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Flexible vs Rigid Adhesive for Door Construction

By sterbejj - Posted on 04 September 2015


I am making a one-for-one replacement companionway door for my daughter and son-in-law's motor cruiser.  The existing door is made of teak and features stainless steel hardware.  Image 49 shows the existing door in its closed position.  Image 50 shows the door in its open position.  Image 54 shows the basic construction, rails and stiles joined by tenons with the panels fitted into rabbets in the frame pieces.  Images 52 and 56 show the dilapidated state of the door.

I am planning to make new rails and stiles from teak and to reuse the panels from the existing door.  The panels are in reasonable shape and can be restored by sanding and scraping.  I am planning to reuse as much of the hardware as I can, probably only having to replace the fasteners.  The owners requested that I keep the folding door design rather than make a rigid one-piece replacement door.

This door is exposed to weather.  Careless use over many years, allowing the door to "bang" open when not secured with the hook seen in images 49 and 50, and my own uncertain skills at cabinet making, leads me to wonder what approach should I take in fabricating the new door.  Expansion and contraction of the wood indicates that I should use a weatherproof adhesive that will "give" a little (something like Sikaflex) rather than a rigid material (like epoxy) to join the rails and stiles.  The strong possibility that the new door will suffer from rough usage as did the existing door indicates that I should favor a semi-flexible design instead of something of more rigid construction.  The door needs to be weather proof so there is a need to have some weather seal material in the rabbets securing the panels, something that has some "give" to allow for moisture and temperature changes in the various pieces that will make up the door.  All of that leads me to favor the use of Sikaflex or something similar rather than the use of epoxy or some other rigid adhesive.

My inclination (and woodworking skills) lead me to prefer half-lap joints rather than mortise and tenon construction to secure the rails and stiles to each other.  I am considering the use of mechanical fasteners (short SS screws with finish washers, two each from inside and outside at each joint) along with a flexible adhesive at each such joint.  This simplified construction should be at least as weather proof as the mortise and tenon construction in the existing door, plus the use of half lap joints will make it easier for me to produce tight fitting joints between the rails and stiles.  

I have experience with both epoxy and Sikaflex for construction of this type, but this is my first time working with teak.  I see that there are other semi-flexible materials on the market but I have no experience with these other materials.  I am not familiar with things like WEST System G/flex Liquid Epoxy.  Materials that match the brown color of teak would be high on my wish list.

I would appreciate any comments and suggestions that might be offered.

Casey Sterbenz
Eldersburg, MD, USA

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