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How to Build a Custom Entry Door with Insulated Glass Panel - Part 2 of 4

91-525 Rail and Stile router bits for entry doors

Making an entry door is easy when you have the right tools and use the proper techniques. One of the key components of success is a Rail & Stile Router Bit Set for Entry & Passage Doors. In Part 1 of our Entry Door project, I showed you how I go about milling all of the pieces so they're straight, square, and smooth. Today, we'll focus on the proper procedure and tools for cutting all of the joinery to create a strong door assembly.

Part 2 - Joinery

Since we're using the rail and stile router bit set, most of the joinery is done automatically when routing the pieces. The rail and stile router bits create a stub tenon that fits into the groove on the inside edge of the stiles. To give the door added strength, I opted to use longer tenons on the rails.

With all pieces milled to final thickness, width, and length it's time to cut the tenons. I used extra-long, extended tenons on all of the rails. This creates more glue surface and a stronger door assembly than the stub tenons the rail and stile router bits create by themselves. This extra tenon length is important to take into account when cutting your rails to final length. I created 2"-long tenons by rough-cutting the tenon at the table saw using a Dadonator, 8"stacked dado blade.

Tenons roughed out on the table saw Remove the bulk of the material on the rails to create tenons. A Dadonator dado blade makes quick work of this task.

To finish the cope cuts on the ends of the rails that mate with the profile on the edges of the stiles, I used the extended tenon cutter (91-525TC) at the router table. Even though I'm making a 1-3/8"-thick interior-sized door I made the extended tenons 1/2" thick and left the door-making router bits set up to create a 1/2" panel groove. This is the usual setup for an exterior door, but provides a 1/2" groove for the insulated glass unit I'm using. The Shaker or Mission Rail & Stile for Entry & Passage Doors router bit sets give me this flexibility because the beveled profile is simple. What this means is that creating the 1/2"-wide groove removes some of the profile without losing any detail. If we tried to use this setup with the Ogee Rail and Stile router bits, part of the ogee profile on each side of the door would be lost.

Because the bottom rail of the door is 8" wide I made a custom coping sled for my router table using plywood, cutoffs from the milled poplar, and a pair of toggle clamps (Item 100-520). I adjusted the height of the extended tenon cutter to rout the tenon to final 1/2" final thickness to fit the groove in the stile. This bit simultaneously cuts the 15° bevel to properly mate with the stiles.

Shop-made coping sled

Extended tenon cut at router table using sled A shop-made coping sled accommodates the wide door rails and holds them secure when routing the extended tenons.

The next step is to rout the stile profile cuts along the edges of the rails and inside edges of the stiles. I did this at the router table. This large-diameter router bit removes a lot of material so you'll want to make sure you have a larger, variable-speed router mounted in your router table. I recommend a 2-1/4hp or larger router. It's also a good idea to use featherboards or other hold-downs to keep the workpiece tight against the table and fence. My favorites are the Jessem Clear-Cut Stock Guides (RTF-SG1).

When making these profile cuts in the rails and stiles, I'm not concerned about the rabbet that will hold the glass. We'll cover that in a bit. Go ahead and rout the profile in all the pieces as if they were receiving a wood panel.

Shaker profile cut on door stile The profile cut is made with the stile cutter in the rail and stile router bit set. This profile is routed on the inside edges of the rails and stiles. It mates perfectly with the cope cut on ends of the rails.

The tenons in the top and bottom rails need to be notched (or "haunched") so the tenon doesn't extend all the way to the end of the stile, which can weaken the joint. The most important thing to remember here is that a stub tenon fills the groove in the stile.

Laying out haunched tenon Some material needs to be removed from the tenons on the top and bottom rails to fit the mortises at the ends of the stiles.

The top rail is notched back 3/4" of an inch. The bottom rail has a 1"-deep notch. To cut the notches I marked them out, leaving 7/16" of material to fill the grove in the stile. I made the cuts at the table saw using a 1/4"-Kerf Flat-Top Blade (080-250), and nibbling away the material while using the table saw rip fence as a stop.

Cutting the notched tenon at the table saw A 1/4" flat-top saw blade makes a square, clean cut to remove the waste material on the tenons.

