by Alden Miller
Determine the size of the
What do you need to know? Are they going to be overlay or inset/Euro
style doors? Is it a pair of doors or just a single door? How
much overlay is called for at the sides of the door(s). How much
overlay at the top and bottom of the door(s). If they are inset/Euro
style doors, how much reveal is called for at the top and bottom
of the doors? How much is called for at the sides. For both traditional
and inset/Euro style, if these are double doors, how much of
a gap do you need between the doors.
Height: Opening Height + Top Overlay + Bottom Overlay
Single Door Width: Opening Width + Left Side Overlay + Right
Double Door Width: (Opening Width + Left Side Overlay + Right
Side Overlay Door Gap) / 2
Height: Opening Height - Top Reveal - Bottom Reveal
Single Door Width: Opening Width - Left Side Reveal - Right Side
Double Door Width: (Opening Width - Left Side Reveal - Right
Side Reveal - Door Gap) / 2
What kind of wood makes
a good door? I prefer quarter-sawn kiln dried wood for all parts
of the door if possible. If I can't use quarter-sawn for the
whole door, then I try to use it for the rails and stiles. This
is especially critical when you are making doors that will have
glass panels or very thin panels (1/4"). Plane all the wood
to the same thickness, prepare a couple extra pieces of scrap
at the same time.
Plan ahead! I like
to make my doors with one inch extra on both ends of the stile
during manufacturing. The extra on each end of the stile helps
prevent blowouts while mortising and keeps the finished ends
of the stiles protected while the doors are being made. You can
vary this amount from nothing up to an inch or more, it is up
to you. If you have an extra wide stile and your mortise does
not come close to the end then you do not have to leave this
extra amount on each end.
Grain orientation, I lay the stiles out
in front of me face up. I try and orient the grain so that looking
at the face of the stile it runs downhill from left to right.
This will help later to prevent tearout when routing the sticking.
I use a router table and cut moving the board from right to left.
If you have a reversible shaper or another way of cutting the
sticking then you may figure out the best orientation for your
cutting method. If the grain changes direction, play the percentages
and orient the board so the largest percentage of grain on the
face of the board runs downhill from left to right.
Lay out your mortise positions.
I run my mortises from the bottom of the miter on the sticking
to the sticking cutter depth (SCD) from the finished end of the
stile. To do this you need to know the cutter depth of the cutter
you will be using for the sticking and the width of your rails.
If we say that your SCD is 1/2", the outer edge of the mortise
would be 1/2" in from the finished end of the stile. Figure
where the inner edge of your mortise (the end that is closest
to the center of the door) goes, work in from the end of the
stile. Add the width of your rail (RW) and any extra length (EL)
you have added for manufacturing (I use one inch as explained
in the previous paragraph) and then subtract your sticking cutter
depth (SCD). The calculation is RW + EL - SCD. For a door with
a 2" wide rail, 1" of extra length, and a sticking
cutter depth of 1/2" the distance would be 2 1/2" i.e.
(2" + 1") - 1/2".
The miter you are cutting in
the sticking is at 45 degrees so it will be a right triangle
you are creating that is why if you subtract the sticking cutter
depth you will be right at the bottom of the miter. If you are
getting fancy and cutting your miters at other than 45 degrees,
the math is up to you.
Figure where the outer edge
of your mortise (the end that is closest to the outer edge of
the door) goes, again work in from the end of the stile. Add
any extra length (EL) that you are using to the distance from
the outside of the finished end of the stile to the SCD. On a
cabinet door I go in from the finished end of the stile the distance
equal to the SCD. The calculation is EL + SCD.
Mark where the inner edge of
the rail is on the stile, add the width of your rail (RW) and
any extra length (EL) you have added for manufacturing. The calculation
is RW + EL. I actually find it more convenient to mark this on
a couple of pieces of scrap wood to use for setting up the miters
Some people will also mark
where the actual stile ends on the stile before cutting. I find
that this extra line is confusing and unnecessary.
If I am making a few sets of
doors that have the same size rails and am using the same cutter
for the sticking I will make some layout sticks. Layout sticks
make for repeatability, I make one that is the distance in from
the working end of the stile to the outer edge of the mortise.
This is the first layout stick. The next one I make is the distance
from the outer edge of the mortise to the inner edge of the mortise.
. This is the second layout stick. I will then lay the stiles
on edge (inside edge facing up) and butt them up against my saw
fence. I then make sure that they are perpendicular to the fence
using a square. I lay the first layout on top of the stiles and
flush with the saw fence. I mark the inner face of the stiles
along the edge of the layout stick. I then put the second layout
stick on the stiles right next to the first layout stick and
make another mark on the stiles.
Cut the Rails and Stiles
Make sure that you
cut the ends of the rails and stiles perfectly square. Double
check that your saw blade is perpendicular to the saw table and
that your miter gauge is square to the saw blade.
I make my mortises
referenced off of the front face of the board, the face that
will show when the door is completed. That is, the front face
should be placed against the fence of the mortising machine or
drill press that you are mortising with. In doing this you should
find that any errors that you make in your setup would show up
on the back of the door.
