Tombstone Doors, easier than I thought!

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Blog entry by Oldtool posted 01-28-2013 11:27 PM 5209 reads 3 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

When building my wife’s new chest on chest cabinet, I decided to add a little something a little different than the plans that I had on hand, which would be new to me & adds a new challenge for me overcome. The basic plan for this storage cabinet came from Glenn Huey’s book “fine Furniture for a lifetime”, the Chippendale Entertainment Center. This same piece of furniture is featured in another of his book by Popular Woodworking, “Design & Build Your Ideal Entertainment Center”, and is featured on the right side of the cover. (see photo below)
The design calls for rectangular raised paneled doors, which I’ve attempted and been successful with in the past, so now time for new lessons, therefore tombstone raised panel doors. I’m happy to report that these came out pretty good, and was a little easier than I anticipated. So, if you would be interested in attempting these, read on …...

To start, I reviewed two resources for instructions on tombstone doors via hand tools methods: Bob Rozaieski’s website The Logan Cabinet Shoppe at:, and of course but who else Roy Underhill at The Woodwright’s Shop on PBS:
These two resources are extremely valuable, as I’m sure most of you already know, and I wouldn’t start a new aspect of hand tool woodworking without researching these sources first.

In tackling these doors, I gained new carving skills, and had the opportunity to use quite a few hand tools including: mortise and paring chisels, scrapers, scratch stocks, hand planes of course, a panel raising plane, and a Stanley No. 71 router plane. The procedure was slow at first, but went faster as knowledge was gained. I would recommend to any interested fellow Lumberjocks out there to try this on a future project, and keep in mind the following:

First and foremost, proper layout is absolutely necessary. I made a full scale drawing of a door, to ensure I had the correct dimensions before I put a blade to wood. This was especially helpful when it came to dimensioning and carving the arch in the rail & cutting the panel. Use a marking gauge to mark both depth of cut along all sides, and a pencil on the panel face to show locations of facets. See the second photo included here for examples of this.

I took it slow to start, carving only one facet and one depth at a time. Then I moved on to the next facet, or depth, whichever seemed the most appropriate for the process. I’ve tried to indicate this in the photographs that follow. Once the carving was finished, I scraped all carved surfaces to remove marks and facets from carving, and provide as smooth an arch or panel raising section as possible.

I should mention here that I made extra sections of raised panels, rails, etc. on scrap wood, and practiced before moving onto the keeper. This also provided me with important details, like the raised panel depth of cut received from my panel raising plane, so as to be able to mark carving depth for the arch, at both facet depths.

If interested, review the photographs that follow with description, and feel free to comment, criticize, and ask any questions pertaining to this procedure.

Thanks for viewing;

This shows the basic idea behind the build, on the right side:

The first cut was to remove the waste at the edge of the raised panel steep slope, to the first level down:

The second cut, the steep slope on the raised panel right side:

Third, the slight slope above the right side, from the first level down to the second level:

Next, the waste above the arch above the slight slope, back to the foot of the steep slope:

Then, the steep slope on the arch:

The finished panel, with alcohol applied to see how it might look finished:

Last, the finished doors:

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

6 comments so far

View Bigrock's profile


292 posts in 2984 days

#1 posted 01-29-2013 01:20 AM

You did a nice job on the doors. They are not the easy way out. I want to do some, but each time I plan on doing them I back away. They look great.
Keep building nice projects.

View Wiltjason's profile


56 posts in 1984 days

#2 posted 01-29-2013 02:25 AM

awesome job. thanks for sharing the photos. tombstone doors have always been something ive wanted to try but wasnt sure how it was done

View a1Jim's profile


117114 posts in 3599 days

#3 posted 01-29-2013 03:15 AM

Looks like a great job .I would be easier to view if you had the photo’s here on Ljs

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 2862 days

#4 posted 01-29-2013 12:07 PM

I have watched Roy do this a dozen times, raised panels have always fascinated me. But curved ones, carved by hand are amazing. And you did it. You pulled it off very well. I am impressed with your skill.
The doors look really great.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View DouginVa's profile


490 posts in 2295 days

#5 posted 01-30-2013 08:39 AM

Nice looking piece.

-- Just a man with his chisel.........

View richcollins's profile


3 posts in 996 days

#6 posted 09-26-2015 08:52 AM

Certainly, you did a lot of carving on this.. this is very unique and something that I haven’t seen in any furniture shop. You really have a masters idea for woodworking and cabinetry.

-- - 2070 Newcomb Avenue, Unit B, San Francisco, CA 94124

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