Set-ups For Making Raised Panel Doors

Rigs, jigs, and customized equipment for high-volume raised panel door production. April 10, 2005

We need to make hundreds of doors a month. I can efficiently make the door frame by sending stock through the moulder and cutting to length, and then doing the cope cuts on two shapers with counter rotating spindles and CopeEZ sleds.

My dilemma is that I can't find a safe way to shape the raised panel. The panels are narrow (6") and won't feed through with the power feeder. Router table setups are crude and I feel unsafe for high volume work.

I know a feed through shape and sand or double end tenoner is the way to go, but the budget doesn't allow for it at the moment. Outsourcing is positively not an option either. Quotes I've gotten for doors in the past are more than our finished product wholesales for.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor L:
I make raised panel doors myself. I have 3 dedicated shapers, cope, stick and panel setups. Having the counter rotating cope sounds intriguing, being able to cut lengths of stick and then coping. I always cope first then run the profile, anyway. My setup for my panels is as such. A Delta 3HP shaper with a Delta (36-850) stock feeder. I can shape any panel width I want, as long as I have 1/4" of flat left for the wheels to grip on. You have to cut the end grain first and then the length. This way you will have more panel for the wheels to ride on. Set it up so that the center wheel is in line with the arbor shaft. You should be able to do narrow panels. You may have problems when both the width and the lengths are very short. In that case, make a reverse profile of your panel cutter and use it to hold down the panel at the rear on the 3rd and 4th cuts (with the grain cuts).

From contributor B:
When I'm running small panels, I lay them up so that I can get two panels out of one. I run the ends first, then the long edges. Then I split the panels and use a radial arm saw with a panel blade. I set up a fence to use like a feather board and use a push stick to feed them. There's no kick back and your fingers are in the clear. A radial arm saw is cheaper than another shaper with a feeder. And it works well for production and the result is the same as a shaper.

From contributor I:

I use the Weaver 3-shaper setup with power belt drive feeders on the stick shaper and on the panel shaper. I have run panels through less than 5" in width, with ease.

From contributor R:
I would make a panel wide enough to make three doors, run them through the shaper to form the ends, then rip them to correct width and form the lengths.

From contributor G:
We run a fair amount of narrow panels. I removed the fence and bearing from in between the panel raiser and backcutter and replaced it with a shop made wooden fence that runs all the way through the cutters. It is nothing more than a 3/4" thick by about 3" wide piece of oak. It is notched out to clear the spindles and bolts to the shaper top. It fits in front of the factory dust hood. I also run Weaver shapers. A belted feeder is a necessity for small or narrow parts. I think Weaver offers a metal fence similar to the wooden one I made. Only disadvantage of my fence is that it has to be removed to change backcutters. But it is very easy to remove a replace. With this fence you can use narrow boards (which are easier and cheaper to get) for the panels. Eliminates gluing up and ripping apart.

From contributor G:
Forgot to mention, I had to notch out the top and bottom of the fence to make it thin enough (shy 1/4") to pass in between the cutters.

From contributor O:
I don't understand why your feeder will not run a 6'' wide piece of material. 6'' wide is not narrow at all. Swing the feeder out of the way, set the fences up correctly and hand feed it. Out of the hundreds of doors a month, how many have a 6'' panel? My 9'' cabinet has a 7'' door and that 7'' door has a 3 1/4'' raised panel. It hand feeds fine when out feed fence is correct, not catching the work and not sniping when the work falls off the out feed fence. A sharp cutter and it's a walk in the park. These "counter rotating shapers" you mean you do one rail cope cut on one shaper, then do the other end of that same rail on another shaper, that is turning counterclockwise, so that the tear out is always on the outside of the door. If you want to stick first, why not just climb cut your cope? Arkansas Wood Doors will ship you just the panel if you don't feel safe doing them yourself.

From contributor W:
Line up your narrow stock against a straight edge and run strips of tape on the face. This will make it so you can run it through the power feed.

From contributor Y:
For narrow width panels, we close the shaper fence as much as possible, then attach a 1/4 inch by 2 inch piece of hardwood the length of the shaper fence that is cut out at the cutter opening down to 3/4 plus the dimension you want your panel edge. (Usually 1/4 inch.) Then we lay a plastic laminate covered piece of plywood as an auxiliary top. This butts up to the 1/4 by 2 inch piece on the fence and allows a piece of the fence to continue through the cutter opening 1/4 above the auxiliary top with the panel raiser above. We then use a four-wheel feeder with two wheels on either side of the cutter, which allows us to bring it as close as is possible to the shaper fence. We run the ends first, then the lengths. This works well for us.

From the original questioner:
Thank you all for your responses. I am going to make an auxiliary fence that's shaped so the cutter can pass through it, and get it as close to the rub bearing as possible. Since we used glued up panels, I guess I could make them 2 or 3 wide, then rip them and send them through lengthwise.

From contributor B
I have a Unique machine and it does a great job of end cuts. That said, if you have a lot to do and no machine, I would take two or three panels and tape them together, then run as a whole. I do this for short rails - works like a charm. Simple 2" masking tape is all that is needed. You might need to apply tape to both sides for panels, but for rails I only tape one side then run through the shaper with a power feeder.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor D:
I would suggest checking out the Panelmaster II from RBI. It can make a door in 2 minutes and 6 inch doors are a breeze. There is no way to get your fingers into the cutter. It is extremely safe and it doesn't cost that much more than a good shaper.