Front Door Swings!

A couple years ago, Cynthia mentioned to me that she has always wanted a pivot-style front door rather than a door where the hinges are mounted on the jamb. For those years, I have been trying to figure out how to make the pivots. You can buy the hardware, but I have been unable to find any in Panama. I thought of using cone bearings but it was a complicated idea with a lot of welding and fabricating. Importing ready-made pivots is expensive, and you know me, I’m always looking for the hard way to do something.

But on our last trip to the city, I came across an elegant, easy, and inexpensive solution. I was in the wheel-and-castor isle of Discovery Center and spotted these heavy-duty castors:


At $14 each, these ball bearing castors are a great find!

They were sitting upside down just as they are in the photo above. I was fiddling with them, swiveling them back and forth, just daydreaming really, when the solution came to me. What if I removed the wheels and just used the swivel parts? I bought two.

Back home, I removed the wheels, explained the project to a puzzled-looking Aramis, and got to work. Here is the bottom pivot bolted to the floor and the door being assembled on it:


I am sure that I have broken a law or at least voided the warranty on the castors. But if that is the price to pay, so be it!

This is a big door: five-feet wide, eight-feet tall. When the door is open, there is a free width of four-feet. A “standard” door is three-feet by six-feet eight-inches.

We used 2″x4″x1/8″ rectangular steel tubing to make the door frame, welding the corners after we had everything squared and clamped:


Here is a photo of the door all welded and hanging on the pivots. We have also riveted angle iron door stops on the jamb:


The front door will be glass, just like the rest of the front wall of the house.

Here you can see the door opened into the house.


Cynthia is very happy, and I am thrilled at how it takes no effort at all to open and close the door. As it stands now, the door weighs around 75 pounds, and even with a heavy pane of glass it should still be effortless to operate. And in the future if the ball bearings get damaged from dirt and grime, it will be an inexpensive proposition to swap out the pivots with new hardware.

Kitchen counter tops are next, but that’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by.

13 thoughts on “Front Door Swings!

  1. OH MY GOD.
    Aramis is going to be telling stories about this to everyone down at the cantina! haha
    Fred, you are repeatedly causing my jaw to drop to the floor with your solutions. Having quite a few years of visiting in-laws there and trying to solve their household problems, you have the most creative answers.

    • Why thank you Jim. Yes, creativity is paramount here in Panama. It can be exhausting just to solve a simple problem. I’ll go from hardware store to hardware store to hardware store and get the same, “No hay.” (There isn’t/aren’t any.) Today I went looking for unscented kitty litter (we are allergic to fragrances). I took an empty box with me. “No hay.” But one clerk did ask me if a food dish would work. Huh? Thanks for your comment! Fred

  2. Hello Fred!

    You have been coming along a VERY long way since my visit!

    Now one question to this door hinge arrangement.
    I understand Cynthia wanted this, but I just cannot get the idea/thought to the WHY?? As it is – it takes away – what-1 foot of the width of the door?

    Does it serve any other purpose than curiosity/art/abstract?

    Mind you – way to often I just look for practicality…

    Good luck and stamina with the rest of it!

    90% done – 90% to go!!

    Merry Christmas!


    • Hi Thomas,

      No, no practicality what so ever! We have the foot to lose what with the significantly over-sized opening to begin with. We’re going for the unique, unusual, different, odd-ball, not run-of-the-mill. Like I say elsewhere, we like doing things the hard way!

      Ha ha, I love your 90/90 comment. So true, I’m hoping that one more year will complete 180% of this art project!

      Thanks for your comment, Fred

  3. Great job Fred. You just have to use your head for something besides a hat rack, which you do very well at.
    I spent three years in Panama in the air force. I was stationed at Howard AFB. Lived in Panama city in golf heights. I can only guess that the Albrook Mall is where Albrook AFB used to be.I crossed over the thacher ferry bridge at least two times a day. Now I think it is the bridge of the americas.
    Hope you have a MERRY CHRISTMAS and A HAPPY NEW YEAR.

  4. Fred and Cynthia,
    We are continually impressed at your innovative progress.
    Kudos on the front door.
    I see it as practical if only for the weight of the door!
    Blessings from Littleton!
    Suzanne and Bill ( and Lizzy, too!)

  5. Clever, clever, clever! Inventive, and we can just imagine how easily it opens … whoda thunk? Only suggestion is to buy another two of those if you think you MIGHT need them in the future … lesson learned for me is when I find something that I love, buy more … not likely to be there in the future! Merry Christmas you two…best wishes for another year of creativity (and energy!)

    • Thank you Patricia,

      Yes, the next time we are in the city we plan to pick up two more castors. Discovery Center must have a hundred of them, but you are right. When you see something that you like on a shelf in Panama, buy it! It may never appear again. Season’s greetings to you, too, and thanks for the wish for energy for me… I need it! Fred

  6. Hi,
    That’s it! I am learning to weld! 😉
    You didn’t spend $28; you gotta subtract hinges from that math. I looked at your door, awesome. Question, what about space for insects to get in? It is getting colder here and crickets manage to get in somehow. In the tropics it must be more of a challenge and I saw some space for them to get in (pictures posted) the house.
    Enjoy the fireworks tonight, tomorrow, New Year…
    Merry Christmas

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