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First Project SNAFU

novicebeaver's picture

First Project SNAFU (post #170665)

Hi all

I am a novice who has been following this site for quite sometime & a FWW subscriber. I finally signed up to the forum since I needed to ask all you experts a question which is causing much tension at home...

I decided to take the plunge a year ago bought a few basic machines from Grizzly, an HF dust collector, some pipe clamps on craigslist some 4/4 Ash lumber from CR Mutterspaw & started making some sawdust. The goal was a interior (hanging) sliding door (which my wife rough sketched see attached jpg)

The door dims are 48" wide x 83" tall x 1.5" thick (including frame thickness)

Following the advice on this site, I let the lumber adjust to my garage, jointed and planed it and let is sit some more. Then planed it to final dims.

I built the door frame (see attached door.jpg rear side) using mortise & tenon joinery for all joints… it was quite an experience. Checked for squareness and did the glue-up

Then I did an edge to edge glue-up of all the panels and joined it to the frame using #10 screws, countersunk them. I learned about cauls too late & had to touch up a few misaligned glue joints with a low angle block plane & a brand new handheld orbital sander ... as you can imagine the $$ are adding up and still no door :-).. but who is questioning anyway

Finally door was completed, i primed & painted it (ours is not to question why..) per request. The inlay panel which you can see in the pictures were stained and finished with some Varathane protectant.

The door was heavy (of course) but in decent shape. I attached the hardware and hung it. Within a couple of days the door has bowed making it a sore topic….There cannot be that much difference since this was assembled in our 2-car attached garage.

Please see picture.

What can I do to salvage this? Can it be salvaged? What did I do to screw this up? Any advice would be huge
thanks all

maztec's picture

Where (post #170665, reply #1 of 19)

I could be wrong here, but this is my best bet.

Where is the door hung?  In the garage or in the house?  You acclimated the wood to the garage's humidity.  If you then put the wood in the house, it is likely the humidity change could have (would have, did) cause it to warp.  I always acclimatize my wood to the room it is going into, not my garage - my garage is much more humid.


Fix?  You might be able to reframe it with straight boards.  Or suck it up and rebuild it with new wood (or take it apart and use most/some of the wood from the first build, if doable.. might be that only a few boards are really crooked and straining against each other).


On an off question, are the panels floating or are they attached to the sides?  If attached to the sides, that big spread could really pull things out of whack.  If floating, then the warp is most likely in the sides not the panels.

novicebeaver's picture

the door is hung in the house (post #170665, reply #2 of 19)

the door is hung in the house and the wood was conditioned in the garage. However we dont have any air conditioning and such and its pretty similar to the garage.. quite open to the elements in both places

Taking it apart will be tough because -- i glued the panels edge to edge and then attached them to the frame & the middle runner of the frame using screws.. each panel is screwed to the frame.. to especially make sure there wasnt a huge spread between the connections. Does that make sense

Not sure if I understand what you are referring to when you say 'sides'

Mcfarmer's picture

I wonder if the ash was dry (post #170665, reply #3 of 19)

I wonder if the ash was dry when you got it ? Variation from garage to house I don't think would cause this much distortion. I don't know anyone who stores wood in the house before working with it, but maybe some do. Could it be that the painted and unpainted wood dried at different rates ?  I can't imagine properly kiln dried ash changing so much and so fast.

I think you need more tools, that's what I would tell my wife.

Very good looking door however.

roc's picture

Well It's Bleed'in Obvious Idn't ? (post #170665, reply #4 of 19)

There that sounded confident didn't?

Well if I am seeing this right it is.  Tell me if I got it wrong and I will put my tail between my legs and disappear.

In the drawing there are many, many skinny boards glued up to make this panel.  The grain in these boards is running horizontally.  Parallel to the floor.


there are skinny stiles on each side and one down the middle that are SCREWED ? to the boards running cross grain to these ?

If my description is correct then the horizontal boards expanded vertically across their width (from moisture YOU ADDED ( see bellow )) and the stiles (boards with grain running vertically) being cross grain could not / did not expand along their length and so the horizontal board side bowed out.

Like a strung bow for propelling arrows.  The stiles acting like the string in the bow.

At first I could not believe the drawing was the same as the panel but when I enlarge the photo a whole lot I seem to be seeing at least one of the horizontal boards standing proud of the others sooooooo . . . .

ahhhhdnOh . . .

PS: dry/wet ?  Where did the moisture come from ?


The paint may be dry to the touch but I bet there is moisture in the wood under it that hasn't dissipated yet.

