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DIY: California/Plantation Shutters w/ basic tools

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  • Mar 23rd, 2020 11:08 am
Sep 5, 2011
380 posts

DIY: California/Plantation Shutters w/ basic tools

Based on some recent interests & request on this forum for shutters, I have decided to put together a complete guide on how to make your own wooden shutters with minimal tools. I have built these set of shutters with just some common everyday tool, a $200 mitre saw & $50 circular saw.

The purpose of this thread is for entertainment/educational purposes only. I am not creating this thread to promote shutters nor am I here to persuade you. I know it is not for everyone. If you want shutters for your home but can’t justify the cost, this might just be the thread for you. It is a lot easier to make than you may think. If you still have questions after reading this thread, feel free to ask me anything about shutters. I have over 15 years of experience in this industry.

Here is my cost break down for the window I used as an example: 22"x46" window.

Stile - 8' @ 1.98 = $15.84
Rail - 4' @ 2.28 = $9.12
Louvre - 21' @ 1.28 = $26.88
Aluminum Tilt rod - Half of the rod is $7.49
Rear Louvre control pins - 13pcs is $2.60
Standard louvre pins - 7 pcs is $1.05
Tension control pins - 6 pcs is $1.20
Pair of hinges $2.98
Magnet kits $4.48

Grand total for one panel is $71.64. Please note that this is just for the shutter components only. The finish/labour is not included because it varies significantly depending on the finish you want to use.


Most people don’t need to do this step but since I am in the process of renovating my entire house, I get to replace all of the casing with my own custom made moulding. I started by ripping out all of the old casing

Original window casing


Remove the old casing


Remove the old window jamb


Replaced it with new window jamb & try your best to make it as square as possible. It would be nice to use a laser level for this but if you don’t have it, your basic spirit level will do just fine.


Reinstall the new moulding. I custom made this moulding but you can get a similar profile at Lowes.

Fill all nail holes, caulk all of the seams & paint
Last edited by PCShutters on Feb 3rd, 2019 10:14 pm, edited 7 times in total.
39 replies
Sep 5, 2011
380 posts

When taking measurement for your shutters, take 3 horizontal & 3 vertical measurements and write down your SMALLEST measurement for each axis. Try to get it as precise as possible and measure it to the sixteenth of an inch. No window is perfectly square so don’t worry if your isn’t.

In a perfect world, we all should be using the metric system. Unfortunately, when it comes to woodworking in North America, imperial measurements are still the norm because all of our dressed lumbers are measured in imperial.

Inside mount measurement


Outside mount measurement

Last edited by PCShutters on Jan 24th, 2019 1:49 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Deal Fanatic
User avatar
Feb 15, 2005
5526 posts
Keep up the great work! Your past few renos show that you have skills far above what the average person has. And also more tools... :)

Sep 5, 2011
380 posts

Before we can dive into the fun stuff, we need to familiarize ourselves with the terminology and learn how to calculate the materials we will need to build our shutters.


Let’s use my own measurement as an example. I have a window with 22-4/16” width and 46” height. We will need the following component to make our shutters:

Stile: we will need two stiles, If our window opening is 46 inches tall, we will rough cut our stiles to 49” (3” extra so we can trim them down to perfect height later)


Top/Bottom Rail: We need one rail at the top and one rail a the bottom. Divider/Mid rail is optional. In my case, I do not want a divider rail because my window is not that tall and I don’t want it to take away any unnecessary space on my window. To get the length of the rail, we take the window opening of 22-4/16” and take away 3/16” for the hinges and necessary clearance on each side of our panel to open freely so that it would not rub against our window jamb. This gives us the final shutter panel width of 22-1/16”. Since the stile that we will be using are 1-¾” wide, our rail should be 18-9/16” long.


