Shopper Award

Quick Order


How to Build a Custom Entry Door with Insulated Glass Panel - Part 3 of 4

Drawbore pins Drawbore joinery creates a strong joint by drawing the raile tenon tight into the mortise in the door stile.

A strong entry or passage door boils down to the strength of the joinery. It all starts with milling all of the pieces accurately, as we discussed in Part 1. Next, we used entry door rail and stile router bit sets with extended tenon cutter to create the mating joinery between the rails and stiles. You can read all about this in Part 2. Today, we're going to go a step beyond the norm and add drawbore pegs to the mortise and tenon joints in the door frame. If you don't know what a drawbore joint is, read on.

Part 3 - Assembly Details

If you want to add even more strength to the door you can pin the tenons with dowels by using a method called drawboring. This is an old, time-tested technique where you drill a hole through the frame and a slightly offset hole in the tenon. A dowel pin is driven into the hole. The offset holes cause the dowel to draw the joint tight. This technique was developed before waterproof glues were invented so that exterior doors would last for decades with no worries of the joinery coming apart.

Hole for drawbore pin Drawbore joinery relies on offsetting holes in the rail tenon and door stile.

Here's the process I use to make a drawbore joint. Disassemble the door frame then mark and drill the holes in the stiles with a 1/4" brad-point drill bit. Fit the tenon into the mortise in the stile and use a 3/16" bradpoint bit to mark the centerpoint of the hole to be drilled in the tenon. When doing this,  press the drill bit against the edge of the 1/4" hole in the stile toward the center of the door. To guarantee a tight fit, it's not a bad idea to clamp the door up when marking the hole in the tenon. Using the 3/16" bit against the edge of the 1/4" hole makes the holes 1/32" offset from each other. Once the holes are marked in the tenons, remove the rails then drill the drawbore holes with the 1/4" drill bit at the centerpoint locations. The video below shows you how this is done.

To assemble the door, I used Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue because it's rated for exterior use. As you step through the final assembly to take your time and ensure that your door is square by checking the corners with a large square. Measure across the diagonals of the frame to make sure both measurements are equal.

Drawbore pin sharpened Sections of hardwood dowel make excellent drawbore pins. Sharpen them in a pencil sharpener to make them easier to tap into place.

As you insert the rails into the stiles, you can tap in the drawbore pins made from 1/4" oak dowel rod. An easy way to get the dowel pins to thread through the offset holes is to sharpen the tip of the dowel in a pencil sharpener. This gives the dowel a perfect taper. Once the dowels are in place, you can saw and sand them flush with the door frame.

Installed drawbore pin As the drawbore pin is forced through the joint, you can see how the offset holes help draw the joint tight.

At this point the door has a large opening where the insulated glass panel will reside but there's no way to install the glass. It's time to decide which side of the door is interior and which is exterior, then use a large diameter flush trim router bit to remove the profile on the interior side of the opening in the door frame.

Large-diameter flush-trim router bit The large bearing converts the rabbeting bit into a large flush-trim bit. The thin bearing fits into the groove in the door frame to create the rabbeted opening for the glass.

This creates a rabbet for installing the glass panel. After routing the rabbet the final step is to square up the rounded corners with a chisel.

Rounded corner in rabbeted frame The flush-trim bit leaves the corners rounded in the rabbet. Use a sharp chisel to square up the corner and remove the waste.

Don't be afraid to mark out your waste with a pencil or marking knife to be sure you get a nice, square corner. Remember a sharp chisel is a must.

Rabbet after cleaning up with chisel After the corners are squared up, you're ready to test-fit the glass panel in the frame.

Just like the raised panels I want just a little breathing room for the glass. I ordered my insulated glass panel 1/8" smaller in length and width, leaving a 1/16" gap all around. You can order insulated glass panels from a local glass supplier or any number on online suppliers. I ordered my 1/2"-thick insulated glass unit from They made the custom glass unit quickly and shipped it across the country with no issues.

