Turn out flawless raised panels and frames every time.

When making raised-panel doors, it's best to head off mistakes before they happen. Here's how.

Goof-proofing starts with good habits

  • Without square ends cope-and-stick joints will not align properly. So, crosscut rails square and to final length before routing the coped ends that match the stick profile on the stiles.
  • Size the rail-and-stile frame to fit the door opening, and then size the raised panel to fit that frame.
  • Use straight-grained stock for stiles and rails to best resist warping.
  • If you intend to strengthen the cope-and-stick joints with loose tenons or dowels, cut the mortises after routing the profiles. This prevents tear-out around the mortise and keeps the router bit bearing from dropping into the mortise and botching the profile.
Door with labels

Fend off frame errors

GOOF: Despite using a backer board, tear-out leaves chunks missing from the edge profile, see photo below.

Clamped board with tear out on bottom board

HOW TO AVOID: You'll need to use a coping sled or shopmade jig to hold rails as you make the cut, but even with a backer block it's not a guarantee against tear-out. One way to help prevent this is to always rout the coped ends of the rails before routing the stick profile on the edges, as shown in photo below. Otherwise, the gap between the profile and the backer negates the zero-clearance benefits of the backer board.

Ends of boards lined up evenly

No pride in proud rails

GOOF: Rail and stile surfaces don't match up perfectly.

HOW TO AVOID: Always rout rails and stiles with the front face down on the router table. That way, any thickness difference will be on the backside of the door. Also, use hold-downs and hold-ins while routing the edge profiles to ensure even profiles by preventing lifting or shifting.

Rail out of alignment with stile

Prevent panel mishaps

GOOF: Tear-out occurs at corners when routing the raised profile.

Tear out at edge

HOW TO AVOID: Always begin routing a panel profile on end grain, and then "chase" it around the perimeter of the panel. Any tear-out at an intersection will be removed when you rout the adjacent edge. Also, remove the material in 18 "- deep increments to limit tear-out.

Same photo without tear out

Panel expansion disaster

GOOF: Panels fit too tight in the frame grooves, and expansion pushes the joints apart.

HOW TO AVOID: Cut panels to size allowing for 118 " expansion side-to-side (across the grain) and 116 " top-to-bottom (along the grain). Use a panel-cutting bit with a back cutter for a tongue perfectly matched to the frame grooves. Remove material in 18 " increments, using a test board with each depth or height adjustment.

3 photos together

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