A Good Shutter Can Be Hard To Find

You don’t often see a good working pair of shutters on a newly constructed home. Most times you see a pre-fab set of vinyl shutters screwed on to the side of a house or no shutters at all. The vinyl shutters usually have no hardware and often are not properly sized for the windows they are adjacent to. I want to reverse that trend and make sure at least a few folks know how to make a traditional wooden shutter.

Shop plans for my Shutters Workshop

Shop plans for my Shutters Workshop

I designed and taught an Introduction to Shutters Workshop at the North Bennet Street School this past weekend which was a lot of fun. Beyond my usual hand drawn plans I also modeled this project in SketchUp. (You can read more about that effort here).

The class hard at work

The class hard at work

In the class students learned how to make a shutter using traditional hand tools and via power equipment. They were able to weigh the pros and cons of each against their skill sets and use what was most appropriate to their project. (Some folks will be repairing a few shutters, others will be making enough for an entire home)

Making octagonal pins

Making octagonal pins

After building the frames, cutting all the mortises and tenons, and fielding the panels, everyone learned about traditional draw-boring. By making and using tapered octagonal pins and driving them through the offset hole drilled into the tenon, the joint is drawn together. This joint uses no glue, is quite strong and can be serviced in the future if a rotten piece needs to be replaced.

John finishing up his shutter

John finishing up his shutter

We also discussed many design options, regional variations and examined several examples we had on hand. It was a busy two days, but I’m hopeful that we’ll see some proper new shutters start popping up in the area.

Group picture with some finished shutters

Group picture with some finished shutters

Take care,
-Bill

P.S. I have several more workshops coming up at NBSS over the next 3 months if you are interested in joining me — there are still a few seats available. Up next is Traditional Molding with wooden Molding Planes in April, Saw Horses and Saw Hurdles in May, and Making a Window Sash in June.  You can learn more about each of them here.

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Categories: NBSS, Teaching, Traditional Woodworking, Workshop | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “A Good Shutter Can Be Hard To Find

  1. Bill, could you please post some more information on regional variations?

    Thanks, Bill

    • Hi Bill,
      Thank you for the note. I have a few things in the queue I need to take care of first but will work to get a post out on regional variations. Is there a particular region you are most interested in learning more about?

      Take care,
      -Bill

  2. You have shared such a great information about how to make a good shutters. Thank you very much. Definitely, I will share this post on my social network.

  3. I made new replacement shutters for a 1937 historic house in boulder about 12 years ago. I would make them different now, closer to how you made them. They were simple flat panels, a smaller one a the top and a large bottom panel with a 1/4 round or so moulding on the outside with a slight rabbet at the top. It was built with through tenons, I used biscuits back then but if I redo them again they’ll have through tenons.

    • Thank you for the comment — that is great to hear. Depending on the region and the socioeconomic level of the person who built the home the shutters came in all levels of detail and trim etc. (Some had Louvers, some had panels with cutouts, carvings etc) If you do ever make more shutters and use mortise and tenon joinery make sure you also use the draw-bored pins (wood is the better way to go, though on some later shutters that were made in factories you’ll sometimes see metal pins) and do not glue the joints — that way the shutter is serviceable in the future.

      • Thanks, I will do the draw bores next round. I made the first set out of 2x home depot stock and planed it down to 1 1/4″ with a ply panel. They didn’t fare too well in the Colorado southern sun. The previous did have a ply panel 3/8.

      • You’ll want to use heart pine or cypress — its one of those things where the old ways are still better. 2x wood will not weather well (even a ‘premium’ stud is still fast grown junk) at all and most plywoods will eventually de-laminate when exposed to the temperature and weather swings a shutter is exposed to. Also keep up on the maintenance of the paint and when possible close them occasionally so they weather evenly. Good luck with your next project — just about anything you build will be better than the hollow vinyl shutters you see tacked on to houses. :-)

      • It was my early days :) I look back and wonder what was I thinking. They all stood up but the south facing ones. A little bondo (don’t cringe too hard) and paint and they’ll make it another 10 years. Then if I am still here I’ll make some new ones the proper way.

        Back then I had no idea how to make a through tenon, I thought it was crazy hard :) I’ll probably make them earlier than that though, need to build my Paul Sellers bench first.

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