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Thread: Routing and jointing of rails & stiles of cabinet doors

  1. #1
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    Routing and jointing of rails & stiles of cabinet doors

    I just finished building and installing kitchen and bathroom cabinets. I'm looking to build about 60 full overlay Shaker style doors and drawer fronts, all square profile and painted white. The rails & stiles are 2 1/2" wide with the stiles the full length of the fronts. The center panel will be 1/2" Baltic Birch. I want to rabbet out the plywood to leave a 1/4" tongue to fit into the rails & stiles. The plywood will be flush, on the back of the door and recessed back from the face of the rails & stiles. I don't want the edge of the door frame to show a cope & stick profile. Would rather do a mortise/tenon joint. But How?

    The rails can be cut the full length and the plywood just notched out, so I should be ok there. How would I start and stop the groove in the stiles and also cut out the mortise, while on a router table. I was hoping there would be a bit, like half of a T&G set, that I could use and 'plunge' horizontally the stile to cut the groove. Will I have to take the stiles off the table to make the mortise? Any suggestions are appreciated.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Wall View Post
    I don't want the edge of the door frame to show a cope & stick profile. Would rather do a mortise/tenon joint. But How?
    I am not a Festooligan but, do own a Domino and this sounds like a job for a couple of positional jigs and a Domino. An alternate method could be what I do for things that don't Domino well, a Mortise Pal or shop made jig and a plunge router. For 60 doors I would spend some time and or money to make this a quick, production-type operation.

    MP-Stop.jpgMP Shop Made Templates (6).jpgMP Shop Made Templates (7).jpgMP Shop Made Templates (8).jpg
    Last edited by glenn bradley; 08-30-2020 at 7:02 PM.
    Take me to the hotel - Baggage gone, oh well . . .

  3. #3
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    I'll look into the jig idea, thanks. Let me ask another question. If I cut the stile groove up to 1/2" of both ends, and pushed the tenon in that groove, would that make the joint too weak? The door is still glued together by the plywood panel.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Wall View Post
    I don't want the edge of the door frame to show a cope & stick profile. Would rather do a mortise/tenon joint. But How?
    Is your objection to the cope and stick construction method aesthetic: that, viewed from the top or bottom edge, there will be a tongue from the rail filling a groove in the stile? (Which visually, btw, will be indistinguishable from a haunched tendon in a true mortise and tenon joint.) Or do you fear the stubby cope and stick tenon won't be strong enough? If the latter, don't worry: it will be plenty adequate for cabinet doors given that your panel is ply and can be glued in place to create strength galore. If the former, fair enough, but you've signed up for a lot of extra work. To create a stooped groove. I would use a wing cutter/slotting bit with stops to register both the beginning and end of the cut (not just pencil marks on the fence), to minimize chances of the bit grabbing at the start or overshoot the mark at the end. I don't have a Domino or a hollow chisel mortiser, but faced with 240 mortises I'd buy one fast.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Stone (CT) View Post
    Is your objection to the cope and stick construction method aesthetic: that, viewed from the top or bottom edge, there will be a tongue from the rail filling a groove in the stile? (Which visually, btw, will be indistinguishable from a haunched tendon in a true mortise and tenon joint.) Or do you fear the stubby cope and stick tenon won't be strong enough? If the latter, don't worry: it will be plenty adequate for cabinet doors given that your panel is ply and can be glued in place to create strength galore. If the former, fair enough, but you've signed up for a lot of extra work. To create a stooped groove. I would use a wing cutter/slotting bit with stops to register both the beginning and end of the cut (not just pencil marks on the fence), to minimize chances of the bit grabbing at the start or overshoot the mark at the end. I don't have a Domino or a hollow chisel mortiser, but faced with 240 mortises I'd buy one fast.
    Totally aesthetic. I'm not sure what the top edge of the door would like like after painted. But I'm beginning to see the extra work. Could I slip the tenon in to the single groove, same groove the plywood slips in, on the stile? Would it be too weak?

  6. #6
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    Once painted it should disappear.

