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I'm starting a project to build a pair of bi-fold doors for a closet (its an odd size, and so there are no prebuilt doors of the required size). I've done research on building the doors, and think I have a handle on the actual building part, but I'm having a hard time sourcing supplies, in particular the wood for the stiles & rails, which I think should be 1 3/8" thick, 3-4 inches wide, and ~80" long for the stiles.

Does this size/cut of wood have a particular name that I should look for? I've checked the local big box DIY stores, and they have 3/4" thick boards, but nothing thicker. What should I be looking for, and what type of store would stock something like this?

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Have you considered buying a door that's a little larger, disassembling or cutting it apart near the existing join, and trimming it down to your size? –  BMitch Feb 17 '13 at 14:18
    
I did consider that, but building the doors sounded like an interesting project. –  superfell Feb 17 '13 at 21:09
    
FYI, building doors can be a little tricky. The stress on a door is unusual due to the hinges supporting the door from only one side. Think about the abuse a door is subject to: opening and closing multiple times a day for (hopefully) decades, hanging stuff from the handle, having a kid swing on it, etc, etc. Plus there's not a lot of opportunity to correct for misalignments if the door is out of square or the wrong size. Take your time and measure carefully! A closet door will be more forgiving than an exterior door, for sure. –  Henry Jackson Feb 18 '13 at 16:59
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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

In my area, we have a place called Northern Hardwood Supply that stocks many types of woods used for furniture, custom trim, etc. I'm sure there are similar suppliers in your area. If your local lumber yard does not stock thicker woods, ask them if there is a specialty house in your area.

The second item worth mentioning, is that I recommend using a hardwood for you doors. A good choice would be poplar wood. It is the least expensive hardwood, easy to work with and finishes nicely, especially if you plan to prime and paint. Soft woods like pine tend to warp or wain and check easily and aren't the best for framing long narrow stiles etc.

As far as the tools and techniques for sizing custom stock, a table saw and planner are the best. The term "resawing" refers to cutting the thickness of narrower stock, say less than 4" with a table saw. One would set up using a feather board and a 80 tooth or hollow ground planner blade. This often gives a decent sandable cut, but not a real furniture grade finish. A planner is your best bet for a decent initial smooth finish that can be sanded to a good finish. The combination of using both is often required for custom sizing. Usually one side of your stock will have a good factory finish ready to sand, so do your DIY cutting all on one side of the stock that will not be as visible in the finished product.

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+1 for poplar wood. It's not only cheap, it is also lighter than most hard wood. Poplar is about 2.4lb/FBM and maple or oak are around 3.8lb/FBM. –  Maxime Morin Feb 17 '13 at 14:20
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The greater than 3/4 inch thick wood can be obtained at lumber yards. If they do not have what you need they you can certainly order it.

You have some other options too.

a) Use the 3/4 inch thick material and glue two pieces together to get to 1.5 inches thick. Then you can saw it down to the desired thickness.

b) The lumber yard may very well have 1.5 inch thick wood available that you can take home and saw down to the desired thickness.

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I'm not sure what you meant by "saw down", but I would definitively suggest a planer to reduce the thickness. Most of the time, the lumber yard offers planing at a small fee. Although, from my past experiences, buying 6/4 (1.5") thick wood and planing it to 1 3/8" is not the best. You might still have a rough surface on one side. (At that point, sanding can help, or re-planing if you have your own planer.) –  Maxime Morin Feb 17 '13 at 13:19
    
By saw down I meant to rip to size with a table saw. One has to figure the fact that planing may be necessary and this into account when deciding how much to rip off. Of course if having a jointer or planer is an available tool then reducing by 1/8 in several passes may well be the best in this case. –  Michael Karas Feb 17 '13 at 15:48
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Building doors is what is known as "finish carpentry", and it requires a fair amount of skill and the right tools to get a good result. You need to worry about how to make a joint that will support the weight of the door over the years, and how to deal with the expansion and contraction of wood from season.

It's complicated enough that most people leave doors to the door and cabinet shops.

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