Learn a new way to make beautiful raised panel doors. We'll show you the best tips, techniques, and tools to make doors quickly and easily without expensive panel-raising bits.
To prove that you don't need expensive cutters to make handsome doors, we made the beautiful raised-panel doors, above, using only three common router bits. Because the panels are hardwood-veneer plywood, they weigh less, cost less, and are more stable than doors made from solid stock.
Analyze your options
Our door consists of a veneered plywood panel surrounded by a solid frame. The panel "raises" when we apply a second plywood panel framed with molding. If you'll paint your doors, substitute medium-density fiberboard (MDF) for the solid stock and birch-veneer plywood for a glass-smooth finish.
After choosing your materials, pick a profile for the frame and raised panel. Create your own, or get ideas from doors at your local home center. Or, try one of our shop-tested profiles shown below, any of which you can make using the techniques described here.
Base your door dimensions on the size of the cabinet opening. Because our overlay door overlaps the opening on all four sides, we'll make it 1" longer and wider (1⁄2 " on each side) than the opening.
Start with the frame
1 From 3⁄4 " stock, rip to 21⁄4 " enough material for parts A and B. Don't cut them to length yet.
2 Set up your router table as shown in the Machining the Frame drawings below, and make Cuts 1 and 2.
3 Measure the exact thickness of your main panel (C), and make Cuts 3 and 4 on your tablesaw.
4 Cut the rails and stiles to length. Make them about 1⁄2 " oversize first, then miter-cut to finished length. For repetitive cuts, use a stop on your fence, as shown below.
You'll get more accurate results on repetitive miter cuts if you cut a matching miter on your stop.
Now size and raise the panel
1 Subtract 311⁄16 " from the frame height and width to find the size of part C, and cut it to size. Now, calculate the dimensions of part D by subtracting 81⁄4 " from both frame dimensions. Cut part D to size.
2 On the face of part C, mark an outline 21⁄4 " in from each edge. Glue part D to part C, just hiding the outline. Clamp or weight the assembly, and set it aside.
Let's make the molding
For safety reasons, mill the moldings (parts E and F) from a blank of stock, then rip off the molded edge. When the blank gets too small to handle comfortably (about 2" wide), continue with a fresh blank, or use a feather board to hold the blank against the rip fence.
1 Set up your router table as shown in the Machining the Molding drawings below, and mill one edge of your 3⁄4 " blank. With your tablesaw, rip the molded edge, cove side down, to 5⁄16 " (as shown in the photo below). Use a zero-clearance insert and splitter on your tablesaw to keep the thinly cut molding in close contact with the outfeed end of the fence. Repeat this step until you have enough molding for your doors.
A tall, narrow pushstick keeps your fingers far away from the blade when ripping thin molding from the blank.
2 Set up your router table as shown in the bottom Machining the Molding drawings above. Make the zero-clearance fence by attaching a piece of stock to your table's fence. With the router running, slowly move the fence into place, just cutting into the wooden fence. Rout the rabbet in parts E and F. To keep the molding firmly against the fence, clamp a feather board or guide block as shown in the photo below.
3 Subtract 1⁄4 " from the length of part D. Miter-cut parts E using this length for the "short" dimension. Again, if you're making several panels of the same size, use a stop block to make consistent cuts. Repeat for parts F, subtracting 1⁄4 " from the width of part D.
4 Glue and clamp parts E and F to part C, covering the edges of part D. We used two spring clamps on each piece of molding, keeping the mitered joints tight. Remember to put a dot of glue in each of the miter joints.
The guide board extends past the router bit to prevent chatter and keep the workpiece in contact with the fence.
Pull it all together
1 Set up your router table as shown in the Biscuit-Slot Setup drawing below. Sometimes you ll cut the biscuit slot with the stock faceup and sometimes facedown, so it s critical that the slot be dead-center on your stock. Make a few test cuts on scrap before you cut your door parts. Feed part A into the slot cutter as shown below. Keeping the end in contact with the cutter s pilot bearing, slide the stock out to the stop as shown. Turn part A end-for-end and facedown, and in the same manner (short side against the fence), cut a slot in the other end. Repeat for the remaining parts A and B.
2 Glue #10 biscuits into the slots you just created. Complete the assembly by capturing the plywood panel in the four frame pieces. Using bar clamps and corner clamping blocks, carefully clamp the assembly. Tighten each clamp a little at a time, keeping each joint perfectly aligned. If a joint slips out of alignment, loosen the clamps on that joint, adjust the joint, and reclamp it.
Keep your workpiece parallel to the fence and tight against the pilot bearing as you guide it out to the stop.
You’ll find the clamping process less clumsy if you use a pair of bar or pipe clamps with extended-reach jaws.