Stave core construction
Stave core stiles and rails are made by
gluing thick face veneers onto both
sides of a glued-up core. The core is
made from plainsawn pieces that are
ripped to width, turned on edge and
face-glued. This technique creates flat
stress-relieved boards that won’t bow
or twist. In addition, these boards are
essentially quartersawn, which minimizes
This technique requires more lumber
than using solid wood. To make both
doors, you’ll need about 50 bd. ft. of 4/4
stock for the core and about 20 bd. ft.
for the veneer. I decided to use mahogany
for the entire core. You could save
money by making the cores from less
expensive wood, such as poplar, as long
as you use your primary wood for the
outside pieces on both edges.
Start by picking out your best-looking
boards to make the face veneers. These boards should have tight, straight grain
and be at least an inch wider and several
inches longer than the finished stiles and
rails. I cut my veneer just over 3/16" thick. Using 4/4 lumber, you’ll get
three pieces of veneer from each board.
It’ll take two 6" pieces of veneer to cover
each face of the bottom rails.
A drum sander is the perfect tool to
surface the veneer. You’ll get very consistent
thickness and no tear-out. A planer
with a sled to support the thin veneer
will also work.
Next, rip the core staves to 1-7/8"
widths, turn them on edge and glue
them together face-to-face to create
1-7/8" thick blanks. Glue up these
blanks at least 1/2" oversize in width. I
glued together seven pieces for each
stile and top rail, and thirteen pieces
for each bottom rail. This leaves plenty
of material for flattening and squaring
the glued-up blanks.
Use short pieces of angle iron to help
keep the staves flush during glue up. Let the cores dry overnight,
then scrape the excess glue from one
face and flatten it on the jointer. Surface
the other side with the planer and finish
at 1-1/2" thick. Now that both faces are
flat, joint one edge and then rip to at
least 1/4" wider than the finished core.
Next, apply the veneer. I took the
time to make I-beams from 3/4" MDF
to assure that my glued-up stiles and
rails would be perfectly flat.
The beams are 4-1/2" tall and about
1/2" wider than the core; they’re glued
and screwed together—it’s important
to assemble them on a flat surface.
These I-beams distribute the clamping
pressure evenly over the entire surface
of the workpiece. After the glue dries,
trim off the excess veneer and rip the
stiles and rails to their finished widths.
Set up for routing
Routing the stiles, rails and muntins
requires precision and accuracy, so it’s
essential to practice the entire process
before you machine the actual parts.
Use test pieces of poplar or other stable,
inexpensive wood to make a corner
joint and a couple muntins so you get
the hang of how everything works.
Start by checking your router table:
When the bits are installed, they’ve got
to stand perfectly square to the table
for the joints to fit correctly. Install
1/2" drill stock in the router’s collet
and check for square front-to-back
and side-to-side. Slip shims
between the router’s base and the
table’s mounting plate to make any
Next, make a set-up board from
stock that’s exactly 1-3/4" thick—the
same thickness as your finished stiles
and rails (this piece will be used to position
the coping cutter in the next step). Install the stick cutter and set its bottom
slot cutter 9/16" above the table. Then set the fence flush with
the bit’s bearing. This bit
takes off a lot of wood, so clamp 1/4"
thick spacers to the fence, so that your
first pass makes a partial cut.
Remove the spacers and make another
pass to complete the cut.
Rout tenons on the rails
and horizontal muntins
The rails and horizontal muntins are
the same length, so plan to rout their
ends at the same time. It’s easiest to
rout the muntins as a wide blank and
rip them to width later. Decide which
face of each board is the front and
which is the back and mark them.
Then lay out the tenons.
The shoulder on the front side is 1/2"
deeper than the back. Install the coping
cutter, using the set up board to
set its height. Set the fence
for a partial cut and rout all the pieces.
Then reset the fence and rout to the
layout lines. You’ll have
to make several passes. Use a backer
board clamped behind the workpiece
to avoid blowout on the back edge.
Before you remove the coping cutter,
make a coped sled to support the
muntins during the next routing steps:
Rout the edge of a 5" wide by 30" long
board that’s exactly the same thickness
as the rails and muntins and fasten a
stop block on the back end.
Install the mortising bit to square
the back side tenon shoulders on each
board. Use the same process
to rout the ends of the vertical
muntins. The vertical muntins all have
short tenons (1/4"), because most of
them mount in the horizontal muntins.
Rout the long-grain profiles
Install the stick cutter and rout profiles
on the inside edges of the rails and
stiles, and also on the muntins. Follow the same two-step process
you used to create the set-up block.
