Stave-Core Door Methods

A discussion of construction details and materials choices for fabricating stave-core solid wood doors. February 5, 2007

I am building a heavy exterior door with mahogany, and am curious about the stave core method. My understanding is that this method is for creating stable door stiles, true? What is the correct procedure in making stave core parts, and is it safe to use hard maple for the core of a mahogany door?

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor J:
I have made many mahogany doors. Started off using a solid 1 3/4" mahogany stile, but quickly found that finding straight boards to mill was time consuming and costly (wasteful, too). You can use anything, basically, for the core, but keep in mind that it may have different seasonal change than wood of the same species. For my mahogany doors, I use either Philippine or African mahogany for the stave core. You can glue up boards the same length of the stile with your finish wood on the outside pieces. Then rip the big block on the band saw to get your stave core. After straightening on the jointer and planing it to desired thickness, glue on your nice faces. You'll probably have to make some sort of caul for clamping the faces on. This is an important part to get it nice and flat and get good glue squeeze-out.

As you can see, the process is time-consuming. You can also get a thick stile by gluing two boards together after alternating the grain direction. Then joint it to get it straight. The stave core will stay straight and will use less of the premium face material, but it does take longer.

For glue, I use DAP Weldwood glue. If it is too hot, it dries very fast when gluing up the faces, so go quick.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I am still thinking of using hard maple for the core since my client insists on having the most rigid door possible. I also like Titebond III for this application.

From contributor K:

I would not recommend maple as a core, especially for an exterior door. You can buy clear pine stave core for a much more reasonable price than making it yourself unless you are really tooled up. If you want to make your own, lower grade Honduras, Philippine or African mahogany, or Spanish cedar would be good choices. White pine is good too, although I am not convinced of the rot resistance of the pine we get these days. I think straight-grained Honduras mahogany is one of the few woods that can be relied on to make a stable solid door, if used with care, but the trend these days is toward using an engineered core.

From contributor Y:
Contributor J mentioned DAP Weldwood glue - do you mean the plastic resin (one part with water) or the two part resorcinol?

From contributor J:
It's the plastic resin glue. There might be something better for gluing the stave cores and faces, but that's the glue I settled on. I've used it on many projects including 50 mahogany entry doors over the past 3 years. No problems yet.