Thursday Doors–Mission Closet Doors

Installed Doors
The doors are installed. All that remains is a little bit of trim to hide the track.

Many of the closets in our house have floor-to-ceiling bypass sliding doors. The closets were built that way to save money during construction. The doors have some benefits and some drawbacks. One benefit is that it’s easy to add a functional second bar for hanging things if you’re tall like me. One huge drawback is that you can’t replace the doors. Nobody sells doors that are 94” (239 cm) tall. Standard doors are 80” tall.

When one of the doors in the master bedroom broke, I decided to build a replacement. OK, that’s an artificially short sequence. I should tell you that the door broke over a year ago. I wrestled with the broken door all winter, planning to deal with it in the summer. Unfortunately, dealing with it didn’t include the options you might think it should.

For example, fixing the door was not an option. Not really. The track dates back to the 50s, and the replacement roller thingies you can buy today don’t roll well in those 60-year-old tracks. Replacing the track and the hardware would be an option but the original doors are hollow core slabs, so there is no guarantee that I would find solid wood where the new roller thingies need to be attached. The other option is build a wall section to lower the opening so an 80” door would fit. That means drywall, sanding and painting and that’s more work happening in the room than we wanted.

Since I’ve been building Mission style furniture for the bedroom, I decided to build Mission style doors. If you’re interested in how these doors are made, the process is described in detail in the photos. If you’re not interested in the details, I’ll try to keep the summary brief:

Like many doors, these doors rely on frame and panel construction. This yields a strong door that is not subject to warping or swelling with changes in temperature and humidity. The solid wood rails (horizontal) and stiles (vertical) are relatively narrow so they don’t expand much. The panels float in grooves between the rails and stiles, so if they expand and contract, it doesn’t matter.

Mortise and tenon joint
This illustrates how a mortise and tenon joint is mechanically strong and provides a lot of glue surface.

The strength of the door comes from large mortise and tenon joints at the intersection of each rail and stile. A ½” thick, 3” wide by 3” deep mortise is cut into the stile and a corresponding 3” x 3” x ½” thick tenon is formed on each end of each rail. In addition to the mechanical strength of a tenon sitting in a mortise, there’s over 20 square inches of surface area for glue at each of the eight joints.

Note: The photos reveal that I made use of several special tools to make this job easier. I make no excuses for using these tools because I paid my dues. I have chopped large mortises and cut tenons by hand.

Golden Radio 13 x ~1.6 = 21
“Left Segment” is bottom. Right is top, 13 x ~1.6 = 21

Mission style doors often include a split tall panel and a series of shorter panels in the top section. Still, a typical Mission style door is only 80” tall. I’ve also seen Mission doors that have a series of wide horizontal panels, so I thought I would be safe combining the two elements into an oversized door. The proportions are roughly aligned with the Golden Ratio. The lower panel and the upper panel are tied to that ratio and the two of them combined are close to that ratio when compared to the long center section.

At some point, we hope to strip the wallpaper and paint this room a more pleasing color. We haven’t attempted that because, in two previous rooms, we discovered that the current wallpaper was hung over a previous layer of wallpaper that had been painted once or twice. That job has to wait until the room can sit empty for an extended period. In the meantime, these doors are helping to brighten the appearance.

This post is part of the wonderful Thursday Doors series started by Norm Frampton. You can join us on any Thursday (actually, Norm lets you post as late as Saturday morning). There are a lot of photos today. I wanted to include some tools and technique as well as the progress shots.


72 thoughts on “Thursday Doors–Mission Closet Doors

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        1. The funny thing is that as I started to reacquire some of the tools I had when I closed my cabinet shop, Norm started stepping up on his show with even better tools. There’s no keeping up. I do have a bark-style door on my shop, but even that can’t compare to the one on the New Yankee Workshop :(

          Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Judy. This project was a success all the way around. I had fun making them and she likes the result. It usually works out that way with furniture. Home improvements are a different story. The disruption is hard to live with. That’s why even I wasn’t interested in rebuilding the wall to accommodate modern doors.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. OOH! I totally love them! As I wrote in my own door piece, our house came with four sets of sliding doors from I dunno when, and we removed them from the girls’ bedrooms and the bathroom, due to all the swearing, and the fear of Moo being crushed. No idea why the coat closet ones work so well…Not a single set of them has/d proper tracks on the floor side. We talk about refitting our own closet, but um, we don’t. Sometimes we talk about when Sassy leaves, we can consume part of her room, which will then just be for guests and sewing…Sometimes we talk about calling some people to re-design how the space is used…We’ll prolly live like this for many more years. Closet not awful, but not the best either.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I thought of you because you had mentioned being interested in know how doors are made. Closet doors are way more complicated than they should be. May daughter had us take the doors off her closet and she replaced it with a piece of fabric that she found somewhere. We have the same conversation going about how to use the space better now that we don’t need three bedrooms (and I’m building a 4th upstairs) but, yeah, we’ll be living like this for a long time to come. Still, it’s nicer waking up to these doors than the bare rose-colored slabs we had last week.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I can see why you’d say that. The Big Blue House had a bare subfloor for 13 years before they finally tiled it to sell…and I had to prep our house to sell in 2006 to move to Georgia…

