Canadian Woodworking

Even the simple things take too much time

Blog by Rob Brown
Closet door

I posted a set of closet doors I was building on Instagram a month or so ago. Just simple solid maple doors with plywood panels. They were paint-grade, and were to be installed in the front door area of our home. Though I didn’t mention it, I was pretty sure they’d take me about a day in total spaced out over the next three days or so to build, paint and install. I didn’t realize this project would span a month and have so many roadblocks.

To start things off, while machining the mortise and tenon joinery (something I’ve done a thousand times) I wasn’t paying attention and made the first tenon far too thin. After gluing on a piece of wood to the tenon, I was back in business. Next, there was a gap between a few of the tenon shoulders and the edge of the mating stiles. Sloppy work, Rob. I glued a sliver of veneer into the gap, let it dry overnight, then got back to work in the morning.

With the doors made, I brought them to the house and installed them. Well, mostly installed them. I knew they were slightly oversized, as I planned to cut them down after the initial install, but they were far too large for both of them fit in the opening at the same time. A bit of fussing with how they would fit once cut down, then it was back to the shop to cut them down. Rather than return them to the house, I opted to just paint them in the shop. I was pretty sure they’d fit just fine, so why waste my time, right?

At this point, a furniture job came up that I had to focus on. I initially thought I could complete and install these doors before this job, but it didn’t quite happen. I put the doors aside for a week.

Because the furniture job pushed the painting back a week, I was now in a busy part of the schedule for the magazine. We were putting together the April/May issue, and there were a lot of details to sort out. I still wanted to get these doors in, and since paint needs to dry, I spent an hour applying the first coat of primer on the doors in the shop, then went back to the magazine stuff I had to do. Back and forth between home and the shop a couple times over the next few days whenever I had an extra hour, and the painting slowly got finished. Painting went smoothly, which is surprising, because I’m far from a great painter, and it’s the part of this process that I know the least about.

We finally got the April/May issue out, so that freed me up to get back to the doors. They were dry now, so I took them back to the house to install the first door. It went fine, and looked good. The second door got installed in the same hinge holes I used a few days ago, but the tops of the doors were not at all even. Back to the shop to cut one door down, then return to the house, where both doors had to be moved up about 1/4″ so the gap above the door was not only even, but the right width.


The problem now was that when I closed the doors the no-mortise hinges I used pressed the doors open. I guess the screws protruded ever so slightly from the hinge holes. No worries, as a magnetic catch would solve that problem. At that point we were in a Grey Zone due to Covid-19, so I had to place an online order and wait for the green light. A day later I got the email and over I went to pick things up. Back to the house, only to find out the magnetic catch was the wrong one, and wouldn’t work as easily as I had hoped. Rather than wait another day for the proper catch, I decided to use what I had. That meant I had to head back to the shop to make a piece of wood for the catches to get fixed to, then paint that piece of wood white. It was still faster than waiting another day for the hardware store to sort my order.

Returned to the house, installed the wood block and magnetic catches. It was finally time to close the doors and enjoy a job well done. Only problem was the magnetic latches weren’t strong enough to keep the doors closed, and they popped open the moment I released my hands from them. It was late at night, so I opted get some sleep before figuring this out.

The next morning, I pressed some of the wood in where the screw heads were coming into contact with the jamb, adjusted the magnetic catches and adjusted one of the hinges and surprisingly the doors stay closed. Barely. Ever so barely. If you close them a bit too firmly they pop right back open again. I’m sure you can imagine how frustrating that is to me. We all know what the simple solution is; close the doors gently, of course. I’ve already told my kids they’re not allowed to use these doors. Ever.

Now for some baseboard. That shouldn’t take long, either.

Kids Working Wood

Thanks to everyone who helped me connect with a few young woodworkers over the past week. Since my last column, I was contacted by a few young woodworkers, as well as a few adults with leads on others to contact. The wheels are in motion now, so if you know any kids between the ages of about 7 and 19, please let me know. I’m looking forward to bringing these articles to a new generation of woodworkers.

Kids toolbox

Nice and Easy, or So It Should Have Been

Here are the finished doors, looking just like any nice and easy finished project should. The road getting there was bumpy, though.

Closet door
Last modified: May 15, 2022

Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Username: Password: