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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Building the Steampunk Kitchen Door

Hi folks!

Since my last post, I've been busy working on the Steam Punk Kitchen Doors.  My first version, I actually liked fairly well, but not for this build.  It didn't fit, as is, with the feeling I wanted this house to have.  So I went back and started from scratch again.  I've set aside the original door for a later project that has a little more of a cottage feel.

Why didn't I see the mullion not aligned BEFORE the photo!  It's fixed now!  :0) 

This project was a quite complex project from the perspective of there being many steps, and took me quite a long time to figure out.  I am reasonably pleased with the final results though, so it is was well worth any effort put in. 

I've brought forward my concept drawing for first timers.  In the last post I explained how I needed to make some simple changes due to the narrow door size I left, resulting in a basic change in the shape of the windows. However, the basic concept was still what I wanted for the kitchen doors. I have continued to modify the concept slightly here and there as I went through the process and fleshed out the design.  These doors are the final result.

I thought it might be of interest to folks to know how these doors were built, so I am going to attempt to put this post together as a tutorial.  My camera (definitely the camera, it could NOT be me!) still won't take decent pictures for some shots.  I think I am going to have to replace it.  :0(

Meanwhile, here we go on a very long post, I imagine.  Hold on to your hats!

Step 1:  Transfer The Pattern

Cut the door shape out of 3/32 " basswood or other somewhat soft, small grained wood.   I first made a single template and drew the window shapes onto mount board, and then cut them out so that each drawing would be identical.   I cut the basic rectangle(s) out of basswood prior to drawing on the door shape (in this case the window holes), and kept at it until I had four equally sized pieces.  

I then drew, using the template, the base pattern on each door blank, in my case four, since I was making two doors.  If you are making only one door, you will need to cut and prepare only two door blanks.  You will need two door blanks for each door you wish to make.

Make sure that as you do this, you are keeping the template exactly on center, and that you keep the pencil lead close to the leading edge of the window recesses in each case, otherwise, your pattern will be in a different place on each door blank and you will get to do a lot of sanding, and perhaps even have to cut additional door blanks.  The most important aspect of this step is to measure equally spaced sets of window holes on each of the door blanks, so that they can later be glued together. 

Step 2:  Prepare the Window Panes 

Cut out the window shapes using a scroll saw.  Begin this process by drilling holes into the center of each window space as seen above.  This allows you to put the scroll saw blade through the hole and allows you to keep the base door shape all one piece.  

Once you have cut out the windows, use heavy grit sandpaper to align the edges as perfectly as you are able to.  Sand the edges of the window recesses first, ensuring that the center door post is sanded smooth, then progressing outward continue sanding and aligning the edges until all window and door edges (including outer door edges) are sanded smoothly into identical shapes. 

Finish sanding can wait until the next step.  For now, you are just ensuring you can eventually glue together two of the door bases and have them fit well.

Before moving to the next step, insert the door into it's door frame, and mark the location of each vertical edge against the jamb.  This is the available work space to add door detail and decoration. 

Step 3:   Carve the Door Kickplate

Now you are ready to cut and carve the door kick plate.  Begin with a wood blank.  I used balsa wood on this second set of doors, in the first, I used basswood.  Balsa is much easier to carve and allows for very smooth shaping fairly easily, but is so soft that I do wonder how well it will hold up.  Luckily, no big people will be kicking at the door plate!

Start by cutting the wood to be carved to size.  Remember to stay inside the lines you drew, as these are the edges of the door frame, and you will not be able to close the door properly if you stray over the lines.

Measure in and carve guidelines for the basic outer edge shapes of the kick plate.  Here, I used a compass to create a gentle curve from one corner to the next.

Draw in and carve the door folds.  Using balsa wood, I found that simply drawing my mechanical pencil carefully through the wood several times along my measured line provided me with perfectly shaped door folds.  If using harder woods, you will need to use a chisel to create the folds.

Begin to shape the wood into the profile you want it to become.  This process looks like you are destroying everything, but is somewhat necessary to shape the basic contour of your profile.

I used a curved gouge, a straight chisel, and a curved chisel to achieve the shapes I created.  I used the gouge first, to penetrate the wood, and shape it into a very general approximation of the shape I needed. Note that I left a raised center with a very, very slightly lowered basic profile above.  I then used the curved gouge to shape the upper ridge and to cut into the edges along the door folds, and to smooth out the gouged wood in the center of the door plate.   I then used the straight chisel to clean out the edges along both the door folds and the upper ridge.

