Ask WWGOA: Stub Tenon and Groove vs. Mortise and Tenon

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I am making new kitchen cabinet doors and need some advise on the type of joints to use for the stiles and rails. Doors will be 3/4″ thick Red Oak with 3/4″ raised panels. Most doors will be approx. 13″ x 26″ with, the largest door approx. 18″ x 27″. Will a Stub Tenon & Groove be sufficient for a long lasting door or would a Mortise & Tenon be necessary for the size?

One other question. When making the raised panel (using the table saw for this application, straight cut, not coped), I will make the angled cut and go back and dado the beveled edge (along with the back of the panel) to create a flat surface to fit into the groove. Can the shoulder of the bevel be tight against the stile or should I leave 1/8″ of flat exposed to allow for expansion and contraction? Thank you for sharing you expertise.

Submitted by jmbretzke


Some woodworkers endorse using a more significant joint in doors than a stub mortise and tenon but I think that if the joint is well made and you apply glue properly, a stub mortise is plenty strong.

On your raised panel, I’d like to see a small flat on the front of the panel, in addition to the back, to make it easier for the panel to move within the frame.


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4 Responses to “Ask WWGOA: Stub Tenon and Groove vs. Mortise and Tenon”

  1. Tom

    How do you stain and finish raised panel doors? I assume you stain before assembly to avoid bare wood showing with panel movement. But if you varnish before assembly they might not fit unless you allow for the thickness of the varnish. If you varnish after won’t that inhibit panel movement or show a crack if it does shrink?

    • Customer Service

      Hi Tom,

      Thank you for the question, here is the experts reply:

      Prefinish the panels before assembly. You’re right; allow for the thickness of the finish. Don’t go too tight on your thickness tolerances. It’s far better to be too loose than too tight. You can always add a shim in the back to keep them from rattling. But if they are too tight and can’t move, they could crack during assembly, or when the panel tries to expand/contract.


  2. Guy Allen

    Do Sommerfeld router bits have the ability to make longer tenon like Freud bits or are stub tenons strong enough for cabinet doors. I can not find this answer anywhere on the web. I am trying to decide on which router bits to buy. Thank you for any help you can give me …… Guy

    • Customer Service

      Hi Guy. Unfortunately I don’t have any experience with Sommerfeld bits so I can’t comment on that. For cabinet doors, I commonly use stub tenons. I believe they are strong enough if milled/glued/clamped properly