Building a solid door from common lumber.
Synopsis: Batten doors can be made quickly from simple lumber and are at home on sheds and barns and in houses with a simple, rustic flavor. Here’s how to make one, with an illustration showing several variations.
A fine-looking batten door can be made from materials sold at any building-supply house, and can be built with limited funds and equipment. In the years when our business had no shop and little machinery, we produced custom batten doors at job sites, using only a tablesaw, an electric drill, and a few clamps. They looked great, and were also competitive in price with factory-made doors.
Batten doors do have some inherent problems, though. Wood moves. A 36-in. door can vary as much as 3/8 in. in width between a dry winter and a humid summer. This will show on the side opposite the hinges, and the door that fits perfectly this winter may need to be planed down next summer and have its latch mortise reworked. The problem can be minimized by accommodating wood movement in the construction. Sealing the wood also helps, but if you use an oil finish, the door will move more than if you use varnish.
As a rule, batten doors do not stay perfectly flat and straight. They tend to bow across their widths and sag away from their hinges. The severity of these problems will depend on the species, grading, dryness, and thickness of the lumber that you use, and how carefully you put the door together.
Boards 1-in. thick are best for interior doors, as are 1-5/8-in. boards for exterior doors, although you can use 3/4-in. tongue-and-groove stock for interior doors and 1-1/2-in. stock for exterior doors. The batten should be 1-1/4 times as thick as the door body, and 6 in. to 8 in.…