So I guess you are wondering why we have written an article about how to build a free standing door? Well, back in 2017 we went to Platypus Camp which was a hacker conference, but camping, and they had a lock picking door! I spent ages on it bypassing the locks and chains. Ever since then we have wanted to build one so we could practice picking and bypasses, but also use new tools like the under-the-door-tool and lock jims. So today we did it! It’s not the greatest quality door you will ever see, but building a working door on a frame that isn’t attached to a house isn’t easy. We also didn’t want it to be perfect so there are gaps to try different bypasses, like you see on poorly fitted doors.
This whole door was built in a couple of hours by amateurs. We, and our dad, are not carpenters and our techniques are probably horrible. The door frame isn’t perfect but for this use, you really don’t want it to be. To use tools like an under-door tool you want some gap under the door. To use a jim you want a gap on the side so you can get it in there and pop the latch. We didn’t use a proper door jam for this because it’s way more expensive and we wanted to learn techniques like jimming. We also want to use this door for Toool meetups where there’s beginners. We might add stops to the door frame later to make it harder. So make sure you leave some gaps if you make a door. If it’s too tight you can always take the door off and shave a bit off.
Dad built most of this… so blame him if it’s terrible 😂
What You Will Need
You will need a few things to build the door. This is just the version we made up but you can change the size or structure if you want. We have a section at the end of this where we put down some extra things we learnt along the way and would probably change if we made another one. We got all these parts at Bunnings but you can buy from anywhere. It’s just the closest for us. Youll also need tools like saw, drill, hammer, screwdriver.
- 2040 x 620 x 35mm Internal Door
- We got a skinny door as it was cheaper than the rest.
- Door Jamb
- Framing Timber – 70×45 – Three lengths of about 2400
- Base Plate
- 1200 x 1200mm 19mm Plywood Pine
- Supports (11 metres full frame)
- Framing Timber – 70 x 45 – One length of 2400
- Bolts for Supports
- 6 x 100mm Bolts (Dome heads)
- 6 x Nuts
- 6 x washers
- 2 hinges and screws
- Door Handle
- Door lever with lock
- Security Door Chain
Building the Free Standing Door Frame
Starting with the sides of the frame, we took a bit of offcut and marked the width. This is so we could make a rebated butt joint. You don’t have to make it rebated. You can just have a normal butt joint if you want.
We then measured half the width and marked off where we would cut. Always mark the waste so you don’t make a mistake and cut out the wrong bit!
Using a hand saw, we cut down the line.
Then cut the other line. A good carpenter would probably use a chisel and it wouldn’t look this rough 😂
Next, we laid the door down and put the two side frames against it leaving a few millimetres of gap on each side. You can see the rebated cuts at the top. Laying it down like this meant we could get the exact size we wanted and view the gaps to see if they looked big enough.
Another shot of the rebated side frames.
We measured the gap so we knew how long the top of the frame needed to be. We then went and cut the top piece.
Here’s the top piece we just cut out laying there so we could make sure it was the right size. Lucky it was as we didn’t have much spare wood.
We then nailed the top piece onto the sides of the frame using old rusty nails. Guessing dad doesn’t use nails very often.
We put the frame back over the door, laying down, so we could mark where the bottom of the door was on the sides of the frame.
We then cut the side frames about 5mm longer so we have a gap under the door. We want the gap for the under-door-tool.
And here is the frame! Door fits perfectly!
We laid the door and frame on the baseboard and marked how wide we needed it. We have two base supports that we will bolt the frame to. So the width of the baseboard was these two base supports plus the two frame sides plus the door. all added together. Sorry, we didn’t get a picture of that but its like the picture above where we have the door laid out with the side frames. We then cut the board to size.
Here we have nailed the base supports onto the baseboard.
And flipped it over so its the right way up. These base supports are what the frame will be attached to.
So we didn’t have to hold the frame up while we drilled the holes for the bolts, we used a piece of offcut which we pretend is the frame. We drilled through the base supports and the offcuts. We then used the offcut as a guide to drill the frame while it was lying down. Tricky!
We used a hole saw to make a countersunk hole in the frame. Even though we bought bolts with dome heads when we put them in, they stuck out too much and would have hit the door. So we made a countersunk hole so the bolt head didn’t stick out.
We cut a couple of supports to brace the frame to the base supports in a triangle. This stops the frame from falling over. This is it bolted about halfway up the frame.
And these are the bolts holding the frame and the back supports. You can see (top left) this is before we countersank the holes on the frame and the bolt head sticks out
And here is the frame standing up ready for the door!!!
Hanging the Door
Next, we had to add the hinges for the door. There wasn’t enough gap to just screw the hinges on so we had to rebate them in with a chisel. Here is the rebate on the door ready for the hinge to be screwed on.
We marked out the hinge on the back edge of the frame as we want the door to swing inwards like most doors do.
The frame is way too wobbly to chisel standing up so we had to lay it down. You need to put a piece of wood under it to brace it. Then we chiselled out the rebates.
Bracing the Frame
With the door installed we found the door wasn’t swinging properly and catching on one side because the frame was a bit skewed. We ended up putting a spare piece of wood across the supports to pull it back in line. We trimmed this off afterwards to make it neater. This is when we were testing it. We also replaced the nails with screws. It stops the door from opening much but we figured it’s a lock picking door and you don’t need it to open much. Just enough to see that you bypassed the locks and its open!
Installing the Locking Handle and Security Door Chain
With the door hung and braced, we just had to install the handle and a security door chain. We plan on putting more locks on here, including our digital lock, but to start we just wanted a lockable handle we could pick and a lever handle we could use the under-door-tool on. I had fun with the security door chain at Platypus Camp so wanted one of these as well.
We drilled the door and installed the handle. They all come with instructions so they are pretty easy to install, as long as you have the two hole saws.
Here is the finished door!!!
And the security safety chain!!!
Suggestions for a Better Door
There were a few issues we ran across when we made this door that you might want to look at fixing if you make one.
First, there was the wobbling of the frame. We used a brace but now the door doesn’t fully open. We are going to try moving the brace around the other way so it opens a bit further. If you Google free-standing doors for things like stage plays you can see a few. Some have supports out the side that would be much more stable. We saw these but they make the whole door much wider and we wanted this to be portable so we can take it to a Toool meetup. If you just want to use it at home I would use that design.
It’s VERY heavy and hard to move. We thought about putting caster wheels on it but thought this might make it hard to stand and pick locks as it would be like standing up a little step. I think you would need a bigger base. Mum had the idea of adding two wheels at the back, the ones like you get on fridges, that only hit the ground when you tilt it. So you can wheel it around as needed and the wheels aren’t in the way and it still sits on the ground. We will be adding these in the next week. I’ll post a pic on twitter.
Apart from that, it turned out pretty good, especially for making it all in a few hours. Expect to see it in quite a few videos we plan to release in the next few months! Oh, and if you come to the Sydney Toool meetups, we should have it there next time so you can try it out, along with the under-door-tool, jim and bump keys 😂
If you have any questions or suggestions, let me know in the comments!