Woodworking Tips
Woodworking Tips Index
Keeping Panels Center in a Fame and Panel Door
When assembling a solid wood panel in a frame, such as a raised panel door on a cabinet, the panel must be free to expand and contract with changes in humidity. It's not unusual for solid wood panels to expand across the grain as much as 1/8" for every 12" of width. That kind of movement can easily force apart the joints of a door.

So, obviously, you shouldn't glue a solid wood panel into the grooves or slots of a door frame. Okay, but if the panel is free to move around, what keeps it centered in the frame? The weight of the panel may pull it down, and if it's loose, it might shift to the left and right.

PIN IN PLACE. One solution is to pin each panel in place with brads driven in through the back of the door frame so it's less obvious. First, check that the panel is centered side to side and top to bottom. After the panel is centered, drive a single brad centered at the top and a single brad centered at the bottom of each panel. By using one brad, the panel can expand and contract in both directions from the center.

FOAM TAPE. A second method is to use foam rubber in the slots. Putting foam in all four slots keeps the panel centered. When the panel expands, the foam compresses. In some applications, such as exterior doors, the foam may have the added benefit of blocking some air leakage. We've found that foam weather-stripping tape (with an adhesive on one edge) works well for this. It's available at your local home center in 1/4" widths (perfect for 1/4" slots). Build up layers in the slot if necessary until the panel is snug in the frame. No one will ever know.

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