video screenshot how to make cabinet doors with rail and stile bits

In this video, you'll learn how to build cabinet door frames using a rail and stile router bit set. Most cabinet doors have frames that are assembled with rail & stile joints, also commonly called cope and stick joints. These joints feature a decorative profile, such as a flat shaker edge, a rounder, or an ogee, that frames the panel, and a groove that contains the panel. Building cabinet doors is easy when you have a rail and stile router bit set to cut these joints.

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How To Make Cabinet Doors Using Rail & Stile Bits - Video Transcript

Most cabinet doors especially those that are made in a factory have frames that are made with interlocking joints that look like this and, as part of that joinery there's a decorative profile here that dresses up the look of the cabinet door from the front. And behind this profile there's a groove cut all the way around the inside edges of the frame to accept the solid wood panel like this, a piece of plywood or glass. And if I take this cabinet door frame apart the ends of the rails have this little tongue here. And that fits into the groove of the stiles to help lock these frames together at the corners with glue alone.

These joints are often called cope and stick joints and they make strong and attractive cabinet doors that are easy to build in a home shop. But, in order to cut them you're going to need a matched set of router bits like these and a few simple guidelines. In this video I'm going to show you how to use these bit successfully in your router table so you can start making frames for your cabinet doors too. But before we jump into the routing process let's get better acquainted with these bits and first of all the names.

When you shop for these bits you may see them called cope and stick bits or rail and stile bits. It means the same thing and you need both of them. Honestly, I think the trickiest thing about using cope and stick bits is figuring out which bit does what. So let's take a closer look at that sample rail and stile again.

So here's those cabinet door frame parts again and here's the rail with the tongue on the end. It also has this cut here, which is the mirror opposite of the profile cut along the front edge of the door. This is the COPE profile. So we want to look for the bit that cuts this tongue on the end. It's actually this bit right here. It's the one that has the pocket in the middle with the big bearing on the inside because as you can see, that pocket creates the tongue. The bearing on the inside is a telltale sign. This is the coping bit or the rail bit.

So, obviously the other bit is the sticking cutter or the stile cutter but unlike the coping bit the sticking bit has a bearing on top rather than on the inside. And that's responsible. For cutting the decorative profile around the inside front edge of the frame which in the case of the shaker style bits that I'm using here is just a simple beveled profile and the groove for a wood panel or glass.

Now, the misleading thing about calling this a stile bit or a stile cutter is that it doesn't just cut the stiles. It also cuts the decorative profile and the groove on the rails as well. So to help keep things simple I tend to call this a sticking cutter and not a stile cutter. One way to keep the two straight if you don't use them very often is to mark the sticking cutter with an "S" and the coping cutter with a "C" either on the coated part of the bit or on the bottom of the shanks.

Now that we know which bit does what we can get on with making the joints, so go ahead and mill up stock for your rails, your stiles and a couple of scrap pieces to test your bit setups. Make sure that they're all flat, square and have consistent thickness. Also if you're choosing show faces for your doors it's a good idea to mark them in some way to keep that clear.

All of these cuts are going to happen with the front faces of the rails and stiles pointing down on the router table. We're gonna cope the ends of the rails first because, I think it's easier to set up the sticking cutter using one of the copped rails. So, go ahead and install your coping bit. Now remember the coping cuts only happened on the ends of the rails but these ends are narrow and rails tend to be pretty short. So that makes it dangerous to present the ends of the work pieces to the coping cutter without some means of backup support.

You want to stabilize the work piece from behind to keep it from rocking. And of course to keep your fingers safe. And to do that. I'm going to use this coping sled. There's a lot of variations of these from woodworking suppliers including Rocker. Or you can make one of these yourself. This one's got a phenolic base a couple of fences on either side of the work piece. And most importantly, A hold down clamp to lock a rail in place securely during routing. And of course these couple of handles here will keep my hands safe. To dial in the height of the coping bit, set a test scrap on the sled and raise or lower the bit until the bottom edge of the top cutter is about one eighth inch down from the top edge of the scrap.

And now we need to set the depth of cut. And to do that, take a straight edge, set it against the rim of the bearing and slide your rod or table fence over until it makes contact with the straight edge. And then lock the fence and double check your settings. Now make a test cut starting the router and cutting across the end grain in one smooth pass. Feeding the sled from right to left. Now unclamp the test piece and check your results. Here's what mine looks like.

If the cut is clean and even and this back shoulder is about one eighth inch deep. You're ready to cope the rails. Clamp your actual rail into the sled face down and repeat the process. Cope one end of the rail then turn it end for end, reclamp and cope the other end. And that finishes up the coping cuts on the ends of the rails. And now we can move on to the sticking cuts to finish these frame joints and these are even easier.

And now I've got my sticking bit installed and I want to adjust the bit until the slot cutter right here lines up with the tongues on the ends of the coped rails. Make sure that the rail has the backside facing up and adjusts the bit up or down as carefully and accurately as you can and, just as you did for the coping bit, use a straight edge to adjust the rod or table fence until the rim of the sticking bits bearing is flush with the fence facings, lock the fence.

Sticking cuts are long grain cuts. So, we're going to want to press our rails and stiles down tight against the router table to make sure that these cuts will be consistent and even along the length of the parts. So install a feather board on either side of the bit opening and use one of your work pieces to help set the feather pressure correctly. Now start the router and run a test piece through your setup using a push stick to keep your fingers clear.

Now go ahead and fit the coat rail into the sticking cut you just made and check the fit of the parts. What we're looking for here is a flush connection between the parts and we also want to make sure that the rail is fully seeding into the stile. If these parts are standing apart, double check to make sure that the router table fence hasn't moved during the cut. What you want is a nice tight fit.

If everything looks good go ahead and run your actual rails and stiles through the sticking cutter, make sure the edges you want on the inside of the doorframe are the ones you present to the router bit. Be careful not to get them turned around. Marking the parts with arrows can help.

That wraps up a short course on using cope and stick bits. They're really not difficult to use. And with a few careful setups and the right methods you'll be routing cabinet door frames like a pro. I'm Chris Marshall thanks for watching.