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Shed Doors 5: Raised Panels


Last summer, I added a small shed to my old garage. I hung some temporary plywood doors, and built the real doors in the shop here at American Woodworker. Here are links to the first four parts of the story: Shed Doors 1 and Shed Doors 2 and Shed Doors 3 and Shed Doors 4.

I've made the frames, and now it's on to making the panels. I was lucky enough to have one huge 4/4 board, 13" wide and 12' long–enough material to make all four panels. (Knowing I would use this board, I designed the doors so they would have 13" wide panels-not 14"!).

Here's the lumber storage and rough-cutting area in our shop at American Woodworker. It's a luxury to have this much space, but even so, I've found that the best setup for cutting roughsawn boards is to use a mobile sawbuck, like this one from Ridgid, a 12" slider, such as this Milwaukee, and a vac, such as this monster from Oneida.

Sawbucks are designed for jobsites, of course, but theyr'e so easy to move around that they're ideal for a shop, too. The outriggers stretch out to accomodate just about any size board, and can easily be pushed back in to make the unit more compact for storage.

After cutting the board to make four panels, I stood the pieces up behind the doors to decide which sides would be the faces, and which pieces would go on the left, and which would go on the right.

Hmmm...This is the kind of decision best not made in haste, isn't it? I left the doors standing like this for a few days, and shifted the panels around now and then before making a final decision.

I noticed that my plan wasn't working for how the grain would run in the lower rails. Here, the peaks point inward, visually  compressing the door. That looked kinda dumb. Fortunately, the rails are interchangeable, so when I actually glue the doors,  the peaks  will point outward, spreading the door.

I guess I like a door that says, "Open me," instead of one that says, "Close me." If that makes any sense. This stuff can drive you nuts!

Of course, the panel boards were cupped and twisted, so I resorted to an old chestnut to flatten them out. I put them on a  dead flat 10" wide sled, made from laminated 1/2" MDF. I put playing cards under the high corners so the board no longer wobbled, taped the cards in place, and ran the whole assembly through the planer.

Darned if it didn't work. Once the top side was flat, I removed the sled, turned the boards over, and continued planing. The panels started out at a full inch thick and ended up at 3/4".

The grooves for the panels are only 1/2" wide, so I routed a very wide rabbet all the way around the face of the doors. I used a large diameter  bit made by Freud that cut the rabbet all in one pass. In width, that is-it took a number of cuts to get to the right depth.

Here's the result. The rabbet is 1-1/4" wide and 1/4" deep. This method sure beats using a dado set, the way I used to do it, because it leaves such a smooth surface. The outer blades of a dado set leave score marks, which must be removed with a rabbet plane or by sanding.

One big complication: the top panels have curved edges. This bit doesn't have a bearing on top (which is why it can make such a wide rabbet), so I had to make a curved fence to guide the cut. No problem. I traced the curve of one of the door's upper rails on a piece of MDF, cut and smoothed it, and used that as a fence. The top of the door nested against it perfectly. I also place a piece of 1/2" plywood under the curved board to raise it above the bit.

Of course, this plan wouldn't have worked if the curve was elliptical. It's circular, laid out with a huge trammel. I'm not sure how I would have handled an ellipse-but then I didn't have to. Maybe I'll paint myself into that corner next time!

After shaping, I finished the panels with a smooth plane. But not just any plane. After saving for years, I had recently bought this baby-a Lie-Nielsen 4-1/2. Oh my. This is hand tool heaven.

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