The Gnome Door




Introduction: The Gnome Door

About: Desktop Support Technician by day ... Occasional hired gun rock drummer by night ... DIY home improvement enthusiast on weekends - maker of whatever I can imagine in between it all. I'm also a professional lev…

A friend of mine is coordinating an art installation project in Stoughton, MA, which involves Gnome doors (aka Fairy/Faerie doors). You know ... take the kids out on a weekend to search for doors, try to find them all, post them in Instagram, bring some traffic to local businesses, etc. He knows I tinker around in my shop and asked if I'd be interested in making one.

A quick search on the interwebs resulted in mostly cats and dull memes, but also a lot of really and tiny cool doors. I especially liked the round "hobbit" style and Gothic arched doors .. the whimsical, non-symmetric doors were visually appealing as well. However, I wanted to make something more original ... if possible.

I decided to take the approach of, "If I were a Gnome, what items, reclaimed from the human world, would I use to construct a door to my home?" I've always liked the look of layered metal and rivets [see my Faux Metal desk as an example]. I had some left over aluminum flashing in the basement, as well as some scrap OSB and pallet wood. Basically, Gnome BALES pilfered a construction site.

I must admit ... part of me really wanted to make this project more of a puzzle ... so that a hidden locking pin could be released and the door actually opened, but I resisted the temptation (at least this time). That being said, the door is still a bit over-engineered ... but really, would you expect any less at this point?a

Step 1: Cleaning Up the Board

I wanted the door casing to be chunky, but 2x4 stock looked too clean and processed. I still have a small pile of pallet wood from before I decided that I hate working with pallets and the wooden runners have a really cool mix of sap wood and milling marks from the sawmill.

I wanted to preserve the saw marks, but I needed to clean the boards up a bit. I used an orbital sander to get rid of any dirt and/or scuff marks from warehouse use, as well as to smooth out the overall surface. The board had a bit of twist in it, so I used some OSB as a sled and ran it through the drum sander. I took light passes until I had a uniformly flat face.

Note: I could've used the jointer, but I wasn't 100% sure this boards was nail free and I didn't want to risk damage to the knives. Very light passes on the drum sander won't even tear the paper if it finds a nail ... at least in my experience. I kept an eye out for any uncovered metal.

Step 2: Fabricating the Sides

I set the table saw fence to 1 1/4" and made rip cuts from each side of the boards. This left me with a 1/2" center strip, which I set aside for later.

I cut two 10" sections from these board using the miter saw. These will be used for the door casings, so I picked areas that had the most interesting sap wood and natural shape.

Since I wanted the door panel set into these sides, I needed to cut a groove. I set the blade height to 1/4", set the fence to 1/4", and made the first pass. From there, I just moved the fence out in 1/8" increments and made passes until the groove was wide enough for 1/2" OSB and two layers of the aluminum flashing.

Last step at the table saw was to cut a piece of 1/2" OSB to 8" x 4 3/4"

Note: Due to the uncertainty of nails, I put my saw in bypass mode.

Step 3: Skinning the Door With Aluminum

For the metal look, I'm using aluminum flashing. It was yet another gift left by a previous homeowner. The base layer was cut to the same width as the OSB panel, but a little bit longer (reason revealed soon). Smaller rectangles were cut out for the "patches." I didn't measure them ... just eyeballed to the size I liked.

Since this door will be out in public for children to find, I didn't want any sharp edges on the metal ... any exposed edge needed to be folder over. The aluminum is thin, so I was able to do this by hand using the edge of the OSB. Once I had it folded over, I flattened it with light taps from a hammer.

I used wire nails for the look of rivets. Since there were to long for the thickness of my material, I cut them to roughly 3/8" in length.

With all the parts ready, it was time to assemble the panel. I used construction adhesive for the metal to OSB contact, as well as the metal to metal contact. I overhung the extra aluminum length on one end, which will be the top. When I had my patch panels in place and hole locations marked, I drilled just deep enough to get through the metal and then hammed in the nails.

The aluminum had a tendency to curl up at the edges, so I added a bunch of clamps and set it aside to cure.

Step 4: Fabricating the Header and Joinery

The header for the door is one of the remaining 1 1/4" sections ... I chose the one that had a nice knot. I determined the center point and measured 4" to the left and right of that mark. I set a combination square to match the material in front of the groove on the sides casings and connected the points on the header. Using a razor knife and chisel, I removed material to make a thin slot. The excess metal at the top of the door will slide into this slot. This gives look of the recessed door with no seam ... without having to try and cut a stop dado into the header ... or chisel out a ton of material.

