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Making Frame and Panel Doors

Construction How-To, Doors, Finish Carpentry, Trim Carpentry, Windows & Doors, Woodworking - Directory November 2, 2007 Sonia

Frame-and-panel doors are a tradition with many classic furniture styles as well as cabinets. Frame-and-panel doors offer several advantages including their beauty. But, more important, they are less prone to warp and twist than solid doors. With the inset panel “loose” in the frame, they more readily adjust to changing humidity, heat and cold conditions.  

Frame-and-panel door parts.

Several techniques can be used to create frame-and-panel doors.

Although frame-and-panel doors appear complicated, they are not really hard to build if you take your time and measure carefully. Frame-and-panel doors consist of the rails (the top and bottom pieces), the stiles (the side pieces), and the panel. The panel may be flat or raised. Flat panels are the easiest to construct and install. Raised panels take more work, and arched raised panels require the most work. Arched panels may be simple arches, or a cathedral design.

One of the simplest doors uses a flat panel. In this case a piece of highly figured walnut has been resawn on a bandsaw to create “bookmatched” door panels.


Tools to Use

Several different techniques can be used to create the doors. Flat-panel doors can be built with hand-tools alone, in the traditional way. The rails and stiles are joined together with mortise and tenon joints. Hand cut the tenons with a backsaw and the mortises with brace and bit, and chisel. The rabbets for the panels can be cut with a hand-held rabbet plane. 


Most of us, however, prefer to create the doors with power tools. Again mortise-and-tenon joinery can be used to fasten the rails and stiles together. Dowels can fasten the joints, or one of several new systems can be used.


For example, Kreg Pocket-Hole joinery is quick and easy, but will leave screw holes in the back of the door ( The Beadlock joinery system from Rockler features a patented jig and specially designed “loose” tenons that are glued into the holes created ( The new Festool Domino Loose Tenon Joining system utilizes an elongated hole that mates perfectly with the Domino tenons sold with the tool ( If the face frame is wide enough biscuits may also be used, but they don’t provide quite as much support.

Today, most frame-and-panel doors are created using a rail-and-stile bit set in a router that is mounted in a router table.

The most common method, and especially useful when doing a lot of doors such as for kitchen cabinets, vanities and other cabinets, is a rail-and-stile bit set used with a router in a router table. These not only create the rail-and-stile joints that are then glued together, but also a profile on the inside front edge of the frame, as well as the rabbet for the panel. These come in sets of two, one for the “cope” and one for the inside profile and rabbet in the rails and stiles. Different profiles are available with the most common being Roman Ogee, Round Over, and Cove & Bead. Many companies also sell the bits in a set with a mating raised-panel profile for cutting the raised panels. The CMT Sommerfeld Cabinetmaking Set also includes a drawer-front cutter.  


Woodline USA, ( carries a full line of rail-and-stile and raised panel bits and bit sets, including a 3-piece Raised Panel Door Set and the Sam Maloof Signature Series 6-piece Cabinet Set. Woodline also sells setup blocks to match their bit sets. These HDPE blocks make it easy to mate cuts for rails and stiles. Merely slide the block next to the bit and raise or lower to determine the mating cuts. 


You will need a sturdy router table and a fairly powerful router with variable speed and a 1/2-inch chuck, such as the new Craftsman Professional 1-1/2 HP model. 

Making Doors with a Router

You will need a heavy-duty, variable speed router with a 1/2-inch shank chuck and a sturdy router table for using these large-diameter bits. The tools used for this article included a Craftsman Professional Router Table and the new Craftsman Professional Router. The 2.25-horsepower router with fixed base provides variable speeds from 12,000 to 25,000 rpm (no load). Electronic feedback control ensures the proper rpm for the bit size and material hardness throughout the cutting operation. The new router features direct-connect motor sleeve height adjustment. Micro-height adjustments can be made in 1/64-inch increments by simply turning the height-adjustment knob. To make rapid adjustments of 1/2-inch or more, a button can be depressed to bypass the direct connection. The router also has a quick-release latch to facilitate removal of the motor pack for bit and base changes. When attached to a router table, bit-height adjustments can be made from the top of the table where the work is performed.