Order of Operations for Making Door Stiles

When making rails and stiles for cope-and-stick doors, do you shape the ends or the long sides of the pieces first? Cabinetmakers have different ways, and for different reasons. February 9, 2006

I'm in the middle of building 112 raised panel doors and I started thinking about what the correct sequence should be for shaping stiles and rails. I'm talking specifically to anyone who uses the regular old shapers or router tables and does most of it manually. Do you cut the edge profile of your material in bulk first, leaving the end coping for later? Or do you cut all your lengths first, cope the ends, and then cut the long edge profile? I've done it both ways, and I see pros and cons to both. If you cut the ends last, you have to use some type of blowout backer. If you cut the ends first, you don't need the backer because the chip out is cut off when you cut the edge, but if you need some short pieces, you are out of luck. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor A:
I cope the ends first, and then shape the long grain. On the short pieces, I make a fresh 3/8" thick zero-clearance fence on the shaper, and feed these very carefully with a push block, taking a few light passes to sneak up on the final profile.

From contributor B:
I cut the ends first but leave the stock wide, then rip pieces off. It's easier than trying to handle skinny parts and you can cut off tear out if needed, and then run the edges.

From the original questioner:
I've made doors both ways. I think contributor Bís way is probably the best as well. This time, since I had so many running feet of parts, I decided to rip everything to width and shape the long grain first. It works, but it is a little slower and the cut on the end cope is not as clean. In a different situation I would cut the ends first on a wide board and go from there.

From contributor C:
I always cut the cope then the bead. For those short pieces, leave the piece long enough for your machinery to handle it easily. Cut one cope then bead it. Cut it to length and then cut the other cope. If you do it correctly when you cut the last cope the bead should be first into the cutter so you don't get any tear-out of the bead. If I do the cope second, the quality is too low for my standards.

From contributor D:
I would cut to length, cope the ends and then run the stick. For short pieces I simply tape them end-to-end and run as a longer board.

From contributor E:
Cut, cope, and then stick. I clamp short stick cuts in a sled, like clamping the cope cut.

From contributor F:
If you are going to cope the ends last, you need larger diameter cutters to get a clean cut without blowout. A good smooth sliding sled is a must also, especially for short pieces.

From contributor G:
At our shop we usually make everything an eighth inch larger than final size. We cut our stile pairs and rail pairs as one piece, running both sides of the piece with the same profile. When you do this you ensure that the parts are all exactly the same size and the machining is done the same. If you want the stiles, say, two and a half wide, and you make your stile piece five and a half inches, you rip them after you run them and this gives you no problem with tearout. We then assemble the door and take it over to the vertical panel saw and cut the sixteenth of an inch off all sides, cutting the end grain first. This ensures a square door, and again, no worries about tearout.

From contributor H:
I always run the rails first because I usually am doing a run of 50 or 60+ doors and drawers and I can run the whole works thru the shaper in 8 or 10' lengths with the power feed. I then cut them the desired length and run all the copes through. I built a custom sled that has 2 hold downs and a backer that is cut with the cope profile to accept the rail profile. I run the one side through with this backer profile. Then I unbolt the backer, flip it around and turn the hold downs around and cut the other end. I have never had a problem with tear out doing it this way and it only requires minor sanding of the profile, as it would doing it the other way. Personally I wouldn't do it any other way. I used to do the copes first when I ran a router but now I don't need to. I run freeborn cutters and they do a great job and I run all my rail stock face down. I have also never once screwed up a piece or put the profile on the wrong side. That happened a lot with the old router setup.