Rail Length calculation

= (window’s width) - (3/16” clearance) - (Stile width) x 2
= 22-4/16 - 3/16 - (1-¾) x 2
= 18-9/16”

To get the rail width, it is a little more complicated because the rail is dependent on the number of louvre you want to use per panel, the louvre size and if you want to use a divider rail or not. The formula is as follow:

Top/Bottom Rail width calculation without divider rail:

= ((Finished Height - 11/16) - (# of louvres x (Louvre size - 0.5)))/2
= ((45 13/16 - 11/16) - (13 x (3.5 - 0.5)))/2
= 3-1/16”

Top/Bottom Rail width calculation with divider rail:

= ((Finished Height - 11/16) - (((# of louvres +1) x (Louvre size - 0.5))+1))/2
= ((45 13/16 - 11/16) - (((12 +1) x (3.5 - 0.5))+1))/2
= ((45 2/16) - ((13 x 3)+1))/2
= 2-9/16”

Louvre: The length of our louvres are easy because they need to be ⅛” shorter than our rail to clear the shutter pins & tilt rod. Hence, the length of our louvres need to be 18-7/16” (18-9/16” - ⅛”).


Depending on the louvre size you want to use: 2-½” louvre (california shutters) are spaced at 2 inches on centre and 3-½” (plantation shutters) are spaced at 3 inches on centre. They all have ½” overlap between each louvres. Whenever possible, we want to have a minimum top and bottom rail size of 3” inches or more for strength. In our case, we want to use 3-½” louvre so we take the total height of 45-13/16” (46” less 3/16” clearance) and divide it by 3 (for the 3 inches on centre) to get 15ish. This means we can have up to 13 louvres in our panel and the remainder will be our rail. See the rail calculation from above.

Calculating the number of louvre needed per panel without divider rail:

= (Finished Height / Louvre Size spacing) - 2
= (45-13/16 / 3) - 2
= 15.27 - 2
= 13 (rounded down -- always round down)

Calculating the number of louvre needed per panel without divider rail:

= (Finished Height / Louvre Size spacing) - 3
= (45-13/16 / 3) - 3
= 15.27 - 3
= 12 (rounded down -- always round down)

Tilt rod: because I will personally build all of my shutters without using any specialized tools, I have elected to use the aluminum rear louvre control tilt rod so that I don’t need to mess with the staples gun that most people don’t have. This is the tilt rod I will be using:


You will also need the following items:
  • Louver Pins:
    • Standard Louvre pins: utilized when constructing new plantation shutters. They support the louvers in the shutter panel, and allow the louver to rotate. The narrow end of the nylon pin is inserted into the louver. The larger end of the nylon pin is inserted into the stile or frame. A washer is molded into the pin which prevents the louver from rubbing the inside of the shutter stile allowing for smooth operation of the louvers.
    • Tension Control Pins: These pins eliminate the use of tension screws when construction shutters. They support the louvers in the shutter panel, and allow the louver to rotate.
    • Rear Louvre Control Pins: This pin is sized to allow the hidden tilt rod to recess itself in between the end of the louver and inside of shutter stile.
  • Hinges
  • Shutter Magnet Kits
  • 1/16 ring shank nail
  • primer & paint or stain

Tools & accessories needed:
  • Mitre saw
  • Circular saw with straight edge
  • Drill
  • Drill bits: ¼” brad point bit, 9/16” and 1/16” regular twist drill bit
  • Hammer
  • Sand paper
  • Wood filler
  • Measurement tape
  • screws & glue
Last edited by PCShutters on Jan 24th, 2019 1:58 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Sep 5, 2011
380 posts

The first thing to do is the prepare your stile. Whenever possible, I always try to pre-finish all of the hard to reach areas first like the inner side of the stile and the end of each louvres.

Here is my stile all primed. I will be drilling all of my holes with the drill press but if you don’t have one, you can just use a drill. Do try to be as accurate as possible and when you drill down, make sure your drill are plumb. As per above, I will be using 3-½” louvre. Which means I need to drill a hole every 3 inches. The first louvre need to be 1-¾” from the top and bottom rail.


Here is the stile all drilled using the ¼” brad point drill bit.


The louvres & rail cut to size using my budget mitre saw (took a LONG time to calibrate before it can give me a satisfactory result)


The next step is to drill the holes on the end of each louvres for the louvre pins & tilt rod. To do that, I need to rig up a little router jig to do all of my drilling (because I want this hole to be as precise as possible). If you don’t have a router, you can use a drill too. Just strap them down like this:


Back to my router jig. I simply screw it down on its side and build a little platform at the exact height needed to drill the louvres. Here is my quick and dirty 30 minutes jig.


Since I am using 3-½” louvre, the centre of the louvre is 1-¾”. Here is the jig set up for that repeatable drilling task. I used 9/64” drill bit to drill for the louvre pins.


