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Make your own window frame

145283 Views 50 Replies 24 Participants Last post by  MerylL
A friend of mine replaced all the windows in her house with some top end windows about 4 years ago. I believe they are made of red wood, very straight and tight grained, looked quarter sawn to me. I didn't count how many windows are in her house but I believe the total came to around $24k, and I believe each window cost over $1000.00. This got me thinking, for that kind of money, I could probably build your own with the most exotic wood I care to pick and still save a bundle. Obviously the glass (double glazed) with krypton gas and whatever coatings you want to include would be purchased from a glazing company (like Washington Glass and Glazing or Advanced Glazing, etc.) but that is a minor cost in terms of the frame. For example, I helped my neighbor 2 houses over replace a broken double glazed, argon filled window about 3 years ago, from memory it was about 4ft by 5ft and cost $78.00.

Building your own window frame would offer an opportunity to incorporate some truly distinctive details work, like beautify joinery or inlay. Or just keep the lines simple and clean and focus on the sheer beauty of some high quality wood.

I have done a little internet searching, and this sight, but so far have not found anything on the subject so I am posting this to see what you folk's think of this idea. Has anyone tackled this already?
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Eagle America sells a router bit set they call - reversible french window sash - for about $100
i made some window sash for a historic restoration job a couple years ago and they worked great
they were big 4 lite windows about 30×36 glass size
i charged $500 a pair without glazing and they were happy
they were to be painted
would suggest making a prototype of poplar before diving into exotic woods

may be a market here
good luck
Most high end wood windows are made from rift sawn not quartersawn lumber.
Most high end wood windows are made from rift sawn not quartersawn lumber.

...if that is true…I wonder why. Must be uniformity. The gains made would hardly offset the waste produced. Perhaps the shaping/machining process requires it? But then the word "most" suggests that some high end windows aren't. Would the species make a difference?
Thanks for all the informative comments, this site is great! I had to look up what rift cut is (lol) and found a perfect explaination by way of a picture: And another site mentioned that Rift cut gives a grain that looks the same from all sides unlike quarter cut where one side is flat cut.

Don't laugh to hard but last night I got curious if Norm Abram is on Facebook, he is so I sent him a message asking him to consider doing a show on do it yourself window frames. Wouldn't that be something!!

Hootr, thanks for the suggestion of walking before running. I think this is a project that would require a detailed drawing based on some serious study (e.g. go see what the top window makers are doing). Also I think it would be important to achieve a result that is better insulated than what's available on the market (including top end) to help offset any idea that a home made window is lacking.
I too have had the window salesweasels stop by to give me quotes, and heard the "but it's got a wood-like grain texture" from the lower end products and the "well, we can stain it to look like…" from the higher end folks. So I've done a bit of looking, but its far enough down on my list that I haven't gotten too far investigating it.

Here in the U.S., I believe you start by looking for manufacturers of the "IGU" or "Insulated Glass Unit"s of the sizes you're interested in. Actually milling the frames didn't seem that bad to me, just a matter of finding a matching rail/stile bit set that I liked. The tougher part is, once again, wood management, because I'd want to do grain matching for vertical sash pieces, and probably match the sash sides to the frame sides and trim too. Lots of careful pencil markings there…

The thing I haven't found yet is a decent spring/runner mechanism. Sure, I could do waxed slides and old-style counter-weights, but there's a lot to be said for the more modern mechanics.
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Dan, checking availability of runner mechanisms is as good a starting place as any. Here's a site that looks promising:
Notice you can order a catalog (at bottom).

Here's some more goodies from same site:

Wow, they even have electric motor drive units:
This is an interesting topic. Thanks for bringing it up. I have just recently moved to the next stage of building my own house. We've moved out of the city and into our country home in a small town close to a forest property that we own where I plan to build my own. Since I don't want to use the standard (yuk) aluminum framed windows which Kiwis are in love with ( I don't know why, they're ugly as sin and let the cold through like an open window), I definitely plan to make my own.

I have looked into this topic briefly but mainly for inspiration on design ideas.

