assembly.  Inevitably, discovered this by error.  Working the groove for the panel and then attacking the edges of an S-scroll carving with large chisel and heavy mallet can have rather unwanted consequences.  But that’s part of learning.  This is the first panel construction I’ve done, and I knew there would be a little frigging around to fill the end of the groove where it exits the stiles with a shoulder on the rail tenons.  That turned out not to be too bad.  The trickiest part was seating the tenons in the mortises.  I must have made a bad decision in opting for 1/8th inch clearance in the mortise bottom.  1 and1/4 inch mortise and 1and 1/8th tenon is a bit close.


Tenons cut, next just been, draw-boring. Bore the mortise and borders the tenons thickness of a shilling closer to the shoulder.


Mark the mortise hole through to the tenon, then bore closer, leaving the top of the hole intersecting the mortise hole so the pegs pull the tenon up tight.


Here are the pegs. Dry oak, they bend through the offset holes.


Much stronger than a board.


Good and neat on the back.


Same process for the frame.



Ready to draw boring.


A touch of edging, and we’re ready for hinges.


Then nailing on’t wall.

The door may open with a string







Last Summer I wrote a post which included the above verses by John Clare.  I should have noted his words – particularly “The door may open with a string” I guess I didn’t appreciate what he was talking about. However, I have just made a former problem door open with a string.


This iron sneck was part of the problem, reducing, as it did, the door opening by just enough inches too catch your elbow whilst passing through with a tray, ouch! Again!  The real problem wasn’t the sneck but the door opening which was 2 inches narrower at the sneck side compared to the hinge side.  So after 20 years of putting up with it, I decided to sort it out.  I called my bother down to have a look at it and advise whether altering the opening might cause any structural problems, there is a ceiling beam quite close to the door lintel.  He cunningly suggested that it might be easier to change the door handle.  Well thought.

It rang a bell that I had seen a wooden door mechanism somewhere, had a bit of a search online, found a very interesting book: Shelters, Shacks and Shanties, by D.C. Beard.  This had lots of plans for scouts to make shelters in the Great American Outdoors in 1916.  There were interesting foot operated latches and hidden ones concealed behind a nail.  All more suitable for a cabin external door than our dining room.  But there was one operated by a string that hung outside, but which was pulled inside if you didn’t want visitors barging in.  I’d seen this before somewhere – ah yes Eric Sloane!

Sloane latch


Again it was for a barn door, but our house is a cottage so still in keeping.  I started a prototype (which ended up being the actual) from 1/4 riven green oak.  All a bit fiddly as I had no dimensions to go on, apart from the restrictions of the existing door and its frame.


May God blind me if that isn’t a dodgy chisel – Ed

The spring was fun, you can adjust the strength by the length of the thin section and by adjusting the height and angle of the spring fixing block. As above, I rigged it on a piece of scrap to get the latch to open in the keeper without jamming.  However, could only really arrange the string live on the door.  Made a handle for the string, as we don’t really need to lock people in the kitchen, and it’s a lot easier to work.

SAMSUNG CSCThis is made from an interesting piece of dying hawthorn, it is almost purple where it is dead in the centre of the stem, then a band of black melanin – so presumably there’s a fungus at work in there.  The white stuff is the live sapwood (now dead, of course!).  I had to adjust the handle until it balanced level (not as above).

So it ended up like this:


Just about level, even though a little out of focus.

SAMSUNG CSCI’m leaving the screw holes in the door, to remind us to be thankful we don’t bash our elbows anymore.  I’ll fill and paint the one in the frame though