Frame & Panel French Doors Build

The DIY Door Panels and French Door How-To


John Malecki hangs DIY Door Panels

If you follow my videos, you know that it’s taken me the better part of two months to get my new shop up and running. A big part of this project was building a huge wall that separated my workspace from my new showroom, which means I was in need of some double doors to join them up.

I found this to be the perfect opportunity to use some reclaimed white oak and hickory from my lumber rack to build out some DIY door panels with glass panes. I’ve been wanting to try these out for some time now as preparation for someday tackling the front door to my home. This arts and crafts style furniture is something I’ve always been a big fan of and I’m stoked to show you guys how I built these beauties.



Building Frame & Panel French Doors: Overview

How To Build French Doors

DIY Door Panels with French Glass Panes

  1. Select material
  2. Break down skip-planed material into rough dimensions
  3. Square the door rails & stiles
  4. Re-saw & dimension door panels
  5. Glue up door panels and bottom stiles
  6. Sand & pre-finish door panels
  7. Cut domino joinery for rails and stiles
  8. Route out panel grooves
  9. Insert panel and glue up
  10. Sand and finish the door.
  11. Insert glass & hang the door

What You’ll Need

Tools & Materials for these Stunning DIY Door Panels

Before building Frame & Panel French Doors, you’re going to need a few things. Here are the tools and products I recommend for this build:


Finishes/ Consumables/ Parts

You may want to keep a few extra woodworking tools on hand. Here are my recommendations for Woodworking Tools!

This page contains affiliate links, but all ideas are my own. For more information, check out my disclosure page.

The DIY Door Panel Step-by-Step Guide

John Malecki picks out lumber for DIY Door Panels

Step 1: Select Your Materials

Kick your project off by choosing your materials. I chose some reclaimed white oak and hickory from my lumber rack. When making your material decision, however, there are a few things you’ll want to consider: 

  • Door hardware thickness
  • Doorjamb thickness
  • Height & width of my door

That being said, make sure you know the dimensions of your doorjamb and the doorframe before starting. Additionally, if you have a specific hardware preference, make sure you have that under control as well.

john malecki cuts wood panels for his french doors john malecki cuts wood panels for his french doors

Step 2: Break Down Skip Planed Material Into Rough Dimensions

Once you have the wood you want, use a Jigsaw to roughly cut out the parts. This doesn’t have to be too specific, but cutting down to a manageable size will save you a lot of time down the road. I prefer to use a Jigsaw here because it’s super easy to maneuver, and safe to use on a rough surface. A lot of people use a circular saw here too, but I find the jigsaw faster and easier in this application.

John malecki squares the door rails on his DIY door panels John malecki squares the door rails on his DIY door panelsJohn malecki squares the door rails on his DIY door panels

Step 3: Square The Door Rails & Stiles

Once you have a rough cutout of your parts, let the parts sit for a few days to acclimate to the temperature. This will allow the wood to make any final movements and avoid fractures in the wood in the future. After that, go ahead and square your parts down to final thickness. For this, I use the jointer to plane down one of the faces and an adjacent edge at 90*. From there I planed the boards to 1/16th proud of their final thickness, then ripped them down to my desired final width. 

This is also when you’ll want to cut your rails to their final size. For the stiles (the long parts on the sides of the door) leave them long. This will allow you to cut the door down to size with a track saw once it’s assembled.

John Malecki saws his DIY door panels John Malecki saws his DIY door panels John Malecki saws his DIY door panels

Step 4: Re-Saw & Dimension the DIY Door Panels

While the rails and stiles are acclimating, saw the panel parts with a bandsaw. From there I used the jointer and planer to square the boards and prep them for glue-up.

PRO TIP: Leave your panels wider and longer than you anticipate the interior of the door to be. It’s much easier to cut these to size after you measure your final interior length and width of your door panels.

 john malecki glues and clamps his door panels  john malecki glues and clamps his door panels

Step 5: Glue Up the DIY Door Panels and Bottom Stiles

Next, it’s time to glue up your panels for the doors and your bottom rail. I wanted an overall height on my bottom rail of 10″, so I glued up two pieces roughly wider than 5″ and after they dried, trimmed them down to final width.

John malecki stains his diy door panel

Step 6: Sand & Pre- Finish DIY Door Panels

Once your panels are dry, sand them down to 220 grit and water-pop them. Once water-popped, you’ll want to pre-finish your doors. This is important because your panels are going to shrink a bit. Pre-finishing ensures that there is no bare exposed wood around the panel insert.

John malecki cuts domino joinery on his DIY door panelsJohn malecki cuts domino joinery on his DIY door panels

John malecki cuts domino joinery on his DIY door panels

Step 7: Cut the Domino Joinery for Rails and Stiles

Next, you want to lay out and clamp the rough shape of your door. Take a moment to make sure everything is square, marking the intersecting joints and using your Festool XL Domino Joiner to cut the largest tenons possible. I made 14mm x 140mm tenons and used 2-4 tenons per joint.

PRO TIP: Cut the tenons tight on the rails and leave them loose on the stiles. You can glue the tenons into the rails once they’re cut. This makes your job much easier when it’s time for the final assembly. 

john malecki routes the panel groove

john malecki routes the panel groove

Step 8: Route Out the Panel Groove

You’re going to want to fully assemble the door WITHOUT applying glue to the joints. 

Sit the door above the work table rested on clamps. The clamps simply keep the door off the top surface of the table for mockup. Then you will use a rabbeting bit in your plunge router to cut the grooves for your door. I used a 1/2″ rabbeting bit with the biggest ball bearing it comes with. I then worked down to the smaller bearing to reach my desired depth – about 5/8″-1/2″. 

Repeat this process for the top panel. If you choose to insert glass, you’ll want to relieve the top of the rabbet with a flush trim bit, and set the bearing to fit inside the glass channel (as shown above).

John malecki sands edges of his DIY panel doors John malecki sands edges of his DIY panel doors

John malecki sands edges of his DIY panel doors

Step 9: Insert Panel and Glue Up

Now that you have everything fit, round over the edges on your panels for a smooth finish. Once those are rounded, it’s time for glue up! Here I used space balls to eliminate the door rattling due to expansion and contraction over time. Be sure to use clamps on both sides of the door to keep it flat; flatness in glue up is crucial.

PRO TIP: Be sure to sand the inside edges of your door where the panel will inset BEFORE glue up! You can thank me later.

John malecki stains his DIY Panel doors

Step 10: Sand and Finish the Door

Let the doors dry overnight. The next day, sand the doors to 220 grit and water pop them one more time. Do a final sand to 220 or 400 grit, using a tack cloth to remove the excess dust. Apply your favorite finish in light coats, sanding in between. I recommend about five to six coats General Finishes Endurovar for a really beautiful finish. You can also spray-apply your finish, sanding in between with a brillo pad or 400 grit paper.

John malecki inserts glass panel into his door. John malecki inserts glass panel into his door.

Step 11: Insert Glass & Hang The Door

We’re in the home stretch! The final step is to square up the panels on the door glass and insert the glass into the door. I use 3/4″ x 1/2″ material for this, and pin-nail the trim over the glass on the backside. This is how I hold the glass in place. Because I didn’t use glue, I can easily replace the glass if I even find myself in a glass-shattering baseball situation. 

Thanks for checking out this build. If you want to see more custom work from my shop, Here are a few more projects for you:



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