Gilles' Outlet

July 10, 2007

Building Raised Panel Doors

Filed under: Woodworking — Gilles @ 5:38 am

Custom straight raised panel doors are built out of 3/4” poplar. 


Skill Level: 2~3 (Basic ~ Intermediate)

Time Taken: About 3 Hours

Kitchen cabinetry has made raised panel doors popular in North America. There are many different design for raised panel doors and many different ways to make them. This article uses a router table and an horizontal raised panel bit.  

NOTE: I routinely remove power tools guards for photographic reasons. Moreover, my hands are pictured dangerously close to cutters. I never cut while taking pictures for obvious safety reasons. When using a router or any power tools, you should always leave guards in place and maintain your hands far away from the cutting tool. Use push sticks, pieces of scrap … to push stock through the tool.

I cannot be held responsible for anything which can happen to anyone as a result of trying to duplicate what you see in my blog. Always consult a professional.

Left: The construction starts by cutting the rails (horizontal pieces of wood which make the frame) and stiles (vertical pieces of the frame) using a power miter saw. These were made out of 2-1/2 x 3×4 solid poplar.

Stiles are cut to the exact heigth of the finished door. Determining the length of rails is a little more complex. It depends on the bit you are using and the stock so check instructions coming with your set.

Right: I installed the rail bit in my router. I am using the "6 Pieces Pro CabinetMaker Set" from MCLS WOODWORKING. Their free instructions, while very sketchy, are worth reading.

Left: I made sure the bearing located at the center of the bit was flush with the fence.

The trick with this bit is to get its heigth right. It took a few tries to get it perfect. Once I found that setting, I cut a setup block I can use later to quickly duplicate the setup.


Right: I installed two featherboards to ensure stock would stay in contact with the bit and I machined rails.

Left: I installed the stile bit. Notice that the bearing is located at the top of the bit. I aligned the bearing flush with the fence.

Right: A setup block was used to set the bit’s height quickly and accurately. The block is simply put on the table and the heigth of the bit is adjusted so the block perfectly fits in the bit and is flush with the bearing.

Setup blocks  are pieces of stock cut when the bit was considered perfectly setup. Router bit manufacturers sell these for a specific bit and a given stock thickness (usually 3/4”). For me, it is faster and cheaper to take the time to set up bits perfectly and cut my own setup blocks.

Left: I machined all stiles. I gave all pieces a quick sanding to ensure mating surfaces where clean and sharp.

I gathered all pieces for one door closely to suggest how the frame would look when assembled.



Right: I am holding the bottom rail. The end of the rail shows a tenon like structure which will be received by the rail cut in the stile. The joint offers a large glueing surface.

Now that rails and stiles are ready, I turned my attention to the panel.

Left: I previously glued two pieces of wood to build a large panel (See this step).

I trimmed the panel to size using a power miter saw.


Right: I installed the panel raiser bit and I did three passes to cut the panel as shown.

Panel raised bits are large bits (mine is almost 3-1/2” in diameter). They must be used on a router table and the speed of the router needs to be dramatically reduced (about 14 000 RPM or less – check the instructions of the manufacturer).  You also need to make very shallow passed, no more than 1/8” at a time.

Left: I applied yellow wood glue on mating surfaces at the end of one rail. I used a plumber’s flux brush to spread the glue evenly.

I made sure the glue did not ooze in the groove which will receive the panel. Reasons for this will because clear at the next step. 



Right: I assembled the bottom right with the two sides and clamped them together temporarilly, just to hold them in place as I finishes assembling.

Left: I slid the panel in. Notice that it goes in dry. There is no glue to hold the panel in place. I floats in the groove. It is necessary to allow the panel to extend and contract without breaking the rails / stiles. This is why I made sure not to put glue in the groove during the previous step.

On this specific project, I will not be applying finish to the doors. However, if I was going to apply finish, I would need to do it before I slide the panel in.

Applying finish after assembly is asking for trouble: as the wood contracts, areas without finish will become visible. Believe me, this looks ugly.


Right: I installed the top rail. It fit snuggly. After this step, I checked for square, made the necessary adjustments and clamped rails and stiles in place. I let booth door dry overnight.

After the glue cured, I installed a 3/8 radius beading bit on the router table and treated the edges of both doors with it.

Experienced cabinet makers often prefer to machine the edges of rails and stiles before assembling doors. I prefer that approach for large doors. However, these doors were relatively small (about 11” x 1’1′) and I felt more secure holding the end of the door when routing edges than I would machining a short and thin piece of 3/4” stock. 

I sanded both doors with 220 grit sand paper and installed them on a custom cabinet. (See this step)

Tools Used:

  • Power Miter Saw 
  • Router (minimum 2HP) / Router Table
  • Matched Rail and Stile bits
  • 3-1/2” Panel Raiser Router bit
  • 3/8 Radius Beading Router Bit
  • Power Sander    
  • Clamps 
  • Basic Carpentry Tools

Materials Used:

  • Poplar 1-1/2” x 3/4” 
  • Poplar 3/4” (Glued Panel)
  • Sandpaper 220 Grit
  • Yellow Wood Glue


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