My opinion is that you have to choose your hardware first and build around that, because that will decide a lot of the parameters, look and design of your windows. More precisiely, decide on what you want your window to look like, behave like, then see what window hardware you can find, then refine.

Rift sawn or quarter sawn? I should think that either would suit. As I plan to mill my own timber as well, I doubt anything will be rift sawn ( seems to me rift 'sawing' was a term more in vogue when cabinet makers split their wood from the log) but I will quarter saw to be as close to rift sawn as possible. I'm not so sure that the terms aren't interchangeable these days.

The next thing is the choice of wood. Rift/quarter sawing is important because windows are subject to huge stresses. Imagine in a hot or cold climate, for example, there could be 20-30C difference between outside and inside ( ie: 1 side of the wood and the other) and equally disparate values of moisture on the 2 sides. Then you have sun to deal with in the summer, rain - we get 1.8m (70") per year. So you need a stable, weather resistant wood and good protection on the outside. This, I think limits the type of wood to certain species, assuming you won't be painting it.

Personally I will be using macrocarpa ( cupressus marcrocarpa, a type of cypress now grown commonly in New Zealand) or possibly red beech (nothofagus fusca - a NZ native abundant in our forest and for which I have a sustainable management permit to harvest and mill 200,000 bdft over 10 years ) and on the outside I plan to apply CD50 unless I can find a suitable natural product.

Look forward to thoughts from others.

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Hey guys this fits exactly in with this topic, We here in germany are still building our own windows, (eventhough in newer buildings this is getting less and less due to industry) and doors because of the very old houses and irregular sizes. We also have strict (but good) regulations to build the windows and doors by because of enviromenal and structural reasons… well anyway, here is a pretty good/standard insulation glas drawing that I made quick on the PC to illustrate how it should be done…

So I hope this is helpfull

If anyone is interested on how we make the frame to window opening fastening, I can also provide a drawing for that too, and its allowed to be used on the Green friendly or green passport houses. Its a pretty interesting topic…
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Hi Nicholas, Thanks very much for the cross-section drawing. I would like to take you up on your offer to provide the frame drawing also. From what you have provided so far, it appears that, should the glass ever need replacing you would pry off the molding where is says 31/17. Once the molding is removed (all around) you push out the broken glazing from the outside towards the inside. Is that correct? How many holes do you drill for air circulation? I suppose 1 is enough. Is this mainly to allow air movement as the glass (or window frame) expands/contracts? And what is 'geriffelte lei"? This appears to be a cross section of the bottom of the window, the horizontal part. Are the verticals the same cross-section? Sorry for all the questions! Thanks again for positing.

Steve, thanks for your contribution also. The best comment you made is, start with the hardware and build around that. I totally agree. I am too busy right now but on the weekend I'll post some more hardware links and try to find some pictures of some nice window examples.
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CatiaMan, not a problem for the drawing… I took the liberty to make some generalizations, every window is a bit different, in thickness and size and kind of glass, depending on the style, quality and R value that you trying to reach…. Just so you know.

I drew a standard (what is built in in most houses these days) outside window with frame. The lower part (thepart which must fight off the water and precipitation) has on the one I drew up for you, an aluminium profile to keep water out, but can be built with out, if you make sure that the upper ledge of the lower frame has a slight grade (about 10°) to keep water out, and running down. all corners on the outside MUST be rounded slightly with about a 3 mm radius. This insures that what ever you are using for surfacing (paint, lack/varnish, lasuer, whatever) maintains a constant thickness to protect the wood, (on a sharp corner or too small of a radius, cant manage the corner, and thins in this spot making it vulnrable (spelling?) and of outside you do not want that). Also keep in mind that UV rays are damaging over time as well so that over time too.

Here is the lower part

here is the upper part:

You will notice I did not put many measurements in (except for the general frame sizes), thats because it really all depends on the kind of hardware you are using.

The rubber gasket/weather seal is also a generalization, because even here there are a thousand different kinds depending on what you are doing and quality, the one i used in the drawing is very common.

But overall I can say definetly this is a good general example of how windows are done here, this of course is a simpler version, there are more variants, all depending on how thick your walls are and how much noise you want to keep out and warmth in.