After drilling for the louvre pins, I need to drill 1/16” holes for the tilt rod. This hole need to be drilled ¼” from the edge.


After about 15 minutes, this is what I have:


Pre-finished the end of the louvres


Used bondo to fill all of the imperfection on the wood


Sanded and insert the pins into the louvre. Put the Rear Louvre Control Pins on the side that will get the tilt rod.


The other side gets the standard and tension pins. As a rule of thumb, I used 1 tension pin for every 2 standard pin.


Next up are the rails joinery. There are so many ways to do this that it would be impossible to cover it all. For demonstration purposes, I used the 4 methods that I am familiar with.

The quickest and cheapest method is just butt glue and screw the rails into the stile using 3 inch screw. Make sure you pre-drill it first and counter sink the bit.

The second method I used is the ⅜” dowels. Depending on how fancy you want to get, you can get a jig to do this for as little as $10.

The third method I used is the floating tenon. You can do this with a router with a straight bit or if you are lucky enough to have access to a festool domino, that would work too.

The fourth and my favourite method is the mortise and tenon joint. You can cut the mortise with a drill bit and a chisel. The tenon is even easier with a handsaw and chisel.


After you have all of the components prepared, you can glue them up


Install the aluminum tilt rod. I used 1 inch 1/16” ring shank nail (stainless steel nail to make sure they will never rust).


Once the glue is dried. Use the circular saw with a straight edge to cut the panel to final height. I do not have any picture of this because it was too messy and I forgot to take a picture.

Here is the panel after one coat of primer. I know most people don’t have access to a HVLP set up and a spray booth but you can use a roller and a brush too. I really want to do this with a roller and brush like most DIYers but I just can’t do it. I hate the finish I get with a brush and rollers. However, if you are going with that route and using latex paint. Look into LATEX EXTENDER. It really reduce the brush marks significantly.


Second coat of primer. I used conversion varnish primer.


Third coat is the colour coat. I used pre-catalyzed lacquer


Fourth coat with pre-catalyzed lacquer again


Fifth coat is the UV coating to prevent the paint from discolouration.

Last edited by PCShutters on Jan 24th, 2019 3:11 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Sep 5, 2011
380 posts

Here is the shutters installed in my daughter’s room.


I hope you enjoyed my super long post. If you have any questions. Just post them below.
Dec 9, 2013
427 posts
Beautiful. But yeah... Not going to even attempt that as a DIYer. I'll stick to my peasant curtain rods.
Deal Addict
Dec 6, 2006
4519 posts
Need redefinition of the word "basic"..
Jan 7, 2013
439 posts
Oshawa, Ontario
I'm jealous of your skills.
Deal Addict
May 23, 2009
2271 posts
Basic tools eh. Brains are supposed to be the best tools and mine can’t deal with so many 1/16” measurements.

It is a lot of work for three windows so I’m glad that I paid you to build mine. It would have been an abandoned DIY projectFace With Tears Of Joy.
Deal Expert
May 30, 2005
43087 posts
Richmond Hill
boyohboy wrote: Need redefinition of the word "basic"..
Circular saw and mitre saw is pretty "basic" if you ask me. Have you seen how many different tools they sell at Home Depot?

And technically you can use a hack saw instead of the circular and mitre saw. That would make it more basic.
Jan 11, 2017
43 posts
Amazing results. Not your average diy :)

Any recommendation on how to restore white color on existing shutters that have yellowed over years? My shutters in kitchen area look like crap next to new wall / trim paint. Hoping to restore them. Don’t think I can clean them.
Sep 5, 2011
380 posts
rf134a wrote: Keep up the great work! Your past few renos show that you have skills far above what the average person has. And also more tools... :)
Thanks rf134a. I love posting my projects on this forum. RFDers are so encouraging! I feel more productive when I actually document my reno.

It is hard to stay motivated when the reno have been dragging on for way too long...I need the motivation!
Sep 5, 2011
380 posts
boyohboy wrote: Need redefinition of the word "basic"..
I said "basic tools" not "Neanderthal tools" Smiling Face With Open Mouth

It doesn't get much more basic than a mitre saw, circular saw and a drill. I would imagine most home-owners or newbie woodworkers would have that.