The next step is to sand.  Using heavy grit paper, sand carefully the entire piece.  You are looking for crisp edges and smoother surfaces.  After you've achieved the general shape you desire, move to medium grit sandpaper, smoothing further the shapes and using the edges of the sandpaper to achieve straight 90 degree angles along the door folds and the upper ridge.

Continue sanding with fine grit sandpaper until you have a smoothly contoured surface.  You should end up with something resembling the above left wood piece.

Use the newly carved blank to create a second blank.  Again, remember to keep your pencil as close as possible to each edge so that you do not end up with two blanks of different sizes.  However, using the first as a template helps guarantee you get exactly the same shape with both blanks.  If you do get one blank larger than the other, sand to ensure that each blank is exactly the same shape and size.  A little bit of variation has a lot of impact in the final picture on miniatures, so measure and compare carefully.

You can use the same technique to ensure that the folds along the bottom of the blanks are the same.  I used a long ruler to align the folds on the two pieces, thus ensuring that the two door blanks have as little variation as possible.

Shape the second blank in exactly the same way as the first.  Sanding is the critical step to ensure that the shapes are identical.  Compare often, and adjust both carvings as needed to obtain identical shapes.

Step 4:  Cut the mullions

This is the hardest step to get consistency, but with patience it can be managed.  Cut mullions using a mount board template for all four mullions (for each door, a total of 8 for two).  Unfortunately I do not have a photo of this part of the process.  I tried, but forgot to photograph this step!

To create the template, draw the desired shape for the mullion on a piece of scrap board.  I wanted the serpentine shape so common with Art Noveau, so drew a mullion shape that incorporated that feel.

It is very important to cut and then actually temporarily install the mount board mullion piece into its final home in the window.  It is easy to get it too short.  Do NOT use the mullion you drew in your original pattern, as it WILL be too short.  Its length does not account for the cutting width of the saw blade.

Once you've measured the template and know it fits, use the template to draw 4 mullions (one for both sides and for both back windows) per door. Cut as closely to the drawn lines with the scroll saw as possible, attempting to ensure that the shape of each cut is similar.  I couldn't figure out a jig for that, but if you could, that would be a good idea.  I have a ways to go to learn how to think that way!

Sand your mullions to finesse the shape, again, you are looking for identical shape as much as possible.

Step 5:  Sand and Stain the door pieces. 

Sand all of the pieces well.  I used heavy grit sandpaper first, mid grain sandpaper, then fine sandpaper, and then followed each sanding with 0000 steel wool.  This provides a very smooth surface to stain. 

I used Traditional Cherry wood stain which gave a deeper tone than my original door, which I like much better for my application.  Note that no gluing  has taken place as yet.  This is because it keeps the surfaces clean and clear for the stain, and does not provide opportunity to get glue in places you don't want it.  Once glue is introduced on the surface of the wood, stains are likely to highlight those areas since they coat the wood and do not allow for consistent absorption. 

Step 6: Creating the Ornate Details

I used the process I have used several times before to create details for the Steampunk doors.  I found a small frame at Michael's Craft Store that I felt like had the right vibe.   I've sort of arranged the "Amazing Mold Putty" molds I made near the areas of the frame I used to make the molds.  The center medallion from the bottom of the frame, the additional detail at the bottom of the door from both bottom sides of the frame, and the detail at the top of the door from the top of the frame.   These frames are very inexpensive, mine was about 3 dollars.

Use this process, or another process, to create details that you would like to use on the doors.  One method I thought of that I knew would work was embossing paper.  This was my first thought, but I could not find an embossing pattern that I liked for my Steampunk doors.  I am sure they are out there, they just weren't where I was!

Sorry for the picture quality~  Ouch~!

After casting the resin molds, trim out the details that you want to use.  All of my pieces started out like the large cast piece above.  (Sorry for the horrid pic, I haven't figured out why some of these come out this way when most pictures are fine! I took about 15 pictures of these and THIS was the best!)

I cut portions of the patterns out that fit the portions of the door that I wanted to decorate to get my final look.  Use your imagination!