With the routing of the rails and stiles complete and the tenons cut to size, all that's left is to chop the mortises in the stiles for the rail tenons. There are several options for making the mortises — from a dedicated mortising machine to a straight router bit with a fence. I decided to cut them using the "drill and chop" method. I laid out the location of the mortises, removed most of the waste by drilling overlapping holes with a 7/16" brad point drill bit, and finished up with a sharp chisel. I chose a brad point drill bit over a Forstner-style bit because it does a better job of clearing waste and reaching deep into the 2"-deep mortise pocket. I also used the drill press with a fence to guide the workpiece. This guarantees the holes are straight and square to the edge of the workpiece.

Mortise cut in door stile The mortises were created by drilling out the waste with a brad-point drill bit then trimming to final size with chisels. The groove serves as a guide for sizing the width of the mortise.

Milling the stiles before mortising creates a groove that serves as a guide to keep the mortises straight and square. With all mortises cut, the frame pieces are complete. Now, dry-assemble the frame, double-check all of the dimensions, and make sure the assembly is square. As you fine tune the mortises keep a ruler handy and make sure that the rail is square with the stile. It's easy to chop the mortise at a slight angle which causes the rail and stile to not fit together properly, resulting in a door that isn't flat or square.

Assembled door frame After dry-assembling the door (without glue) and checking the fit of all the joints, measure for the raised panels.

With the frame dry-assembled, measure and mill the two raised panels for the lower portion of the door. Remember, these panels need to float in the frame and have room to expand and contract with seasonal changes in humidity. Here in Florida our humidity—while high—stays fairly consistent year round so I leave about 1/8" of space on all sides of the panel. I also use Entry Door Spacers (101-288.1) to keep the panel from rattling or shifting. Depending on where you live, the species of wood you choose, and the time of year you build your door, you may want to add more or less room between the frame and panels.

Door raised panel blanks milled to size Be sure to account for seasonal expansion and contraction when sizing the panel blanks for your entry door.

Because of the spacing between my frame and panel I'll be swapping the bearing on the top of my raised panel bit with the one that comes in the Infinity beading conversion kit (BCK-002). By switching to the smaller bearing I increase the length of the tongue on the panel and keep the profile fitting just right in the frame.

Small bearing on raised panel router bit Using a smaller bearing on the raised panel router bit creates a longer tongue to fit more securely into the door frame.

The door panels are raised on both sides. I take several passes, flipping the panel and milling both faces before raising the bit height. Take your time and sneak up on the final fit of the panel in the door frame's groove. Because the panel is milled on both faces, any height adjustment made to the bit will be doubled, so make very small adjustments.

Measuring thickness of panel tongue Rout both sides of the panel to create a 1/2"-thick tongue to fit the groove in the door frame.

Don't rush and overshoot or the panel will be loose in the frame. It's better to make one or two extra passes than to rush and take too much off and have to start over. You're goal is a 1/2"-thick tongue when all is said and done.

If you find the panel fits too tight, try making a second pass without changing the bit height. If that doesn't work raise the bit just a hair. We're looking for snug, sliding fit without being tight.

Completed raised panels for entry door After routing both sides of the raised panels, you can test their fit in the door frame.

With the panels milled its time to dry-fit them into the frame to check for a good fit.

Items Used:

SDB-800 (video) Dadonator - 8" Dado Saw Blade Set 

91-525TC Extended Tenon Cutter for 91-525

00-523 Entry & Passage Door Router Bit Set

100-520 Auto Adjust Toggle Clamps

100-069 iGaging Premium Steel Rules

101-171 Colt 7-Pc. Twinland Brad Point Drill Bit Sets

00-700 Narex Premium Bench Chisels

101-752 Narex Premium Deadblow Mallet

BCK-002 Beading Conversion Kit

90-501 Ogee Raised Panel Router Bit 

DCF-001 iGaging 6" EZ Cal Digital Caliper

101-288 Entry Door Spacers, 500 Pack

If you missed Part 1 of our series where we show you how to prepare the stock for making your door, click here.

Be sure to check out Part 3 where we show you how to reinforce the joinery and prepare for adding the hardware and glass.

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