Copper Paneled French Door



Introduction: Copper Paneled French Door

Have an old French door that you want to breathe new life into? In this Instructable, created by my wonderful mother and I, we are going to to take a vintage French door and convert it into a beautiful copper paneled door!

Let's get started! First up: Everything you'll need!

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Step 1: Materials & Tools:

(Note: Not all materials and tools are pictured!)



Paint (We used Behr interior latex in "Oxide" with Satin finish)

Acrylic copper metallic paint, approximately 8 oz

3/4" Brad nails (we used a nail gun, but it can be done with just a hammer)

Sheet of copper (We obtained ours from

Spray Shellack

White rubber tacky cement

1/64 inch thick plywood (or another material of a similar thickness. We used Birch plywood, but this was not very cost efficient, so I recommend trying to find a cheaper material if possible)

French Door

Parchment paper

Medium grit sandpaper


Exacto/Utility knife

Painter's knife

Putty knife/scraper

Nail gun or Hammer

Nail set


Small rubber roller

Sea sponge for painting

Paint brushes

Books or other flat, heavy object

Ruler/straight edge/square

Measuring tape

Metal shears

Latex gloves

Metal working gloves

Step 2: Remove Window Panes & Sand Off Old Paint

First, we're going to need to remove the glass window panes. Our door had 5 rows of 3 glass panes. We decided to leave the top row as glass and the rest as copper panels.

To remove the window panes, you will need to remove the wood mouldings on one side of the door. To do this, use a utility knife to cut/scrape out the paint between the moulding and the actual door. Then use a painter's knife and putty knife to wiggle it out. Use the painter's knife to push the moulding sideways and the putty knife to pull it outwards. Be careful to not break the moulding! If this does happen, you can try to use glue or wood putty to fix the moulding.

Once you've removed the moulding from around the pane, carefully remove the glass. Repeat for each pane you wish to remove. Each piece of moulding will likely have small nails still inside them. Carefully remove these with a hammer.

Once you've removed the panes, measure the the inside area. You will use this measurement to make your copper panels.

Sand off old paint with sand paper or sander. Don't forget to sand the mouldings!

Step 3: Cut the Materials for the Copper Panels

Now, we are going to start constructing the panels. First, using the measurements you took from the previous step, draw out the shapes of the panels on the copper and cut out the pieces using the metal shears. Use a straight edge for better results. If the edges are not perfect, don't worry too much; the edges won't be visible after the moulding is in place.

When handling the copper, it is important to wear gloves, as oils from your fingers may cause fingerprints to appear on the copper, and this may not come off. Also take care to not cut yourself on the sharp edges of the copper! You will need to cut enough copper to make double sided panels.

When you've cut out the copper, place the panels in a safe place, remembering to not handle them with your bare hands.

Next, you will need to cut the plywood (or whatever thin base material you are using). Make these the same size as the copper panels.

Step 4: Form the Panels

Now we are going to put the panels together. Apply rubber cement to one side of a plywood panel you cut in the last step. When applying the cement, leave a millimeter of space around the edges. This prevents excess from squeezing out and potentially damaging your copper.

Take a copper panel (remember the gloves!) and lay it on top of the plywood, trying to line up the corners as much as possible. Flatten the copper with your hands. Lay a piece of parchment paper on top of this panel, being sure it is completely covered. Use the rubber roller to further flatten it and remove any air bubbles. Place a stack of books or heavy objects on top to press the copper and wood together. Your bottom object should be larger than the panel. We allowed the two panels to remain pressed for 24 hours. After this period, flip the panels and repeat for the other side.

Step 5: Prime & Paint the Door

While you're waiting for your copper panels to cure, it's a good time to start painting the door. Apply the primer to the door first. Once that dries, use a roller to apply your paint. For best results, paint two coats. You will want to do the same for the mouldings as well. Then, use the sea sponge with the copper metallic paint to add a metallic effect to the door. Coat the sponge lightly with paint, sponge off excess onto a piece of cardboard, if needed. Work the sponge in different directions to give variation. The base color should show through well, do not overcoat with the copper acrylic paint.

Step 6: Shellacking

Now that the copper panels are constructed, we are going to seal them. We used a can of spray shellac to do this. Lay the sheets on a covered flat surface to prevent running. In a well ventilated area, hold the can approximately 13-15 inches from the surface and spray to coat evenly over the entire surface. Allow it to dry, then flip the panel over and repeat.

If you like, you can also spray shellac on the door and mouldings for some extra shine. This, however, is not required.

Step 7: Place the Copper Panels in the Door

Put the panels into the openings. Use the metal shears to trim the edges as necessary to make it fit. It does not need to be a tight fit; we will be replacing the mouldings that will hold it in place.

Step 8: Replace the Mouldings

This step can be tricky. Painting the mouldings may have added some thickness that could make them a little more difficult to replace. You can scrape excess paint off the back and sides of the moulding with a utility knife.

To replace the mouldings, place a shorter piece in first, then a long piece at a 90 degree angle. Then, butt up the corners of the other short and long piece and work them in from the corner where they meet. (Tip: the long piece is a little flexible, if you need to pull it inward slightly as you push the corner down, it will help you fit it. Just don't bend it too much or you may break it!). You can also use a small piece of wood to help work it in. If you need to do this set the wood over the corner where the mouldings meet, lightly tap down with mallet. You have to ensure that the corners have started to move down into place before tapping down with mallet or the mouldings will be damaged. This technique can also be used to tap down the mouldings that haven't gone all the way in.

Once you have all mouldings back in place, use a hammer or a nail gun to nail the mouldings in position, applying two nails to each or nailing close to the old nail holes. Use a nail set to set the nails and apply a little putty over the head. Once the putty is dry. Touch up any areas with paint including the nail heads and let dry.

Now your door is ready to hang! Also, don't forget your door handle! We picked up a vintage cast iron door handle and back plate from a local salvage shop. The salvage shops are also a great place to buy a vintage door if you don't already have one!

We won't go into detail about how to hang a door in this Instructable. There are several Instructables on how to do this.

Enjoy your new Copper Paneled French Door!

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