Text Resize

  • -A
  • +A
  • Your rating: None (285 votes)

    Basics of Frame-and-Panel Construction

    Wood is a wonderful material, but it moves with the seasons, expanding and contracting as the air gets more and less moist. The frame and panel is a tried-and-true way to contain that movement. If we made doors out of solid panels of wood, for example, they would show huge gaps in the winter and have no chance of closing in the summer, not to mention warping over time. But take that same panel and enclose it in a narrow frame, and you have a beautiful door that will stay flat and stable for generations.

    The traditional frame-and-panel door has a solid-wood panel in the middle, enclosed in a groove around the inside of the frame. It is very important not to put any glue in that groove; the panel must be able to expand and contract freely. There's also some extra room in the groove to allow for expansion and contraction of the solid-wood panel. During seasonal changes, that panel will actually get a bit wider as it absorbs moisture.

    Most door frames are only 3/4 in. thick or so, and so the groove can only be 1/4 in. or 5/16 in. wide. But a 1/4-in.-thick panel would feel and sound thin, so woodworkers traditionally have shaved down the edges of a thick panel to fit in a narrow groove. This is called a raised panel, because the bevels around the edges create a raised center section that looks quite nice.

    Another option is to put a plywood panel in the middle. In that case, since plywood doesn’t move with moisture changes, you can glue the panel into its groove. By the way, the vertical frame pieces are called stiles, and the horizontals are called the rails. Just think of a fence rail to help you remember. Add glue to the joints and the grooves, insert your plywood panel, clamp it all together, and you have perfect doors. The doors seen at right will be painted, so the panel is made from medium-density fiberboard (MDF), and not plywood. 

    The traditional way to build the frames is by forming full mortises and tenons on the ends of the pieces, and if you are going to have a solid-wood panel floating in the groove, this is probably the way to do it.

    In the example at left, the edges of the panel have been beveled in order to fit into the groove. For your first doors, you might want to start out using a simple flat panel as opposed to these fancy raised ones.



    Cope-and-Stick Bits are Fast and Easy

    The easiest way to build frame-and-panel doors is with a set of rail-and-stile router bits, also called “cope-and-stick” bits (at right), based on some other old-time woodworking slang (there’s tons of it). These cut a groove and a molding on the side edges of all the frame pieces, and also cut a mating profile on the ends of the rails. The frame joints have only little stubby tenons, so they aren’t as strong as traditional doors. So you should use a plywood panel in these doors, and glue it into the groove. Then the doors will be extremely strong.

    Step 1-At left, you can see the joint made by cope-and-stick router bits. Using the bits in a router table,  you first cut the groove and the molding on the side of all the frame pieces.
    Step 2-Next, the other bit cuts a matching profile on the ends of the rails. A square push block keeps the piece square as you push it past the bit. Don't try this maneuver without adequate support behind the workpiece.

    There are lots of ways to dress up a frame-and-panel door, other than the raised panel in the middle. You can have all kinds of moldings around the inside of the frame, and the joints can be mitered at 45° for a more contemporary look. Also, the panel is a great place to show off especially beautiful wood grain.


    Comment viewing options

    Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
    dalladalla dalladalla writes:

    Agree with you, this post is really awesome with its informative artical. I want to say that you have done a great job Passbeemedia Apple Ibeacon

    backlink 15 writes:

    This is the very good idea! Just want to say thank you for information, Just continue to the write such a position. I will be your faithful reader.  how can i make my boobs bigger

    Ron Kanter writes:

    The picture illustrating Step 2 is a VERY DANGEROUS example of what not to do. Cutting the ends of the rails requires care and support.

    Although the text says clearly "... A square push block keeps the piece square as you push it past the bit. Don't try this maneuver without adequate support behind the workpiece" the picture shows a hand pushing the rail past the bit without any support. My fingers hurt just looking at this picture.

    This picture should be replaced immediately before someone gets hurt doing what is shown rather than what is written.

