Whether you live in a Tudor mansion, a modern rambling house, a barn, or an industrial estate, you are probably familiar with wooden doors. They are common in nearly every home and are widely used for internal and external purposes. But did you know that the history of braced oak doors dates back to the Middle Ages? Thankfully, you can learn a lot about the early history of the door by studying it yourself.
The History of Braced Oak Doors
For starters, doors of the late medieval period were made from two layers of planking – a vertical one and a horizontal one. The vertical ones were nailed together with extra-long nails to stabilize the door and stop sagging.
The horizontal ones were also fastened together. This was done by using the aforementioned extra-long nails, but also by cutting a ledge to provide an abutment for a vertical brace ledge and brace oak doors. This was a very efficient method for securing the door. Unlike the early doors mentioned above, these were not sagged by the swelling of the stiles, as the door was hung from pintles driven into the stone rebates of the door frame.
The oldest known example of a door with this configuration is a stone door at Westminster Abbey, dating from around the 12th century. It measures about 1.63 meters by 0.79 meters and has five vertical oak planks. It was built for communication between the various levels of the Abbey. But it is not known whether the door was actually in its original position.
Made of dolerite at Balawat, Syria
Another example is a door made of dolerite at Balawat, Syria. The tenons were sheathed in bronze. In fact, this is the oldest known wood joint in history. It was also one of the first uses of wood screws. This method was popular in the early 18th century and helped to extend the life of doors. It is not surprising that doors of this type are still in use today, particularly on terraced houses.
To make the history of braced oak doors even more fun, it is worth noting that some modern doors are actually re-created in this style. These are known as the ‘Z’ braced door. This type of door is easy to make and requires only a few nails to assemble. It is also one of the least expensive to build, so you might want to give it a try.
Having tested several bracing methods
Having tested several bracing methods, I’ve found that the best method is to notch the ledges so that they form an abutment for braces. This will give your door more strength. It also makes it easier to fix, which is especially important with doors over two-and-a-half feet wide.
If you decide to build a ‘Z’ braced door, you may want to make sure that you do it right. For instance, a door with a brace at the top end may cause the door to fall off, or it may even force the door to close. You will also need to decide how to fix the brace on the door frame.