You've just been cope and sticked!

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Blog entry by kolwdwrkr posted 01-14-2010 06:21 AM 7132 reads 8 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

We’ve covered the basics of a shaker style door, and then added moulding to it. There are a variety of door styles. Lets discuss a cope and stick. First of all, the cope and stick door is a 5 piece door. The Cope is the ends of the rails, or the “tenon”. The sticking is the decorative detail on the rail and stiles.
The cope and stick cuts a 3/8” groove in your stock, as well as a 3/8” tenon. Use these depths to determine the width of your door. For instance, I use 2 1/2” stiles and rails on a typical door. So if my width is 16”, then I can deduct 5” from the width, and then add back on the tenons, which is 3/8” for both sides, or 3/4” total. You could also deduct 4 1/4” from the width, which would accomodate the tenon length. So a 16” door will require 11 3/4” rails.
There are 2 different types of bits to make a cope and stick joint. The first is a 2 bit set. You would run your copes with one bit, then your stiles with another. We may go over that in the future, for now this tutorial will be for the second option, which is a stacked bit set. This means you can set up the router once and run both the rails and the stiles. Here are a few different stiles of cope and stick bits.
We will use an ogee detail for this tutorial.
You have to use a router table to use these bits. The bit is rather big, so I recommend a router with 2hp and above, preferrably with variable speed. I have a Makita 3hp with variable speed.
Set the bit up in the router. Using a straight edge (I use a square), set the fence up so that it is in line with the bearing. When you feed the stock through the router the stock must run along the bearing. If it doesn’t the groove will be to shallow, and your fit won’t seat right.
You will need a sled for this bit. The sled should be made out of 1/2” thick material and will have a guide attached to the bottom that will run in the track on your table. The sled or jig should be square to the fence. On the top of the sled will be a fence. The fence serves two purposes. #1 it keeps the material square to the Main router table fence and #2 prevents tear out as the material is fed through.
Here is the bottom of the sled.
And how it looks in the track.
The purpose of the sled is to run the coping on the rails. You will run the coping on the RAILS ONLY so it is wise to set the stiles aside so you don’t make a mistake and run them. Running the coping first is necessary because if you don’t the fence on the sled cannot prevent tear out on the sticking.
You will need to use scrap wood to adjust the cope and stick to your stock thickness. If you mill all of your own material you can be fairly consistant with stock thickness. If you do you can make one sample, and use it for future set ups. However, if you purchase your stock surfaced it does fluctuate somewhat, and you will need to set up the bit with new samples using the stock you will use for your project.
Run the cope on one sample piece.
The coping should run along the bearing all the way through. If it doesn’t, adjust it so that it does.
Once run you should have a coped end.
Now set the sled aside and prepare to run your sticking. It is good to practice doing climb cutting. Climb cutting is when you run your material backwards on the router. This is Dangerous, and serious business. The reason for climb cutting is to essentially “score” the material so that it is less likely to have tear out. Hold the material firmly and only cut about 1/16th or so. (Note) You do not need to climb cut the sample. (TIP) If you only run the sticking a short distance you can adjust the router and then use the same sample piece to try again. If you run the sticking all the way through it is pretty much a waist. In this tutorial I set up the router first using the sample. Then I cut the ends off so I could photo a climb cut. So I did start and stop in short distances to set up the bit. You can simply cut the coping off and use that same sample stock.
Photobucket CAUTION Climb cutting is VERY dangerous. You are feeding the stock in the direction the cutter is spinning. This means it can AND will grab the material and throw it across the room if you are not aware, and do not hold the material firmly.
After you are done climb cutting, feed the material through the proper way, ensuring that it rides along the bearing.
You should now have the sticking.
Check the fit. It is very likely that you will need to adjust the bit up and down until the fit is flush.
Once the fit is to your liking you can run your project stock. Remember, coping first, sticking last. You may find after several projects that certain circumstances require you to run the sticking first, then the coping. A good instance would be if you are running fairly short stock for a narrow door. You may consider running the sticking on a longer piece of material, and then cut them to length and run the coping.
Cope and stick doors are a nice alternative to traditional mortice and tenon doors. They are quick to make, have a variety of styles, can have raised or flat panels, etc. The bits are relatively affordable too. I hope you enjoyed the blog and hope you are able to add making cope and stick door to your woodworking repertoire.
As always I welcome constructive criticism, positive or negative.

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

8 comments so far

View zlatanv's profile


691 posts in 3233 days

#1 posted 01-14-2010 06:29 AM

Nice job, have done a bunch of these for a remodeler who doesn’t like making cabinet doors, have never tried the climb cut, looks scary. Have you used a panel bit with a back cutter? Had some problems with one of those, had allot of chatter. Tried relieving the back first and taking multiple passes but was never able to get it right, so ended up taking the back cutter off and cutting the front with the profile bit and sneaking up on the thickness using a rabbiting bit on the back.

-- Z, Rockwall, TX

View kolwdwrkr's profile


2821 posts in 3589 days

#2 posted 01-14-2010 06:34 AM

It can be scary, but once you understand it and get comfortable you save a lot of wasted material. Especially if you run a shop and make quite a few doors regularly.

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

View mikethetermite's profile


596 posts in 3265 days

#3 posted 01-14-2010 06:41 AM

Thank you for this tutorial. This is very helpful, and you have explained very well.

-- Mike The Termite ~~~~~ Working safely may get old, but so do those who practice it.

View Jimi_C's profile


507 posts in 3234 days

#4 posted 01-14-2010 03:36 PM

And this is why I want a variable speed router with a 1/2” chuck…

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

View GMman's profile


3902 posts in 3697 days

#5 posted 01-14-2010 03:53 PM

Very nice , like those step by step, very good information. Thanks

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3108 days

#6 posted 01-14-2010 04:46 PM

Thank you for the step by step. One of items I have on my list this year is cope and stick joinery. Adding this as a favorite due to the wealth of information. Thank you for putting so much time into it.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3285 days

#7 posted 01-14-2010 05:07 PM

Nice job on the blog



View Grumpy's profile


23928 posts in 3850 days

#8 posted 01-17-2010 11:00 PM

Great blog Keith. Thanks.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

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