In this previous post, I talked about how I had to design a hopper-style window from scratch. I had never built a window before, so it was a challenging project.
The client wanted to use walnut that had been harvested from their property and kiln-dried. Traditionally, pine is used. The frame and trim around the window was going to be primed and painted white so I chose poplar for the frame.
After carefully measuring the rough opening in the wall, I went to SketchUp to begin designing the frame and sash.
I used a rabbet joint at the top sides of the frame to joint the top of the frame. At the bottom of the frame, a pair of dadoes on each side house the frame bottom and sill. To shed water, it’s important to add a sloped sill. For this, I angled the miter gauge and cut a dado on the table saw.
After the dadoes were cut, I cleaned them out with a shoulder plane.
Once the sides of the frame were complete, I cut the top, bottom, and sill to final size and then assembled the frame with glue and screws. Adding the stop would have to wait until the sash was complete.
The sash was made using traditional bridle joints to join the rails with the stiles. In this application, they’re more like wide finger joints.
The advantage this joint brings is a lot of glue surface to create a strong joint. The disadvantage is that it requires careful layout and cutting to get everything to fit snugly without being overly tight or causing gaps. Unfortunately, in the interest of getting this project finished and delivered, I didn’t shoot photographs of the process but I’ll try to explain it here.
The interlocking joinery was penciled in on the ends of the rails and stiles. I left the pieces a hair long so could trim them flush after assembly. Using a rip blade in the table saw, I stood the pieces on end using a wide backer board for support behind the workpiece. Then it was an easy task to nibble away the waste between the fingers of each joint. After some tweaking with a sharp chisel to get a good fit, I applied glue and clamps.
The next step was to rout a deep rabbet on the back side for the glass. The client was having a custom stained-glass panel made to fit the frame. Conventional glaziers points and putty would hold the panel in place.
The client also wanted to maintain a vintage, antique look to the window match the style of their turn-of-the-century home, so we did some shopping at an architectural salvage warehouse. We picked out a pair of sash locks that would work well with the design of the window.
I ordered new brass hinges with an antique finish to make the sash operable for ventilation. A pair of simple chain stays prevents the sash from opening completely.
Once I fitted all of the hardware in place on the sash and frame and made sure everything worked properly, I removed the sash, applied a couple coats of exterior-grade oil finish, then delivered it to the client so they could have a glass shop make and install the stained glass panel. The homeowner installed the sash.
In the end, it was a good exercise in working out the design, joinery details, and mechanics of a working window.
If you’re interested in how double-hung windows were originally made by hand, here’s a great video overview.
The beautiful traditional art of joinery, brought to life in the construction of a sash window frame from raw pine boards through completion using only hand tools.
Commissioned by the Arnold Zlotoff Tool Museum in South Hero, VT and featuring joiner Ted Ingraham.