Raised Panel Doors
Building a set of raised panel doors might seem like a daunting process. However, it’s simply a sequence of steps that, granted, use most of the tools in a serious hobbyist’s wood shop. Wood movement is an issue here since the panel grain runs perpendicular to the grain of the top and bottom rails of the door frame. Watch this video to see how to build a raised panel door in one 25-minute video. This blog entry also includes links to eight individual videos that highlight, separately, each major step of the door construction process using mortise and tenon joinery. NOTE: Another feasible option for door construction would include using a cope and stile router bit set.
Routing Raised Panel
I had a scrap of wood that had a ¼” panel groove from making the back frame of the carcass. Armed with that test piece, I was confident making the raised panel before making the door frame.
I used a vertical router bit in a 3-hp plunge router mounted in a router table. Watch this video to see how I cut the raised panel on my router table. NOTE: I set a bad example in the video by working with a router fence that probably should have been about 3” taller.
Cutting Panel Dado
After milling all of the rails and stiles to final dimensions, I cut the groove for the raised panel. Watch this video to see how to cut the groove with a dado blade on the table saw. NOTE: It’s important that you cut your wood square. If not, there will be unsightly gaps where the frame pieces meet.
The feather board helps keep the rail and stile squarely against the fence.
After cutting the panel groove, I cut the mortises in the stiles. You could cut these mortises with a chisel, a plunge router, or a mortising machine. I’ve used all three methods over the years. My first choice is to use my mortising machine. The mortises in these frames are 1 ¼” deep and if you choose to use a router, even a fresh spiral up-cut bit will burn when cutting cherry at this depth. Watch this video to see how to cut the mortises.
Cutting Tenon Shoulder
After cutting the mortises, the first step in cutting the tenons is to establish the shoulder. I make this cut on the table saw using a sliding crosscut table. Watch this video to see how to cut the tenon shoulder. NOTE: Be careful not to set the cut too deep. It’s good to run a scrap piece or two (of the exact same thickness) ahead of your project wood for all of the steps in door construction.
Cutting Tenon Cheek
With the shoulders cut, I cut the tenon cheeks next. This cut determines the tension of the joint. I use a simple tenon jig with a toggle clamp for this cut. Watch this video to see how to precisely cut the tenon cheek.
Cutting Secondary Shoulder
With the tenon cheek cut to precise thickness, I made a cut establishing a secondary shoulder that will rest in the panel groove. This cut is visible from the top and bottom edge of the door frame. Watch this video to see how to make this secondary shoulder cut.
Final Tenon Cut
One cut remains to complete the tenon. This cut removes the wood started by the secondary shoulder cut. Watch this video to see how I make this cut on the band saw.
Dry Assembly of Doors
With all of the mortise and tenon cuts complete, I fine-tuned the fit of each joint using a shoulder plane, a file, and a sharp chisel. Watch this video to see the dry assembly and explore critical glue-up precautions.
In the next blog entry we’ll explore how to install the doors.
-- Mark, Minnesota