How To Patch Holes in Reclaimed Doors
A trim carpenter explains the best way to fill old hinge mortises and lockset holes when installing a used door in a new location.
I got a great deal on some beautiful old reclaimed doors to replace my house’s flat hollow-core doors. There’s just one problem: The hinge mortises and lockset holes on a couple of the replacement doors are on the opposite side from what I need. I know how to make the holes and mortises on a new door slab, but what’s a good way to fill the old holes? I’m going to repaint the doors before I hang them.
—JANICE via email
Anthony Vitale, trim carpenter and owner of Probuilt Woodworking, responds: The way I like to approach this fix is by using a Dutchman patch. This seems to be a more effective method than using fillers that may shrink and crack with seasonal climate changes, and it provides material for new screws to bite into if needed.
To do this, I start by making a simple MDF mortising jig using 1⁄2-in. MDF with an edge setup that registers square off the edge of the door. In conjunction with this jig I use a straight, upcut spiral bit and bushing. The size of the template is arbitrary and only needs to be larger than the patch you’re creating. You don’t need to make the mortise too deep; I generally shoot for around 1⁄4 in. Once the jig is made, run the router around the perimeter of the jig and then clean out all the waste. Once finished with the router, square up the mortise with a sharp chisel.
Next, make the material for the Dutchman. Using a bandsaw or tablesaw, resaw a piece of hardwood to thickness and cut to length with a miter saw. Typically you want this material to be 1⁄16 in. proud of the surface once glued in. After gluing in the patch and letting it set, use a block plane to waste away most of the excess that’s proud of the door surface. Use an orbital sander to flush the patch with the door, sanding beyond the Dutchman so the surface of the door and newly patched area are seamless and unnoticeable when painted.
Drawings: Dan Thornton
From Fine Homebuilding #284