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August 25, 2007

How to make a cedar strip door mat

Strip Down!  -  A woody doormat in under an hour



I saw a doormat on the Internet that made me think. Its entire surface is covered by a giant barcode to wipe your feet on. The description says “For your unique home in your unique neighborhood.” ($25 at www.perpetualkid.com).

 As a rule I dislike sarcasm. But the point they’re making is that when you go shopping in the usual places you’re not going to find anything unique. You’re choosing from the same stuff everyone else is choosing from. Your only hope for individuality is to utilize your items in unique ways, say, by using an air mattress as a doormat or making hanging baskets out of bras or edging your flower garden with luggage. Oh, I have tons of ideas.

Mat_about_you The road to uniqueness passes through your own brain. Start by forming an idea for something truly unique that you would love to have in your home. Figure out what something like that would cost. Spend a fraction of that money on tools and make it yourself.

To help you get started, here are plans for a unique wooden doormat. Making this doormat is like building a miniature deck. All of the principles are the same. The bottom layer is the ‘framing’, and the top layer is the ‘decking’.  If you’ve never built a deck before, this project will teach you the basics without using up a whole weekend and two cases of beer.


Stuff You’ll Need

A length of 2” x 6” cedar board – as straight and knot-free as you can find

Circular saw or table saw

¾-inch brass or copper nails


Measuring tape

Carpenter’s square

A chunk of particle board to protect your work surface


Here’s my cutting list if you want specifics:

Frame: Two 18-1/8-inch strips plus two 20-1/8-inch strips

Joists: Six 15-inch strips

Decking: Nine 23-1/4-inch strips



Start by creating the strips. Use a table saw with the blade set to rip at 3/16-inch thick, or a circular saw with a ripping guide set at 3/16-inch. One 2x6 board should give you enough strips for your mat.

Cut the strips to length and arrange the bottom layer (look at the photo of my bottom layer so you can see the configuration). Fit the pieces inside a carpenter’s square so you’re sure everything is square.  Framing_p1010219_2

Attach the decking to the framing, starting at the corners. Pre-drill with a small drill bit, and then hammer brass or copper nails through the pilot holes.  (You should work on a piece of spare particle board so you don't mess up your work surface with tiny holes.) You want to use nails or tacks that are slightly longer than the combined depth of the decking and the framing. 

Coppercuttacks TIP:  Copper tacks are available in up to 7/8-inch size from marine supply places, or online at SlateandCopper.com

As you tap the nails into the pilot holes, about 1/4-inch of each nail should stick into the particle board under your work and help stabilize the layout. Keep checking that your work is square by pushing the corner against the carpenter’s square. TIP: Use two nails in each corner to prevent the piece from racking. OTHER TIP: Place heavy books      or bricks on top of the strips to help keep the boards in place as you work from the outside edges toward the center of the work piece.

Start_hammering_nail_tips_overWhen you’ve drilled and hammered all of the nails into place, flip the mat over and bash the pointy tip of each nail sideways, hammering the bent point into the soft cedar and forming a ‘cleat’ that will lock the lumber in place. TIP:

Bend the nail tips perpendicular to the grain to prevent the cedar from splitting along the grain.


Once you’ve built this doormat, you’ll feel called to build decks, docks, rafts, privacy screens and bridges. This kind of invigoration is better than the surging hormones of youth and as a bonus, there’s very little risk of pregnancy.



Strangely enough, this morning I was thinking of hunting down a cedar "bath mat" for my bathroom. I think this pattern will do just fine, as long as I'm careful about keeping everything smooth for bare feet.

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