Rails and Stiles questions


I need some input from the group on laying out rails and stiles for face frames and panel doors.
I am building a couple of bookcases that have face frames and panel doors on the lower portions. I plan (at least for now) to join the door frames with mortise and tenon joints. The face frame may be joined with pocket screws. Looking at the cabinets in my kitchen, I note that they all have the face frames and doors built the same way, namely stiles that run the full height of the object (face frame or door) and rails to fit between the stiles.
I can imagine that one could build them opposite with rails running the full width and the stiles sized to go between the rails. This raises the following questions in my mind that I hope you all will address.
1. Is there a structural reason for arranging the rails and stiles a particular way? 2. Is there an ascetic reason for arranging the rails and stiles a particular way? 3. Would it wrong (ascetically or otherwise) to have the rails and stiles on the face frame be opposite to the rails and stiles on the doors?
Thanks for your input,
Bill Leonhardt
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Wow, an actual woodworking question. Thanks!
With a cope and stick type frame, I suppose some argument could be made about structural reasoning and even then I am not sure one configuration could be proven better than another. Regardless, if you will do M&T it really isn't a structural issue. I would say it is more of an issue of tradition and aesthetic.
Regarding the face frames, they are actually a hodge podge where the top and bottom rails usually run full width with the vertical pieces captured between them, the opposite of typical rail and style. However, drawer openings, starting at the bottom of the first one down from the top, do have the horiz piece captured. Therefore, a relationship between FF and door panel is not really an issue. Make the FF in the most efficent configuration.
I think using the typical rail and style config is really the best for the door frames. I do believe even the uneducated viewer (non- woodworker) will notice something strange to the layout of the doors. The only caveat I would add to this is if the ddors are to be painted and are finished such that you can't really see the joint, then in makes no diff.
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Thinking about it more, it is even more of a hodpodge because at the ends the verts usually do die into the horiz, but it is really optional.
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SonomaProducts.com wrote:

Well, it may seem that way simply looking at the joints but generally the reason for such layout is that the face frame for a given set (built in place rather than the every-module-independent style of the store-boughten modular approach) are built as an independent panel that is then attached to the cabinet. That means an outline of the overall size so the top and bottom (and perhaps drawer bottoms) are continuous to the end verticals with the interior verticals matching inside.
At least that's the way I learned/was taught... :)
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For strength, the longest dimension of the door should be uninterrupted. This means, if you have a conventional door - taller than it is wide - the stiles are continuous and the rails cut in. In a wide, short door, the rails would be continuous and the rails cut in. With proper dimensioning, you could make either design *look* right (but not as strong...).

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Perhaps, on some door styles the rails and stiles are not the same width, often the rails are wider than the stiles. You have much more glue surface with a wide rail attaching to the side of a narrow stile than you do with a narrow stile attaching to the bottom or top of a wide stile.

Yes, typically you try to hide the endgrain. End grain that points up and down is less noticeable than when it points left and right.

It might look out of balance and or mismatched. Sketch it up both ways and see which you like better.
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You have much more glue surface

Make that last word, rail.
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Bill Leonhardt wrote:

I'd say no, generally makes no difference.

Yes. Vertical styles generally go full length, with the rails let into the style. (http://tinyurl.com/dxvb2 ) This looks correct, it is how most (all?) commercial cabinets are made. This hides the end grain in face frames and larger doors. Smaller doors it just looks right, I guess out of habit.

Generally I think it would be wrong and would look wrong. I'm sure there are exceptions.
As far as face frames are concerned, pocket screws rule. It's hard to believe how easy face frames are made with pocket screws.

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On 8/7/2010 11:54 AM, Jack Stein wrote:

On built-in's, some folks don't like to see any except end stiles going to the top, even on long runs where you may have to put two or more components together, particularly when there is crown.
I'm used to it from installing shop built kitchen cabinets where it is a fact of life, but it can be a BIG bone of contention for some. AAMOF, I'm working on a project with a high dollar designer, as we speak, who comes to mind. :)
That said, in all exposed exterior work, I'm of the school that the top rail should always run on top of stiles in any frame, from windows to gates ... amazing how many folks don't heed that time honored detail these days.
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[snip]

The top rail covering the end grain of the stiles is nothing but common sense in an outdoor environment. Extending the rails makes it more appealing, IMNSHO.
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On 8/7/2010 12:27 PM, Robatoy wrote:

I like the extended top rail look a lot, especially on windows ... brings to my mind the early 20th century, a la Craftsman exteriors.
If you don't spec it these days it will mitered corners, all the way to hell...
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