Again . . . am I all wet ?

:     )

PPS: Somebody give me an estimate of the kinetic energy stored here ????

There could be screws and splinters imbedded in all the walls and ceiling at any moment.

Just kidding.  I hope.


Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. Abraham Lincoln ( 54° shaves )

sid works's picture

gotta give you a little credit (post #170665, reply #5 of 19)

for solving the problem. It is solid wood contained with a frame with no allowance for movement. you need a larger frame with smaller panels and a few more rails and the panels should allowed to float. that may help you. did you use a water based finish???


roc's picture

One must come to terms with all this (post #170665, reply #6 of 19)

I  read a physics book once but fear I need considerable tutoring on the subject.

Are we talking potential energy (stored and not moving)?


Kinetic energy because it is still in motion albut extremely slow moving?


perhaps about to become astoundingly dynamic but vastly less focused.

I had a friend once (he tutored me in TIG welding and gasoline engine work).  When ever I needed his help and he was distracted by his own pressing interests all I had to do was say "I am working on something and I could use your help . . . "  and when he started to back pedal and shuffle his feet I would add " . . . did I mention it might explode ?"

He would come right over.  It wasn't for my safety; he just wanted to watch.


Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. Abraham Lincoln ( 54° shaves )

roc's picture

. . . and that's Jenga (post #170665, reply #7 of 19)

Novicebeaver must have had his internet privileges taken away by the boss.  NB . . . are you still alive ?.  Oh man she must be mad.

That's a shame just when he was posting entertaining stuff .


Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. Abraham Lincoln ( 54° shaves )

highfigh's picture

Close the door and see if it (post #170665, reply #8 of 19)

Close the door and see if it straightens. If it does, it needs to dry more, but not against a wall.


If you want to make it resist warping in the future, you might be able to add a metal edge, bolted to the door. You could either have it powder-coated or use wrought iron, so it can be a design element.

"I cut this piece four times and it's still too short."
maztec's picture

Sides = Frame (post #170665, reply #10 of 19)

I was referring to the frame, when I said "sides".  I'm a bit prone to my brain losing words from time to time.  For some reason "ballast" is the one that kept coming up, but that is entirely wrong.

Gluing the panel to the frame would amplify any warping within the panels.  Add that to the answer below about direction, plus wetness from paint, and you have a perfect storm.

I suppose you could try stripping the paint and letting it dry again.  Or just wait it out and see if it straightens up in six or so months as it reaches equilibrium.


And, when doing projects where tolerances are tight, I store the wood in the room that it will be used in for at least two weeks ahead of time.  And because I am usually slow at my projects, that tends to be more like two months by the time I get around to using it.  Then I set myself up in steps so everything goes as fast as possible to get it from my workshop back in to the room.  No more than a few days at most.  Then again, that may be because my workshop (garage) regularly has 60% humidity and can swing down to 40% on a dry day, while the rest of the house is more likely to be 35-40% and is fairly stable.  If I were to insulate my garage door, it would help a lot.

roc's picture

Loosing words (post #170665, reply #14 of 19)

I can sure relate to that !  It is annoying how often words I hear, in the part of my brain that hears them internally, I can not get over to the verbal part of my brain to say them.

In person I come across as a stammering idiot.  Other times when the coffee to pastry burn mix is just right I can orate like a professional speaker.

I LIKE to think it is because I spend most of my time in the spacial / imaginative parts of my mind which are nonverbal.

Some would say I have had too many bike crashes in which I landed on my head and in addition am a demented old fart.

The facts probably lie somewhere in between.  If I could just remember where I put them.

:   )


you must be an old submariner or sailer.


Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. Abraham Lincoln ( 54° shaves )

novicebeaver's picture

Still have access (post #170665, reply #11 of 19)

I was traveling and away from FWw

thanks for all the posts...

My initial thought was to build a rail & stile frame but the design requested no visible frame in the front. Also given the weight of ash I was nervous letting all the horizontal panels hang together just by glue..hence the fake frame which seems to be the culprit. Yea I did use screws to connect the panels to the frame. Yes I did use paint but do not have the can anymore ... It's meant for indoor painting so might be water based?? Duh.. In hindsight


However it was all square after the paint dried in the garage ... So what would be the ideal sealing material to use? What would be the sequence if I need a painted finish? Seal & paint with oil based paint? Use mdf or ply?


