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    Frame-and-Panel Cabinetry

    by Lonnie Bird

    Frame-and-panel construction is one of the most important elements of furniture design. It allows for seasonal wood movement, yet it can usually be adapted to suit most any style or period of furniture. The most common use of frame-and-panel construction is in doors. But it's also used for lids and even for the sides of casework.

    The broad appeal of the frame-and-panel design is its ability to overcome problems normally associated with seasonal changes in relative humidity. It works like this: A panel is trapped within a framework, yet the panel is free to expand and contract within that frame. This works because the thin edges of the panel fit within a groove in the frame. The frame gets its strength from the typically used mortise-and-tenon joinery.

    This prevents the panel from warping or distorting without limiting its natural movement. Frame-and-panel design allows you to cover a large expanse, yet keep the space around the door small, because expansion of the door is limited to its framework.

    Because the grain in the panel normally runs vertically, the top and bottom rails are made wider than the stile to prevent panel distortion. For visual balance, the bottom rail is typically made slightly wider than the top rail. There are exceptions to this rule of thumb, however. For example, doors with an arched panel require a wide top rail to accommodate the arch. In this case, the remainder of the rail after cutting the arch is typically equal to the stile width.   >>>

     
    This article is excerpted from Shaping Wood by Lonnie Bird, with permission of the publisher, The Taunton Press.

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    The most common use of frame-and-panel construction is in doors.
    Image: The Taunton Press

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    The space between frame and panel allows expansion due to climate changes.
    Image: The Taunton Press

     

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