For the muntins, rout one edge of the
wide blank and then rip off a 1-1/2"
wide muntin. Repeat this
process to cut the rest of the muntins.
To safely rout the remaining profile
on each muntin, insert the shaped edge
in the coped sled you made earlier. As
you did when routing the other profiles,
take off half of the waste on the first
pass. On the final pass, clamp both of
the 1/4" spacers to the outfeed fence,
to provide support for the muntin.
Make sure you clamp the spacers high
enough to allow the profiled edge of
the muntin to pass beneath.
Finish the tenons
Bandsaw the rail tenons to final width.
On the outside edges, cut a 1" haunch on
each tenon. On the bottom rails, divide
the wide tenon into two narrower tenons,
leaving 1-1/2" between them.
Cut the mortise
Lay out the mortises on the stiles and
rails. The rail mortises are
only 3/8" deep. My tenons ended up
being slightly less than 5/8" thick. No
problem. I used a 1/2" Forstner bit in
the drill press to get rid of most of the
waste, and then finished cutting the
mortises with a 1/2" hollow mortise
chisel. Lay out and cut the
mortises in the horizontal muntins in
the same way. Install each muntin in
the coped sled for support and clamp
it in your workbench’s face vise to chop
the muntin mortises.
Make retaining strips
for the glass
Remove all the slot cutters from the
stick cutter and replace them with the
supplied spacers. Figure out how thick
the retaining strips will need to be by
measuring the depth of the glass recess,
and subtracting the thickness of the
glazing tape and the glass. Mill a wide
board to the resulting thickness, minus
1/8". Rout both edges and
then rip the retaining strips free.
Start by gluing together all the
muntins and the top and bottom rails.
I used Titebond II Extend, a waterresistant
glue with a long open time.
Apply the glue with a brush to both
surfaces of each joint. Then assemble
all the pieces. Clamp one or both
stiles in place, without glue, to hold
the assembly square until the glue
dries. Complete the door
by gluing on the stiles.
I found it easiest to glue and clamp
them one at a time.
Before you buy glass, check local
building codes—exterior doors may
require tempered glass. Instead of
caulking each piece of glass, apply
glazing tape in the rabetted recesses. Install the glass
and secure it by nailing in the
Click any image to view a larger version.
Glue up the stile and rail cores, using angle
iron to keep the boards flush. The cores are
made from 3/4" thick boards that are ripped to
width and face-glued.
Complete the stave core construction by
gluing the face veneers onto the core. Shopmade
I-beam clamping cauls guarantee perfectly
Install the stick cutter to make a set-up board.
Raise the bit until the bottom slot cutter is
9/16" above the table’s surface. This positions
the bit for making joints in the 1-3/4" thick
stock used to make entry doors.
Router bit set for making French doors
Freud’s French door router bit
set includes the three bits I used
to make my doors: A stick cutter
for cutting the long-grain edges of
the stiles, rails and muntins, a coping cutter for creating
tenons with profiled shoulders on the ends of the rails and muntins,
and a large mortising bit for rabbeting the back shoulders of the tenons on
the rails and muntins. The set also includes a straight bit for plunge-routing
mortises and a muntin joint bit for making grids for doors with simulated
divided lights. This set can be used to make both 1-3/4" thick entry doors
and 1-3/8" thick interior doors.
Rout the profile in two passes. Clamp spacers
to the fence to limit the cut on the first
pass. Routing this profile in a single pass
removes too much material.
Install the coping cutter to rout tenons with
coped shoulders on the ends of the rails. Use
the set-up board you made earlier to set the
cutter’s height and position the fence.
Rout to the layout lines by making multiple
shallow passes. Set the fence for one shoulder
and rout all the boards. Then set the fence for
the other shoulder and go again.
Square the back shoulders of the rails and
muntin stock with the mortising bit.
Rout profiles on the inside edges of the rails
and stiles and on one side of the muntin blank
with the stick cutter. Follow the same procedure
you used to create the set-up board.
Rip muntins from the wide blank one at a
time. Rout the blank’s edge and rip again.
Rout the remaining profile on each muntin
using a coped sled. Mount a spacer to support
the muntin when you make the final pass.
Lay out the mortises on the stiles. Drill out
the waste using a Forstner bit.
Square the mortises and widen them to full
size with a 1/2" hollow mortising chisel.
Glue on the stiles one at a time. These doors require water-resistant glue, as they’ll be exposed
to the weather.