Hanging a door on jambs, before installation. Making A Skinny Door Skinnier:

Custom Door Hanging

Or... Building A Pre-Hung Door From Parts

In This Article:

A 24" wide solid wood door is ripped narrower and hinge pockets are routed with a guide template and template bushing. The door is mounted on the jambs and held together with braces.

Related Articles:
Skill Level: 3-4 (Moderate to Advanced) Time Taken: 3 Hours

By , Editor


In our double-bathroom remodel project we were faced with a minor challenge. We wanted to keep some form of adjoining door, similar to what the previous owner had installed when they first converted the bedroom to bathrooms. But in our revised floor plan, there was minimal room for a door, only about 24 inches. So we purchased a 24 inch wide solid wood 6-panel door, with the intent of ripping it narrower, once the exact dimensions of the opening were known. We knew there was no way we could rely on cutting 2 inches from a hollow-core door... they often only have about 1 inch of side rail material.

As the title suggests, the essence of this job is creating a pre-hung door from readily available materials.

This is the door rough opening. It looks narrow because it is narrow... only 24 inches. Slab door and jambs used to make a pre-hung door.
The raw materials, from left to right: The 6-panel solid door, the door jambs, the colonial door stop trim. The door has just been ripped narrower, by cutting 1 inch from each side, on a table saw.


A close-up view of the top ends of the side jambs. These are sold as single boards, about 82" long, with this rabbet cut into the top end.

These jambs are actually veneer-covered plywood. (Some people call this engineered lumber.) Being plywood they should be very stable and not be prone to warping or splitting. Jamb material is normally 5/8" thick. These jambs were 4 - 9/16" inches wide... just right for a 2x4 wall with 1/2" drywall on each side.


This is a close-up of the colonial door stop trim, purchased by the lineal foot from the local Home Depot.


The edges of the door were quite rough from the sawing operation, so we sanded the edges down with a belt sander. This took about 3 minutes.

The door is held in a custom fixture that we made. Sanding the edge of a door is a major pain in the rear unless the door is held firmly... on edge.


Then we finish-sanded the edges with a fine-grit sanding sponge.


The basic Black & Decker router. This very economical power tool has come in handy many times.


And the best thing about this B&D router... it accepts template guide bushings made by Porter Cable ($30 at The Ho' Depot).


The Porter Cable guide bushings have a knurled locking ring that clamps the steel bushing into place.

Why Guide Bushings?

The guide bushing rubs against the metal guide plate... and prevents the router bit from from hitting the guide (which would surely destroy the bit). It sounds like a lot of trouble, but it works well.

The Porter Cable bushing set has 7 different sizes of guides. These devices are necessary for projects such as routing letters and signs. 


The other product used here is a Butt Hinge Template set from Sears. This $8 set includes a template for 4" hinges (typically for exterior doors) and a template for 3-1/2" hinges (for interior doors), which is the one we will use.


For the top hinge, we made a mark 5-1/2" below the door's top.

For the bottom hinge we made a mark 9-1/2" above the bottom of the door.


The template is set against the door edge (the hinge pin goes on the same side as my hand) with the lower edge of the steel against the pencil mark. 

Note the little notch in the steel, right above my pinky... this 1/8" deep notch serves a purpose... for helping to layout the hinge position on the door jamb. Following the product's instructions is crucial here. This is kind of hard to explain, even with pictures.


We attached the template with pan-head sheet metal screws. The instructions recommend nails... but they never worked for me, the wood grain diverts the nail and the template ends up crooked.


Setting the cutting tool depth:

We placed both hinges on top of the template and sat the router on top of that. Then we positioned the cutting bit so it was just touching the wood...


...Like that.


And away we go. This is easy, just turn the power on and swish the router around inside the confines of the hinge template.


That was quick, maybe a minute.

The black marks on the wood are burn marks. This old router bit was really dull (I know what you're thinking... just like the Editor...) so we stopped to sharpen it. Then it actually cut the wood, and left no burn marks.

Before the template is removed: We measured from the top of the door to the bottom of the notch. This will be the measurement used to lay out the template on the jamb.

This measurement is taken for each hinge, always from the top of the door to the bottom of the notch.

The routed hinge pocket.

Remember that this can be done with just a chisel and hammer, but that is a chore, and it often leaves an uneven surface, which puts the hinge out of alignment, and causes too much grief. I will never go back to the old way.


We used a 1 inch chisel to remove the rounded corners.


Here's another "must have" tool. This tool is called a Vix bit. It is a drill bit inside a spring-loaded guide. The guide is tapered and fits into the conical hole of the hinges. Just drill and push and the hinge holes are aligned perfectly. 


Here's a little demonstration. The drill bit pokes through the hole in the hinge, while the guide keeps it perfectly centered.

The Vix bit really helps give professional results, and quickly. This tool was bought at Sears, in a kit with some other gadgets, for about $20. Other stores and catalogs carry them too.


The template was laid out on the jamb.

The measurements we took above (before removing the templates) are marked on the jamb, measured from the edge of the rabbet (where the finished surface ends, not the end of the board)

Then, the normal edge of the template (not the notch) is laid against the pencil mark.

Why?   This results in the hinge being 1/8" lower on the jamb than on the door... which means that the assembled unit has a 1/8" gap between the top jamb and the top of the door... which is WHAT YOU WANT. Without this rigmarole, you would end up taking the door off the hinges and sanding or planing the top to create a little one-eighth-inch gap. Can you say H-A-S-S-L-E ?

The hinges were installed on the door...

... and then the jamb was held in place and the hinges screwed into it. Luckily, our work was accurate enough that only a minor adjustment in one hinge pocket was required, which was done with a knife.


The top jamb was cut to length (the door width, 22", plus 1/4" for the two side gaps, plus the combined rabbet depths).

Then the side was nailed into the top with a couple of 2" finish nails.


The striker-side jamb was also nailed to the assembly. We kept the door off the floor with some blocks of wood, so the protruding hinges would not get in the way.


We also drove in some 2" deck screws to hold the jambs together.


Then we cut the colonial door stop trim (the top joints are beveled, which was done on a power miter saw) and fastened them with 1" brads. We used scraps of cardboard to provide a small gap between the door and stop. (Otherwise, the stop trim will fit too tightly and the paint will rub off. This is really only necessary on the hinge side.)


Finally, we tacked a couple of scraps of lumber across the jambs, to hold everything together. This is a technique borrowed from the manufacturers of pre-hung doors.

In order to make installation easy, we must be able to pick up the door and carry it without the jambs shifting at all.


The finished project, actually an intermediate step: a pre-hung door made from off-the-shelf components.

Note that we have already drilled the holes for the door knob. This step is not necessary to hang the door... we did it early because of other reasons.

See this pre-hung door installed.

See the door knob installed.




Tools Used:

  • Cordless Drill/Driver
  • Belt Sander
  • Router & Straight Bit
  • Butt Hinge Template
  • Router Template Guide
  • 1 Inch Chisel
  • "Vix" Bit
  • Table Saw & Miter Saw

Materials Used:

  • Raised Panel Slab Door
  • Door Jamb Kit
  • Door Stop Trim
  • 3½" Hinges


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Copyright © 2005  HammerZone.com

Written August 1, 2000
Revised January 6, 2005