    Hard to get good lighting but these are cope and stick and just a slight witness line (only visible from certain angles)
    20200830_221943.jpg

  7. #7
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    Cut the dados the full length of the stiles and rails. Cut a stub tenon on the ends of the rails to fill the dado at the stile/rail intersection. Then cut 1/4" or 3/8" mortises in stile/rails for loose tenons. I have done this frequently using my horizontal router mortiser, which makes it fast and foolproof, but a Domino or mortise jig would work, too.

    An option instead of cutting stub tenons on the ends of the rails is to glue filler blocks into the ends of the stiles. With paint grade work this is an easier, faster approach.

    John

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by John TenEyck View Post
    Cut the dados the full length of the stiles and rails. Cut a stub tenon on the ends of the rails to fill the dado at the stile/rail intersection. Then cut 1/4" or 3/8" mortises in stile/rails for loose tenons. I have done this frequently using my horizontal router mortiser, which makes it fast and foolproof, but a Domino or mortise jig would work, too.

    An option instead of cutting stub tenons on the ends of the rails is to glue filler blocks into the ends of the stiles. With paint grade work this is an easier, faster approach.

    John
    Trying to visualize this. So, the ends of the rails are glued and then butted up to the edge of the stiles, with no tenon/mortise joint. That leaves a dado size void on the top & bottom edge of the rails. This is filled with a 'filler block' cut off, sanded and painted, right? Is this door stable enough without the mortise/tenon joint ?

  9. #9
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    match the grain direction on the filler strip. Not so end grain shows in a field of rift.
    Bil lD

  10. #10
    The joints will be so barely visible once the edges are sanded and painted.

    IMO you’re making a lot of extra work for 60 doors.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Wall View Post
    Trying to visualize this. So, the ends of the rails are glued and then butted up to the edge of the stiles, with no tenon/mortise joint. That leaves a dado size void on the top & bottom edge of the rails. This is filled with a 'filler block' cut off, sanded and painted, right? Is this door stable enough without the mortise/tenon joint ?
    No, you glue in a filler block after plowing the dados. Then you route mortises for loose tenons. The advantage of this approach is it simplifies the joinery because you don't need to cut stub tenons; you cut the rails to final length so there's no doubt about the overall width of the door.

    John

  12. #12
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    I agree with Robert
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  13. #13
    I made some flat panel doors and drawer fronts for a cabinet that is behind me in my Great Room recently. 4 doors and three drawer fronts so a lot less. I have a domino so I used double 6mm dominos in each corner for strength. The rails got full length grooves for the panel and the stiles got stopped grooves. Both were cut on my router table. I dropped the stiles over the bit which was a 1/4 solid carbide spiral bit. A straight bit would have worked fine. My doors are inset and the panels are solid wood so they are not glued in. With doubled dominos they are still strong.

    For your situation, I would probably use a 1/4 slotting bit to groove the rails and stiles full length and also the ends of the rails. Then I would make up splines to go in the ends of the rails to give you in effect short loose tenons. With a glued in panel, I am sure it will be plenty strong enough. I once did a whole kitchen worth of doors in oak with raised panels - so not glued in - with the only joint the little stub tenons made by router table cope and stick joints. I had zero issues. The biggest doors were over a foot wide. So little short tenons are surprisingly strong.

    I would use a 6mm panel too. Much simplier than rabbeting 1/2 inch plywood and the resulting doors will be lighter but still work fine. You could use 1/4 but you need a little wiggle room and if the groove is 1/4 you won't have it unless you use a little thinner plywood.

  14. #14
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    I appreciate all the suggestions. Much more work than I originally thought. I'm thinking I'll do a sample joint with the cope & stick and sand and paint it. That way I could see how visible it is. Can this be done with a straight cut bit, slot bit or T&G set bit ?

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Wall View Post
    I appreciate all the suggestions. Much more work than I originally thought. I'm thinking I'll do a sample joint with the cope & stick and sand and paint it. That way I could see how visible it is. Can this be done with a straight cut bit, slot bit or T&G set bit ?
    Yeah, cope and stick is the industry standard for a reason. I mill my shaker rail and stile doors with a dado set. Double passes makes centering easy and the cutters don't turn into blunt instruments after the first few parts.

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