Half the fun of making doors is deciding what kind of panel to use with them, and the list is endless. Once you have conquered making door frames or more specifically, cabinet door frames making the panels to go in them is often far less challenging. In our video we show how to make raised panels but this is only one of many possibilities. I have seen fabric panels, mirror panels, clear glass panels, stained glass panels and many varieties of simply plain panels of different specialty woods.
Making raised panels appeals to a large number of people because they are one of the "traditional" panels that are used in furniture and cabinet making, particularly kitchen cabinets. By mixing and matching wood some very striking alternatives are possible.
Making raised panels on a router is not difficult but there are some basic rules and techniques to follow. First and most importantly be sure to invest in a good quality panel cutting bit. Of course it will need to be carbide tipped but should also have the blade at a shear angle to make a better cut of the wood and to save wear and tear on your router. Freud bits are an excellent selection for raised panel bits.
Once you have decided on the type of wood you are going to use for the raised panels you will need to know 2 things, 1) what is the moisture content of the wood? and 2) what is the "wood movement" or wood expansion going to be for the wood and the environment that the cabinet will be in.
Because wood absorbs and releases a certain amount of moisture, this absorption and release of moisture makes the wood physically expand and contract. The expansion and contraction over the depth of the wood, such as a 3/4" thick piece of wood is not significant ... but the expansion and contraction of the same piece of wood across the grain, we'll call it the width of the board, or lets say 14' could be quite significant. If there is not space enough for the wood to expand and contract into 2 things can happen, 1) if the wood dries out too much it can actually show a gap between the panel and the door frame or 2) if the wood can expand too far along the width, it can actually break the glue joints of the door panels. Always make sure you leave enough space for the panels to expand into.
The second consideration is to when actually cutting the raised panels. First of all you will need a good powerful router of at least 2hp, and a good router table with an adjustable fence. Once the bit has been installed in the router and is set up in the router, you will probably need to make a few passes before the door is finally cut. It is wise to only make smaller cuts along each side so as to not bog the router down too much and risk burning it out.
The other major point to remember is to MAKE SURE you ALWAYS star your cutting of the panel starting with the "against the grain cut". The reaso for this is that if you start with this cut and rotate your way around the panel in a anti clock wise way, the last cut you make will be with the grain. This will ensure your cuts are the cleanest they can be and will help reduce the amount of sanding you will have to do.
And the last note is really a reminder ... never, never, never use a mitre gauge in conjunction with a router - router table combination. Instead, always use a 90 degree square push block (usually a scrap piece of wood). Using a mitre gauge on a router table is inviting problems, so avoid this at all costs.
If you follow all these suggestions and time/tried tips you too can make some great looking panels for your cabinet doors.
Copyright - Colin Knecht