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Plywood Panel for Frame and Panel Doors

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  • Plywood Panel for Frame and Panel Doors

    I recently purchased rail and stile router bits for making the frames of some frame and panel doors I am making for a cabinet. Bits work great. The groove the bit cuts for the panel is 1\4 inch wide. My problem is...the nice, finished birch plywood I would like to buy to use as the panels is something slightly less than 1\4 inch thick and would be a sloppy fit in the groove of the frame.

    True 1\4 inch thick plywood (which fits great) is unfinished and looks like construction grade plywood...not suitable for my project.

    What kind of plywood are people using for frame and panel doors that will fit the 1\4 inch groove cut by these router bits?
    Thanks in advance for any help and advice!

  • #2
    Re: Plywood Panel for Frame and Panel Doors

    Hi yamr I have a similar problem .. and use one of two methods ..
    1. using plywood, I just use some small finishing nails on inside of the doors to hold the panel. They must be short enough so as to not come through the front ! Plywood does not move like wood panels with moisture so I also put a small drop of glue in the channel to hold the panel.

    2. ..other method is to use wood panels. I use a vertical raised panel bit on the router table and make the panel fit to the slot by slowly taking taking a little at a time until it fits.



    • #3
      Re: Plywood Panel for Frame and Panel Doors

      I recently made shutters and though not the same as a door, I think the assembly mechanics are quite similar.

      My end product is painted, so perhaps that's a bit different if you are using stain-grade material. For the ply, I used luan subfloor which actually has a fairly desent grain quality and probably could have been stained, with a little added work.

      But like you said, it's a bit less in thickness than 1/4" and my particular slot cutters are all 1/4". I checked locally and could not find anything less, though I do know you can mailorder a 5/32 nd (or whatever) and I simply did not want to wait.

      So, I cut the rails and styles using the 1/4" and the plywood panels fit okay, with just a little bit of "slop". Actually for painting it works out okay, as it allows me to insert a paper "insert" to mask the center panels as the frame is a different color than the panels themselves.

      Although I left the panels "free floating", I think you could use almost any method to make them rattle free by using those little expansion balls that they sell for just that purpose. (They are a small silicone or rubber, BB-like insert that holds the panel in position and still allows for expansion or contration.

      A few small dabs of silicone or painter's putty in the bottom of the grooves may well serve the same purpose.

      Personally, I think the difference between the actual 1/4" groove and the 5/32 nd or so ply thickness isn't really significant enough to be noticiable and you you could always add a think sliver of wood to the back-side if you wanted to close that gap. I do of course realize that we all strive for absolute perfection... in which case, the purchase of a matching cutter of exactly the right width may be the only answer.

      I hope this helps,



      • #4
        Re: Plywood Panel for Frame and Panel Doors

        Here is a link to the product CWS is describing. There may be other brands but these work well - Space Balls
        I even use them for real raised panels to prevent any rattles during the winter heating months


        • #5
          Re: Plywood Panel for Frame and Panel Doors

          Thanks to all who posted a reply! This is a great forum and I really appreciate the help...especially so quickly!

          You have all confirmed what I was thinking but wanted some opinions to be sure I wasn't missing something. I will go with the thinner birch ply and probably end up using the space balls or combination of thin shims in the back of the panel to take up the slop.

          Thanks again and I hope you all have a great Labor Day holiday!


          • #6
            Re: Plywood Panel for Frame and Panel Doors

            The problem with plywood is that it is ALWAYS manufactured to be equal or less than the maximum depth, which creates a problem for some of us. I recently made new kitchen cabinets for my wife and had the same problem, but rather than change my adjustable set, I opted to use thin strips of veneer to fill the gap. I tried the space balls but sometimes they got off centre and I still had to end up using veneer strips to push the plywood flush.
            Hope this helps
            Free woodworking plans


            • #7
              Re: Plywood Panel for Frame and Panel Doors

              When I built my last kitchen, I used 1/4" MDF and applied a woood veneer on both sides. I then had to cut a very shallow rabbet on the inside of the panel in order for it to fit perfectly. Takes time but a professional result.



              • #8
                Re: Plywood Panel for Frame and Panel Doors

                A small bead of clear silicone caulk in the bottom of the groove prior to inserting the panel works well for me. Let it cure before inserting the panel. It will not roll around like the space balls.

                Use care not to get the caulk on the visible parts of the door or panel frame as it can cause problems during the application of stain or finish.


                • #9
                  Re: Plywood Panel for Frame and Panel Doors

                  Another option is to buy 3/8" plywood for the panels and rabbet the edges for a precise fit. That's how I would do it.