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designing and building with wood channels my creativity and challenges my mind.
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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Frame and Panel Case Tips: Rattle-Free Panels

I use frame and panel construction for many of my cases.  There are a few well-known rules of good frame and panel case-making that ensure a warp-free, durable case.  In case my readers are unfamiliar with these rules, they are:
  1. The grooves in the frame parts (rails and stiles) should be centered on the edge of the frame parts, and at least 1/4" from the edge.  
  2. The depth of the frame grooves should be no deeper than the distance of the groove from the edges of the frame part.  This ensures the frame is strong enough stand up to use and abuse.
  3. The tongues of the panel should not reach all the way to the bottoms of the grooves in the frame parts.  This allows for side-to-side expansion of the panel and the frame.  If the panel DOES touch the bottoms of the grooves, any expansion of the parts will result in warping of the assembly.
  4. If using a solid-wood panel, the grooves in the frame should be slightly wider than the tongue on the panel.  This lets the panel get thicker (due to seasonal movement), without splitting the frame parts. 
  5. Don't glue the panel into the frame!
This last point - don't glue the panel into the frame - allows the frame parts to move seasonally, independently from the panel.  This allows the whole piece to move as needed, without one part pulling or pushing on another part, which can result in warping.

One undesirable result of NOT gluing the panel to the frame is that the panel can shake or rattle.  It's important to give the panel room to move inside its frame, but the resulting wiggle room can make for a loud door!

Rockler sells little rubber balls to stop this rattling.  The rubber balls sit inside the grooves in the frame, and the panel rests on the balls.  The balls cradle the panel so it can't rattle, and they compress when the panel (or the frame) expands in the summer.

But who wants to buy more stuff?  My solution to rattling panels is more economical, and works just as well.  Instead of Rockler's rubber balls, I cut up pieces of old foam ear plugs and stick them into the grooves.  The result is a rattle-free panel and a warp-free case.

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