I don't know of any trade that requires as many specialized tools as door hanging. Sure, you can do a perfect job with a circular saw, a sharp set of chisels, and a jack plane, but these days, production?not just craftsmanship ?is a prerequisite to earning a living as a finish carpenter, and that means having all the right tools.
Bench. The single most important piece of equipment I own I built myself: a door bench. It's a requirement for any production work and is invaluable for custom work. First, the bench holds a ton of tools ?at bench-top height ?so there's no bending over to pick up tools or untangle cords. Next, it has carpet-covered corners to protect doors from damage while cutting, planing, and mortising. It also holds various sizes of doors via an adjustable L-bracket and wing nut mounted on the side.
Power Plane. Inside my bench, I carry all the door-prep tools I need, starting with my Porter-Cable Porta Plane 126 door plane. While most power planes do the job, the Porter-Cable 126 is designed exclusively for cutting doors and it works extraordinarily well. Its adjustable fence ?a necessity for planing doors ?is mounted permanently on the motor. The fence facilitates exact and repetitive beveling at 3 degrees, the most common angle for a door bevel. It also quickly adjusts to a custom bevel, which is handy for installing a narrow sidelight.
The Porta Plane's depth-of-cut lever is also unique. Designed for on-the-go use, the lever is mounted at the head of the plane, so you can change your cutting depth at any point during a cut. This is essential for following a scribe line on a door edge, which you'll often encounter when remodeling door jambs. The scribe line follows the bows, bellies, or imperfections (like an out-of-plumb jamb leg) in existing door jambs that a good finish carpenter will match, so a new door in an old opening looks perfect. The carbide spiral cutter makes the tool a standout in the industry, too. Sharpened properly, this cutter leaves a glass-smooth finish on even the grainiest Douglas fir door.
Sander. I use Makita's 9924DB 3x24-inch belt sander to remove blemishes and ease edges. Four-inch-wide belt sanders are too wide for sanding door edges and sanders shorter than 24 inches are too short for working a door edge. Eighty-grit belts usually give me the finish and stock removal I need, though for pine doors I switch to 100-grit belts.
Circ Saws. Another great door tool is the lightweight Porter-Cable SawBoss 345PC. This 6-inch circular saw cuts material up to 1-7/8 inches thick. Sure, cutting 1-3/4-inch-thick doors pushes its limits, but after years of hard work, my 345PC is still going strong, and since door hanging requires so many tools, lighter is often better and easier. For thicker doors, however, I carry Bosch's 1677M 7-1/4-inch worm-drive saw. It's powerful and the guard retracts easily, never interfering with even the thinnest, most delicate cut on a door head.
Routers. I use routers for installing flush bolts, automatic door bottoms, flush pulls, electric latches and strikes, and other hardware. Most of the time I use two 7/8-hp Porter-Cable 100 routers. They're light, yet powerful enough for hinge and latch/strike mortising.
I have template guides installed on both routers: one router is for mortising hinges; the other for latches. I rarely change the depth-of-cut on the latch-mortising router and only occasionally on the hinge- mortising router (for different thickness hinges). To solve the problem of keeping the two routers separate?and to keep the settings secure?I use a D-handled router for hinge mortising, and a standard router for latches. If you don't want to use a D-handle for your second router, you could also paint the top of one router.
I rely on a battery of other routers, too; after all, most of my job is repetitive stuff and few customers are willing to pay me while I sharpen my chisels. One of my favorite all-around routers is the Bosch 1613EVSK plunge router (today's equivalent model is the 1613AEVSK). I use this tool primarily because it's the only plunge router I've used that has a true micro-fine depth adjustment. I really depend on this feature for dialing in mortise depth to within 1/32 inch, which is a common requirement for Soss invisible hinges. This plunge router also is my workhorse when it comes to cutting mortises for flush bolts, extension flush bolts, electric jamb switches, etc.
Templates. When I hang doors in new jambs (and cut hinge mortises in the jambs as well as the doors) I use Templaco wood-laminate templates. They're relatively inexpensive, plenty durable, and extremely accurate. They're available in full-size lengths with three-hinge layouts for 6-8 doors and in both three-hinge and four-hinge layouts for 8-foot doors.
For hanging doors in old jambs, I take a different tack. For one or two new doors in old jambs, I turn to a single hinge template and just measure the hinge layout. For a house full of new doors in old jambs, I turn to my Bosch adjustable hinge template 83038. This template along with an accessory kit works on almost any size custom door (and on small casement windows, too).
But for oddball hardware and on-the-job emergencies, I make my own templates. Because the template guide in my Porter-Cable routers is 1/8 inch larger than the cutting diameter of the bit, I just add 1/8 inch to the size of the template opening so the mortise is sized right on the money.
Drills and Drivers. For drilling pilot holes, I use a Bosch 1020VS. It's a lightweight, durable 3/8-inch electric drill. For boring holes, I depend on the more powerful Bosch 1194VS corded drill. (The 1020VS drill has been replaced by the 1030VSR. The 1194VS has been replaced by the 1194AVSR). For boring holes accurately, my Classic Engineering lock-boring jig is indispensable for both production and custom work: It ensures perfect accuracy and alignment of edge-bore and face-bore holes, protects from blow-out, and works as a mini drill press for installing mortise locks, extension flush bolts, and through-holes for electric latches.
I also carry a cordless drill/driver. I prefer DeWalt's DW998K-2 pistol-grip 18-volt tool for drilling pilot holes in jambs for hinge screws and latch screws. I like it because it turns higher rpms than 14.4-volt tools and also works as a hammerdrill. (The DW998K hammerdrill/driver has been replaced by model DW989K-2.) The hammerdrill feature saves me a trip to the toolbox because the tool has enough power to drill small holes in concrete for thresholds and doorstops.
For driving screws, my favorite cordless tool is a diminutive Makita 12-volt 6914DWBE impact driver. I run a lot of No. 12 and No. 10 hinge screws and big boxes of drywall screws, and my wrist and elbow have never felt better. The nearly 700 inch-pounds of torque this impact driver delivers means I don't have to push nearly as hard on the tool as I would on a cordless drill, which puts out 250 inch-pounds of torque. With an impact driver, I can even drive Tapcon self-tapping concrete screws all the way home.
Scribes. This article would be incomplete without mentioning the least expensive but most important tool in my arsenal: my scribes. Since I scribe nearly every door I hang to fit the opening, I rarely have to put a door on a jamb more than once; they always fit the first time, even arched doors. I depend heavily on an inexpensive compass from General Tools Mfg. Co. fitted with a mechanical pencil. I'd grown attached to pricey Cross pencils, but after losing one too many, I've found there are less expensive Pierre Cardin mechanical pencils that fit these compasses.