cope and stile doors #1: just a cab door tutorial

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Blog entry by patron posted 1471 days ago 1821 reads 10 times favorited 40 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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hi folks ,
i have been doing some catch up work for a friend ,
who’s cabinets i built and installed years ago .
since then he has changed the kitchen slightly ,
and needed some new ones .
so i decided to show you all how i have learned , over the years .
as a cabinet door maker in shops around the country ,
and some of the things i have learned about it .
i go for fast and easy , nobody pays me to take my time on this stuff ,
get it out last week !
this is only 7 doors i am making now ,
but have made 50 to 100 at a time in places ,
and replicating designs is always a challenge ,
even my own .
i fortunately have the patterns i made then for the panels ,
and bought some rail and stile router bits ,
to match those i had borrowed for the first doors .
here is the look i am working towards ,

this is something i invented for all my rail lengths ,rather than just doing the math for them ( i always make a mistake here , i figure the combined width of the stiles ( for this 5” ) ,
and subtract the dado grove depth times 2 ( two groves for two stiles ), in this case the cutters do a 3/8” dado ,
so 3/4” off of 5” leaves 4 1/4” that my rail must be under the width of the door .
i make a block 4 1/4” long , ( or whatever the size may be , different cutters have different dados ,
and different stile widths need different size blocks .
i lay out my tape , and place the end of the block on the width of the door ,
and read the number on the other end of the block to get my rail length .
it will read to amazing accuracy !

here i start by laying out all the wood i need for this ,

i only joint the edge , not the face , to much waste in warped boards,
and to much wear and tear on my planer , flattening wide boards ,
you will see why i do this as we go .

now i rip all the wood to 1/8” over it’s final size ,
keeping it all standing on the first edge , ( i like to thing it is straighter than the sawn one for some reason ) ?

now i plane the second edge (the one that is up) , and turn them over ,
and plane the other edge to size ,
it i need to plane the first one again ,
i can do 1/32” on it first , and put it with the pile ready for the last pass ,
i do this first , because the board is wider and stays truer this way ,
i have had planers that pinched so much , they twisted the wood out of square this way .

now i can plane both faces a little at a time ,
turning them over with each pass , and can eliminate some bad spots on the faces or edges ,
by planing that face more than the other better side , ( why keep planing it , if it is already good ) ?
now you may wonder here why i haven’t jointed the face at all , simple ,
i will cut my adjoining double door center stiles from the straightest pieces ,
always the long ones first , the hinge side can be slightly bowed , as the hinges straighten it out some ,
and i cut around any flaws and knots , saving the left overs for shorter pieces , the end already square and ready for the piece it wants to be .

here i lay all the boards with the crown up ,and cut and mark the crown face ,
this keeps all the door parts crowning the same , tight at the top and bottom of the box , not sticking out there .

here we have all the parts for all the door frames , i mark them a,b,c,d, ,
and also mark the rails with an x , so i don’t cope the end of a stile by mistake .

now i take the rails , and with a backup block on the crosscut guide and a fence ,
i cope the ends , with the crown face down , ( that’s the way these cutters work )

then all the parts get the stile edge done . again the crown face down .

and here we have a door frame ready for the panel , exactly the right width .

that’s all for now folks , thanks for looking ,
i hope some have been given sufficient help to do this if you want to make these kinds of doors .
tomorrow we will see about the panels !

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

40 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


111999 posts in 2174 days

#1 posted 1471 days ago

Great work David super tips too. Sooooo Cool

-- Custom furniture

View Woodwrecker's profile


3559 posts in 2173 days

#2 posted 1471 days ago

Always a pleasure learning from a master craftsman.
Thanks Patron!

-- Having fun...Eric

View SPalm's profile (online now)


4749 posts in 2479 days

#3 posted 1471 days ago

You da man, David. I just love your way of getting it done.
Can’t wait for the panels.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 2371 days

#4 posted 1471 days ago

Another informative blog. Thank you David.

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View Karson's profile


34853 posts in 2998 days

#5 posted 1471 days ago

Great blog David, That’s kind of the way that I do it also.

I sometimes leave the stiles wide until after glue up and then joint one of the edges straight and then rip the whole door to final size that takes all of the warping and has glued them all toether and then do a final straighten.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware †

View davidroberts's profile


1002 posts in 2083 days

#6 posted 1471 days ago

Excellent tutorial, David. Great tip about putting the hinges on the slightly bowed edge, and better to plane a wide board due to pinching. Come to think of it, a whole bunch of great tips. I’ll be watching.,

-- God is great, wood is good. Let us thank Him for wood......and old hand tools.

View patron's profile


12955 posts in 1938 days

#7 posted 1471 days ago

thank you for your coments ,
i know i cut some corners here ,
but i save some things ,
(like face jointing wood ) ,
for furniture and such ,
where it is really important ,
in the world of production cabinet making time and money count ,
the pace is brutal at times .
in santa fe alone , there are 50 cabinet shops ,
all trying to under bid and under mine each other .
why i stay away from it for the most part .

and don’t you know the wages are low .

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View zlatanv's profile


689 posts in 1831 days

#8 posted 1471 days ago

Cool trick on the rail length, I need to write down the sizes of my bits and keep it somewhere, I always do the measuring every time I pull them out (like they are going to change size), and usually have to measure and cut too many times.

-- Z, Rockwall, TX

View patron's profile


12955 posts in 1938 days

#9 posted 1471 days ago

i worked for a guy here for two years ,
he insisted that i just run the wood as it came in ,
rough or planed , many boards from different batches ,
said i was taking too much time milling ,
that meant that all the parts were a different thickness ,
and had saw marks on them .
his 17 year old son would make them flat and clean with a 4×24 hand held belt sander !
(some as much as an 1/8” off from each other) ,
( they both smoked allot of dope , so i didn’t see much of them ) .
but making different styles on all the different doors ,
i just ignored him , and milled my wood this way anyway ,
not to good when the client opens his cabinet ,
and the door falls apart in his hand from sloppy joinery !

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View littlecope's profile


2882 posts in 2099 days

#10 posted 1471 days ago

Nice Work, David… You’ve done this before, eh? :)

-- Mike in Concord, NH---Unpleasant tasks are simply worthy challenges to improve skills.

View patron's profile


12955 posts in 1938 days

#11 posted 1471 days ago

mike ,
just as recently as the last couple of days (LOL) !

so maybe we can say ,
this is all new to me ?

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View jack1's profile


1907 posts in 2624 days

#12 posted 1471 days ago

I need to move next door to you and get a job sweeping your floors so I can watch what you do… I’m going to save this blog and re-read a few times. Thanks.

-- jack -- ...measure once, curse twice!

View patron's profile


12955 posts in 1938 days

#13 posted 1471 days ago

come by anytime , jack .
you can help me get the water tank out of the ground (LOL) !

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Bob Kollman's profile

Bob Kollman

1796 posts in 1788 days

#14 posted 1471 days ago

These are techniques I like. Saving time, and tool ware are important. My planer blades are 50 bucks and they
cannot be resharpened, but I do get 2 sides to each blade. My jointer blades thank goodness can be resharpened,
but the guy who does them usually needs 2 or 3 days. I’ll hold the dust pan for Jack, it would be interesting learning your techniques first hand!!!

-- Bob Kenosha Wi.

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2495 posts in 1704 days

#15 posted 1471 days ago

If Jack sweeps, Bob holds the just pan, maybe I can dump the trash. lol I like your coping sled. I have one just like it and never thought of using it as a coping sled. I learned a lot today. Thanks David.

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