Tools and Materials
You'll need a tablesaw, a small handsaw, a router table and a 1/8" slot cutter with a bearing that makes a 3/8" deep slot (a 1/2" deep slot is OK, too). Slot cutters and bearings are widely available. I used a three-winged version from Amana tools (#53406-1,524).
If you're making lots of doors, you may want to use an adjustable cutter. You'll only have to make one pass per slot, rather than the two passes shown in Photo 6. Most adjustable cutters use shims, but there is one that can be dialed to various widths, the Amana E-Z Dial slot cutter (#55500, $109). It makes 1/8" to 1/4" wide slots that are 1/2" deep.The door shown here is made from 3/4" thick solid wood and 1/4" MDF-core plywood, but you can use this technique with any type of plywood or material of any thickness.
Rip and crosscut the stiles and rails so they have square sides and ends. Note that the rails butt up to the stiles. Make an extra stile or rail for testing the router setup. Mark the stiles and rails (Photo 1).
Rout Slots, First Pass
Install the slot cutter in the router table.To approximately center the slots on 3/4" material, raise the cutter 1/4" above the table. Exactly centering the slots isn't important. Align the fence so it's flush with the bearing (Photo 2). If your router table is equipped with sliding subfences, push them within 1/16" of the cutter. This makes routing end grain safer and more accurate.
Rout 3/8" deep slots in each stile and rail, face-sides down (Photo 3}. Rout slots in the end of each rail, face side down (Photo 4). Push the rails with an 8" square backer board.
Rout Slots, Second Pass
Figure out exactly how much wider the slots must be to fit the plywood. Hold a small piece of plywood next to a test piece's slot and mark the plywood's thickness (Photo 5).
IMark the door's parts using the cabinetmaker's triangle. It identifies the top and bottom rails, and the left and right stiles.
2 All the joints for this door are cut on the router table. Set up a 1/8" siot cutter so its bearing is flush with the fence.
3 Rout 1/8" thick slots the full length of each stile and rail. Refer to your marks to be sure each face side is down and the inside edge is against the fence.
4 Rout slots in the rails' ends. Push each rail with a backer board. This steadies the rail and prevents tear-out on its back side.
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