Jigless routing of MDF panels

Finding a low-cost method for making raised-panel doors out of MDF. January 3, 2001

Is there a good way to make raised panel doors out of MDF without spending $5000 on a jig? I want the ability to make doors fast when I need them and also to make parts for mantels.

Forum Responses
You need a collar or spacer on the router as you go around the door, to space the path of the cutter bits so they line up to make the desired cut. How far from the edge of the door do you want the inside of the RP? How far from the door edge do you want the door bead? I use the Ritter system, which uses a circle of plastic on the router. When I make an oversize door or wall panel, I put it on a work table and hold the MDF panel in place with 2x4s screwed to the table.

I also had to find an inexpensive way to make MDF doors. So I cut two pieces of MDF about 35 inches long. Then I attached narrower pieces along the length of them. The first pieces were about 5 inches wide. The narrower pieces were about 3 inches wide. Then I cut the door to size and used the pieces I made for a template along the length of the door. I made shorter pieces for the ends the same way. On a flat piece of plywood, lay the door down and screw the long pieces down. This gives you a template for a plunge bit to ride against.

With this method, you can make about 7 or 8 of these doors an hour, after you make your templates. You might use half a sheet of MDF making your jigs. Drill holes and coutersink them through the jig.

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

Comment from contributor A:
I have seen your problem and the way I overcome this is to make a template out out 3/8 or 1/2 MDF, cut to the pattern required but slightly larger, and use a router with a collar. The only problem afterwards is cleaning up prior to paint. The only way I achieved this was to start with a medium sandpaper and work my way to a very fine grade.

Comment from contributor B:

Porta Nail and Bosh both make an inexpensive door jig. Saves you the setup time for making the doors and affords you to make arched cathedral or square doors in no time at all.