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.
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.
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.