Once your pieces are trimmed, paint them flat black, and then apply Polyurethane Satin Finish.  I like the Minwax Water Based poly, since it is a breeze to clean up.

Step 7:  Adding the Decorative Metal Bars

Now for the fun part!  We get to begin assembling the door.  Finally!

More horrible pictures~ !  

To create the decorative metal bars, I used 16 gauge wire.  All you will need is a pair of wire cutters and a wire forming tool.

I will share with you that using the green wire was not my original plan, but it was a happy accident.  I love it. I had originally thought I would use copper wire, but the craft store I went to was out of just about everything! So I found green wire and gold wire, and nothing else.  The green was the lesser of two evils, so I bought it.  Now that it is in the door, I am SO glad that happened!

To make the decorative door rods, I cut three pieces of wire for each window, and shaped them into matching gentle curves for both sides.   They ranged from about 2.5 inches to about 4 inches in length.

I used a mini awl to create small pilot holes along the vertical edges and bottom curves of the windows on one of the two door pieces that make up each door.  I chose to place the metal bars on the outside window surface, they could be placed  on either side.  This was a delicate process, but doable.  I placed holes at the (reasonably) correct angle for each bar at the bottom of the window and the outside edges.

To insert the metal wire into the door frame, I chipped tiny channels into the wood to hold the wire between the door pieces.  I chipped them out with a utility knife, just enough to allow the wire to sit inside the sides of the window.  I placed the wire into the channels and glued it in.

Step 8:  Assembling the Door

I applied the two door sides together like a "wire sandwich" with the wire laying against the acetate I used for the window, and the 2nd door piece in back of that.  I glued and clamped the door at that stage, to ensure a good solid meld.  

After the glue dried, I applied the kickplate to the door in its proper position.

I applied the "metal work" next, which helped me to decide exactly where to place the door mullions to look best.  They are slightly lower than the original pattern, but are where I think they look best. 

Step 9:  Gaze lovingly at the final result. 

This door was a real challenge to design and build for me, but I am quite pleased with the overall effect of the doors.

Hot off the press!  Glue is still drying!

I ignored all I learned about the direction of the door swing.  I played with both inside swing and outside swing, but for these doors, they just did not look proper swinging inward.  So I took advantage of the occasional example of exterior doors swinging outward, and the little ones will just  have to cope!

I am excited about continuing the process of finalizing design and building doors and windows for the first floor, because they add so much life to the interiors.  I plan to tie in the windows along the front of the house with these doors more by adding ornate detail there as well, and the Grand Parlor at the other end of the ground floor will get windows that echo these doors.   I will not be finalizing installation of any of these windows and doors until after having completed the interior ceilings, and the exterior of the ground floor.

Did I ever tell you this is fun?  :0)

Hope the tutorial was informative!

Doug S


  1. Wow Dough! Your windows look great... When I saw the first pictures of your post I thought that the elements were out of proportion and too big. Then I had to change my mind. Once mounted, the result is harmonious. Well done! You're doing a very creative work

    1. Hi Ersilia! Thank You for your comment! It is good to hear from you!

      I know exactly what you mean when you talk about Proportion. There are a couple of things that affected my choices there. First, this is Steampunk, and in Steampunk, everything is either unique or grand in proportion. So having things a bit "grander" than normal fits the theme I am using for the house. Secondly, this house is a bit over the top. It is HUGE. I had no idea how BIG I was thinking when I started this project! I am actually a bit worried that the doors themselves may be a bit diminutive in the big picture. We shall see!

      I am so pleased to hear from you! Thanks again for leaving your thoughts!


  2. That is clever. I wondered how you would get such ornate detail for the metalwork but never considered taking a mold off something. It works fantastically well. Thank you for the tutorial - there is always something new to learn and try. =0)

    1. Hi Pepper! I am glad you approve of the final method! Isn't that what is the best about miniatures? The process of "seeing" our everyday world in a different (mini!) light and finding ways to mimic real life is an exciting and wonderful process. I have to admit, sometimes it means going on blind faith that you WILL think of something. :0)

      The truth on why I did a tutorial is that I couldn't really think of any other way of presenting how this was done! It worked well to lay out the many steps to creating the door. The hard part was actually working through the "how to" for each step, but the actual door, once I worked it all out, is really not too difficult to create! I hope someone does benefit from the "tutorial".

