I've been looking for an unique old exterior door for the small workshop I am building but could not find anything I liked, so I decided to build my own on the cheap. I had most of the materials around the house including an old ships window. The door handle is made from a gnarled piece of drift wood I found on the beach. I did buy some gate brackets from home depot to add strength as I wanted the door to be quite heavy (80 pounds). Dimensions are 36" x 70".
Gate Bracket purchased at home depot ($35) (Seen here)
An old window / plane of glass, what ever you can find
Some reclaimed planks, I used some old cedar boards
Hardware, nails / screws what ever you have lying around
Ingenuity with what ever tools you have
Step 1: Building the Frame
Cut your 2x4's to your desired lengths and screw them into the frame. Make sure everything is nice and square and that your 2x4's are all flush on the side that will be facing out. If you don't have the brackets, take a piece of 2x4 and cut both ends at 45 degrees so that they fit in the corners and then wood glue and screw them. This will add rigidity to the overall frame.
The dimensions I used were 36" 2x4 on the top and bottom plates and a 48" on the side 2x4's.
Step 2: Adding Front Door Panel
I wanted the door to have some good strength and weight to it so I used some scrap 5/8" plywood. This added considerable weight to the door, 3/8" ply would do nicely as well especially if you didn't use the brackets.
Cut the ply to fit and screw into place. Leave extra plywood overhanging on the top for the arch. I think I left about 10" overhang.
Step 3: Adding the Window
A friend of mine gave me this cracked window that was salvaged off an old sailboat. It contains two panes in it and is quite unique so regardless of the cracks, I threw it in the door.
Find center of your door and find the height at which you want to install the window. In my case I wanted it to be my exact height so I can look straight out. Trace the window onto the door then drill pilot holes in each corner to get your jig saw blade into. If you don't have a jig saw you could use your skill saw and a hand saw.
Cut a cross length of 2x4 and install on the inside of the door, overlap the window opening by 1/4" so that the window is held in place. Cut two more lengths for the sides of the window.
Ensure the window fits snugly, add flush shims or use caulking. Last thing you want is your window bouncing around every time you open and close your door. I lucked out with my window being 5/8" thick matching the plywood.
Step 4: Adding Exterior Facade
Once your window is in place, nail on outside planking. In this case I had some old cedar fence boards lying about the shop and attached them with the nail gun. Rows of nails look good as well, add some rusticity to the door!
When cutting out your window, cut 1/4" less so as to seal the window into the door. Add shims or caulk again to ensure your window is snug in the door.
At this point you could add some black bolts or rivets through the door to make it look even more like an old castle door. I decided against this as I didn't want to waste bolts. Function before beauty but it's an idea.
Step 5: Cutting Your Arch
To mark your arch, find center on your door. Using a ruler mark the outside edges of your door where you want your arch to start and end. Then, put a small nail on your center mark where your ruler will pivot. At this stage I just played around a bit until I found the arch height that I liked.
Trace your door's arch by holding your pencil against your ruler and rotating the ruler (using nail as pivot point). Don't have a ruler with a hole in it? drill one... If your arch starts but doesn't end at the same height on the outsides of the door, you know your arch is not symmetrical.
Once you have your line scribed, cut with your jigsaw and round off the edges.
Step 6: Adding the Door Handle
Finally, add a cool door handle. My favorite is to find a gnarly piece of drift wood and cut it into the shape of a handle. To make it perfectly level, press it down on a belt sander until both sides sit level.
When fastening it to your door, make sure to pre-drill the holes so as to not split the wood. Use washers on the backside and add some wood glue for strength on the door handle itself. Make sure your screws are properly sized so you don't screw right through the handle.
Now that the door is finished, I will design a latch and lock of some sort and the overhead arch to match the door in the door frame. Maybe a part II to this instructable.