        But! We plan to live out our lives here. The circumstances would have to be so incredibly fantastic for us to consider moving.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Honestly, I appreciate the effort you put in and create some excellent wooden doors and pots but some words are way above my average intellect. Mainly because in India, we never really build our own doors or any furniture for that matter. Except, if I am a carpenter or have done certain woodworking course. However, I keenly observe the pictures and try to learn from it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sharukh. One of the things I am trying to learn through this blog, is how to present “technical” information in a way that isn’t boring and yet still reaches a broad audience. I struggle with that concept so if you have any advice, drop me a note on the FB group.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I see that and I appreciate your effort. If it was someone else I would’ve skipped the post, but I do read your post. Showcasing technical details in a entertaining way is a huge challenge. When working for Microsoft I used to teach people how to configure people how to troubleshoot their software issues in a way where they understand the logic of the process and do it on their own.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that show! Roy Underhill is such fun to watch. He would be chopping those mortises by hand, and making it look easier than me using my machine. I love how he explains the reason he’s doing what he is doing at each step. As I mentioned above, I struggle with hitting a level of detail that makes sense (but I keep trying).

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Nicely done Dan. This reminds me that I have a set of closet doors like this that need fixing in our basement.
    And I’m a little jealous: gee even I don’t have a mortiser yet. I still cut mine with a router and then square them out by hand with a chisel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Norm. Don’t you have an in with a tool company? I did the router/chisel method for many years. When I had my cabinet shop, I used a mortise attachment for a drill press, but it always seemed that once I had it set up, I needed to drill a hole. Fortunately, a lot of companies now make a home-shop mortising machine that is affordable and handles most of the stock sizes you would need for a home project. Mine is a Delta – and I love it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m flabbergasted! These tall doors are so unique and beautufully crafted, Dan. I am so glad you showed this WIP; it helps satisfy curiosity ( and certainly inspires admiration) to see how you design your pieces.

    Your photos themselves are a series of art. Remember a few weeks ago when we all discussed pricing services and projects, and clients not understanding the quality factor? I couldn’t help thinking, today, that a photo journal of processes like this is a perfect illustration of the quality factor.

    Well done!

    PS. Maggie would probably be willing to send Reiner for wallpaper removal assistance. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sammy. My wife and I joked about how much I would have had to charge to make money on a set of doors like this. The materials (including paint) came to about $250. that’s about twice the cost of wooden bi-fold doors, but when you factor in the framing and the plasterboard to lower the opening to 80″, it’s a bargain. I think I had about 20 hours of labor spread over about five or six days. Once you put them in the clamps, they have to sit. Once you prime, they have to dry, etc. It took me four hours to remove the old doors, install the new hardware and hang these doors.

      I’m glad you liked the photos because I was worried that there were too many, but I wanted to try and describe the process. Reiner might not be happy with that offer, when I did our living room, I ended up skim-coating the entire room (and calling previous homeowners lots of bad words).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Actually the photos help a lot. Thinking about your response to another reader, I realize you need to balance posts like this for techies who are learning from you and neophytes like me who want to understand the basics, and the tools, but might not know what you’re talking about without photo references. The techies might not need the photos but I do!

        You can’t put a price on some things, and these doors qualify. That you two will get years of utility and aesthetic satisfaction from them is priceless.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks fr that input Sammy. I don’t mention it often, but I am trying to improve/broaden my writing ability through this blog. I’d like to be able to “write on any topic” but I struggle with some posts. For example, I started the “If we were having a beer” because I wasn’t able to write dialog very well. WP is a multimedia platform, so I think that if I can add images instead of adding hundreds of words, it might be easier.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I, too, struggle with many aspects of writing AND blogging. My coffee posts seem to flow like smooth cream (sorry), probably because they fit blogger style – short and breezy.

            The longer I do this, the more convinced I become that writing and blogging are not necessarily the same thing. I want to write thoughtful pieces, as well as experiment with more styles, but I crave the contact that blogging brings. Sometimes they mesh well, but often I feel torn that I give short shrift to the writing piece of the equation in favor of weekly blogging.

            Ironically I don’t mind, and often enjoy, longer pieces or experimental writing that’s not a blogger’s normal style, but I am hesitant to hoist it on my followers. Or to take longer periods ‘off’ to hone the quality of my writing.

