Allowing for Panel Movement when Finishing Doors

      If you assemble five-piece doors before finishing, seasonal drying shrinkage can expose unfinished wood. Here's how some finishers address the issue. March 26, 2007

I'm posting this more out of curiosity than because of any immediate problem. How do you finishing pros deal with frame and panel constructions that have solid wood panels? I'm thinking of the potential for panels to shrink, exposing unfinished wood along the long edges. I do some fine furniture work and typically pre-finish the panels before assembling the frame, but that seems impractical for larger projects such as kitchen cabinetry.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor M:
I stain about 3/8" of the edges on the panels before assembly. Never bothered to put any finish on it. If you get movement, and you will get a little, it is not enough to warrant finishing, in my opinion. But if it isn't stained, at least it will likely require touchups.

From contributor T:
When I worry about panel shrinkage, I'll put a little more stain around the panel and blow air into the crack, hopefully staining the edges of the panel. Then I check the back to make sure I didn't blow through (usually I do).

From contributor G:
We stain the full panel cut on all panels in a kitchen. You would be surprised at how many people ask me why we do this. Even several who have worked at other cabinet shops.

From contributor J:
If you brush a lot of stain around the detail, it'll cover it.

From contributor R:
We pre-stain and seal all raised panels we make in the shop. Buy out doors are another problem and you can have raw edges in the winter when the panels shrink.

From contributor L:
I think contributor T has the best idea - blow it and then check both sides for blow-through. If you are spraying your stain on in the first place, it's only a matter of a couple seconds to blow it under the lip. I am an advocate of finishing before building, but for a 5 piece door, pre-finishing sounds excessive.

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