Fabricating Solid Wood Panel Entry Doors

Should the center panel be glued up, or built of tongue and groove pieces that allow movement? Pros share ideas and techniques. November 19, 2005

I have some doors to build, interior, 1 3/4" x 3' 0 x 8'. They are a single panel door, rail and stile on outside with 3 plank panel. My question is, should I make each panel a tongue and groove so they can float separate of each other or glue them up as 1 panel and cut a v-groove between them? They are rustic white oak, stave core construction. Also, has anyone ever used a 1/2 plywood core panel and glued 3/8"-1/2" planks to the core? Would this work or would the planks try to move too much? Would the planks would be about 9" wide then?

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor K:
This is a recipe for disaster. If you are using solid wood, you must allow for movement.

From contributor G:
Do not glue the planks to the plywood. If you glue up the panel and v-groove it, it will move as one wide panel. If you tongue and groove three separate panels they will each move only 1/3 as much as a solid panel. I would use three separate panels.

From contributor D:
The door below is a 42"x 96" door I made for a customer. Itís basically a cope and stick with a floating panel. I glued up my planks (4" wide each) and then ran my v-groove down each side where the 4" panels came together. You have to be careful not to make your panel too thin, because after you groove it there won't be much glue joint left to hold it all together.

Click here for full size image

From contributor Y:
I would glue up the panels just as you would for flat panels and then v-groove them after sanding. This prevents a lot of glue squeeze out issues that you would have to deal with if you pre v-groove them - as long as you provide room for expansion at the sides and ends it will work great. I use a shop built jig for a router to travel in to do the grooving.

From contributor V:
To contributor D: I was just wondering why the door knocker was off center, rather than v-grooving the panel to have a full plank centered.

From contributor D:
The door knocker was an after thought for the customer. She found it when shopping in Mexico, the door was already done and in the finishing room. This was my first attempt at a v-groove panel door and the customer wanted 4" planks. Since itís a 42" wide door thatís the way it came out. I have since reconfigured the number of planks in the field. We didn't want to mount the door knocker in the groove in fear of splitting the panel.

From contributor H:
The company I work for has used both methods with success. I wouldn't use plywood, I'd use MDF for the cores but only on interior doors. If you have a press large enough to laminate the planks to the cores, you shouldn't have any problems. It boils down to labor costs/customer expectations.

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

Comment from contributor S:
The problem is a result of non-organized labor. Tile and wood should always go before trim unless itís a floating wood floor, thatís the only exception. Jamb saws are made for remodeling, not production construction. Beyond that Union contracts state tile setters need not carry saws other then a wet saw.

The way Union organized labor is set up, roughing comes first, then plumbing, electrical and carpentry. Drywall, first paint, flooring, trim, plumbing, and final paint come after that. There is no way to guarantee a tight fit of tile under a door jamb. The substrate may not be level, have thin set cures and change height.

This also makes me wonder about what people know about mud or claim to know about mud. Real mud is a combination of Portland sand and water. The floor is shot with laser lines for mudbed height and then screeted and dragged raising floor height. This leaves you the option of hardballing (leaving it to dry and set another day) or fresh set (tiled and grouted the same day while working on planks and left to cure over 48 hours).

This in itself tells you tile goes first. You couldnít mud a floor around doors, cabinets, etc and some mud beds are 6" in height depending on the conditions. To tile a floor up to cabinets is absurd. You have to cut tight to the toe kicks and grout up to it as well. The grout cracks as a result of the change in temperature of the wooden toe kick. What happens when the home owner wants new cabinets? Now you need a new floor as well.

When a tile floor is installed you tile wall to wall within less than 3/4" of walls and plates, this way the base, shoe, and doors cover all tile leaving no exposed rough edges. If you were to have tile base as opposed to wooden base and shoe would you tile the base first before the floor? Not a chance.