My panel has frosted and tempered glass. This provides diffused light for my dark hallway and eliminates the concern over sharp shards of glass if it's ever broken.

Glass unit in door frame Test the fit of the glass panel in the door frame, but don't install it just yet. There are a few other details to finish first.

Check the fit of the door in the opening but don't install it just yet. There are some other things you need to do first.

For my door, I found a classic, 1920s-era mortise lock and decided to use it on my door instead of a modern doorknob. This vintage lock requires a 5/8" wide 3-1/4" deep mortise in the edge of the door. I used the M-Power Combination Router Base CRB7 (100-097) and a long, 1/2"-dia. up-cut spiral router bit (85-915) to make the mortise as deep as possible. I also made a quick jig from scraps from the scrap pile.

CRB7 router baseplate Use the CRB& router baseplate add-on for your router to make it easy to rout deep mortises.

The jig makes a wider supporting surface for the router. The blocks at the end of the jig acts as stops to create the mortise the proper length. The jig straddles the door and is held in place with a couple of clamps.

Shop-made mortising router jig A shop-built jig provides support for the router. The plywood blocks act as stops to limit the length of the mortise to the proper size.

I finished the mortise by drilling the remainder of the waste with a Forstner-style bit and then cleaning up the mortise with a chisel. The lock plate and strike plate are different sizes than their modern counterparts so I used the tried and true method of marking the outline of the plates with a marking knife and chiseling away the waste.

Planing a bevel on door edge Planing a 2-3° bevel on the latch side of the door frame allows the door to swing without binding on the door frame. Mark a line approximately 1/16" on the edge of the door that contacts the door stop in the frame. Then use a hand plane to plane to the line using the opposite edge of the door as your stopping point.

One last detail that needs to be added to the door is a slight bevel to the lock edge. This bevel of roughly 2° will allow the door to swing past the jamb without interference, especially in those more humid months where the door may swell a bit. It's easy to add this bevel using a hand plane. I set my marking gauge to mark a line 1/16" from the edge of the door then plane away the material by tilting the hand plane slightly to achieve the bevel. When marking and planing the door edge, you want to remove the material from the corner that will contact the stop on the door jamb. The knife line made by the marking gauge makes it very easy to see and feel when you have planed away the right amount of material. Just take light cuts and check your progress often.

Items Used:

101-744 Narex Birdcage Awl

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

00-700 Narex Premium Bench Chisels

010-124 10" Table Saw Ripping Blade - Thin Kerf

101-288.1 Entry Door Spacers, 100 Pack

01-875 Shark Corp. Dowel / Dovetail / Detail Saw

00-555 Rabbet Combo Kit

38-254 1/4" Roundover & Beading Router Bit

100-099 M-Power Side Fence Accessory For CBR7 Router Base

85-915 1/2" Upcut Spiral Router Bit

100-110 iGaging Wheel Marking, Mortise & Depth Gauge

101-632 Jointer Hand Plane

38-190 1/8" Roundover & Beading Router Bit

Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of our series on building a custom entry door.

2 thoughts on “How to Build a Custom Entry Door with Insulated Glass Panel - Part 3 of 4”

  • Jason D

    I am in the process of building exterior carriage doors for my garage. I used mortise and tenon joints with wood dowels to pin it. The doors are 5' wide x 9' tall and the opening is 10' wide x 9' tall. There is about 2' of glass at the top and a panel on the bottom half.

    Instead of using large rough sawn lumber I glues three pieces of 3/4" together so the door is 2-1/4" thick. I used grade A pine. I am looking to stain it with a semi-solid stain from Sikkens.

    Any tips or experience you can share with using stains on exterior doors? I am ok with having to reapply every two years, but don't want the wood to dry out and turn gray in a year. I am concerned with durability of the actual doors.

    • Andrew Gibson
      Andrew Gibson June 25, 2018 at 2:59 pm

      UV exposure is always the biggest issue with exterior finishes so I would definitely checking with the finish supplier as to their recommendations as to application and maintenance.

Leave a Reply