No more excitement 

novicebeaver's picture

No more excitement.. I think (post #170665, reply #12 of 19)

Since the door is back in the garage for adjusting & under some lumber to help a speedy recovery. Plan to disassemble the frame this weekend & will keep up the entertaining posts

roc's picture

Oh Thank Bob You Are All Right ! (post #170665, reply #13 of 19)

And still on the Net !

Queenmasteroftheuniverseandbabbybunnytrainer would have put me out on the deck with my old rug for a week.

>Use mdf or ply?<

I think all this comes under home building at this point.  (You might try the Fine Home Building site)

My first blush just now was to use tempered Masonite sandwiched over a narrow wood frame, seal with Bullseye seal coat dewaxed shellac and then paint with the oil based paint.

Queenmasteroftheuniverseandbabbybunnytrainer is a professional artist (oil painter) and occasionally paints on a similar ground.

She primes it first as well

The advantage of this would be a structure that is fairly stable and quite light , because it is a hollow structure.  You could then put your frame you have made on to it with the same screw holes.  The plywood is going to be heavy and also expensive if you get something good enough to paint with out much fill work and the MDF could bow on you in a similar way unless you attach the frame so it can slide over the surface as the substrate moves and again Bob awful heavy.  May even be kind of fragile in this application.

. . . .hmmmmmmm

I have almost no experience with this sort of thing and so you may get better suggestions .

There is the problem of the inlayed pattern.

PS : The Problem of the Inlayed Pattern.

awesome ! Sounds like a great title for a posthumous Sherlock Holmes adventure !

Hey . . .  he "died" once and "came back".  Why not again.


To quote Sherlock Holmes in  The Hound of the Baskervilles

"It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it. I confess, my dear fellow, that I am very much in your debt."


Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. Abraham Lincoln ( 54° shaves )

depot54's picture

bowed door (post #170665, reply #15 of 19)

I've had some luck straightening boards and assemblys setting the object on horses at the ends and laying a protective cover on it. Then you put culls across the width, and weight it down with heavy objects, such as dumbbells to bow it past the bow in the other direction. Make sure the weight is evenly distributed. Some times it works. don,t be shy about adding enough weight.

acornw's picture

Holy Moly! (post #170665, reply #16 of 19)

This many posts and no one definitively just says "This is 100% caused by solid wood moving across the grain"

Or how about "Anything built this way is doomed to cause problems" ? 

The horizontal boards are increasing in width, bowing the 'frame' .

Solid wood moves with normal changes in relative humidity.  "Moves" and "normal " being the operative words. Nothing prevents it, not finish, not paint, not hope or even religion. The same princile was employed by so-called primitive people to quarry stone.  Knowledge of wood's expansion allowed them to build Pyramids.

Read Hoadleys' book Understanding Wood for starters. This is why frame and panel doors exist - not for decoration. This is also why veneers were developed. And should have been used on this job.

There are two rules in working wood:

1. All wood moves

2. All woodworker disagree from there on.

roc's picture

Holy Moly indeed sir (post #170665, reply #19 of 19)

Lets talk about Fine Woodworking and forget this nightmare.

Nothing like wasting time with this 

You obviously missed an earlier post titled :

>Well It's Bleed'in Obvious Idn't ? 

the horizontal boards expanded vertically across their width (from moisture YOU ADDED ( see bellow )) and the stiles (boards with grain running vertically) being cross grain could not / did not expand along their length and so the horizontal board side bowed out.<

Post something about Fine Woodworking.



Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. Abraham Lincoln ( 54° shaves )

PeteBradley's picture

Exactly. The problem is built in. (post #170665, reply #17 of 19)

The problem, unfortunately, is integral to the design of the door.  It might be possible to salvage it by creating a frame the current size of the door, cutting down and tonguing the sides of the door for the frame, etc but there's a huge amount of work in that and creating joinery at the corners that could take the weight amd repetitive use of the door would be a challenge. 

There's really no reason this design needs to be made of boards at all.  I think you should remake the door in in finish ply.  I've had some luck screwing and gluing two sheets together for extra thickness and stiffness but I've never tried it with a piece this big.  It could still warp if one side takes up ambient moisture faster than the other so be sure to paint/seal both sides similarly.

And like acorn said, where is everybody?  I'm checking in to Knots after a couple years away, seems like a ghost town.

roc's picture

It was a learning experience. Study or suffer the consequences (post #170665, reply #18 of 19)

The OP not you.

It might be possible to salvage it by . . .

Building a bonfire and throwing it on.

Nah . . . I'm kidding. . . wood smoke gives me a head ache.


Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. Abraham Lincoln ( 54° shaves )