I'm refinishing solid pine wood doors in my home, the doors are original from 1940 when the home was built. After stripping multiple layers of paint, I found a few panels separated on some doors (just 2 out of 10 doors total). Here's one about 3/16" thick. Before staining/sealing, is there a simple way to fix this to avoid separation in the future? I live in N.Y., so I'm concerned about seasonal temp changes.

UPDATE, side photos showing joint gap enter image description here

enter image description here

2 Answers 2


I have had some similar projects. On occasion, I have been able to force glue into a joint with a glue syringe and clamp the joints together. The key to this method is cleaning out the joint with a putty knife or something similar and clamping it tightly.

The method that has been most tried and true for me is, unfortunately, a bit more involved. Those old solid wood doors are great and ridiculously expensive to replace with the same quality so, in my humble opinion, it is worth the effort. Over the last 70 years the expansion and contraction you are concerned about is most likely what has separated the joints. I would expect a door from this era has nice big mortise and tenon joints. Work the joints apart gently until you have separated all the stiles and rails. Clean all the old residue off the joints and use thin pieces of wood to fill in gaps to get the joints to go back together tightly if necessary. Coat both the mortise and tenon sides with a good wood glue to and tightly clamp the doors back together. Hopefully, this will restore the original integrity of the door by maximizing the glue surface of the joints as originally intended and perhaps they will last another 70 years.

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    Fortunately any door from 1940 is likely using hide glue, which is easily removed with heat and moisture. Assuming that the door is that old. May 10, 2017 at 15:26
  • This is a point where I'd be super tempted to reach for marine epoxies like West System with the adhesive filler. Not sure if that is a good idea. May 10, 2017 at 16:15
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    I'd also consider running some long screws in from the end, countersunk as appropriate. Fill with flat buttons to hide them. A little mechanical fastening can go a long way to avoiding future headaches.
    – isherwood
    May 10, 2017 at 17:28
  • I think you're right regarding the joints (see updated photos). It appears the gap is largely caused by separation at the joint, so perhaps I can fix it using epoxy or glue/clamp as some folks suggested, or, as @isherwood says, countersunk screws for a more permanent fix (frankly, I prefer the latter)
    – raffian
    May 11, 2017 at 3:07
  • What type of glue is best for this problem? @Harper recommends marine epoxy, but can I use wood glue that doesn't require mixing?
    – raffian
    May 14, 2017 at 1:24

Is the joint still solid? That is, if you grab the two pieces on either side and shake them, is there any movement? If it's solid, then it means that the gap is just a result of shrinkage, and it's merely a cosmetic problem. Just slap some wood filler in there and sand it down. But if it's actually separating, then you'll have to re-glue it (see WoodAirGrille's answer).

  • I don't believe it's shrinkage, just separation, see updated photos.
    – raffian
    May 11, 2017 at 3:08
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    @raffian: What Mike is saying is that "just separation" is caused by shrinkage which is normal in old wood (example from 1721: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gersa18.jpg). I've restored some windows from the 1960s that had the same problem: The various pieces were held together by mortises all secured by dowel pins (unlike yours) and while all parts were very solidly connected some bits had shrunk significantly opening gaps. No glue was used or required in the original construction, and there was no point whatsoever in adding any; I've just sealed the openings to prevent moisture ingress. Oct 12, 2017 at 6:18

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