Canadian Woodworking

Raised panel doors

Author: Danny Proulx
Published: February March 2004

Make Raised Panel Doors and Drawer Faces with Your Table Saw

You don’t need routers or shapers to build beautiful doors. Raised panel doors and drawer faces can be made using the table saw.

Before you begin, you need to calculate the door and drawer face sizes. If you’re making a double door cabinet using hidden European style hidden hinges, add 1″ to the door opening width and divide by two. If you’re making a cabinet with one door, the interior width plus 1″ is the final door size.

For example, if the opening width, from inside stile edge to inside stile edge (or side to side in the case of frameless cabinets) is 27 1/4″, then you’ll need two doors that will be 14 1/8″ wide (27 1/4″ plus 1″ divided by 2).

Remember to use the smallest interior dimension. In the case of face frame cabinets, when the stile-to-stile width is less than the side-to-side width, use the smaller dimension.

The door height can be any dimension, as long as it overlaps the upper and lower cabinet rails by at least 1/4″. The drawer face is normally 1″ higher and wider than the opening, so with a 5″ high opening and a 27 1/4″ inside width is 6″ high by 28 1/4″ wide.

Cut Grooves in Stiles and Rails

The stiles and rails require a 1/4″ wide by 3/4″ deep groove centred along the inside edge. Set the saw fence 1/4″ away from the blade face that’s closest to the fence and make the first pass. Then, reverse the board and make the next pass. This procedure will centre the grooves on all rails and stiles. If there is a little material left in the middle of the groove, align the blade for a final cleaning cut after the two cuts on all the boards has been completed.

Cut Tenons

Typically, rails and stiles are 3/4″ thick by 2 1/4″ wide. The rails require a 1/4″ thick by 3/4″ long tenon centered on both ends. Use the miter gauge on your table saw to cut these tenons. It’s simple to cut accurate tenons with a stacked dado blade so I’d suggest you invest in this versatile blade set for your table saw.

Glue up Boards

Glue up enough 3/4″ thick boards to make the doors and drawer center panels. Use simple edge-glued joinery, or add biscuits. Be careful of the biscuit placement so they won’t be exposed when the panel is raised. Door panels are normally 1/8″ less than the inside width and height of the doorframe (measured from groove bottom to the opposite groove bottom).

Clamp a Straight Edge

Clamp a straight edged hardwood board across the table saw blade. Use the miter slide to align the board 90º and across the center of the saw blade when it’s fully lowered.

Cut Panels

Raise the blade 1/32″ and run all four sides of each panel slowly across the blade. Repeat this step until the panel fits snug, but doesn’t bind, in the stile and rail grooves. Take it slowly and be careful because the blade is exposed.

Assemble and Glue

Assemble the door and drawer faces using glue on the tenons only. Do not glue the center panels, as they must float during expansion and contraction of the wood.

Clamp the assemblies until the adhesive sets up.

Floating panels can rattle. To prevent that, use small pieces of door weather stripping (a common soft foam strip that’s available in hardware stores). Put a couple of strips in each groove before inserting the panels. The door is square when both diagonal measurements are equal. Adjustments can be made before the glue sets by lightly tapping the “long” corner-to-corner diagonal measurement, until both are equal.

Drill Hinge Holes

Drill two 35mm diameter holes in each door, 1/8″ from the edge. I normally space my hinge holes 4″ from the top and bottom.

There’s an easy way to mount doors accurately each and every time. First, mount the hinges and the hinge plates on the door in their 35mm holes using 5/8″ long screws. To get the door to cabinet spacing, place a 1/8″ thick strip of wood between the door and the cabinet face frame (while holding the door in its normally “open” position). Then, hold the door in place (in its fully opened position relative to the cabinet) and put two screws in each hinge plate into the cabinet side.

Remove the door and hinges from the hinge plates and finish attaching the plates to the cabinet side.

Depending on the hinge style, you may have to increase or decrease the spacer. And, as you know, the European hinge can be adjusted in three directions so you can fine-tune the installation after fitting the door.

The only exception is the wide opening hinge (such as the 170º hinge). In that instance use a 100º to 120º hinge to mount the doors and locate the hinge plates. When the plates are mounted, exchange the normal hinge bodies for the 170’s (the plate position and style is identical for both).

The simplest way to align the drawer face on the box is to select the handle you will be using and drill holes in the drawer face only. Hold the face in place and drive screws through the handle holes to temporarily secure the drawer face. Open the drawer and attach the face permanently using screws from inside the drawer box. Finally, remove the screws in the handle holes and drill through the drawer box. Install the handles after a finish has been applied.

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