      Thanks Pepper!

  3. Wonderful tutorial Doug! I thought the first set of doors were lovely.... but you are right! These are perfect for your manor. The iron work just sets the doors, and the wall they're in out on their own :) I love the way you have broken down the different elements in the doors and made them into a wonderful 'whole'! Your manor is truly going to be a unique masterpiece. By the way, I'm smiling at your 'I'm quite pleased' with the doors comment! You should be so proud and extremely pleased!! :)
    All the best

    1. Hi Vivian,

      Don't despair! I have some great new ideas for a small fantasy cottage to use the old doors in. They are perfect for that sort of application, where the slightly dog-eared look of the door (that is what I saw in them!) fits the sort of aged look of so many of the dwellings in the Walt Disney films. I am saving them to use in another project of more that nature. They did have a bit of a charm to them, but like I've said, they didn't "feel" right for what I have in my head for the overall project.

      Well, I am "quite pleased"! :0) I got what is in my head out into the real world! That is an achievement of the first order! It is not often that the "feel" of something I have conceived of actually makes it into the real world with the same "feel" I hoped for. If you haven't figured it out by now, my "creations" are all about capturing the spirit of something. How I get to the "feel" is varied and wide, wide open! I am sure some folks think of my way of creating as haphazard, but there is no way I can fully "create" the feel of something without the kinetic processes associated with it. I have to "feel" it. Have I convinced you that I "feel" my way into things? :0) I can't think of any new ways to use the word "feel"! But those are my motivations, to capture a story within the process of creation. It can be a tall order at times!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I love hearing from you!


  4. Hello Doug,
    The doors are just wonderful! they are the perfect embodiment of the steampunk style you want. Thank you for the great directions. You really did a terrific job. I love the "metalwork"! I cannot wait to see more.
    Big hug,

    1. Hi Giac! I am excited about the look, and hoping that future "reviewers" will agree that it has a Steampunk vibe. I do hope the directions will be of use to someone some day.

      I look forward to continuing the process of bringing the Chateau to life!

      Thank You sir! :0)

  5. Hi Doug! I think your steampunk doors are wonderful! And don't throw away the 'old' ones, because you can always use them in an other project.
    Thanks for sharing the clear tutorial. I was curious for the metalwork of the doors, the result is wonderful :D!
    Wishing you a nice week!

    1. Hi there Ilona! Glad you like the doors, and I hope I satisfied your curiosity about the metalwork on the doors!

      Believe me, my mind is working overtime trying to fit those old doors into a "new" project that I think they fit better! :0) Like I need new ideas! I have a list as long as my arm right now of things I would like to do "someday". I needed to start this hobby at least 30 years ago, I'll never have enough time now! :0)

      Thanks Ilona, you have a great week too!


  6. Hi Doug, your 'A Unique Opportunity' post has disappeared...can you publish it again from blogger?

    1. Hi Pepper, your wish is my command! The "Unique Opportunity" post has been re-posted. I deleted it, thinking that I just didn't know whether it would be of real interest to anyone. I guess I need to quit questioning myself all the time!

      Enjoy the "potential" opportunity!


  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Take a BOW, Doug! Your doors are Loaded with Character and I know that you are happy with them Now!:D It is such a pleasure watching the development of this Manor. You get braver and more daring as your projects take shape and as you learn new skills. I think that your solutions for the metal work are soooo Clever! The new doors look Great installed both from the inside and out, And I hope that you will find a way to add some of that fantastic metal work to the windows too! :D


    1. Hi Elizabeth!

      Hmmm. I have an acquaintance I think is Loaded with Character. Sometimes I think he is just Loaded! Yes, I guess I see the resemblance. sigh.

      I Love being able to share my learning process with you all. You add so immeasurably to the pleasure of creating this project, everything from feedback to just sharing mini ideas enriches the experience so much.

      I don't know if "braver" and "more daring" is the right word combination? I am thinking the right combination might be something more like "more foolish" and "more insane". :0) I make things so hard for ME! But I really DO enjoy inflicting suffering and pain upon my head. So this is the perfect hobby! :0)

      I look forward to working out the "metal" on the windows too! I already have some ideas! We'll see how they go!

      Thanks Elizabeth!


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