This project started out of a love of the barn door trend. Rather than trying to find one to fit the space, I decided to repurpose the baseboards from the pre-reno house to construct one from scratch.
Although I've tried to be fairly comprehensive in this tutorial, there are many variables that you will have to adapt to your space, skills, and tools. How to build the sliding hardware is included in here, but purchasing a kit would probably save a lot of headache. Please always follow safety rules and wear proper PPE. Finally, have fun.
- Planer (Both thickness and jointer would be beneficial)
- Table Saw
- Mitre Saw
- Brad Nailer
- Belt and Random Orbital Sander
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
My house, built in 1943, used douglas fir in every room. Floors, baseboards, trim, built ins. Everything was made from the beautiful wood. However, it turned somewhat brittle over the years and couldn't handle another coat of paint. I salvaged as much as I could, taking out the nails as I went. Long sections were cut down to manageable sizes and anything that showed major cracks or flaws was sent to the dump.
The rest was loaded up and taken to the workshop.
Step 2: Mill Lumber to Size.
Once I figured out the thickness of the door I wanted to build, I was ready to start breaking down the baseboards. My door is 1 3/8" thick and 36" wide by 82" tall.
To make this thickness of door, I needed to rip all of the baseboards on the table saw to just over 1 3/8" so they could be laminated on edge and then planed down to the final thickness of 1 3/8"
I flattened both faces of boards with a jointer and thickness planer to make for a better glue-up. I also removed all the paint at this stage. Please wear appropriate dust protection during paint removal; you never know what old paint could contain.
Step 3: Glue Up
I arranged the boards before glueing to make sure I had enough and to play with the layout. I left rough lengths on the ends to be able to trim later with a circular saw.
The boards are glued with regular wood glue and secured with brad nails. You could use clamps at this stage to laminate, but the brad nailer allows you to move on to the next row immediately.
Once I had roughly 16" (or half of the door width laminated) I ran it through the planer again to surface it.
Step 4: Barn Door Style.
Once the entire slab was glued and surfaced, I was ready to layout some trim to give it the barn door style. Just before this step I used a belt sander and palm sander to go through the grits from 80 to 150.
I used leftover baseboards, planed to 3/4", as the accents. With some math and layout tools you can construct a multitude of barn door styles. This style was fairly easy. I framed off the outside first and then cut the cross piece to fit after with some mitre saw cuts.
At this point the door was roughly 150 pounds and I had to get a helper to move it around.
Step 5: Apply a Finish
After everything was sanded to 150 grit and the edges were rounded by hand, I used a wipe-on polyurethane to lay down a natural and somewhat protective finish. There were dozens of ways I considered to finish this door, but the ease of application and the natural colour from the wipe-on poly made it the winner.
Step 6: Sliding Door Hardware
After looking at sliding door kits, I felt like I could handle the construction of a better, stronger version. This step proved quite difficult. There was a lot of measurement and errors on my part. Having to do it again, it might be better, but I can't recommend this step unless you are a skilled metalworker.
Most parts were cut from 1/4" x 2" steel bar. The wheels are idler pulleys from a Chevrolet I found at an auto parts store. The pulley's groove doesn't sit quite perfectly on the rail and it took a lot of grinding to get it to run smoothly.
The plans show how the pulleys sit on the rail and are attached by a large bolt. Several washers were used to centre the door over the rail. The parts were finished with a oil rubbed bronze spray paint.
Step 7: Hang the Door and You're Done.
After getting the fit right, it was ready to hang. It's an extremely heavy door and I'm glad I took the time to build a solid hardware system. It slides open okay, however; the door is more for show and covers the opening to an office.
Thanks for reading.
"Woodworking minus patience equals firewood"