Classic cabinet doors are within easy reach for your projects when you learn how to raise panels. All you need is a table saw!
Raised panels add visual character and strength to cabinet doors. Milling the raised "field" area of the panel and the surrounding bevels is really just a process of making several bevel-rip cuts against a tall fence on your table saw. It's not difficult to master. Before you begin, install a sharp, fine-toothed blade in your saw, and make sure the rip fence is exactly parallel to the blade. Since you'll need to remove the blade guard for this technique, do whatever you can to minimize your chances for kickback. A parallel rip fence is a must.
Step 1: Joint and plane your panel carefully so it's flat on both faces. Use a combination square to draw four layout lines on one face to define the center field area of the panel (see Photo 1). The size of this field area will vary with every panel, so let your own sense of proportion be your guide. Make all four layout lines equidistant from the panel ends and edges.
Step 2: Raise your saw blade about 1/8 in. above the table, and set the rip fence so the blade will cut just to the waste side of your layout lines. Make two shallow cross-grain cuts and two long-grain cuts to create a grid of field area "shadow" lines (see Photo 2). Use a push stick to keep the panel pressed firmly against the saw table and fence when you make these cuts.
Step 3: Next, draw an angled line from the bottom of one of your shadowline cuts to the edge of the panel to lay out the broad bevel cuts you'll make next (see Photo 3). Remember to account for the edge thickness you'll want for the panel. If you plan to use cope-and-stick router bits to make the rails and stiles of your cabinet door, be sure to check your bit set to see what size slots it will cut for panels. Generally, the slot width will be 1/4 in., so make your panel edges slightly thinner than this to fit the slots.
Step 4: Since making the bevel-rip cuts will involve feeding the panel vertically through the blade, you'll need to attach a tall auxiliary facing to your rip fence. Make the fence facing 6 to 8 inches wide and as long as your rip fence. Attach it to the fence beam with screws or countersunk bolts (see Photo 4).
Step 5: Set and lock a bevel gauge to the same angle you drew on your panel in Step 3. Raise your saw blade to full height, and tilt the blade until it meets the bevel gauge evenly. Lock the blade to this angle (see Photo 5). Note: It may help to stand the panel vertically on a bench and against a square when you're adjusting the bevel gauge to the panel layout line.
Step 6: Unlock your rip fence and hold the panel against it with the bevel rip layout line facing down. Slide the fence over until the inside face of the blade teeth align with the waste side of your bevel rip layout line (see Photo 6). Lock the fence in this position. Now, lower the blade until the top teeth just intersect the shadowline cuts. When you make your bevel-rip cuts, the blade will not cut into the field area if you adjust its height carefully at this stage.
Step 7: It's finally time to make those four big bevel rips. Before you do, there are a couple more precautionary set-ups to make. First, clamp a featherboard to the saw table just ahead of the blade to keep the panel pressed tightly against the rip fence. Second, clamp a piece of scrap to the back of the panel so it forms a sled that will ride along the top edge of the fence. This sled will keep the panel from tipping down into the blade slot during cutting. In order to minimize tearout, make the two cross-grain bevel rips first, then finish up with the long-grain rips (see Photo 7). Re-clamp the fence sled before making each of these four cuts.
Step 8: Even if your saw blade and fence are properly aligned, it's tough to avoid creating a few blade swirls or burns during the bevel-ripping process. The fastest way to clean them off is with a sharp block plane, shoulder plane and a card scraper (see Photo 8). Then, give your panel a thorough sanding up through the grits and you're ready to make those rails and stiles!