Frame & Panel
The Frame & Panel (F&P) joint is typically used for doors in cabinets. It can also be used for cabinet panels and internal frames and structures. It makes a nice looking door that can accommodate the expansion and contraction of wide panels that occurs as a result of seasonal changes in humidity.
Rout rail and stile
Rout rail ends
What You Need
While you can make a simple frame and panel joint using Tongue & Groove bits (see Canadian Woodworking, Issue #36, June/July 2005), traditional frame and panels are made using matched F&P bits or a single convertible F&P bit that has cutters you change to rout the two matching profiles. To use either of these bits you will need a router table.
Matched Frame and Panel bits
Left bit routs ends
Right bit routs rails & stiles
How to Make the Joint
Begin by cutting all the pieces of your frame to finished lengths.
Set up the first bit in your router table to the correct depth, depending on the thickness of your stock and the pattern of the profile. Since the bits have bearings, it isn’t absolutely necessary to use a fence, but for safety, set your fence in line with the bearing to support your stock as you run it through the bit. Once set up, rout the inside edges of the rails and stiles.
Next, you need to rout the matching profile on the ends of the rails. To do this, switch bits and set the bit to the correct depth, matching the rails and stiles you have already cut. Again, set the fence so that it is in line with the edge of the bearing to support the stock. Use a squared push stick and rout the ends of the rails. These ends will fit into the stiles to make the frame.
If you are using a flat panel, you don’t need to do anything else with the router table. If you are using a thicker panel, you need to use a panel raising bit to take down the edge of your panel so it will fit into the frame. Set up the panel bit to the depth necessary to create the correct size lip and position the fence to support the stock. Rout a test piece and test the fit, adjusting the bit height as necessary. Rout all four edges of the panel, starting with the end grain ends, then rout the other two ends.
Test fit the panel in the frame. When satisfied, glue the frame together where the rails and styles meet. Use a small amount of glue at the top and bottom of the panel in the center of the rail only; this will allow for the expansion and contraction of the panel.