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Thread: Interior Door Questions

  1. #1

    Interior Door Questions

    Hi,

    I'm about to start building a couple of interior doors that will be roughly 28 X 80. These will be paint grade doors so probably looking to use mdf panels. The design will be fairly simple because my wife likes the mission style design. I have a few questions that I hope you guys can help with.

    1. What thickness do you typically use for the panel for a non-raised panel interior door? I was thinking 1/4" but should it be larger?

    2. Given that this is a simple mission style door, would you use tongue and groove or groove for the panel and loose tenon joints for the styles and rails (or cope and stick?)? I have a shaper and slot mortiser. If the answer is tongue and groove type joinery, would I have to increase the width of the panel in order to have a thick enough tenon on the rails and what is the minimum length of the tenon? If loose tenon is the answer, how big should I make the tenons (length and width)? One thing I'm really confused about loose tenons is how to make the grooves for panels without grooving the entire length of the stile....or do you?

    Thanks in advance for your help.

    Cheers!!
    Mickey

  2. #2
    Panel thickness will depend on how much of a rabbet you want to reveal between the rail/stile and the panel. Typical interior doors are 1-3/8" thick so a 1/4" panel will yield a 9/16" rabbet on either side. A smaller rabbet will require a thicker panel.

    As for joinery, cope and stick will probably not stand up over time. Loose tenons are the way to go, but keep in mind the thickness of the tenons does not necessarily have to match the thickness of the panel. The length of the tenon will most likely be dictated by the cutting length of the tooling for your slot mortiser, so basically as deep as you can mortise. For 5-1/2" stiles and rails, I find a 2" deep mortise (a 4" loose tenon) to be adequate. And lastly you don't run the groove the entire length of the stile. Your routing (or slotting) stops at or short of the mortises in your stiles.

  3. #3
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    For an interior passage door, I personally prefer a stouter panel and use nominal 1/2" material. It makes for a stiffer door with more mass and has other benefits, including less sound transmission, etc. Material wise, MDF is "fine" for the purpose, but I tend to use quality plywood "just because".
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  4. #4
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    I think your cope/stick tooling will dictate the panel thickness. If you don't use cope and stick you can make the panel any thickness you want. 1/2" is good for a 1-3/8" interior door. If you used 1/2" captured panels you would run a 1/2" dado the full length of the stiles. Then cut your rails with a 1/2" stub tenon on the ends to fit into those dados. Dowels or loose tenons will work with this approach. I use loose tenons and cut the mortises before running the dados. I use 5/8" thick loose tenons and cut the slots 3" deep in both the stiles and rails.

    John

  5. #5
    I would probably go with 3/4 on the panels. If the rest of the door is a wood that will show some grain after painting, IMO the panel should be wood.

    1/2" tenons and grooves. Do a rebate on the panel. This also allows you to fine tune the fit.

    I agree a door should have tenons. You can pin them for even more strength. but if you glue in the panel not necessary.

  6. #6
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    I make loose tenons 2.5" x 4-5" total. I saw a couple of surface kerfs in the tenons for glue to escape and use West epoxy unless yellow extend has enough open time. I will double up the tenons if I have the room. At least 1/2" for the panels. MDF is heavy enough that you don't need thicker unless you really want some mass to the door. I also use 4" ball bearing hinges. Makes a difference in the feel of the door when opening and closing. I also prefer maple for paint grade as it is less likely to ding when hit with the vacuum. Dave

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by John TenEyck View Post
    I think your cope/stick tooling will dictate the panel thickness. If you don't use cope and stick you can make the panel any thickness you want. 1/2" is good for a 1-3/8" interior door. If you used 1/2" captured panels you would run a 1/2" dado the full length of the stiles. Then cut your rails with a 1/2" stub tenon on the ends to fit into those dados. Dowels or loose tenons will work with this approach. I use loose tenons and cut the mortises before running the dados. I use 5/8" thick loose tenons and cut the slots 3" deep in both the stiles and rails.

    John
    Exactly, not the only way but the way I done this over the years. Straight forward and no fails. 1/2" plywood panels.

  8. #8
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    If you want super smooth panels that are stronger than MDF then use MDO, which has a plywood core with impregnated paper on the faces.

    John

  9. #9
    Thanks so much for all of the responses. Is there a good rule of thumb for the width of the rail and stiles? Is the bottom rail typically wider? I'm going to have one or two middle rails for either a two or three panel door. Are those rails typically the same width as the stiles? As you can see, I don't know spit from shinola......but I know I can learn from you guys.

    Mickey

  10. #10
    Conventional knobs will require a hole drilled 2-3/8" or 2-3/4" from the edge of the door, so 5 to 5-1/2" wide stiles work well. You want to keep the stile wide enough so the knob isn't too "crowded" on the stile. The stiles and upper rail are sized the same width. The bottom rail is usually wider because otherwise, it looks too thin visually. I usually make the bottom rail 1.5 to 2 times the other members' width.

  11. #11
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    Mickey, take a stroll through the door department (or your own home) and look at the typical proportions for the rails on passage doors. The bottom on is almost always a lot taller than the others, both to provide some space for trimming height and because it will look better from most common viewing angles. Some doors have a progression of three different heights for the rails in a typical configuration of a "two panel" door. (that includes those where the panel is further divided into "lights", glass or not) That's how the doors are in a friend/client's house and I had to duplicate that when I kitted out a couple of bi-folds for his kitchen pantry and coat closet so that they would look like they belong with the other doors. If I recall the bottom rail was 10" tall; the middle one was 8.5" tall and the top one was 6" tall in that particular case.

    And in the case of your home, if you're creating a new door, you may want to match the proportions of existing unless you plan on replacing all of them. Consistency is a good thing relative to design on distributed elements like this.
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  12. #12
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    When the design allows it, I like when the knob centers on the lock rail. If the rail is wide, 7-9", I use two 1.5-2" loose tenons spread towards the sides so you don't lose much when drilling for the lockset. I prefer the 2 3/4 backset for knobs and 2 3/8 for levers. 5-5.5" stiles for larger doors, 4.5" for 30-32" doors. Depends on if there is also a center stile to keep the proportions with the panels right. I fudge if the stock warrants it. Dave

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    Why don't you go to a lumberyard and look at their doors for ideas? You will be able to settle on how you want it to look quickly.

  14. #14
    One piece of information that would have been really helpful and I left out........these will be sliding doors on a rail (barn style slider). They are pantry doors and my wife wants them to match the style of the cabinet doors. The hardware won't be standard knobs. Sorry about leaving that out. It might simplify a lot of things.

  15. #15
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    You'll want to generally match the cabinet doors generally in proportion, but given the size of the doors, you'll still probably want the bottom rail taller so it doesn't look wonky and the top rail sized so it covers the need for the track roller assemblies, etc. Draw some sketches with variations until you and your "client" come to agreement.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

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