    Allen Wood writes:

    The structure and console is a allegiant way to accommodate that movement. If we fabricated doors out of solid panels of wood, for example, they would appearance huge gaps in the winter and accept no adventitious of closing in the summer, not to acknowledgment warping over time. But yield that aforementioned console and enclose it in an attenuated frame, and you accept a admirable aperture that will break collapsed and abiding for generations. tuscan flooring :: Moore Fencing :: bathroom sinks :: Handyman Service London

    ryan johnson writes:

    Awesome ideas! I can start working on this in my new home. plaridelshangrila.com

    renan carter writes: Is it the same procedures for door framing and aligning? I got this wooden backdoor at http://caldwells.com/exterior-doors/back-doors but seems there is 10cm extras and needs maybe planing to remove those extra thickness and so it will fit, but also thinking to just re-frame with the right size, despite of this, I still like the door I got.
    Ananta Saha writes:

    Great tutorial for wooden product. Can you create a dummy model of a mobile using wood or plywood? Just wonder how to do it, last week I saw an dummy was made by partex 2mm board. Anyway your one is also good. My article alway publish on windows 8 activator blog. You are invited.

    crus zein writes:

    You don't have to be ashamed of yourself and feel sick because with this breakthrough you can easily use herpes cure get best herpes treatment and live your full life. https://www.rebelmouse.com/ultimateherpesprotocols/

    mardy lee writes:

    I never find it easy to form planes and angles with the wood eventhough I'm using those heavey equipments I have. - Feed the Children

    erroica carter writes:

    Wood works always make home decoration more beautiful. Your guide line about how can I create panel from wood are quiet helpful. Last year i was bought same panel to fix water heater. But now i can make it by my own and all credit of it goes to you.   

    Michael Pekovich writes:

    A mortise and tenon joint is a challenging joint to tackle with handtools. Starting with the grooves is the right way to go. When planing the grooves, it is important to register the fence of the plane against the same face of all the frame parts. This will ensure that the grooves are aligned from piece to piece. I always reference off the front face of parts when cutting joinery. This way, the outside faces of the parts will align, even if they vary slightly in thickness. You can then use the grooves to locate the mortise and tenons and everything should come together accurately. The next step is to chop the mortises. Use a chisel the same width as the groove. Setting the chisel in the groove will automatically align it front to back and will also help you to chop square to the edge. Use the groove when cutting tenons as well. Set a marking guage to the width of the groove to mark the tenon cheeks. Cut just outside the line and use a shoulder plane to sneak up on the fit.

    Good luck, Mike

    Nishith Bhattacharyya writes: Would love to see the the technique using hand tools. I just tried this using hand saws and chisels for the mortise joint and a plow plane for the groove. My problem was that the grooves in the frames did not quite line up, they were a kerf or two out. Also got some tear out when I did the mortise after grooving. Wonder if I should have grooved after doing the joints?
    gsd fsd writes:

    The varnished woodwork adds style and substance to a room, whether it's in the form of large cabinetry or a slim banister. But, it also collects dust and dirt and starts to get grimy if you ignore it. You can keep it clean by regularly dusting and vacuuming and occasionally rubbing on a homemade solution. Thanks for sharing.


    Asa Christiana writes:

    Thanks, Mark. That's exactly why we created this website, and the free video series (Getting Started in Woodworking) that you will find here...to cut through all the jargon and really start from square one. the cool thing is that none of it is very complicated when you get down to the essence.

    Happy woodworking.


    harry smith writes: Awesome . This is very different post from others I like your post. Please share me more post. Thank you so much . I appreciate your work. www.gymmatsco.co.uk
    Mark van Dongen writes:

    At last Asa an article for beginners.

    As you say much of the terms are "based on some other old-time woodworking slang (there’s tons of it)".

    Beginners do not know the terms and one has to wonder why authors write articles? It is amazing the number of authors who use terms and expressions that the average beginner or even experienced have little idea about - why are they wrting the article - to educate and lead I thought.? We don't know what you are trying to impart to us - your information which is shrouded in slang, local jargon, technical terms and assumes that the reader are as knowledgeable as the writer does not work; but worst it makes people feel dumb and they walk away - Hello wake up, experienced people do not read your articles.

    The article is clearly written, easlity understood and didn't take a lot of words to make it understandable to even a person Starting Woodworking, is very usable thank you Mr Christiana.

    Login or register to post comments