My red barn which we built five years ago was to have three sliding doors for its three openings, all hanging from the same rail. However, so cute was the final product and so perfect its lines that we felt a rail would spoil the façade; besides, it’s nice to look across from the house and see the hay bales inside the middle opening.
The right hand side was soon filled by a door fortuitously found at the local dump, to contain the goats at night when I decided, after confronting as cougar on our driveway, that they should perhaps have a dormitory for the danger hours, at least.
The third, left hand space served as a garden tool shed until we decided this spring to try goat milking. I ordered a machine, and we built a stanchion inside that room. All it lacked was a door, and now as the chance to have what I had always desired: a barn door made of planks with a ‘z’ support.
The project was the more fun because my friend Dave agreed to teach me how to do it properly, just as soon as we were finished clearing the front forty. So it was that as the first of our summer’s heat waves subsided and the last goat fence post was planted and nailed up, that we decamped to the front lawn and awaited Dave, his wife Judy, his home-milled cedar planks, and his tools.
Dave is an exemplary tool-man. Not only does he have one for every job (and I mean every job: he has eight skill-saws, each with different blades and angles, so that he never has to alter one of them), but he also maintains his tools in perfect condition, whiling away the hours after his 15 hour days labouring, with cleaning their motors and sharpening their blades. So he literally “set up shop” for this operation, with power cords and extension leads festooning the ground. He had carefully (and lovingly) selected the best, driest cedar from his drying room for this job. He had thought to use hinges, but when I produced the remaining two meter length of barn door steel railing (left over from my brainwave utilization of the majority of the rail on the new turkey barn), he was delighted. Now he could make the door a respectable width, rather than the cramped door opening of our red barn.
As always, Dave was an excellent teacher. When I asked why he didn’t find my requests to learn these ‘manly’ jobs odd, he replied that his parents had raised him and his eight siblings totally alike, “All of us peeled carrots and chopped and stacked wood.” Jobs were there to be done, and a son or daughter should both be equal to the task.
We spend almost a day planing those boards smooth, using various sanders and progressively finer papers. You have to be careful with cedar that you don’t start tearing the fibers away, so sanding with the grain is a must. To make sure the planks didn’t shift or warp, Dave taught me to use his router to make grooves along the edge of each plank to accept a one inch plywood cookie which would dovetail into the next plank’s groove. We glued all this together for extra strength and snugness, then bolted on the beloved ‘Z’ reinforcing frame.
The rail and pulleys took some adjusting until the door was the right distance from the concrete and from the barn wall, and even Dave learnt something when he decided to grind off the ends of the bolts after we had sanded the door—which left an iron filing grey cloud around each bolt, staining the wood. More sanding and a cedar stain covered everything up. Now we have an easily opening barn door, just right for maneuvering a recalcitrant milking goat from pen to stanchion!