Building Fixed-Louver Shutters
Make evenly-spaced slots with a job-site router jig
A lot of houses have shutters, but these days, they are mostly decorative. When once-functional elements of home design become decorative, style and proportion often go out the window. Before you build or install shutters on your house, take the time to get the design right.
If you decide to build shutters yourself, you’ll likely use a router. There are almost as many types of routers as their are shutters, so if you are buying a new tool for this particular job, make sure to choose the right router. And as you’ll soon see, almost as important as the router itself, are the router jigs that help you make the most of the tool.
Routing perfect slots
Exterior wood really takes a beating in the subtropical climate of Key West, Florida, where I work. So when a client hired our company to replace his deteriorated pine shutters with longer-lasting redwood, we developed this quick, easy and inexpensive method for building the shutters right on the job site.
A tedious but critical part of shutter construction is routing slots in the stiles for louvers. For this operation, we devised a jig, as shown in the sketch, that holds the stile in a channel and allows it to be moved in steps as each louver slot is routed. Accurate spacing is ensured by using a stop block and a series of holes 1-3/8 in. apart in the channel. A dowel in the bottom of the stop block fits the holes. The jig is also fitted with a bridge that holds the router above and at 18° to the stile. The bridge may be unfastened and repositioned to cut mirror-image slots in the mating stile. A recess in the top of the bridge allows the router to travel back and forth the precise distance needed to cut each slot.
To rout louver slots in a stile, we first mark off 6 in. at the top and bottom to allow enough room for the rails and waste. We also mark off the center of the stile where we skip two slots to leave room for the middle rail. Then, with the stile located in the jig’s channel, we begin routing slots, tipping back the router to start the cut (a plunge router would be great for this job). After repositioning the bridge, we rout slots in the opposite stile. To complete the shutters, we mortise the stiles, cut tenons on the rails and glue up with epoxy and pipe clamps.
—Barb Kamm , Key West, FL
Edited and illustrated by Charles Miller
From Fine Homebuilding #74