Photo by: Dylan Eastman

Dylan Eastman

Source Materials

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.

Step 1

Photo by: Dylan Eastman

Dylan Eastman

Remove Hardware

The first step in preparing the door is to remove any existing hardware. This hardware is well worth keeping for future projects especially ornamental knobs and door hardware.

Step 2

Photo by: Dylan Eastman

Dylan Eastman

Remove Old Finish

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.)

Step 3

Photo by: Dylan Eastman

Dylan Eastman

Determine Layout

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. 

Step 4

Photo by: Dylan Eastman

Dylan Eastman

Prep the Cuts

Since the door will be too big to fit on most residential table saws, the cut will need to be made with a circular saw. With the saw unplugged, measure from the blade to the edge of the plate. 

Step 5

Photo by: Dylan Eastman

Dylan Eastman

Mark Cut Lines

Mark the door for the first cut line. Then make another mark to the left of the cut line and clamp a fence (or spare 2x4 and two ratchet clamps) using the offset measured in the previous step.

Step 6

Photo by: Dylan Eastman

Dylan Eastman

Look For Rogue Hardware

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.

Step 7

Photo by: Dylan Eastman

Dylan Eastman

Cut the Door

Support the door on spare 2x4s and cut into four separate pieces. 

Step 8

Photo by: Dylan Eastman

Dylan Eastman

Test Fit Layout

When the door is cut down, finish determining the best layout if you haven’t already done so. In our case, the shorter panels were still too long for the depth of the box. The longer panels were nearly the perfect size.

Step 9

Photo by: Dylan Eastman

Dylan Eastman

Cut to Uniform Sizes

Since the longer panels had the narrowest remaining rail on one side, we needed to cut all the other rails to match. 

Step 10

Fill in Voids

Fill any large voids in the door such as where the door hardware was mortised in. We cut down a piece of 5/4 board and glued it in the void. Let the filler be a little proud of the door panel so you can trim perfectly flush later.

Step 11

Photo by: Dylan Eastman

Dylan Eastman

Miter the Corners

When all the rails on each panel are cut to match each other, cut the corners to 45 degrees using a circular saw. Don't trust the factor angle indicators, be sure to check with a quality framing square.

Step 12

Adjust Sizes Where Needed

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.

Step 13

Use Biscuits to Rejoin Pieces

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.

Step 14

Photo by: Dylan Eastman

Dylan Eastman

Clamp Tight to Dry

Using wood glue on the face of the cut and in the biscuit slot, join each pair of halves and clamp for 24 hours. Use cross boards to apply downward pressure before clamping to ensure the panels stay straight.

Step 15

Fasten All Four Sides

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.

Step 16

Photo by: Dylan Eastman

Dylan Eastman

Fill Holes and Smooth Surface

Putty and sand any imperfections or voids.

Step 17

Make the Top

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.

Step 18

Install Hinge

To install the hinge for the top, use a router and a 3/4" straight bit to cut in a recess for a 24" piano hinge. The hinge should fit flush and with the barrel to the outside of the box, but don't attach it quite yet.

Step 19

Photo by: Dylan Eastman

Dylan Eastman

Make the Bottom of the Box

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.

Step 20

Make Legs

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.

Step 21

Sand Legs Smooth

When all four are cut, use an orbital sander to smooth out the jigsaw cut. Hand shape the corners for a smooth curve using folded over sandpaper.

Step 22

Cut Ledger Board for Legs

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.

Step 23

Prep, Prime and Paint

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. 

Step 24

Prevent Colors From Bleeding

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.

Step 25

Add the Hinge

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