Full Chisel Blog

November 29, 2008

Sash Work

Filed under: Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 9:46 am

I got the new door joined together last weekend and finished the sash work.  I have posted earlier on making the sash molding with a rabbet plane, lacking a proper sash plane.  But I did manage to shoot and stick enough molding to do the entire door with a bit left over, better than running short.

Door frame with uprights

When I first looked at the existing door that I am copying, I thought that there was a mortise and tenon joint at every intersection of cross pieces.  Well, thinking does get me in trouble from time to time and this was the case.  Upon careful examination, by just taking a closer look,  was that they were indeed mortise and tenon joints but they were very small and the mortise was simply chopped into the sash molding down to the rabbit on the back side.

Door with first cross pieces

Then the ends of the mullions were coped to fit the angle of the sash molding.  That little birds mouth held the pieces in place.  Now the uprights look straight and they are fairly straight and to keep them that way exact measurements for the cross pieces was critical.

Door with all the sash work

But one thing I did learn, which made things go a lot quicker than I anticipated was that I could take the measurements for the cross pieces from the back side.  The cross pieces were exactly fit in between the rabbets, so I could use that space to accurately mark the cross pieces.  Then there was the task of coping them to each piece.

Because they are hand made there was some variation, but after chopping 38 mortise and tenons for just the mullions and four more for the door frame, that was a lot of work.  I did carefully scribe the first several that I did, then being lazy, I just eyeballed them and got them close enough that a final work with a sharp chisel brought them into proper fit.

The last photograph shows the door completely assembled but not glued up.  I had to tweak things and actually replace two cross pieces as I was straightening the uprights.  There is some distortion of the picture and the door looks bowed but it is not.  Glue up should be a lot of fun.

I also started cutting the glass for both doors.  The original door had all of its glass broken out by young boys throwing rocks to break them.  The small openings were a difficult target and the rock damage to the mullions and frame was substantial and took about 20 hours to just do the small Dutchmen repairs.

This is by far the most challenging restoration I have ever encountered.  It is also an historically significant piece, known owner and maker, and one of the earliest Utah pieces that I have ever worked on, this one was made in 1852.  Unfortunately I don’t think I have a photograph of the piece in the condition in which I received it, but it had been painted black over the original walnut graining over pine.  It had sat in a barn in Southern Utah and had some issues like animal crap and mud-dauber wasp nests, plus the years of grime.

This secretary is a real study piece in early construction, adapting to the rigors of the isolated West and shows many of the tool marks from the original construction.  I will be posting more on this piece with descriptions of its construction.



  1. Stephen, having always “ordered” windows in the past, so it has never been necessary for me to know anything about windows other than the dimensions of frame opening. I was taught the top and bottom of the window was the “sash rails”, the uprights on the sides were the “sash Stiles”, and the bars that crossed each other in between were simply “sash bars”. I believe that the term mullion and sash bar are interchangeable, is that right?

    The one thing that I have never seen accomplished before, is how the sash bars or mullions are fitted where they cross each other. I even bought a set of Audel’s once to see how they described this. I have never gotten my head around how you do this. I’ll be cheeky and ask if you could explain this process to me (us?) if you have the time?



    Comment by Mitchell — November 30, 2008 @ 1:45 pm

  2. Mitchell,

    The term mullion and sash bar are interchangable. Sash rail and sash style would also be appropriate. I will take some pictures of the joint to show its construction.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — December 1, 2008 @ 6:55 am

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