I set the depth of the mortise
to a little bit more than the combined depth of the sticking
and the tenon length. If you have room in your stile width, you
may go a little deeper so you don't have to be as fussy cleaning
up the bottom of the mortise. The mortise width should be one
third the thickness of your stiles.
Take the time to center your mortise on the edge of the stiles.
I use scrap pieces that are planed to the same thickness as the
rails and stiles I am using. I make sure that the mortise is
on center by cutting some test mortises and verifying the set
up of my Hollow Chisel Mortiser at this time. It may sound like
overkill but I sometimes use calipers to measure the wall thickness
on each side of the mortise to make sure I am centered. You can
also cut a mortise in one of the scrap pieces that you planed
to the same thickness, turn it around so the other face is against
the fence and cut a second mortise next to the first. When the
two mortises line up, the cut is centered. I find that I get
a better-looking door with less sanding if I take my time at
this step of the process.
This also is based
off of the face of the board. If you planned ahead correctly
when you did your layout you should be all set for some smooth
cutting. Cut some extra pieces at this point, you will use them
to set up the mitering later. I cut the sticking on a router
table face side down. I cut my sticking in three passes, the
first is a light scoring cut with a depth of about 1/32".
The second cut is about 1/32" short of the full depth of
the sticking. The final cut removes the last 1/32" and leaves
a very smooth finished product.
Accuracy counts! Again
you should work off of the face of the board. This will depend
on how you are cutting your tenons. Whatever method you are using
cut the tenon cheek on the face side first. You can test the
alignment of the tenon in relation to the face of the door with
just the face cheek cut. Take a stile that has been mortised
and hold it face side up, hold the rail in which you cut the
tenon cheek face side down. Place the tenon cheek against the
face of the stile next to the mortise. Check the alignment of
the face of the rail with the face side edge of the mortise.
When these edges line up you will have a smooth joint on the
face of the door.
When I cut the tenons I cut
a scoring cut around the faces and edges of the rails first.
The cuts are the distance of the length of the tenon minus your
saw kerf from the fence. This way the inner edge of the cut (closest
to the center of the rail) is the length of the tenon from the
end of the rail. I cut the face cuts to a depth that will leave
the thickness of the tenon in the center of the rail that I am
cutting. For a 3/4" board with a 1/4" thick tenon my
depth of cut is 1/4". The depth of cuts to define the edge
of the tenon is the same as the SCD.
After the scoring cuts are
completed you may cut your tenons to their finished thickness
and trim the waste off of the top and bottom edges of the rails.
Mitering the Sticking
Tilt your saw blade
to 45 degrees. Using the pieces of scrap wood that you cut the
sticking in earlier set the blade height to the sticking depth.
That is to that only the sticking is mitered (hence the name
mitered sticking). Setting up the fence for these cuts depends
on whether your saw blade tilts to the left or to the right.
On a right tilt saw blade with
the fence on the right side of the blade. The distance to the
fence for cutting the stiles is measured from the left side of
the blade to the fence. That distance is calculated (RW + EL).
For rails, the distance is (Tenon Length (TL) + SCD).
For a saw with a blade that
tilts to the left that can move the fence to the left side of
the blade you calculate the cut distance the same but measure
that distance from the right side of the blade. If the fence
on your left tilting saw can't be used on the left the measurements
are calculated as follows. For stiles it is (working stile length
- EL - SCD). For rails it is (working rail length - TL - SCD).
After the sticking on the rails
has been mitered they are complete. You may need to trim the
shoulder of the tenon with a chisel so you get a tight fit but
that depends on how you removed the waste from the tenon.
To trim the waste from the stiles I use my tablesaw I set the
fence distance to the stile width minus the SCD. I raise the
blade all the way up and wear a full-face shield. I've heard
that this can be done on a band saw but I don't have one that
tracks straight enough for this task. I cut the sticking from
the stile and stop my cut just before the bottom of the saw blade
hits the edge of the miter on the bottom of the stile.
There will be a little bit
of wood that you need to remove with a chisel left from this
operation. This will be at the base of the miter. The saw blade
is circular so it leaves a little bit of wood on the topside
of the cut. When you remove this excess, pare it down. Resist
the temptation to pop the whole piece of waste off at once. Especially
if you are cutting into the grain, I have found that you tend
to get a little divot in the edge of the stile right at the base
of the miter if you are too aggressive at this point. For the
final cut removing this waste I hold the flat side of the chisel
against the stile and pare the last little bit off. Remember,
if you take off too big a piece at this point your chisel is
likely to dive into the stile and give you that nice divot.
Now you are ready to
assemble your project. Slide the tenons into the mortises and
check the fit. If you left extra length at the end of the stiles
I trim this off after the door has been glued up. If the miters
don't quite close, sometimes the top of the tenon is hitting
the top of the mortise and preventing the miters from closing,
pare a little bit off of the top of the tenon to allow the miter
to close. To check the squareness of the door, measure the diagonals.
When the diagonal measurements are be equal, the door is square.