Before I forget, on the drawing, what you were asking about, is Geriffelteleiste, and I mean by that the wood strip that is holding the windowpane in, is not solid, but riffled (like a potatoe chip) so moisture can circulate within the Rabbit that window sits.

Holes for drainage, well, 3 ought to do the trick. maybe two, depends on the size of the window. remember air circulation is what will keep your window in shape for perhaps longer than you live, if built properly, so make sure the moisture that does happen to get in, can get out too.

The whole air circulation thing is not for movement, its to allow the dew buildup which happens mainly in winter, when cold (dryer) air meets the warm moist air from the inside (of your house) and they will meet somewhere usually in the middle of your window frame. That you can do nothing about, just provide an escape route for the moiture so your window does not form mold or rot, which is bad. We have all seen what happens to a cold beer bottle on a hot day, dew water or condensation builds up where the warm air and cold air meet.

Ok if you have any more questions feel free to ask…. I hope I have not bored anybody with such a long post. Especially if you are looking for good tips on installing the window or something.

Let me know what you think!

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More great stuff! Thanks, Nicholas!

Is the part of the "Geriffelteleiste" that's riffled the edge by the glass, or the edge that's on the bottom of that rabbet?

Catia Man, I've been aware of the holes drilled for air circulation, and I always saw them as holes drilled so that the water could flow out of that channel that the glass was sitting in (because it's pointed up) if the seal on the outside ever failed. So there should be a bunch of those, maybe not as close as 2" separation, but 4" or so apart, I think.

Nicholas, is that about right? Except you'd think of it as about 100mm?

Yes, I think you got it… The glass sits on a strip of wood with cuts in it so air can circulate… I dont know if you are familiar with this example but the best I can think of in a larger scaled is sometimes at a lumber yard between the large pieces of wood stacked up, there are strips of wood (sometimes plastic or alu) but they almost usually have "grooves cut in them" so that there is even less surface area covered by the strips so the moisture can escape from the stacked wood…. the principal is same for window (eventually doors too). You can buy them in standard sizes for the industry insulation made glass pains filled with the "heavy metal gasses"

You can make these strips/muntons your self just run them through the table saw at 45 degrees in one direction and flip it over and do the same again cutting groves in the stip…. The important thing is that the glass and NOT the plastic gap filler (the metal or plastic piece between the glass panes on the edges) is sitting on the strip,

Again Dan, you know what I am talking about :) yea! right on the money… these holes are for the serios condensation water to drain out… if you have standing water in the channel, you have a construction error made with the silicon

although, I think every 100 mm although meant well, over kill, maybe 150 mm or so perhaps a bit more!
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Thanks everyone, Nicholas, thanks for the two cross sections. I think we need a 3rd to understand the design better. The upper section (lower picture) has no interlock to keep the glass frame from pushing inward. The lower section (upper picture) has an interlock created by the aluminum extrusion and the wood overlap however as soon as the window is opened an inch or two the interlock is gone and the window can push inward. So this tells me the vertical cross sections includes details to prevent this from happening. Just to be clear, I presume you are providing a window designed to open (please confirm)? There appears to be no provision for a bug screen, please correct me if I am wrong.
CatiaMan… Hello!

Last question first! :) Yes, The window is designed to be opened to the inside, like most windows here…. as I had mentioned earlier this is a very standard style window (average, mostly installed) in germany, perhaps all of central Europe, if I could go so far to say so.

Not only can you open the windows all the way, one can tilt just the top so it opens and lets fresh air in, by simply turning the handle in the up position one more 1/4 turn past the when the handle is in the open position

Bug screens are not really that common here… I guess we simply do not have enough mosquitos to keep out! ;-) But one can install a screen, or design a window to fit one, although, the easiest way to put in a bug screen is simply cut some screen to fit the window and on the inside of the outer rabbit, stick on a strip of velcro type tape (this actually comes in kits at every building market) and viola! Bug Screen installed. ( see posted pic)

Normal window (next to my computer at my appartment):

one with bugscreen installed:

So you were asking about an interlock. I am not sure what you are exacly refering to (interlock). At first I thought you were talking about how you mount the window with frame in the wall opening for the window, but then you mentioned something about opening for an inch or two… I think I lost you there. But there is not interlock (not in the terms of how I define interlock) in this window… unless you are talking about the hardware… of which I am not certian what kind you are using. I have made some pictures of very common window hardware and post the here:

here are the hard ware pics:

Hardware from side and side profile

this specific hardwared comes in just about all possible sizes:

My patio door:

Ok I hope the questions were answered with what I posted, but the interlock part you mentioned is not so clear, could you try and please describe it again?

