Machining flawless raised panel-doors

Turn out flawless raised panels and frames every time.

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Learn the skills to make your own

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

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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.


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Fend off frame errors

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

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. Otherwise, the gap between the profile and the backer negates the zero-clearance benefits of the backer board.

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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.

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Prevent panel mishaps

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

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Rout the end grain first

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.

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Allow for expansion

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

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Give panels breathing room

HOW TO AVOID: Cut panels to size allowing for 18 " 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.

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Complete Guide to 1,600+ Shop Tips

On this comprehensive disc, you'll learn how to...


  • Utilize jigs and fixtures for increased safety and efficiency.
  • Improve the accuracy of your woodworking tools.
  • Solve shop problems quickly and cleverly.
  • Turn household items into handy workshop helpers.
  • Measure and mark accurately.


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