Building a Wooden Screen Door

We laid the door parts flat on our bench and struck marks for the centerline of each tenon on the face of each intersecting stile and rail.

The marks also registered the Domino's fence to cut the mortise.

In the past we've had good success with Festool's rot-resistant SIPO Domino tenons for exterior work, but it's easy and less expensive to make our own. For this door, we used left-over white-oak scraps to make tenons 10mm thick by 100mm long.

Because storm doors are exterior doors, always use a waterproof glue, such as Gorilla Glue or Titebond III. We spread glue on all mating surfaces, including the tenons (4), and placed the assembly on bar clamps at each end of the door.

We tightened the clamps and added a second set of clamps on top of the door. Once those clamps were tight, we sighted down the length of the door to be sure that the top pair of clamps were dead parallel, which meant that the door was perfectly flat.

Then we routed a 1/2-inch–wide rabbet around the inside of the frame (6). This rabbet would receive the interchangeable screen and glazed panels, so its depth was dictated by the thickness of the aluminum channel that held the panels—about 3/8 inch in this case.

To minimize chip-out along the rabbet's edges, we made the cut in several passes, taking away a small amount of stock at a time until the rabbet was complete. At that point we squared the corners with a sharp chisel.

To facilitate easy installation and removal of the screen and storm panels, we used solid brass thumb screws and tabs to secure the panels in the rabbet.

These thumb screws attached with a machined thread, so we first embedded solid brass threaded inserts in the door to accept the thumb screws.

Holes for the inserts were laid out and drilled, using tape on the drill bit to gauge a hole that would be slightly deeper than the length of the insert. Threading the inserts into the hard white oak took a bit of patience and care, but we used a headless bolt chucked into a drill. The inserts were then threaded onto the bolt and held in place with hex nuts.

With the drill on a low-speed setting, we carefully spun each insert into its hole, taking care to drive them in perpendicular to the face of the door.

We measured and cut the lengths, then assembled the frame. The face of the screen extrusion has a groove that captures the screen with a spline that is pressed into the groove. Because the owners of this house had a large dog, we fitted the frame with a heavier than normal fiberglass screen sold as "pet screen."

The glazing extrusion is similar, except that a stepped rubber gasket inside the extrusion holds standard tempered glass securely.

Storm door installation is generally straightforward if the door opening is fairly true and square. We measured the opening and made sure that both the width and height were uniform, then we trimmed the door to size using a track saw.

We hung the door on three butt hinges mortised into the edge of the slab and into the brick-mold door trim; extra hinges can be added for larger doors. Because of the oak's density, we pre-drilled all screw holes.

We drilled for and installed a traditional storm-door latch in the strike side of the door, along with a heavy-duty pneumatic closer mounted on the bottom rail. Finally, we stained and varnished any bare wood that was exposed during the fitting process and inserted the screen panel to complete the installation.

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