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Stile and Rail Cabinet Door

Cope and stick doors

Whether you call them “Frame and panel doors, Cope and stick doors, Style and rail doors or Raised or flat panel doors,” all are pretty much the same thing. They have long been a hallmark of fine cabinetry.

You can easily make a panel door on your router or shaper.

Why Use this method?

Style and rail construction is not new; it’s been around for a hundreds of years and is useful to negate the effects of moisture on solid wood used to make doors, furniture and wainscoting.

In a style and rail door construction, the large panel fits in a continuous groove in the edge of the style and rail parts. These parts are more dimensionally stable. The panel is always sized slightly smaller than actual dimension of the grooved style and rail frame. This allows the panel to expand and contract with seasonal humidity without affecting the stable shape and size of the door frame.

How To Make A Cabinet Door:

The “cope and stick” method is what I do and is also the easiest. In cope and stick joinery, a “matched set” of stile and rail router or shaper bits are used .

The cabinet door frame is held together by a joint between the edge of the “stiles” (the vertical members of the frame) and the ends of the “rails” (the horizontal members of the frame). The “sticking” – the panel groove and the decorative profile on the interior edge of the frame – is matched by a special cut in the end of the rail called a “cope.”

To complete the joint, the two matching profiles are simply glued and clamped together. The strength of the joint relies on a near-perfect match between the cope and the sticking, which is achieved by using bits designed specifically for a shaper or router table.

There are a variety of matched bits available to use such as; ogee, bead edge, round edge and traditional. I’m a fan of the bead edge.

Door Components:

Frame and panel construction consists of five members:

1. Door panel

2. Left vertical stile

3. Right vertical stile

4. Top horizontal rail.

5. Bottom horizontal rail

Larger doors may require a mid rail or stile.

Cope-and-stick joinery produces great-looking frames for cabinet doors, but you need specialized router bits or shaper cutters to do the job right.  I consider this an advanced carpentry technique.


A typical reversible set includes one cutter that cuts both the sticking and the cope, and one slot cutter for cutting a panel groove. Some manufacturers offer an additional kit with one more slot cutter which allows you to cut a rabbet below the sticking instead of a slot.

There is a wide variety of bits and shaper cutters available that cut cope and stick joints for cabinet dimensioned stock (3/4″ standard thickness). These cutter sets are often called ‘stile and rail’ sets.

I use my shop made shaper table and sleds with hold down clamps  to cut all of my copes and sticks and an old radial arm saw that I modified to become a permanent panel cutter to make the raised panels.


1.  I start by making my cope cuts on the ends of my rails.

Tip:  use scrap wood and a hold down sled to get the correct fit prior to cutting into your project wood.

2.  Reverse the shaper bit and rearrange it to cut the stiles profile.

Tip:  I use the coped end to assist me in setting the bits height, aligning the slot cutting wing with the tongue on the coped end.

3.   Cut a test board and check for fit.  Although you can do this cut without a hold down sled, I still use one.

4.  Holding your pieces, face side down – cut your profiles on your stiles and rails.

5.  Dry fit your pieces and measure for your panel.

6.  I make my panels on my panel cutter, taking several passes to get it to the right size to fit in the grooves.  for flat panels I simple put the bevel side in reverse.

Tip:  Only apply glue to the joints between the rails and styles. No glue on the panel, it needs to “float” as it expands and contracts with seasonal movement.   I allow 1/16″ all around the panel for expansion.


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