Making Frame and Panel Doors - DVD
Private Woodworking Instruction in a Box
with Hendrik Varju

Produced by Passion for Wood, Ontario, Canada

R.R.P.$120.00

ISBN 978-0-9881280-5-7

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As reviewed in The Australian Woodworker Issue 182

The frame and panel method of door construction is believed to have originated in Asia, probably China.

Although known and used for many years previously, it appears to have only gained popularity in England during the building boom that followed the Great Fire of London in 1666. It's superiority over simple plank designs lies in the relatively small expansion and contraction of the door with changes of ambient humidity.

The progression in use of the style from architectural doors to cabinet doors was gradual, though it is not, perhaps, as evident in English period furniture, as it is in the Shaker and Mission furniture of the New World.

Single and multi-panel doors are often seen in contemporary North American home and commercial interior decor. The use of doors incorporating small panels suggest that this is principally because of the appearance of the design, rather than its practical benefits.

The doors are made from five pieces: two stiles, two rails and a panel.

In this series of DVDs, Hendrik Varju covers the making of each of these components (including several styles of panel), their assembly into a completed door, and, in an addendum, the fitting of the door into its aperture.

There are, of course, a host of ways in which the work could be done. For example, one of several types of mortise and tenon might be used for the joints between the stiles and rails, or they could be made with dominoes, biscuits or dowels.

Varju chooses to demonstrate the techniques involved in dowel construction. This, he says, is the method he commonly uses for his commercial work. He has, in fact, taken his own advice, which is to try various ways of performing a particular process, then select the one with which you are most comfortable.

Three dowels are used in each of the top joints and four in the bottom, since the lower rail is a little wider.

As has been noted previously, the value of Varju's presentations is not only in the meticulous care with which he approaches every step in the construction of a project, but also in the way in which he incorporates other relevant information on everything from the fundamental design to the materials, tools and machines that he uses.

For example, shortly after showing how the stiles and rails are made and prepared for jointing, Varju discusses the possibility of decorative routing on the inside edges of the frame. He considers several possibilities for this, weighs the merits of each and describes how specific outcomes might be achieved.

The first panel dealt with is a simple flat board. While many presenters would be content with saying no more than that it should be pinned in place within the frame, Varju points out why pinning is desirable, shows how the placement of the pins should be marked and how they should be inserted as well as giving reasons for the use of pins of unusual design.

The second panel has a bevelled edge. Two types are considered. One has a narrow edge, vertical to the raised panel, which defines the upper end of the bevel. On the other, which Varju prefers, the bevel extends from the outer edge of the entire panel to the edge of the raised central panel. Great attention is paid to safety when describing the method used to create the bevel on a tablesaw.

The third type of panel is a cove, also made on a tablesaw. While coves can be routed, Varju argues that this means purchasing a special (and usually costly) router bit made to produce a cove of only one size. While this may be necessary and even cost-effective, when a large number of frame and panel doors must be made, Varju suggests that to produce only a small number of doors, it is much less expensive to make the coves on a tablesaw.

Safety is again emphasised in demonstrating how the saw and special fence are set up to obtain a cove of precisely the size required. Careful measurement is necessary to ensure that the outer edge fits comfortably into the grooves in the frame while the width of the cove offers an attractive proportion in relation to the size of the panel.

The final panel has an ogee shaped edge which is formed using a panel raising bit in a router table.

It is one of the virtues of Hendrik Varju's DVDs that with a single exception, his machinery and tools are not all that different to those that might be found in any well-equipped recreational workshop. (The exception is the dust-extraction system which is well above average.)

This particularly applies to the router table which he designed and constructed around a Bosch 2.4kW router. It has a large laminated MDF tabletop, a long straight fence and a variety of additional custom-made fences, clamps and other accessories which appear from time to time in his videos.

For example, to rout an ogee shape on the edges of a panel, two subsidiary fences are attached to the main long fence. They have the ogee shape already routed in their ends so they can be placed close together over the cutter to provide maximum support for the workpiece.

The next chapter describes the final preparation of the panels - particularly their shaped edges - by planing, sanding and scraping.

After that, comes the glue-up and then the actual hanging of the doors. This is an area that can be troublesome, even for experienced woodworkers.

Hendrik Varju demonstrates the making and use of an uncomplicated jig that he has invented to simplify the rebating of butt hinges in both the door and the frame into which it is fitted. The jig would be easy to construct and clearly offers important savings in time as well as increased accuracy.

The Bonus Footage on this DVD series deals with 'keeping things simple', the importance of grain (specifically with respect to the overall appearance of frame and panel doors) and the use of jigs.

As mentioned earlier, like previous Hendrik Varju videos, Making Frame and Panel Doors presents both the fundamentals of the process as well as a steady stream of comment and information on topics relevant to the main subject. In this case, however, those who view the videos may attach special importance to the highly effective hinge rebating jig which they can make for very little expense in their own workshop.

Duration: 9hrs, 22mins, 5 discs

DVD - English - NTSC