Ok, thanks for all of your time, and let me know what you think! feedback is always good.
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I think Catiaman's question is probably answered by knowing that this is a design for a window which opens inwards…and it's the hardware, when closed and locked which keeps the window tight against the seal.

I am familiar with these windows as I lived in Austria for 4 years and I would like very much to build windows like this, so thanks for the details Nicholas.

So, even though the construction and cross sections is a huge help and goes a long way to being able to build these windows, the real issue here in New Zealand will be the hardware, because it is not very common to have good windows.

Do you have any tips on where the hardware can be purchased, perhaps online?

In which direction are the 'riffles' cut? Parallel to the glass or perperndicular to the glass? I also imagine that this little piece of wood should be made from something very water resistant.

I'm also not sure I understand what is the material holding the glass in? Is this also some sort of a pre-made seal?

And, last question, the numbers inside the wood profile parts -are these the approx measurements of this particular example ( ie 80/70 is 80mmx70mm?)

Thanks for all the information!
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Ok not a problem…. last question first… Your intuition serves you well! The wood parts or any cross section parts that have the numbers in them is how one can put mesurements in simply, so 80/70 would read as you are looking at it 80 mm acoss (wide, left to right) by 70 mm in length (from up to down), of the piece. This is the cross section measurements of the piece in which you beginn with before you cut away the grooves, rabbits, profiles and so on.

The material holding the glass in is wood. In the first drawings I posted the "munton" holding the glass in is rounded and proude of the window frame, I changed it in the second something a bet "sleeker" because its flush with the window frame. This wood strip or "munton" as I call it, holds the glass in, from the inside side of the window, and the "Munton" is held in with finishing nails, which are shot in from a rabbit cut for silicone sealant, and then covered by the silicon, so you do not see the nails…. This of course is not necesary, as you can leave the nails exposed, or even use screws…. the main thing is to use something that will hold and you can remove when/in the window breaks and keeps it from ratteling (sign of poorly made window).

The "riffles" are simple enough to make they should look like the following you can make them with a table saw… no sweat.

I suppose the angle does not matter, but if you wanted to, you could cut this pattern on both sides and the strip of wood would still hold together and lots of air would be able to circulate.

hardware: I poked around in the internet for english websites, and Häfele has an english one, although they do not have as much as some of the other web sites.

here are some I found from a google search:
chine crafts web site
this looked like good one
this was mostly already made windows, but might be a good start in the new Zealand area!

I dont know if this is helpfull but try looking for "turn tilt" window hardware, or eurowindo hardware. We order most of our stuff through a local company (which I do not think is a great help way down under)
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In Italy I have seen they use Douglas Fir for the wood used in window and door construction.
And the top windows manufacturers all boast of the "German" hardware both closing or latch mechanism and the hinges.
With the Douglas Fir thats true, crazy huh. Ironically there are many large manufacturers of windows in Northern Italy, which are shiped then all over.
I've been privileged to be able to pick up scrape wood from a door and window manufacturer close by me. he makes windows for high end houses. When I was there the other day he was making 36 sets of french doors for a house on Cape Cod. I assume the doors were to allow opening up the entire house to the ocean breeze.

He uses sapele wood for all of his doors. he laminates the wood together and then puts a 1/4" veneer piece on the visible edge to hide all of the lamination's. On this particular house the veneer was Teak. So all visable wood would be Teak and the interior wood was all sapele. he considers that to be the most stable of woods for doors and windows.

If the designer desires different woods he'll make them what ever way that they want. He even makes them out of sapele and then paints them if that is what they want.

The teak french doors that I was mentioning had a gray coat of paint put on the outside and teak on the inside.
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