            I’m giving myself this autumn and winter to keep addressing my inner struggle, hoping I find a way to accomodate both and still feel like I’m growing as a writer.

            Sorry -way too long in these comments! Should write my own post!!

            Liked by 1 person

  5. Whoa! I am impressed. I must confess, I skipped through the technical stuff because despite my desire to be more handy, when I read stuff like this, my brain starts making a wah, wah, wah noise so I have to stop. But, I think it’s amazing how well rounded you are, continuing to utilize your woodworking skills even though your career is in another field.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Elizabeth. Woodworking is almost a form of therapy for my career field. It’s so gratifying to go out to the shop, work for a few hours and see meaningful progress. Spend a few hours building a slide deck in PowerPoint (or present that desk in a meeting) and you don’t get that same feeling. As I mentioned to Sharukh above, I’m trying to learn how to make these types of posts more interesting. Any suggestions you might have are welcome. You can add a comment or send an email.


  6. I bet you won’t believe this comment but you may edit it, if you wish, Dan! “You don’t do any home improvement project half-assed, do you?!”
    These gorgeous, sturdy, mission style (I love the white paint!) closet doors are going to last more than one lifetime!
    I am glad you showed the steps and photos, Dan. My Dad liked to build things, from strong, tall bookcases that moved from house to hours and now are used as a wall separator at the lake cottage in my niece’s stepdaughter’s bedroom. To the best ever tree house that had a trap door so sturdy 2 to 3 kids could “camp out” and no one could invade it.
    Have a happy Labor Day, Dan. I will be hanging in “rehab” with my Mom. I love the way people look at me, one with raised eyebrows, when I say this. My bags are packed and one more half work day. . . :)
    Smiles, Robin

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d never edit your comment Robin, I appreciate this very much. I actually started to build a simple slab door but the material I could buy was uninspiring, to say the least. After considering the options, I decided to put some skills and some tools to work. Unless the next owners don’t like Mission style, these are forever doors. I like the idea of bookcases that can be used as room dividers and I think it’s a good thing you’re doing for the weekend. Have a good weekend :)


  7. Nice doors and I know you get a lot of satisfaction making your own. We need to replace our sliding closet doors as well. And we need to reorganize the systems in our closets. It is work but nice when it is all done. We have smallish closets so we need to figure out efficient storage systems. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It might have taken a while but you got the job done in the end. I love how you posted step by step images of the door making process. When we were newly wed and saving every penny we could, my husband bought and stripped an old motorbike (Honda 50cc) to make some money on it. He rebuilt it from scratch, taking photos of the progress. It took him months, labouring on it after work and on weekends.As soon as he had the bike put together, it got robbed from our back garden. We could never prove who took it but had a fair idea. At least we have still have the photos of it. Hopefully, your door won’t suffer the same fate. :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s such a sad story. All that work and then to have it stolen. I think I’d be more upset about that than having a new bike stolen. I don’t think the doors are in any danger :) thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I love this post Dan. While I’ve often appreciated the beauty of a door, or the skill that had to be involved in making it, I haven’t considered the process of how it was made. Thanks for taking time to create all the photos. Have a fabulous Friday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Teagan. I thought about giving you the shoulder plane as one of your three things, but I couldn’t think of two more. I love that particular tool, and the work that it allows me to do is almost always unseen in the final product. I’m glad you liked the in-progress photos because I can’t imagine how many more words I would have had to use to explain the process.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my goodness Glynis. My projects are far from all completed. I do occasionally finish one, but many are hanging at that “almost done” “I’ll get to that” and “Oh, yeah, I keep forgetting that” phase. but this one is done. Except for that piece of trim. check back with me next summer to see if I’ve added that :)

      Thanks so much for the comment.


  10. Dan, you’ve made this look fun. I can smell the sawdust and sense your staisfaction with the job! Somehow, I think knitting might be easier although as with any craft it doesn’t always go according to plan. But it’s very satisfying when it does go well and with that I’m off to pick up my needles.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We all make our craft look easy but I’ve watched people knit and I’m just amazed. I watched a show on Friday about Navaho weavers (native Americans) and they sit at a loom with the pattern in their head and they bring it to
      Life. I just hope we don’t lose these skills.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Wow Dan those are gorgeous! I just spent a good deal of money on good by pass panel closet doors and mine aren’t made this well I can tell you!

    One of closet panel doors still isn’t painted. The painter picked up all the new doors and took them to his shop to paint. The day he was bringing them back one of my panel closet doors fell off his truck. OUCH! He had to spring for a new one, and he still needs to paint it. I’m hoping he’ll do it this at the house. Oh the joys of remodeling! :)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, we haven’t replaced all the doors either just for the new rooms, closets, and one bathroom. Two of the closets have mirror doors. I still need to replace with panel doors about 5 more doors. It will happen but maybe one a month or something.

        Liked by 1 person

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