I’m in the middle of building and installing our new kitchen and while I have 37 raised panel doors, drawers and end panels to make I thought I take a few minutes and show those interested how I’ve learned to assemble a door.
It may not seem like much but I’ve been able to assemble a raised panel door, square it and clamp it in just over 3 minutes. BIG DEAL right, the faster and more accurately you can assemble a door, the more time for squaring it up before the glue grabs. Here’s the sequence I’ve used to assemble literally hundreds of cabinet door and interior doors.
There are 22 doors here all have been dry fitted and they are now ready for the glue and clamps.
The tools I’ll use are a pair of panel lifts (sometimes referred to as panel jacks), glue, a dead blow hammer, damp rag, 3/8” glue brush, a piece of scrap to pour the glue on, pencil, tape measure and a pair of clamps.
The first operation is to knock the corner of the raised panel off as shown in the picture below. The idea behind this operation is to limit the “grab” that excess squeezed out glue has that makes its way into the corner of the stile and rail joint. (see in the following picture)
Excess glue squeezed out of the stile and rail joint that can “grab” the panel and eventually cause the panel to split. “Knocking of the corner” of the raised panel reduces the chances of this happening.
The next step is mark the tenon of the rail onto the stile; this is done to show where to apply glue to the stile without the possibility of getting glue anywhere near the panel. A quick pencil mark makes short work of this. This little pencil mark really does speed up the assembly process and assures you that you won’t get glue where it should be.
Once glue is applied to the stile and the rail it’s time to assemble the pieces, note that the rail is sitting proud of the stile. Sitting the rail proud of the stile will aid in slipping in the raised panel and make “setting the door square” with a dead blow hammer a breeze. Tapping a stile and rail together with a dead blow is a lot easier than having the rail slip down too far along the stile and trying to get it to go back where it should can be nerve wracking.
Once the door is clamped checking for square is just a matter of making diagonal measurements and adjustment can be easily made because you’ve only taken a few minutes to get to this stage.
One last thing, a very important thing, one must remember to align the panel with the corners of the door frame. Here I have drawn a pencil line on the corner of the panel to give you a better look at what I’m talking about. I don’t know how many doors I’ve seen that the builder hasn’t paid attention to this little detail but it means everything when looking at a finished door.
I hope this has benefited someone.
All the best
Last edited by Lost in the Woods; 01-16-2009 at 10:22 PM.
Thanks Gord. It has helped me. Being pretty new to raised panels, I learned some important details. The nipping off of the Panel corners is a great idea. The whole post is appreciated by me. Thanks again
Nice pics Gord. You spent a little time getting that ready for us to see, good work, the effort appreciated! Just curious about the raised panel cutter you used on those doors. I have a new set of shaper cutters, & although they work very well, I find that the raised panel cut looks a little wide in the doors I made, about 1&1/4". I like the size proportion on your doors!
The standard size of a “raised portion” of a panel door is usually 1 ½”. With the door panel being inset into the stile and rails usually by 3/8” to ½”, that leaves an 1” to an 1” 1/8” exposed. The raised panel cutter I used on these was a 3 ½” diameter cutter with a ½” bearing, leaving a profile similar to the one you have.
Great tips, thanks. I haven't built any raised panel doors, yet.
I can think of the same technique applying to building drawers, I've had a hard time with drawer bottoms grabbing, luckily I've been able to free them up with with an expendable blade box cutting knife
I'll keep this knocking corners off idea in mind for drawer and box bottoms as well. I'll use it on my wife's walnut writing box that I'm making for her birthday, shh, don't tell her :-)
Werner in Winnipeg
Thanks for the tips. The corner trick will definitely get used next week. Got any tips on sanding the various bits and pieces, especially doors with ogees? Or better yet, how to avoid needing to do a lot of sanding?
My first big project was to build 20 doors. Not knowing any better I ran the pieces with the router set to final height rather than using multiple passes to get a smooth cut. I ended up doing a ton of sanding making the assembly time the least of my problems. I also had some chipout that I had to cover up.
I demension the rail 1/16 thicker and 1/8 longer, the style 1/16 thicker. (frame is now 1/16 over size all the way around) Don't have to be exact on assly. After glue has dried I joint style (whichever is longest)then to table saw to finish demension the other style and use a my cross slide to finish demension the rails. Always perfect square. I find that if you over clamp sometimes (pine) this process will remove all imperfections from the clamps. I found that I never could get every frame exact, so I thought I would give this idea a try . Works for me
Very much appreciated Gord. Thank You. I am about to learn how to build raised panel doors, I plan on building a new kitchen this winter. The only doors I have made in the past were out of mdf with a routered profile, and a couple raised panels out of mdf on a table saw.(Glued up as a solid panel)
A question for you? Do you use any thing in the groove to support the panel like those foam balls that are available?
I am going to print of your post and keep it handy.
I love using a variety of those sanding mops for sanding the routered profiles on the rails and stiles. I have 120, 180, 220 and 320 grit mops. Some of the mops are bound tight by the included plastic discs for more aggresive sanding, while I have others that are loose and floppy. I can't say how much time they save. You have to be careful, too much sanding with a tight 120 mop can slightly round of edges. I have a 320 grit mop that is about 8 inches thick, I use it in the drill press or a high rpm hand drill between finish coats, I even used it to do a once over on the final coat on my doors ( red oak raised panels, minwax polyshades finish ).
To avoid sanding profile edges, I've always found that using cutters with razor sharp carbide is the only way to go. This is where a quality bit saves you time, effort and money in the long run. A cheapie router bit doesn't sheer the material off as nicely as a better quality bit and doesn't hold it's edge as long. I don't like sanding, can you tell?
I don't use anything in the panel groove; I've always believed that a proper fitting panel is all it takes to have a door that doesn't rattle. That's not to say that things like Space Balls are a bad idea, it's just one less thing for me to concern myself with during assembly.
It all depends on the moisture in the wood, in the summer when humidity is at its highest, the panel is usually at it’s widest therefore a snug fit is fine. Once the panel is brought inside the house and introduced to a more controlled environment it’s not going to get any wider but it will contract across its width. If this had been in the middle of winter when humidity is at its lowest, the panel would definitely expand come summer time and approximate space would need to be provided.
I’m going to make a “general” statement here and I mean “general”, usually and 1/8” per foot width of panel is fine……………………………remember this is a “general” statement. There are charts available that express the changes in widths of panels with changes in humidity and so on but I’ve seen only one or two people use them.
Oh yeah, back to your question, I left just less than a 1/16” on each side of the panel for expansion on panels less than 1’ wide, a little more on the larger ones.
My local Home Hardware carry a cord that fits in the grove to hold window screens in Place. It comes in a variety of sizes from 1/8 to 1/4 and is about .59 cents a foot. It is the same color and feels exactly the same as space balls which I think are about .21 cents each. Just another alternative.