Door Making


The first step in any traditional door making is getting the stiles. Stiles must be good material, stable, and straight. It can take a few steps. Especially when ripping wider stock.

This is the preliminary joint prior to ripping. I want two nice full dimension stiles out of this piece of Honduran mahogany. I am anticipating some stress relief so I am planning to get as much as I can in size so that I can joint again after ripping this in two.

In this case, after ripping I let the parts sit for a while to get happy with their new size. Then I face and joint again, and surface to finish dimensions.

While waiting I chopped out a template for the curved top rail. This works ok. Good enough for my level of work – so long as I remember to add in the diameter of the router bit!

The trouble was worth it. Got nice clean and straight stiles. Now onto the mortiser. The bottom rail mortise is split. One wide mortise is weaker.

Every mortise needs a tenon. So here we go. This is the top rail. I splined two parts for this.

Now I am getting ready to cut out the radius. I have a full-scale drawing underneath just to make sure things come out right. The template is used to mark for sawing.

I am sawing wide of the line.

Now the part is screwed to the template. The lower collar rides the template and the knives – red – cut flush to it giving a nice regular curve.

As much as I love my chain mortisers, they can’t make these itty bitty square mortises required for the bars and muntins.

Meanwhile, I splined a v-joint panel. Here it’s being sized. This will need a lot of room to expand and contract in the panel slot.

This is a super expensive door so I am dry fitting everything. I don’t want to have any surprises when it’s time for glue.

Here we go. I chose not to use the door clamp on this one. (This door clamp is under the bench.)

Now it’s time to grind a little set of knives for the glass bead. I want it just so, so I need to grind. Plus, I want a lot of side relief on the knives for the curved shaping that comes next. Knives are being balanced here.

Here we are cutting out a blank to make two curved glass beads out of. The nail is the pivot point.

I old-schooled it here and ran up against the solid collars. I do both sides of the blank.

After kerfing I am back at the band saw and the pivot – relocated the width of the glass bead – swinging the arc and separating the parts.

Hey, they fit!

I put the bead around the panel too. One reason I fussed with grinding the bead is that I wanted a 32nd flat at the joint. To my eye, that created the right reveal in a half inch glass bead. Miter trimmer is my friend.

I saw and flush trim the stiles using the same template.


Doors of excess height and or width need to be thicker than normal to resist being springy.

So here we go severing fiber again. This time Douglas Fir. With thick Fir like this one has to be wary of drying defects. Often this stuff is run in kilns with smaller dimension which the kiln is set for and it’s not quite what the heftier dimension needs in terms of conditioning, etc..

That’s right. Jointing, jointing , jointing. The jointer is your flat door friend. Your happy customer friend.

Stiles that don’t work out and cut offs are matched and glued into rail stock. The red end slashes tell me quickly the grain direction which I have matched in both parts of the glue up so that they are consistent. Nothing is worse than boards glued without attention to the grain when it’s time to joint or plane. Tear out city.

A pair of doors! Well not quite. Close.

After trimming the stiles it’s time for Pig Pen the Mortiser to make some holes. The tenons will be 3/4 thick so we have a 3/4 bar on Pig Pen. Pig Pen is pretty tough. I have had larger heavier parts here (garage doors) but Pig Pen doesn’t care.

As a door maker I detest 3 point hardware like this. It is an insult. When it’s spec’d someone is telling you your door will not be flat. But Pig Pen doesn’t care. He’ll cut mortises for anything.

Here we are roughing out the tenons on the pedal saw or Combination Saw and Dado machine.

Now we are on to the tenoner for a fine precise machining of the tenon and it’s shoulders.

The width of the doors is gauged at the tenoner. There is a spring stop in that rail.

The stiles are slotted for the panels. In this case an 1 1/4 panel slot and a 3/4 slot for the tenon haunch. Often the panel slot is the same width as the tenon which makes a slick system. But here I want my face to panel dimension the same as to glass so I can use the same bead. You’ll see.


Here are the left and right segmented arch top rails. Yet to be haunched.

This is getting a look at the haunched tenons, etc., doing a dry fit.

Hey, it’s a door almost. Panels like this need a bunch of room to expand in width so we have a nice deep panel slot.

With slight radii, the glass bead can be bent and glued.

The bead also goes around the panel.


Also called true divided light doors since the advent of fake lights, or grids, or grilles, that simulate divided panes, are doors in which a wood member, a bar and a muntin separate the panes of glass. Bars are through members, from side to side or top to bottom while muntins are the smaller parts between the bars and stiles or rails. Stiles are vertical through members (sides) separated by the rails horizontally.

(As an aside, “grilles” can be a very fine attribute to a door in bronze or iron.)

In the discussion of the No 3 1/2 Sash Sticker I show the running and set up of an ovolo sticking suitable for use with insulated glass. So I will skip that here. I want to move along to fitting muntins.

Before running the muntins, I dry fit the rest of the parts. Just one door for each size height under way. I take it to the tenoner and fine tune the size of the muntin so that when put in place rabbet to rabbet shoulder as shown, they will not drop out. A tight friction fit. If too big they will distort the bars (the thin verticals in the picture) which is not good. In fact it’s embarrassing to a door man to have crooked bars. I endeavor to be as accurate as I can at mortising so that I can use one size for the three openings. If you have to fudge one, mark it with a crayon so you know where it goes later. Best to keep uniform as that makes the glazing real simple.

At assembly, things are going well when you need to put a slight pinch on the muntins in order to get the opposite stile started in the mortises.

All that fuss so that when later on arrives, each pane fits uniformly and each stop when cut uniformly also fits. All my mitering takes place on the Houston Combination Saw and Dado machine.

Salvaged wood from a building destroyed to make room for something different comes to life in a new pair of doors.


These are a pair of 2 1/2″ Douglas Fir barn doors. One on the bench and one being shipped. Similar to site made carpenter doors, layers are used. In this case, I used two and made a lap jointed frame from 2″ material and then added a 5/4 cap.

These are hinged so stronger joinery was required than for typical nailed together doors on a track.

The panels are v-jointed and splined. From 5/4 for impact resistance.

There must be deep rabbets to allow for expansion and I choose to secure wide panels in the center to split the movement and to prevent wholesale relocation of the panel.

The glue and screws are limited to two inches or so to allow the stile to move with the humidity. The rabbet in the overlay makes a large weep from the panel rabbet to the door bottom. This is a mechanical joint.


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