How to Route Raised MDF Panel Doors

Written by wade shaddy
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How to Route Raised MDF Panel Doors
MDF raised panel doors are usually white and European style. (Italian kitchen image by araraadt from

Medium-density fibreboard (MDF) panels can be used to create a raised panel door. By using MDF, you can cut the cost of typical door installation and get a one-piece door in a fraction of the time. Raised-panel MDF doors are cut with a pair of raised panel knives, with one cutting the inside portion and the other cutting the inside edge of the routing. You'll only need to make two passes to complete the raised panel.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Overhead stationary router
  • Raised panel knife set
  • Tape measure
  • Straight edge
  • Router fence
  • Hand clamps

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  1. 1

    Install the raised panel specific knife that routes the outer edge of the raised panel into the router collet (the collet is the circular opening in the vertical router shaft), and tighten using the router wrenches. The knife will be clearly marked. If it is not, choose the knife that has a small round cutting edge on the right outside corner or a "bead" edge. Measure, then use a straight edge and a pencil to draw a perimeter around the inside of the door at two inches.

  2. 2

    Place the MDF door on the router table. Push the foot lever to lower the raised panel knife all the way and lock it down. Raise the table so that the top of the bead on the knife is even with the top edge of the door. Place the fence on the router table. Measure over 3 1/2 inches from the tip of the knife to the fence and clamp the fence down on both ends. Let the panel knife spring back up.

  3. 3

    Slide the door under the knife, against the fence. Turn on the router. Slowly bring the raised panel knife down with the foot lever, letting it cut down into the door until it stops. Push the door along the fence until you come to the 2-inch perimeter line and stop. Cut all four sides, stopping each time at the inside perimeter mark. Let the panel knife spring back up and turn off the router.

  4. 4

    Install the inner perimeter raised panel knife into the router collet. Slide the fence over to four inches from the tip of the raised panel knife to the fence.

  5. 5

    Slide the door over to the fence. Turn on the router and bring the raised panel knife down with the foot lever until it bottoms out. Slide the door along the fence as the raised panel knife cuts the inside perimeter. Do all four sides to complete the raised panel.

Tips and warnings

  • These measurements are examples. You can change the outside perimeter edge wider or make it more narrow to suit your own liking.
  • Use a folded piece of sandpaper to sand down the inside of the routing.
  • You can do a raised panel door with a hand router, but it's difficult to be consistent with good results.
  • Go slowly but be consistent. Always wear breathing protection when working with MDF and always wear safety glasses. When running routers with larger knifes, hang on to the tool tightly and be aware of possible kickback.
  • Raised panel doors should not be attempted by anyone but an experience shaper or overhead router operator. If you don't have experience with this process, a licensed contractor should be hired to build the raised panel doors.

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