Lumber Stretcher

I’ve often wondered how many times I’ve heard the expression lumber stretcher. You know the scenario. Here is how it often goes for me. Lets say I measure something in the shop, or at the work site, and I need a piece of wood that’s 45″ long. Well, this is when Murphy’s Law comes in to play as it is normally late in the day and everything I find measures 44 1/4″ or less. Frustration begins to set in as you go through the entire woodpile with no luck. Then someone chimes in from the peanut gallery “huh, huh, you gotcha lumber stretcher with you, huh, huh?”. And which I normally respond “No, jack%^&, I don’t have no lumber stretcher”. (At this point I’d like to apologize to all of my former English teachers. I generally try not to use phrases like “don’t have no”, but sometimes you have to relate to the audience your speaking to get your point across.”)

You see, the lumber stretcher is not real but rather a figment of the imagination amongst woodworkers/ carpenters. Its something we all wish existed as it would definitely help out, but in reality we know the trip to the lumber store for one piece of %^$& wood is inevitable.

I thought of the lumber stretcher the other day while I was working at a clients house. They had called me about changing out some doors due to the old ones having been cut off to accommodate carpet, which worked fine until they decided to install hardwood flooring. You guessed it, now there was an 1 1/2″ gap between the doors and floor. Upon closer investigation (after the new doors were purchased) I found the doors had not been cut off but rather installed at that height, which now meant we needed to remove the trim and door jambs and lower the entire door assembly. One problem: there was wallpaper on the walls. So lowering the jamb and trim would have left a gap at the top with no wallpaper. Here is where the frustration was beginning to set in and I wanted to say ” no jack&^%, I don’t have no lumber stretcher”. Breathe, 1, 2, 3,…breathe. But wait, maybe we could in fact stretch the doors.

Off to the shop with two doors. I found 2 pieces of solid wood (one poplar and one red oak) and milled them both down to 1 7/16″ x 1″. Most off the shelf doors are 1 3/8″ to 1 7/16″ thick in case you’re wondering how I came up with that number.

I then sanded both the bottom of the door and the wood to feather the edges (in order to give the glue the best chance to hold sufficiently). Once sanded, I marked and cut two sets of biscuit slots, 3 on the front and 3 on the back. Add a little glue, spread it evenly on both mating  surfaces and then assemble.

Here is where the tricky part came in to play. Most doors have a 5 degree bevel cut on the handle side to help ensure that the door does not hit the jamb when being opened and closed. So I had to come up with a way to carry that bevel down to the new wood. I clamped two pieces of wood (one on top and one on bottom), flush with the edges and the bottoms of the door. Then using a flush cutting router bit, I was able to trim a perfect edge with an identical bevel as the door edges.

Once assembled there was a seam between the door and the wood. This was due to the door having a very small chamfer edge. Not a problem as I filled it with a 2 part wood filling putting, leaving it a little proud, and then sanded with a random orbital sander once it was dry. The picture to the left illustrates the repair with only one coat of primer. One thing to keep in mind is to follow the wood grain of the door with the new repair. Also, some heavy brush stokes will help to add some of the graining which will blend the repair in with the door.

That’s all there was to it. Two hours in the shop vs. multiple hours at the clients house. Plus they do not have to look into replacing their wallpaper. Definitely something to keep in mind should you ever find yourself needing a lumber stretcher for a door.


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