Tooling Up for Door Production

A discussion of the ideal machinery setup for efficient production of cabinet doors on a regular basis. February 26, 2007

I'm looking to ramp up door production in our small cabinet shop. Right now we're making mostly shaker style doors using our table saw and a router table. Is a shaper and tennoner set up the next logical step up? Or is there another tool set up more specific to door production that would be more efficient?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor D:
I am doing the same thing. Primarily shaker style doors and what I did was to buy 3 shapers - one for the cope, one for the stick and the third for panels.

It all depends on your budget and the amount of doors you do on which setup is the best. A weaver setup is excellent. Personally I bought 2 3hp Grizzly's and 1 3hp Shop Fox. They are mechanically identical to each other. However you go for shapers, buy quality insert cutters and a sander if you don't have one and you are set.

From contributor J:
I agree with the multiple shaper setup. If you’re doing mostly shaker doors with flat panels two shapers are good - one with a powerfeed for running your sticks, and the other setup just to cope the ends. If you’re going to be doing raised panels often, then the 3rd shaper would help.

From contributor R:
There have been many discussions about this on this forum. Statistics will show that it is not cost effective in the long run to make your own. My door supplier will deliver to me with my doors for $20 each for a ply panel shaker in oak or soft maple. When I get them we give them a once over with a palm sander and start finishing. That means I spend less time building doors and more time building cabinets. I make a whole lot more money building cabinets. The way I like to think of it is that my supplier is an extension of my shop; they are my employees at a remote location. They have dedicated millions of dollars in equipment to make only doors and make them better than I ever could with shop tools.

From contributor S:
We build our own but charge a tremendous mark up on it. If you do not have that market ability there is absolutely no reason to build doors yourself. It is not even close to being equal in price and time savings compared to outsourcing. If you do decide to build instead of outsource you only need two shapers. You can stack the cope and stick on one spindle with a powerfeed and crosscut sled and leave it set up permanent.

From contributor D:
I started to make my own doors too because it seemed like every other job had a door come either damaged or some other thing like: 5 pc drawer fronts - some panels were put in 90 degrees to the rest of the fronts.

Hickory doors - hard to control the final look and many doors were not balanced well between the dark and light wood.

Inset doors - as we started doing more jobs with inset doors, I find it easier to fit them to the face frame when I build them myself than to trim them to fit after I inbox them.

Small jobs - when you get smaller requests like a Teak or Walnut Vanity, Bar, or an entertainment center with only 4 or 6 doors, it is easier to make them than to fill out the paperwork and then wait 2 weeks while the job could be done and then un-box everything.

If a door is damaged or delivered wrong and it ties up getting paid on a job by a week because either the install was backed up or you had to bore for the hinges, spray it, glaze it, topcoat it all by itself and return 60 miles to the jobsite to install it you end up losing money too. Many times those costs are never weighed. I have used many of the best companies in the country but all of them are run by humans and do make mistakes.

From contributor J:
If I were going to make, the PanelMaster II by Hawk Woodworking is the only tool I'd consider. All three cutters are on a single horizontal shaft. It is very safe, reliable and has plenty of power. I've made doors on these and there's no downside except that it takes a few minutes to change the cutters. You can make the cope and stick cuts and raise the panel in about 2 minutes, literally.