Build Your Own Interior Doors
Loose-tenon joinery and applied moldings keep door construction simple and strong.
Synopsis: When cabinetmaker Paul Levine decided to make full-size doors for his own house, he took on a big project. After a bit of thought, he devised a door-building plan requiring no special tools or processes. Levine assembled his doors with loose-tenon joinery and needed only one dado-blade setup to cut the grooves for both the tenons and the material used for the panels. Moldings were applied after the doors were complete. Levine’s process can be applied to create doors with a variety of different molding and panel-layout options.
As a cabinetmaker, I build doors all the time. But when it came time to make doors for my house, I cringed. Full-size doors have little in common with their cabinet-size counterparts. They are thicker and heavier, requiring beefy joinery to stand up to the strain of their own weight, not to mention daily use. So after making the first of the 11 doors I needed, I realized that the joinery and assembly methods I was using were not going to fly. I agonized for a few weeks but finally came up with a good plan that didn’t require special tools or processes.
A typical interior door is assembled with dowels, which provide lots of surface area for a strong glue bond, but the two-part setup of dowel jigs makes them fussy to work with. My design provides for just as much glue area as a doweled door, but it requires only one cutting operation instead of two. With one dado-blade setup, I can cut grooves to accept the loose tenons as well as the 1 ⁄2-in. plywood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF) used for the panels. The frames, panels, and tenons are then glued together. To eliminate fussy alignment work during glue-up, I let the stiles and tenons run long,…