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How To Build A Live Edge Sliding Barn Door

How To Build A Live Edge Sliding Barn Door

I built a live edge sliding barn door from an Ambrosia maple slab! I took a smaller slab, ripped it down the middle, and added more boards in the middle to fill it out. Since I paid close attention to grain continuity, the finished door has the illusion of one larger slab, at a much lower price point.

Jointing Lumber

I built this sliding door from a smaller slab and a few regular boards rather than using one bigger slab. There were a few reasons I did this. First, the total cost of the lumber I used was about $350, whereas if I had used a slab big enough for this door, it would have likely cost me $700 or more.

Also, a slab of that size would have been extremely difficult to work with. It would have been too big for me to move by myself and I wouldn’t have been able to use my planer and jointer to flatten it.

Speaking of which, you’ve seen me ripping the slab in half and flattening it on the jointer and planer up until this point. This slab was pretty bowed, so I needed to remove a decent amount of material, but I was shooting for a final door thickness of 1 ⅜”, which is right where I ended up after milling.

After milling the slab pieces, I moved on to cutting the Ambrosia Maple boards down to rough length and bringing them down to the same thickness as the slab. This process generated an absolutely massive amount of sawdust, and you can see my dust collector overflowing in the background, even though I had emptied it about fifteen minutes earlier.

Step 2: Panel Glue-Up

Aligning Panel with Dominoes

With the boards all at the same thickness, I could start getting them ready for the glue up. First, I jointed one edge of each board on the jointer and then ripped the boards to width at the table saw. I was shooting for a total panel width of 38 inches, so I cut my boards accordingly.

Next, I laid out the boards in the orientation that looked best to me, then marked some locations for Dominos, which I used for alignment. As always, biscuits or dowels would work in the same way.

With the Domino mortises cut, I glued up the door, which went smoothly. The live edge pieces were a little more awkward because they didn’t want to stand up on their own, but it all worked out. Also, I tried not to use too much clamping force as I didn’t want to damage the live edge. I used just enough to get an even glue squeeze out along the full length of the seams.

I scrapped off the excess glue after letting the door sit in clamps for a few hours, and then came back the next day to trim the door to final size.

Step 3: Squaring Off

Trimming the Panel with a Track Saw

One tricky part of working with anything with a live edge is that there are no square reference edges, so you kind of have to pick your edge and go with it. In this case, I picked where one end would be cut and then marked a line parallel to that line on the other end of the board.

With the line marked out, I cut the ends with my track saw, making sure to double check my measurements after cutting the first end to make sure things were still parallel. Have I mentioned how much I love track saws? They are just so useful for projects like this. I could have actually used my track saw instead of the jointer to get a straight edge on each of the boards.

Next, I sanded all of the glue joints, making sure to remove any glue squeeze out and smooth out any uneven areas. It’s important to do this prior to the next step, as the router will hang up on any of those uneven areas.

Step 4: Routing

Routing a Rabbet

Speaking of which, next I needed to cut a channel into the bottom edge of the door to accept the floor guide. The instructions for this hardware kit call for an almost one inch deep groove, but I couldn’t think of a good way to cut a groove like that in a door like this. There was no way I could stand the door up in my shop and run a router on the top edge, so I decided I’d just go with a shallower groove.

To cut the groove, I used a ½” rabbeting bit, but a ¾” bit would have been a better choice, just to get some extra depth in the groove. I cut the groove in a few passes, flipping the slab over so that the bearing on the bit still had a reference surface. This also ensured the groove was perfectly centered in the end of the slab.

Step 5: Shaving and Sanding

Breaking Edges with a Spokeshave

With the groove cut, I could start cleaning up the edges of the slab. First, I added a chamfer to the ends of the slab using a block plane.

Next, I knocked off any loose bits from the live edge with a 60 grit sanding block, and then I shaped the bottom edge of the live edge with a spokeshave and random orbit sander. This edge is extremely fragile otherwise, and there will likely be some damaged areas that need to be cleaned up just from working on the slab. The spokeshave really is the perfect tool for this job and gives you a ton of control over how you’re shaping the edge.

Step 6: Channel Routing

Routing a Channel

The last thing to do before applying finish was to route in a couple of grooves to house some c-channel strips. This is the same technique I used on the extension dining table project I did a few weeks ago, and it’s something I’ll probably use a lot in the future. It only takes a few minutes to add these grooves and the c-channel really helps to keep the panel flat over time.

The groove needed to be one inch wide by half an inch deep, and I cut the groove in four total passes using a ¾” straight bit on the router.

Step 7: Finishing

Finish Applied

After routing, I sanded the slab up to 180 grit and then I could apply the finish. My buddies over at the Modern Maker Podcast have just released their new Maker Brand Co Simple Finish, and I decided to give it a shot on this project.

The finish was really easy to apply, I just applied a coat, let it sit for 10 minutes, applied another coat, let it sit again, then wiped off the excess. I was left with a really nice matte finish, and the surface felt soft and smooth to the touch. I’ve got a link here if you want to check it out.

Step 8: Metal Work

Cutting C-Channel

While the finish dried, I got to work on the c-channel pieces. First, I cut them to length using my portaband. I made sure to cut them about an inch shorter than the length of the grooves I routed in, to allow plenty of room for expansion and contraction.

