Finish Raised Panel Doors Before Assembly?

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Forum topic by Alan S posted 07-22-2012 04:52 PM 12958 views 1 time favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Alan S

181 posts in 4565 days

07-22-2012 04:52 PM

I am making some solid wood raised panel doors. I plan on using space balls or something to keep the panel centered but allow it to move. Since it will move, should I finish the inside panel before I glue it all together? It seems if I don’t, I might be lines of unfinished wood on the panel when it shrinks.

11 replies so far

View jmos's profile


918 posts in 3617 days

#1 posted 07-22-2012 04:59 PM

You are absolutely correct in your thinking; it is a good idea to, at least, finish the edge of the panel before glue up, especially if you are applying color (stain/dye). Since you’r not gluing the panel into the frame, there isn’t really a downside to pre-finishing. Pre-finishing the entire door also helps eliminate and finish build-up in the corners.

-- John

View jerrells's profile


918 posts in 4132 days

#2 posted 07-22-2012 05:34 PM

Good sounding logic. Can’t wait to see how it works. Glad to see you back at woodworking and I know you will enjoy. Now I got to go out in the garage and rearrange an area to make it more workable. Have a great day.

-- Just learning the craft my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ practiced.

View waho6o9's profile


9073 posts in 3824 days

#3 posted 07-22-2012 05:40 PM

Wise move Alan.

If you take clear silicone, run 1/4” bead or so a foot long and wait till it cures, you can cut
it up to make your own space balls.

View mcase's profile


446 posts in 4377 days

#4 posted 07-22-2012 08:16 PM


There’s a lot to be said for prefinisihing components, but for a panel its especially desirable. I install panels completely finished and waxed. Why not? Its a lot quicker and easier to spread the finish and polish it on the panel before its installed. And, as Jmos so rightly points out, you avoid build up at edges and corners. Its also really great for dealing with glue squeeze out. You can just wipe away the glue off the finish with a damp cloth. Lots of mass produced furniture (not always cheap stuff either) skips this step and when the panel shifts it shows a raw unfinished edge. One tip to consider is that you should sand the interior edges of the frame components before assembly so as not to scratch the finish.

View jim C's profile

jim C

1472 posts in 4346 days

#5 posted 07-22-2012 08:25 PM


will the wood glue adhere to polyurethane, varnish etc.?

View mcase's profile


446 posts in 4377 days

#6 posted 07-23-2012 03:42 AM


It might if you let it dry. If it squeezes onto bare wood it immediately penetrates and requires sanding out or peeling with a chisel. Either way its a real pain and can lead to blemishes. If it squeezes out onto a poly finish it can simply be wiped away. If the finished is poly that is buffed and waxed you have a good chance that it won’t adhere even if it drys.

View Matt Przybylski's profile

Matt Przybylski

583 posts in 3625 days

#7 posted 07-23-2012 04:28 AM

I too will be making raised panel doors soon and planned on pre-finishing the panel. My question is this: do you then also pre-finish the rails and stiles and then assemble all pieces finished? I imagine you block out where glue will go for the glue up but I can’t imagine pre-finishing the panel and not the other components and then trying to finish the rest after assembly. I’d imagine the finish would make its way onto the panel and you’d have darker spots on the panel that way. Is that correct?

-- Matt, Arizona

View Kelly's profile


3805 posts in 4192 days

#8 posted 09-23-2016 12:52 AM

Came across this looking at jigs to hold doors for finishing. What, immediately, comes to mind is, the millions of panel doors out there that come to the consumer raw.

The best I can see to do is, flood the stain so it flows into the groove.

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 2168 days

#9 posted 09-24-2016 12:45 PM

Matt Przybylski,

I finish door panels and assemble the rails and stiles while these are unfinished. When it comes time to finish the rails and stiles, some finish does get on the door panel. Therefore I keep a clean paper towel at the ready. As soon as the finish is on the rails and stiles I give the door a wipe to remove any finish that made its way onto the panel. This avoids the build-up of a bead of finish on the door panel. I am sure I am removing a bit of finish from edges of the stiles and rails, but it seems that enough finish remains to do its job.

The reason I do not finish the rails and stiles before gluing the frame together is that I often find that the corner joints are not flush. Some sanding and/or scraping is required to make the joints flush. If the rails and stiles were finished before the joints are flush, the previously applied finish would have to be removed and then after the joints are flushed, the finish would have to be feathered into the finish that was not removed when the joints were made flush.

On the other hand it is probably not a bad idea to pre-finish the edges of the rails and stiles where the panel slips into the groove but leave the remainder of the stiles and rails raw, to be finished after the joints are flushed. As you mentioned, staying away from where the shoulders on the rails and stiles are glued would make a much better joint.

View splintergroup's profile


5877 posts in 2470 days

#10 posted 09-24-2016 01:44 PM

I pre-finish rails/styles, inside edges only, for the exact reasons JBrow points out (final sanding). This depends on the finish of course since some blending/feathering will inevitably be needed. A real pain in the a$$, but it does avoid messing with any final sanding of the topcoat in places that are impossible to do well.

If you don’t have a topcoat that requires any attention after applying, definitely stick to only finishing the panel and leave the frame for later.

View bandit571's profile


29742 posts in 3931 days

#11 posted 01-19-2018 05:31 PM

With just a coat of Amber Shellac. Door was assembled, first.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

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