Entry Door

Copyright 2004 by Jim Wilson
(Click images to enlarge)

Sapele Entry Door

In November and December of 2003, I made this entry door of Sapele. I can't take all the credit for the design. It was inspired by a door my wife saw at Lowes, shown as RT4242 on this page. We played quite a bit with the arches, trying to get a pleasing look that would take advantage of the side lite glass from the previous entry. We found that we liked it best if they were equal height and level (as usual in cabinetry). So, all the arches are three inches high and located at the same height.


Here is a copy of my working drawing (198kB) in TurboCAD 2D v6.5 format. The drawing is a bit of a mess, because during a project I constantly go back and forth between the computer and the shop to print blow-ups, check dimensions and make changes. Then I never clean up the drawing after the project. So, it is what it is. I exported the drawing into DWG (257kB) and DXF (862kB) files. I have no idea how well TurboCAD translates to these formats, but perhaps one of them will be useful to someone.

The wood

Sapele is an African wood that is sometimes substituted for American mahogany (aka genuine or Honduran mahogany). It is not African mahogany; that's a different species. Sapele harder and heavier and generally darker than both American and African mahogany. Its grain has a somewhat similar appearance, but it has a wider variation in color. Like African mahogany, the grain is often interlocked and this makes planing without tearout difficult.

A lot of fine entry doors are made of mahogany or Spanish cedar. Interestingly, Sapele looks sort of like mahogany and smells sort of like cedar.

rough lumber   A starting point. This is after laying out the pieces on the stock and rough-cutting them to length and width. The 8/4 boards averaged about 12 feet in length and ranged from 5 to 18 inches in width, with most pieces around 10 inches wide.

There was noticeable tension in the wood I purchased. I did find some movement while milling the rough stock, mostly when resawing and mostly with curly pieces, but nothing was too bad. Just milled a little oversize, let it set a couple days, then jointed and and planed to final thickness. The thin trim pieces bowed, twisted and warped considerably when taken from stock with wild grain. When ripped from straight-grained stock, they behaved acceptably.


The frame construction is mortise and loose tenon. I wasn't anxious to drop $500 on an exterior door rail & stile set that I'd only use once or twice, so I used straight 60-degree bevels on the frame openings. The bevels on the raised panels are 45 degrees.

The board panels are not quite tongue and groove, but not just edge joined, either. They're beveled without tongues. Cross section of each board looks like this:

Incidentally, I wouldn't do it like this again, and I have no idea why I did it this way in the first place. I must have been "in a groove" (rut?) that day and not thinking clearly. Simply edge-joining and then routing the v-grooves would have been easier and it would have worked just as well. As it was, I had to clean up glue squeeze-out from v-grooves, which was a pain.

I used System 3 General Purpose Epoxy Resin for everything. I love this product. With their #1 and #3 hardeners you can control the cure time accurately from 15 minutes to however many hours you need. For the panels, I just used the fast (#1) hardener. When assembling the frame, though, it was nice to have plenty of time to tweak everything just right before letting it set up overnight. A glue-up with no panic-factor!


The finish was one coat of tung oil to pop the grain, followed by three coats of lacquer (2 gloss + 1 satin). I don't think this was the best choice. Our entry door is well-protected from the elements by the front porch, and it rarely rains here in the desert of Tucson, Arizona. I like the warmer look of lacquer better than poly, so I decided to go with that. However, I neglected to consider the frequent overspray from my wife's watering the front porch plants and the occasional spraying off of the porch for cleaning. We haven't had any problems with the finish yet, but if I had it to do over, I'd use Hydrocote Polyshield for the top coats.

Final touches

We were surprised at how nicely making the sill from the same wood as the door finished out the entry. The wood threshold will have to endure some abuse, but it looks much nicer than aluminum. I still need to install the window trim and perhaps some clavos. I've been side-tracked by several other projects for the past few months -- it's always something!

Fun project, and rewarding. It's amazing how many visitors compliment our front door!

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