I cut all my stock long, but it was now time to cut the sides to the final 8" length. They both have a natural chamfer on the outside edges, which I liked, but I wanted the tops to be squared off where the connected to the header. I found the top location first, cut it on the table saw using my small parts crosscut sled, and then set a stop block so I could cut the final lengths.

To join the sides to the header, I decided to use dominos. This is going to be outside, so I didn't want to just rely on wood glue. You could use nails or screws from the top and plug the holes. You could also use dowels. I have a domino and I like using it for random things ... so I do. I took the panel out of it's clamps so that I could try fit everything and mark the domino locations. I used 5mm x 40mm dominos.

Prior to assembly, my name was spray painted on the back of the OSB panel ... I usually forget to do this until it's too late.

Step 5: The Glue Up

The glue up was pretty easy since the dominos and grooves self-aligned everything.

1. Slather glue on the dominos and a few drops in the hole.
2. Tap the dominos the header.
3. Run some wood glue along the top of the OSB panel and position it against the header ... ensure the metal locked into the slot.
4. Add glue to the grooves of the door casings and them onto the header dominos.
5. For the bottom I used that 1/2" center strip I had set aside. I left it long and attached it to the bottom with glue and pin nails.
6. Add clamps and let the glue set.

After about 15 mins, I cleaned up any glue squeeze out before it totally cured.

Once the glue was dry, I added dominos to the bottom ... basically like through tenons. It's overkill, but again this will be outside and I'm not sure if it will be covered or out in the elements.

Step 6: Fabricating the Handle

While waiting for glue to dry, I turned my attention to a door handle. I rummaged through my hardware and random parts drawers to see if anything caught my eye. I considered using a found item like a machine screw or an eye screw, but I decided I liked the look of a bar handle over a knob ... for this I used some 1/8" steel rod scrap. I just held the rod with a set of vice grips and imposed my bending will upon it using below average human strength. Excess rod length was cut off using bolt cutters and sanded using the oscillating belt sander.

The handle by itself, looked a bit plain, and visually, I desired some sort of keyhole. I found a black, plastic picture frame turn button in the random parts drawer and the hole was a perfect fit for the 1/8" steel rod. To make the keyhole shape, I just drilled two adjacent holes - the top was 1/8" and the bottom was 1/16".

I positioned the door handle by eye and lightly tapped it with a hammer to transfer hole locations to the aluminum. Those holes were drilled with a 1/8" bit and the handle/keyhole glued in place with two part epoxy. Some frog tape held the frame turn button down until the epoxy cured. Any squeeze out was easily removed with a small chisel. If you're careful, it won't even leave scratches ... I was not careful.

Step 7: Trimming Final Dimensions

The excess domino length on the bottom was trimmed off using the bandsaw and then sanded flush using the oscillating belt sander.

Once I determined the final width of the header by eye, I made those cuts on the table saw using my small parts crosscut sled.

Step 8: Sanding and Finishing

I sanded all of the wood surfaces up to 150 grit using a sanding block for all flat surface and hand sanding to break all of the hard edges. I used 220 grit on the metal door. By lightly sanding the metal, it added light scratches and removed some surface oxidation from high spots. It really helped bring some definition to the nail heads ... and helped hide my chisel scratches.

For finishing the wood, I used 50/50 boiled linseed oil/mineral spirits. That was followed by three applications of clear coat on the entire piece. The can doesn't specify what it is, but it's probably some type of acrylic lacquer.

I did add a DIY washer keyhole hanger to the back, but I'm not sure if it'll be used. I'm not sure if theft will be a concern, which would require more secure mounting methods (nails or screws). We'll see what happens I guess.

If you are interested in the keyhole washer, check out either of these Instructables:
The Dog Walking Station - Reusing Bags - Step 5
The Dog Walking Station - Rolled Bags - Step 4

Step 9: Glamour Shots

There it is .. a masculine door for a Gnome's Gnome. Hopefully he's a magical being and doesn't need the door to actually swing open.

If anyone ends up in Stoughton, MA and finds it ... snap a picture and post it!

Step 10: The Build Video

Reclaimed Wood Contest 2016

Participated in the
Reclaimed Wood Contest 2016

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    4 Discussions


    4 years ago

    awesome little door! So I assume that the door will be glued or nailed to a tree?


    Reply 4 years ago

    The overall goal of the project/installation is to revitalize a downtown area, which has several empty store fronts, but a few local business (coffee shop, bakery, etc). The doors will be secured to participating store fronts. I added a hanger, but it looks like my friend is going will nails or small screws ... so doors don't disappear easily.


    4 years ago

    Southcoaster stupid auto correct


    4 years ago

    Awesome door I was looking for a cool idea for the door of my chicken coop. Glad to see another southcoast we here