Stile-and-rail doors come in a variety of panel styles. These were originally constructed with horizontal rails and vertical stiles made of solid wood that allowed the panels to float in a groove. Because natural materials expand and contract with temperature and moisture, this construction style allowed the door to stay intact through a variety of conditions without using engineered or man-made products. When we saw this four-panel door at the local antique barn, it naturally made sense that the four individual panels could be broken down to form the four sides of an upcycled toy box. The box could also be used as a quilt chest at the foot of a bed.
Have the paint checked for lead content and professionally removed. If the paint does not contain lead, use an orbital sander to remove the paint. You may need to use some sandpaper and elbow grease to get to into those tight trim areas. (Don’t forget to wear a dust mask.)
A standard chest size is around 36" wide x 18" deep x 18" tall and will fit at the end of a twin or full-size bed. Since every reclaimed item is unique, measure your door to determine how to best split it into four pieces. Usually the top or center horizontal rail width will be the determining factor for how to door gets split.
Inspect the surface of the door for any possible embedded nails or other metal. Always be sure to wear the proper personal protection equipment as there could still be hidden items such as this nail. A metal detector is a great way to make sure your reclaimed wood is nail free.
Then split any panels that need to be resized. In our case, we needed to take about 6" out of the shorter side panels. So we cut the two panel down the middle, taking out the 6" piece. We'll then piece them back together with biscuits and glue. Do a final test fit to make sure no more cuts are needed.
To rejoin the cut side panels, use three #3 biscuits in each one.
Set the height on the biscuit joiner to 1/2 of the total door thickness. Cut three biscuits slots in each cut panel making sure they align with the corresponding piece to be joined.
When the joined panels are dry, apply wood glue on the 45-degree corner cuts and use a strap clamp to pull the panels tighly together. Double check the box for square and reposition any panels with a rubber mallet if necessary.
Fasten the corners with four 2" 15-gauge finish nails on each of corners.
For the top, get creative. In our case, we had some pine flooring pulled from a cut pile that was V-grooved on one side and beaded on the other. We glued four 5" boards together for roughly a 38" x 20" top (that would get trimmed to size once complete).
Install 1x2 cross bars with wood screws and clamp the top directly to the table to ensure a nice flat top while the wood glue dries. Once dry, trim the top to have a 1/2" to 3/4" overhang on the sides and front and flush on the back. We also softened the top edges with a routed 1/4" round over bit.
For the bottom of the box, you could do something as simple as a piece of painted 3/4" plywood or any other remnant wood you can find. We found a piece of 3/4" walnut that would contrast the painted box well. However it wasn't wide enough. So it was trimmed down and joined with wood glue and biscuits.
To make the toy box stand out from the floor, consider giving it small legs. We used leftover scrap pieces from the door panels to make the legs. Use a small can or glass jar to trace a radius in each corner and then connect them with a straight line.
Use a jigsaw to slowly cut along this line on each side.
When the legs are complete, cut a scrap piece of 1x4 down to 3/4" x 1-1/2" to use as a ledger board to hold the bottom of the box. Find a height that keeps the ledger above the leg cut outs but low enough that the bottom piece doesn't overlap the sculpted part of the panel. Install the ledger board with wood glue and 1-1/2" 15-gauge finish nails.
In preparation for paint, putty all corners and nail holes. Then use 220-grit sandpaper on an orbital sander.
Prime and paint the entire box. Feel free to give the side panels some accent with a contrasting paint color. Using full pieces of painter's tape, mask off the area to be painted.
Be sure to use overlapping pieces of tape and then smooth down the edge using the edge of a plastic putty knife to prevent paint bleed.
Put a light coat of the second paint on so it seals the painter's tape. Then finish with a full coverage second coat.
Use a 1/8" pilot drill bit to pre-drill the piano hinge holes. Mount the piano hinge with the provided wood screws.
Remove the painter's tape and admire a toy box made almost entirely of upcycled and reclaimed materials. Because the floor of box only rests on 3/4" ledgers, it is easily removable in the future and refinished if you choose to repaint the exterior of the toy chest.
Not only is the final design charming with a warm wood bottom and clean exterior lines but the construction style also fits with the vintage of the original door. What a great way to let an old discarded door live on in new form for many years to come