The first step in preparing stock lor raised panels is to evaluate your design in terms of ihc copc-and-stick joinery on the frame members, as well as the proportions of the typical panel-raising bit.
The industry convention is to use /«-inch-thick stock for the panels. Ncverthless, you can satisfactorily use Vi-inch stock, and even Vi-inch stock. Let's look at the reasons.
As noted elsewhere, the copc-and-stick cutters produce a groove for the panel i hat's 'A inch wide and Ka inch deep. If the frame stock is V* inch thick—the industry convention—then the groove is positioned with its centerline between 'A inch and Mo inch from the frame member's back edge (depending upon how deep you cut the profile).
Panel-raising bits arc proportioned to produce the optimum relief—not too shallow, not too deep— and the proper tongue thickness—'A inch—on %-inch-thick stock. If you use K«-inch stock for the panel, you'll have to cut deeper than the optimum relief to get the '/4-inch tongue. Or you'll have to "undercut" the back of the panel that's been raised to the optimum. The undercut—a son of rabbet—produces a relief in the back of the panel so the tongue is V* inch thick.
There's another choice here, too. Will the panel be flush or projecting? If you raise a %-inch panel the optimum and fit it into a frame sticked to the industry standard, then the panel's field will be flush with the surface of the frame. That's a flush panel. If you do the same with a Ki-inch panel, the field will be Vs inch proud of the frame surfaces.
That's a projecting panel. With the projecting panel, the relief may not look quite right because it is too deep.
By undercutting the ft-inch panel, you can reduce the relief, yet also pull it back in the frame and make it a flush panel.
When you've made yours, plane the stock to the chosen thickness. If necessary, glue up the wood to produce the widths needed, and crosscut the rough panels to finished length.
Remember that the straightness and flatness of the panel are as important to the overall straightness and flatness of the structure as those of the frame. In most circumstances, if the panel is warped, it will twist the frame. So chose the panel stock accordingly. (There arc circum stances. Fred points out. in which burled, unstable wood is used for panels. The trick is to keep this stock thin enough that it doesn't have the strength to overpower the frame and warp it.)
Sizing the panels has to be done before you raise them. In doing this, you have to account for the relative moisture content of the wood. The length of the panel won't change over the course of time, but the width will come and go with the seasons.
You want an easy slip fit during assembly. If the panel material (and the frame stock, too) were perfectly stable, you could measure from the bottom of one groove to the bottom of the opposite one and cut the panel to that dimension minus about M<. inch for assembly clearance. But of course, none of the stock is really stable. When cutting the panel to
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