When designing a door for an office or your home, it is vital to ensure that it lets sunlight in. Excellent designs are essential as they allow you to enjoy the view and make that grand entrance. Constructing your French doors requires a lot of planning up front, especially when there are many parts involved.

In this article, we will walk you through the whole process of designing and constructing French doors. Importantly, stave construction and traditional joinery are vital as they make the final product durable and stable, which should be the goal of having French doors.

It's vital that you carefully select the most durable material, such as white oak or mahogany. We used rails and stiles using stave construction, which is a building method that exterior door manufacturers use instead of solid lumber.

We'll also highlight a new router bit that is designed solely for French doors. This set includes specialized bits that will allow you to make rails and muntins with long tenons to achieve sturdy mortise and tenon joints. You will also need a router table that is equipped with a mid-sized router (about 2-1/4 hp) that has a variable speed control, a bandsaw, a table saw, a planner, and a jointer.

What Is a French Door?

Company French Door
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A French door is a door that has windows from top to bottom. When building a set of French doors, you must mill many parts, which requires some careful planning beforehand.

French doors should be made from rot-resistant hardwood, for example, mahogany or white oak. We chose mahogany simply because it has a rich reddish-brown hue that complements the stone and cedar shakes that surround the entryway.

Besides, you should ensure that your French door is stable. Stability is important as it is a major requirement for entry doors and you do not want to compromise on this aspect.

The Benefits of French Doors

Open French Door
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The following are the benefits of French doors

  • They allow for optimum sunlight entry
  • Provide an excellent view of your office
  • They are durable
  • They reduce monthly heating and cooling costs
  • They increase and improve the value of your home
  • They are incredibly functional for easier and additional accessibility
  • French doors are customizable
  • They are secure once you incorporate security locks
  • They can be used for window replacement
  • They create a smooth transition

Tips on Constructing and Installing French Door

Installing French Door
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Stave Core Construction

The stave rails and stiles are made by gluing thick face veneers onto the two sides of a glued-up core. You should make the core with plain-sawn pieces that are ripped to width, face-glued, and turned on edge.

This technique is vital in for creating a flat stress-relieved board that will not bow or twist. The boards are also quarter-sawn, which will significantly reduce seasonal movement. You will need more lumber than solid wood. To make both doors, you require 50 bd. Ft. of 4/4 stock for the core and a 20 bd. Ft. for the veneer.

You can save more money if you make the cores from wood that is less expensive, for example, polar, as long as you use primary wood for the outside pieces on the edges.

However, start by picking the best-looking boards for the veneers, and should also have a straight and tight grain and at least an inch wide and several inches longer compared to the finished rails and stiles. Cut the veneer to just over 3/16” thick. By using 4/4 lumbar, you get three pieces of veneer from each board. It will take 2 6” pieces of veneer to cover each face of the bottom rails. Drum sanders are the tools you need to use in surfacing the veneer.

You should then rip the core staves to 1-7/8″ widths and then turn them together face-to-face to allow the creation of 1-7/8″ thick blanks. Glue the blanks at least 1/2″ oversize in width. You can glue together seven pieces for each stile and top rail and 13 pieces for the bottom rail which leaves a lot of material for squaring and flattening the blanks.

You then need to use short pieces of angle iron that will allow you to keep the staves flush when gluing them up. You should then let the cores to dry overnight. Then you need to surface the other side using the planer and finishing it at 1-1/2” thick. You should then joint one edge and also rip it to about 1/4” wider than the finished core.

You should then apply the veneer and take time making I-beams from 3/4” MDF to ensure that the glued-up rails and stiles are flat. The beams should be about 1/2” wider than the core, glued, and screwed together.

Importantly, assemble them on a surface that is flat. The I-beams are vital in distributing the clamping pressure evenly. After the glue dries, trim off the excess veneer and then rip the stiles and rails to their finished widths.


Setting Up for Routing

The process of routing the stiles, rails and the muntins demands accuracy and precision. It is vital you practice the entire process before machining the actual parts. You can exercise by using test pieces of poplar or even any other inexpensive but stable wood to make corner joints and a couple of muntins so you can acquaint yourself with how everything works.

You should begin by checking your router table. Here, once the bits have been installed, they have to stand in a perfect square position to the table for the joints to fit correctly.

You should then install 1/2” drill stock in the router’s collect and also check for square on the front, back, and sides. You need to slip shims between the table’s mounting plate and the router’s base for adjustments.

Make up a set-up board that is 1-3/4″ thick, which is a similar thickness of the stiles and rails. Install the stick cutter and ensure the bottom cutter is 9/16″ above the table.

Set the fence flush with the bearing of the bits. Since the bit takes a lot of wood, clamp 1/4″ thick spacers for a partial cut. Remove the spacers and make another cut to complete the cutting process.

Routing Tenons on the Rails and Horizontal Muntins

Both rails and muntins are similar in length and should be routed at their ends at the same time. Decide which face is front and which is back and mark them.

Lay out the tenons, but the front shoulder should be /2″ deeper than the back. Install the coping cutter and set for a partial cut. Reset the fence and rout to the layout lines and then use a backer board clamped to avoid blowout on the back edge.

Make coped sled for supporting the muntins before moving the coping cutter and install a mortise but to square the back side of the tenon shoulders and repeat for vertical muntins, which are about 1/4”.

Routing Long-Gran Profiles

First, install the stick cutter and rout profile inside the rails and stiles edges. For Muntins, rout one edge of the wide blank and rip off 1-1/2” wide muntin and repeat for all muntins. For safe routing, insert the shaped edge in the coped sled. Finally, clamp both the 1/4” spacers for support.

Finishing Tenons

You should bandsaw the rail tenons to their final width by cutting a 1” haunch on each tenon. Divide the wide tenon into two narrower ones leaving 1-1/2” in between.

Cut the Mortise

Lay the mortise on the stiles and rails. Rail mortises should be 3/8” deep. Lay it out and cut the mortises in the horizontal muntins similarly. Install each muntin in the coped sled for support and clamping it in the workbench vise to chop the mortises.

Make Retaining Strips for the Glass

Remove the slot cutters from stick cutter and replace them with spacers. Figure out the thickness of the retaining strips and mill a wide board to the resulting thickness, minus about 1/8”. You should then rout both edges and then rip the retaining strips free.

Final Assembly

You should begin by gluing together the muntins and the top/bottom rails. You can use Titebond Extent glue, which is water resistant. You should apply the glue with a brush to each joint surface.

You should then assemble all the pieces. Clamp one stile without glue to hold the assembly square until the glue dries. You should then complete the door by gluing all the stiles, which can best be done one at a time.

Before purchasing the glass check with the building codes as exterior doors may need tempered glass. To install the glass, apply glazing tapes and secure by nailing in the retaining strips.


French doors designs and construction can be pretty tedious, but once you go through our tips, it is much easier. All you have to do is ensure that you observe accuracy when cutting as the wood is expensive, which requires that you practice with inexpensive wood, such as poplar.

Once you make several French doors, you will master the process, and it will become much easier to design, construct, and then install the French door. Hopefully, the tips and strategies discussed in this article will help you in the entire process of French doors design and construction.

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