Divided-Light Doors Barre VT
Add a masterful touch with classic glass doors.
by Tom Caspar
Anatomy of a Divided-Light Door
Three major parts make a divided light door: stiles, rails and muntins. Every part is locked in place by a mortise-and-tenon joint. In this six-light door, the two horizontal muntins are the same length as the rails. Three short vertical muntins fit between the rails and horizontal muntins.
Although proportions vary among furniture styles, in this door the lower rail is 1-1/2 times as wide as the top rail. All the lights are the same size and evenly divided.
Tools You’ll Use
To build these doors, you’ll need a router table and a set of special bits (see Sources, below). You’ll also need a metric ruler, tablesaw, planer, jointer and some means of making mortises.
Design Your Door
Let’s start with some old-fashioned terms. The openings for the glass are traditionally called lights. They’re “divided” by bars called muntins.
Start by drawing your door. Determine the door’s overall size, the widths of the stiles, rails and muntins, and the size of the lights.
Next, select a set of divided-light door router bits. Each set is designed for a specific range of door thicknesses and requires a different setup, but the general steps are the same. Visit the manufacturers’ Web sites for details. We used bits from Freud ($150, see photos right). They’re suitable for doors from 13/16 to 1-1/8 in. thick with 5/8-in. or wider muntins. These bits make tenons; some other sets do not.
Start Cutting Parts
Mill all the door parts to final thickness (7/8 in. for this door). Make a few extra boards the same size as the rails. Use these for making the muntins and for testing the router bit and mortising machine setups. Crosscut all the pieces a few inches long.
Rip and joint the stiles and rails to final width. Cut the stiles to final length. Leave the rails and muntin boards long. The muntins will be 3/4 in. wide, but don’t rip them yet. Leave them as part of a wider board.
Two matched router bits cut all the profiles. The cope cutter shapes the ends of all the rails and muntins. It also forms a short tenon and a rabbet to receive the glass. The bead cutter shapes the long edges of the stiles, rails and muntins. It also forms a rabbet.
Both bits may be adjusted to fine-tune the tenon’s thickness. You simply take apart the bit and add shims above the bearing. These shims come with the bit and are stored under the nut and washers.
Determine the Length of the Rails and Muntins
Cut every part of the door to exact length in these steps. Use the actual stiles to calculate the precise length of the rails and muntins.
Photo 1: Cut two spacers to spread the stiles to the door’s final width.