To glue or not to glue
Is glue necessary in frame assembly for raised panel doors? January 31, 2001
I've recently started making raised panel cabinet doors. I know the panels float, but one of my cabinet-building buddies said he doesn't glue the stiles and rails. He just puts them together and shoots three 5/8 brads in the back with no glue at all. He says the door needs to be able to expand and contract, but it seems this would make a weak door. What do you pros do?
Assuming you're building cope and stick stiles and rails, gluing is a must for a strong joint. This type of construction will allow for panel movement, however stile and rail movement must be dealt with by careful wood selection, moisture control, and finishing.
Glue the joints! If your buddy puts three brads into the back of the frames, the wood won't be able to move any better than with glue in the joints, except to possibly open up prematurely. The brads can easily split the short tenons, which act as a tiny wedge, causing an otherwise tight fitting joint to become even tighter at the top and bottom of the joint. Glue makes this joint even stronger as it tends to fill the small splits in the tenons, bonding the whole joint together.
The brads lesson or eliminate clamp time and act as a mechanical fastener which will keep the door from completely falling apart, should the glue line fail in years to come. Additionally, I put one drop of glue in the groove, centered in each rail before placing the panel. I'll then adjust the panel as the door is assembled and clamped, so that it appears centered side to side. The panel can then move freely left and right of center, maintaining proper spacing between stiles.
Glue is a must. The movement that you're talking about is between the panel and frame, not between the stiles and rails (they have enough room to expand and contract). I use a few drops of silicone caulk instead of "space balls".
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Comment from contributor R:
You should always use glue on the cope and stick. Not a lot, but enough to hold. We use a wood glue and once the door is clamped square, we shoot 2 23 guage brads in each joint and let dry. The brads themselves would never hold the door together under normal open and closing conditions, nor would they hold up to major wood expansion. We still use space balls but may give the silicone a try.
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