Constructing Cabinet Cathedral Doors

Some might say that the cathedral door look, or even using Oak, is outdated. I don’t care because I like the look and I’m the one who has to live with it every day. Constructing the raised cathedral arch proved to be quite a challenge for me because I could not use a fence when raising the arch. The Freud panel raising router bit is 3″ in diameter and comes with a back cutter and a center shaft that did not accept a bearing between the cutters. When I tried to freehand a test panel, the bit grabbed the panel and tried to turn it into a ballistic event. Not good! I called Freud and asked them about the proper method for raising an arched panel and they told me that the technique I used was how it was done. That advice was completely unacceptable so I decided to raise the arch in 4 separate steps using two different sized bearings that would fit in place of the back cutter. So here’s what I did…

  1. Remove the back cutter and install a 1-1/2″ diameter bearing. Raise the arch using the bearing for support.
  2. Replace the 1-1/2″ bearing with 1″ diameter bearing and make a second pass.
  3. Remove the smaller bearing and make a third pass against the router bit shaft.
  4. Replace the back cutter and shim stack and make a 4th pass.

This technique worked for me and I felt safe doing it. Below are some pictures showing my method and other things of interest regarding the cathedral arch doors.

Bit with back cutter

This is the Freud panel raising bit with back cutter in place. My final pass was made using this configuration.

Bit with large bearing

For the first pass, I replaced the back cutter with a 1-1/2″ diameter bearing which limited the depth of cut because the arch was resting against the bearing as the cut was being made.

Bit with small bearing

The 1-1/2″ diameter bearing was replaced with a 1″ diameter bearing and a second pass was made. Following this, I removed the small bearing and made a third pass against the fixed shaft of the router bit shown here. Finally, the back cutter was replaced and a fourth final pass was made using the bit in it’s original configuration.

Maintaining bit height

I had to remove the bit from the router each time the bearing configuration was changed. In order to re-register the bit height, I used a Wixey digital height gauge indexing off the top of the bit.

Gluing the panels

I use a Freud gluing bit to provide more surface area and register the panel pieces when the clamps are applied. Setup is finicky but well worth the effort.

Panel glue up

No need for elaborate upper and lower cauls when gluing panels that have routed glue edge joints.

Rough cutting the arch

An auxiliary table was fitted to my band saw to support the large door panels. Here a cut is being made to within 1/16″ of the line.

Template routing

The template was attached using double sided carpet tape and the final arch was cut using a pattern bit.

Door upper rails

The cathedral arch rails were template routed, cope cut against a fence, and rail cut against the rail cutting bit bearing.

Door glue up

A look at how the doors were assembled. Two space balls were inserted into the rail cuts on all sides of the frame in order to hold the panel in position and keep it from rattling.

Goof up

I used marginal quality wood on one of the door stiles so I decided to take it apart and make new rails and stiles. In order to save the panel, I cut carefully into the stile on each side and pried the assembly apart.

Breaking the stile

It took considerable force to break the stile apart despite being nearly cut apart on the band saw.

Glue joint inspection

Since I destroyed the rails and stiles, I decided to see how well the glue joint held at the lower cope cut. You can see that the wood broke before the glue let go so I’m confident that my doors will hold together long term.