First door. Glue up. Lessons learned.

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Blog entry by Rich posted 12-07-2016 05:22 AM 1471 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Gluing up the first door was a challenge. I had no idea what to expect. I knew that, by myself, I couldn’t do the entire door by myself in the open time the glue provided, so I started working on strategies.

There was a lot of learning that went on. Rather than go on ad nauseam about every experience I had, I’ll jump straight to what worked. I will say though, that that first door glue-up involved a good deal of swearing and yelling. The result was a success however.

So, this is kind of a lessons-learned summation. The first thing that was a game-changer was the use of Space Balls from ROK Hardware. If you build paneled doors and haven’t heard of space balls, you need to look into them. They are 1/4 inch rubber balls that are firm, but compressible. Through the years, it’s always been a tradeoff with paneled doors between keeping them tight so the panels don’t rattle, and allowing for movement. Space balls solve that. They keep the panel secure, yet allow for movement. Since they are 1/4 inch in diameter, and compress easily to 1/8 inch, I chose to allow for a 1/16 inch initial compression in my numbers.

Using them is a game-changer in another way though. You can’t build the frame and drop in the panel like you used to, since the balls will move when you do. What I wound up doing, was to secure the balls in the grooves with gel CA glue, and let it set. I then glued the kick rail to one of the stiles, ensuring it was square, and let it set overnight. That became my anchor for clamping the rest of the rails. I learned that it had to be fully set, otherwise it could move as I used it to align the other pieces.

During the dry fit I ensured it was all square. I made marks across the stiles onto the ends of the rails to mark where they should be when I glued up the frame.

So, I have a stile, with a kick rail glued in place. I then set the bottom panel in place and slid in the lock rail. I used clamps to pull the lock rail down into alignment based on the marks I’d made during the dry fit. I also made sure it was square to the stile. Once that was pretty well set after an hour or so, I put the top panel in place and glued in the top rail. I let that set overnight and the next day I glued on the opposing stile.

What I learned along the way is that you can waste a lot of glue if you just flood the mortises and tenons. What worked for me was using 10 ml syringes with 14 gauge blunt needles filled with glue to apply it. It allowed me to gauge the amount of glue I was pumping into those places, and especially, to get the glue delivered perfectly into the mortises.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

4 comments so far

View CaptainSkully's profile


1612 posts in 4163 days

#1 posted 12-07-2016 03:06 PM

Maybe try using some slow set two-part epoxy to give you longer working time for your glue-up. I know how tough single-handed glue ups can be. I almost didn’t get my headboard together in time with all those damn slats…

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View Rich's profile


5137 posts in 1194 days

#2 posted 12-08-2016 04:56 AM

Good suggestion Skully. I’m going to use epoxy on the entry door project I have coming up.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3470 posts in 4317 days

#3 posted 12-08-2016 06:01 AM


It sounds like you have a good system going. I did the glue-up on the raised panel armoire doors much the same way as you did. I’ve been using weatherstripping that I cut into 1/4” wide strips to allow for expansion/contraction. I bought a lot of it from a liquidator years ago and still have some left. I tried some of the weatherstripping available now on some other cabinet doors and it compressed far too easily. I’ll probably have to opt for the space balls if I ever run out of my supply of old weatherstripping.

What kind of glue did you use in your syringe set-up?


-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View Rich's profile


5137 posts in 1194 days

#4 posted 01-11-2017 04:42 AM

L/W, I just now saw your comment. Sorry for missing it. I used Titebond III and TiteBond Extend depending on my mood. They both work very well, and I really could not detect any difference in workability or open time.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

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