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Raised panel doors

4796 Views 20 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  MAFoElffen
Ok, well some of you showed a lot of knowledge and interest when I was asking about an external speed controller, lets see how you do on panels LOL

I made my first raised panel door last night. I made the rails and stiles from poplar. The raised panels are 3/4" MDF. I routed the panel down until it fit in the groove.

Here is the question, how tight or loose should the panel be between the rails and stiles?

As it sits right now, the panel just fits in the groove. I've read a lot of articles that state not to glue the panel in as it's suppose to "float" between the rails and stiles for expansion and contraction from weather. I don't see how it's suppose to float if I had a hard time pushing it in there in the first place.

Any thoughts?

Thank You
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By rule of thumb, I use 1/16 inch, all the way around, depending on what I'm using as a spacer.

The reasoning for the extra room is that cross-grain (like across a wood panel glueup has) expands faster, more and at a greater rate than long-rain (as with rails)... so if you get a big change in temperature or humidity, you pop your joint apart between the rails and stiles.

The reasoning for using something that compresses between the panels and the door's R&S is that if it does have extra space there for that expansion ... and if you don't have something there, then the panels rattle when closed.

The old-school of doing that without, or rather before people started using some kind of compression filler, was to give 1/16" additional for each side of the panel and none extra for the top and bottom... Then to pin or dowel the center of the panel into the top and bottom rail. That way there is room for the cross-grain to expand. And the pinning keeps the panel from sliding inside the door (centered).

BUT-- Remember that the OP's medium for his panels is MDF right? MDF does not expand like crossgrain. Heck, MDF does not expand as fast as long-grain. Most doors using MDF panels do not require expansion joints. It would be better if it had. The joints usually do not pop apart, but some do end up rattling after age if you do not.

Another old-school technique I've seen on lower-end wood raised panel cabinet doors- is to give 1/16" extra on the sides, make the top and bottom snug. Then when you assemble, you center the panel in the rails, with just a dab of glue in the center of the top and bottom panel edges. This gives the same effect as pinning (not as strong, but). Some of these I've seen are over 100 years old and are still going.
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I thought you used spacers all around ,both top,bottom and sides to prevent just that
I may be wrong,have been many times.
I do believe this is all more important in solid wood.
I have built all pine,all maple,maple and poplar and maple and mdf doors and did the same with all
Seemed to work,the pine are the oldest, now being replaced with the maple/ mdf,not because of issues with the doors but she wants a updated look
Sure everyone knows what that is
LOL. I accept that I am open to mistakes, especially as age creeps in on me.

(Your comments on space balls) That's how I feel about it. The compression layer (say space balls are used) keep the panel centered, allow for an expansion joint, and keep the the door from rattling. It is modern, and currently how we deal with that. This is the currently accepted train of thought these days.

Personally, I try to stay away from MDF. It is great for making inexpensive paint-outs. I happen to prefer the look of wood grain. MDF is hard on my eyes, lungs and tooling. I use goggles and respirators when dealing with it... but it never quite seems to be good enough for my aging body.
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