Next, I marked out locations for five holes spaced evenly along the c-channel, and then moved over to the drill press to drill the holes.

For the center holes, I drilled them just big enough for the ¼-20 bolts I used to pass through, but on the outer holes, I drilled them oversized to allow for wood movement. Also, I made sure to use cutting fluid to help keep the bit cool during drilling.

With the holes drilled, I could paint the c-channel to keep it from rusting. First, I used acetone to remove the cutting fluid and any other surface contaminants, then applied a few coats of black spray paint.

Step 9: Installing C-Channel

Installing C-Channel

Once the paint dried, I could install the strips. First, I marked the hole locations using a center punch, then pre-drilled holes using a bit sized for the tapping bit I used. Once the holes were drilled, I switched to the tapping bit and tapped the holes.

In case you’ve never tapped holes into wood, you’ve got to try it. The threads are incredibly strong and the process is a lot quicker and simpler than installing threaded inserts. I’ll link to the exact taps I used in the video description below.

With the holes drilled and tapped, I could install the c-channel using a ¾” long ¼-20 bolt, lock washer, and flat washer in each hole location. I tightened the bolts with a ratchet and they were good to go.

Step 10: Door Hangers

Door Hangers

Next, I could install the hangers on the top end of the door. These just install with a few screws, so they were easy enough. I created a little drilling jig that was exactly as wide as the slab, so that the hangers ended up perfectly centered on the ends of the slabs. I set the hangers in about five inches from the edges of the slab.

The last piece to deal with before going to install the door was this backer board. The hole spacing on the rail that supports the door is 15 inches, so a backer board was required in this case. I just bought a piece of pre-primed Pine trim, cut it to a length of 83 inches, and then painted it to match the walls in the room where the door was being installed at my friend’s Jon and Katie’s house.

Step 11: Installation

Installing a Backer Board

The first step in installing the barn door was to remove the existing door and hinges. You might also want to remove the trim from the inside of the door frame, but Jon and Katie wanted a less permanent solution so they could take the barn door with them if they move in the future and easily reinstall the original door.

Next, I could get the backer board installed. First, I marked out all of the stud locations on the wall as well as on the backer board, every 16 inches on center, and then pre-drilled one hole at each end of the backer board. Next, I added a screw to one end of the board, then I made sure the board was level and added a screw to the other end.

With the board in place, I continued installing more screws, first countersinking the holes and then driving in the screws. I used 4 ½” construction screws to install the backer board and used two screws in each stud, so needless to say this thing isn’t going anywhere.

After all the screws were added, Jon filled the screw holes with spackling and then painted the spackling to match the rest of the board. Also, we used a hair dryer to help the paint dry faster, something I saw my painters do during the bathroom remodel from last week’s video, and this works incredibly well, helping the paint to dry in a few minutes.

Step 12: Installation (Continued)

Track Installation

With the backer board done, I could finally install the barn door track. The track is attached using threaded inserts, so first I installed the insert on the left end of the track. To install the inserts, I pre-drilled a hole and then threaded them in using an Allen wrench.

Once the left side of the track was attached, I held up the track with Jon’s help and then marked the location for the hole on the right side, making sure the track was level. I installed another threaded insert there, and I left the Allen bolt that attaches the track fairly loose so I could install the rest of the hardware.

With both ends secured, I marked the hole locations for the rest of the inserts and installed them. Once the inserts were installed, I could add the rest of the track hardware. While I install the hardware, I figured I’d mention that this barn door hardware is from KN Crowder, a Canadian manufacturer of tons of different door hardware solutions.

I used their CRT-51-SS kit on this install, and I’ll include a link to it in the video description below in case you’re interested in learning more. The kit comes with hardware for lots of different applications, whether you’ve got baseboards and door trim or not, whether the track length has 16” spacing, which some of them do, so you can direct mount it to the wall, etc. I was extremely impressed with the overall quality of the kit and I’m sure it will last for years to come based on the quality of the parts.

Once the track was in place, Jon and I could hang the door on the track and test it out, and it slid super smoothly.

Step 13: Stops and Guides

Installing Stops

Next, I could install the stops on the track to keep the door from rolling off the ends of the track. These just slide on and are held in place with a few set screws. These stops have a spring loaded rubber stop, so the door closes smoothly, it’s a pretty nice touch.

I also installed the anti-lift pieces which keep the door from being accidentally lifted off the tracks.

The last piece to install was the floor guide, and I ran into a little trouble here. I evidently did my math wrong when figuring out how far from the ground the track needed to be installed, so the included floor guide wouldn’t quite fit under the door. I could have routed a recess in the floor for the guide, but I figured that would be a pain to patch if Jon and Katie move. I also could have routed a deeper groove in the bottom of the door, but I thought I’d scratch up the finish if I did this.

Instead of those two options, I found an inexpensive door guide that rides on the back of the door rather than in a groove, and it worked perfectly. The door doesn’t swing at all due to the way the hangers are mounted and this guide keeps the door plumb and stops it from hitting the quarter round.

Once the guide was installed, the door was done!



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