Removable panel cabinet door - the book...

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Forum topic by Charlie posted 11-04-2012 12:29 PM 1670 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 1705 days

11-04-2012 12:29 PM

OK, this has been an adventure. I asked about making simple removable panel cabinet doors a while back. These are simple shaker or mission style doors. NO coves, or ogees or any of that. Basically, they’re table saw doors, ok?

Rails and stiles get a 1/4” groove, 3/8” deep from one end to the other. Rails get tongues to fit into said groove.

To make a removable panel door… or a door that can take a glass panel,,, you simply remove a strip of wood so that the groove becomes a rabbet. Easy, right? Not so fast there, buckaroo. You can remove it from the rails easy enough (on the table saw), but if you remove it entirely from the stiles, then there’s nothing for the tongue of the rail to fit into. So if your rails are 2-1/2” wide, you need to leave 2-1/2” of groove on each end of the stiles.

I figured I’d just run them on the router table and clean up the corners.
I have a brand new bit in the router and it just blows the hard maple apart. I mean messes it up. I MUST be doing it wrong. I know that the grain direction is not helping me on a couple of the pieces, but wow. Glad I did this on practice pieces. I did it with the piece laying flat on the table so the groove was facing the router bit with the idea of plunging, running, and then stopping short. The result was terrible. I’m wondering if it would have gone better if I had the piece standing on edge, with the groove facing down, and do the plunge, run, stop that way.

Anyways… what I’m doing now is clamping a straight edge to a stile, scoring it several times and as deep as I can with a utility knife, then putting it in my vise and cuting the strip out with my chisels. Chop down the ends, then run the score mark a few times before splitting it out and then paring it down with a chisel. Takes about 15 minutes per stile.

4 replies so far

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 2704 days

#1 posted 11-04-2012 01:00 PM


When I’m making a door that I want to be able to remove the panel or have a glass panel, I actually glue the door together first ( without a panel). Glue, clamp and make sure door is square. After it’s dry and clamps removed, I will take the router with a 3/8 rabbit bit and remove the back lip. Just make sure your bearing is running on the face lip and you don’t tilt your router when running it. Usually I’ll run the router clockwise around the back of the door. If you do that, be very careful, because now your bit is going to try to run with you (because you’re feeding it towards the direction of rotation of the bit and it will want to pull the router away from you. Take very small cuts and don’t worry about getting it cleaned all the way to 3/8. Your last run, you can run your router counter clockwise to do the final clean up and get rid of any burn marks. Some woods just want to tear out so you have to be real careful. When you’re done, you can go back with a small chisel and square the corners since the pilot bearing on the bit will leave a small radius in the corners.

You may want to make a small practice door to start with to practice with, so you can get used to how the router will react. You can try running the router the right direction to start with (counter clockwise) around the opening first, just to see how your wood reacts, but take a small amount on each pass. Usually once the bit wants to grab and tear, it may splinter past the edge of the groove in your stile and rail and leave you will a blown out edge.

Either direction you feed, make sure you take just a small amount each time. Clock wise will have less tendency for blow out, but it will want to jerk the router away from you, so control is harder.

-- John @

View Dan Krager's profile

Dan Krager

3226 posts in 1653 days

#2 posted 11-04-2012 04:07 PM

+1 for huff.

-- Dan Krager, Olney IL There are three types of people...those who are good at math and those who aren't.

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 1705 days

#3 posted 11-04-2012 05:47 PM

Jonathan- I really wanted to do it the way you picture, but I have no doweling jig and no plate joiner and there was not enough free funds to get either. So I sorta had to make do with what I have.

huff- I tried. Believe me. Small bites, tried changing feed direction. This maple is so hard that if the bit grabs just the slightest amount too hard it shatters the maple. I made 3 practice pieces to try to get a feel for what method would work. I do NOT have a heavy hand. I know it SHOULD work just as you’re describing and I was so confident that it is the way I had planned to do these. Once I tried it though…. it was taking longer to play with the router than it would take to just do it the way I’m doing it. I’ve never had this kind of difficulty with the router, but then again I’ve never tried this exact type of cut on hard maple :). My bits are brand new carbides. It’s gotta be ME, not the equipment, but I was wasting precious time trying to do it with the router. I’m heating my shop today (electric heater) and I’ll need to keep it warm enough while they are in clamps for the glue to start to set up. I can bring them in the house when they’re out of clamps and let them sit over night inside, but was hoping to not have to heat the shop all day again tomorrow for glue up. (It’s 35 degrees here today at 12:45 in the afternoon).

I have just one more door to do and then I can start gluing the frames. I don’t have enough clamps to get them all in clamps so I have been doing what I can and taking them out of clamps after about an hour to reuse the clamps on the the next batch of doors. (Do we EVER really have enough clamps?)

I think I’m running the heater again tomorrow :) I’m heating the whole shop with 1 1500watt heater and it’s shirtsleeves comfy in there (about 68 degrees). I should see how much it’s really costing me to run that heater. Maybe it’s not so bad.

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 2577 days

#4 posted 11-04-2012 06:05 PM

I do this all the time cutting the rabbets with the table saw before assembly. Just make stop cuts before the joints. I like to ride the board on their sides for this cut, using blade height to determine rabbet width. Just get close and finish with a chisel once assembled.

-- jay,

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