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Home > Projects & DIY Toolkit > How-To Articles > Frame and Panel Construction

Frame and Panel Construction

Since wood moves with changes in humidity and temperature, solid wood panels can bow or warp to ruin a project. Wood movement is a problem woodworkers have wrestled with for centuries. To combat this characteristic, woodworkers long ago devised a technique known as frame and panel construction. The technique takes advantage of the fact that wood is most stable along its length by joining four frame pieces at right angles to one another. The frame contains a floating panel that is allowed to expand and contract without distorting the frame. Increase the longevity of your projects with frame and panel construction. Lowe's is happy to provide this information as a service to you.

Mill the Frame Pieces

  •   1. Rip the rail and stile stock to width.
  •   2. Cut the rails to length. In most cases, the rails fit inside of the stiles, so you will need to subtract twice the stile width from the overall frame width to derive the rail length. If you are using tenons to connect the rails and stiles, add twice the tenon length to the rail length to account for the extra stock required for the tenons.
  •   3. Cut the stiles to match the finished height required for your panel. If the stiles are going to be capped by the rails, use the techniques above to derive the correct stile length.
  •   4. Cut blind tenons in both ends of each rail. Lay out and cut mortises in the stiles. If you are using dowels or biscuit joints, it is not necessary to cut tenons in the rails.
  •   5. Rout or cut a groove in the inside edge of each rail and stile to receive the panel. Size the grooves to match the panel's width and make them deep enough so the distance between opposing grooves is 1/8" to 1/4" greater than the length or width of the panel. The groove can continue to the ends of the pieces (rails or stiles) that will be capped, but it should stop at the mortise of the cap piece.
  •   6. Dry fit the frame pieces and check for fit and square. Adjust the pieces as necessary.

Make a Flat Panel

Leave 1/8" to 1/4" between the edge of the panel and the bottom of the groove.

  •   1. For panels made from 1x stock, glue-up the stock so that it is slightly wider and longer than needed to make the finished panel. For panels made from plywood or other sheet goods, go to step two.
  •   2. Cut the panel so there is 1/8" to 1/4" of play between the edges of the panel and the bottoms of the grooves in the assembled frame.
Good idea: For sheet good panels, 1/8" is enough space between the edges of the panel and the bottoms of the grooves. For solid wood panels, it is best to leave 1/4" of space so the panel doesn't distort the frame as it shrinks and swells.

Make a Raised Panel

  •   1. Glue-up the stock so that it is slightly wider and longer than needed to make the finished panel.
  •   2. Cut the panel so there is 1/4" of play between the edges of the panel and the bottoms of the grooves in the assembled frame.
  •   3. Use a table saw, hand plane or table-mounted router to raise the panel's edges. Actually you'll be removing stock from the face around the edges to make the panel appear to rise from the frame.

Assemble the Frame and Panel

  •   1. Dry fit the entire assembly. Place the top and bottom rail tenons into one of the stiles. The grooves in each piece should face the interior of the assembly. Slide the panel into the rail grooves until it seats in the stile groove. Cap the rails and panel with the second stile. The panel should move slightly inside the frame to allow for seasonal wood movement. Check the frame and panel for fit and square, adjust as necessary.
  •   2. Once the adjustments are complete, glue, assemble and clamp the frame and panel. Wipe away any excess glue that squeezes out of the joints.
  •   3. Allow the glue to dry completely before unclamping.

Tools, products, materials, techniques, building codes and local regulations change; therefore, Lowe's assumes no liability for omissions, errors or the outcome of any project. The reader must always exercise reasonable caution, follow current codes and regulations that may apply, and is urged to consult with a licensed professional if in doubt about any procedures. Please visit our terms of use.

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