Finish Raised Panel Doors Before Assembly?

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Forum topic by Alan S posted 07-22-2012 04:52 PM 5421 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Alan S

176 posts in 2684 days

07-22-2012 04:52 PM

I am making some solid wood raised panel doors. I plan on using space balls or something to keep the panel centered but allow it to move. Since it will move, should I finish the inside panel before I glue it all together? It seems if I don’t, I might be lines of unfinished wood on the panel when it shrinks.

7 replies so far

View jmos's profile


706 posts in 1736 days

#1 posted 07-22-2012 04:59 PM

You are absolutely correct in your thinking; it is a good idea to, at least, finish the edge of the panel before glue up, especially if you are applying color (stain/dye). Since you’r not gluing the panel into the frame, there isn’t really a downside to pre-finishing. Pre-finishing the entire door also helps eliminate and finish build-up in the corners.

-- John

View jerrells's profile


891 posts in 2251 days

#2 posted 07-22-2012 05:34 PM

Good sounding logic. Can’t wait to see how it works. Glad to see you back at woodworking and I know you will enjoy. Now I got to go out in the garage and rearrange an area to make it more workable. Have a great day.

-- Just learning the craft my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ practiced.

View waho6o9's profile


7052 posts in 1943 days

#3 posted 07-22-2012 05:40 PM

Wise move Alan.

If you take clear silicone, run 1/4” bead or so a foot long and wait till it cures, you can cut
it up to make your own space balls.

View mcase's profile


446 posts in 2496 days

#4 posted 07-22-2012 08:16 PM


There’s a lot to be said for prefinisihing components, but for a panel its especially desirable. I install panels completely finished and waxed. Why not? Its a lot quicker and easier to spread the finish and polish it on the panel before its installed. And, as Jmos so rightly points out, you avoid build up at edges and corners. Its also really great for dealing with glue squeeze out. You can just wipe away the glue off the finish with a damp cloth. Lots of mass produced furniture (not always cheap stuff either) skips this step and when the panel shifts it shows a raw unfinished edge. One tip to consider is that you should sand the interior edges of the frame components before assembly so as not to scratch the finish.

View jim C's profile

jim C

1467 posts in 2465 days

#5 posted 07-22-2012 08:25 PM


will the wood glue adhere to polyurethane, varnish etc.?

-- When I was a boy, I was told "anyone can be President", now I'm beginning to believe it!

View mcase's profile


446 posts in 2496 days

#6 posted 07-23-2012 03:42 AM


It might if you let it dry. If it squeezes onto bare wood it immediately penetrates and requires sanding out or peeling with a chisel. Either way its a real pain and can lead to blemishes. If it squeezes out onto a poly finish it can simply be wiped away. If the finished is poly that is buffed and waxed you have a good chance that it won’t adhere even if it drys.

View Matt Przybylski's profile

Matt Przybylski

515 posts in 1744 days

#7 posted 07-23-2012 04:28 AM

I too will be making raised panel doors soon and planned on pre-finishing the panel. My question is this: do you then also pre-finish the rails and stiles and then assemble all pieces finished? I imagine you block out where glue will go for the glue up but I can’t imagine pre-finishing the panel and not the other components and then trying to finish the rest after assembly. I’d imagine the finish would make its way onto the panel and you’d have darker spots on the panel that way. Is that correct?

-- Matt, Illinois,

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