Making Cathedral Doors Rutland VT
West Rutland, VT
Fair Haven, VT
Making Cathedral Doors
Making Cathedral Doors
A complete recipe for making beautiful cathedral raised-panel doors.
by George Vondriska
Cathedral raised-panel doors are beautiful, but they can be intimidating to make. After many years of teaching students how to make these doors, I’ve got a trick or two up my sleeve to simplify the process and remove some of the fear factor. Here’s a tried-and-true recipe to help you safely and successfully make beautiful doors.
There are a few specialized tools you must have to make cathedral doors. Start with a suitable router table. It should be equipped with a 2-hp or higher variable-speed router that accepts 1/2-in.-shank router bits. You’ll also need a bandsaw or jigsaw for cutting the curves and a set of door-making router bits. The bits and a template set will set you back nearly $400, but they are a big part of what makes this technique airtight. The good news is the router bits are not specific to cathedral-top doors; they can be used to make any frame-and-panel door.
You’ll need a two-piece matched rail-and-stile set (about $135) to make the frame. It’s easier to get good results with a two-piece set than with a one-piece reversible bit. With a two-piece set, you feed all the pieces face down. Reversible bits use one arbor with removable cutters. Some parts are machined face up, others face down. This often results in poor alignment between rails and stiles. Plus, it’s a hassle to have to change cutters on the arbor. Bits with a 1/2-in. shank will produce less chatter and a smoother cut than those with 1/4-in. shank.
First, cut all the frame pieces (see “Sizing a Door, below”). For a good-looking, stable door, make the frame from straight-grained wood.
Next, on your router table, set up the end-grain cutter for machining the rail ends. Cutting end grain before long grain helps prevent blow-out on the rails. Here’s a memory device for you: Machine the Rails before the Stiles, because R comes before S in the alphabet.
Mark the back of all the frame pieces. They get machined with their good faces down, so you should be looking at the mark on the back for all the cuts.
Note: Run the end-grain and long-grain cutters at full speed on your router.
Photo 1: Set the height of the end-grain cutter against a test piece in the coping sled. The cut should leave a shoulder on top of the piece that’s twice as thick as the lip on the bottom (see Photo 4). You can tweak the height after a test cut.
Photo 2: Set the fence even with the face of the ball bearing. A straightedge makes quick work of this job.