In rail and stile cabinet doors, the stile (vertical) always runs the whole length of the door, while the rail (horizontal) does not. At least, I can't find any exceptions to this rule. Is there a reason for this, other than tradition? Can I build a door where the rails run all the way from the left edge to the right (that is, rotate the traditional design by 90 degrees)?

wooden cabinet doors

  • There are also panel doors that have mitered rails and stiles. I would imagine that having a full height stile is beneficial for attaching hinges, but that's just a guess.
    – Eli Iser
    Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 0:42
  • Sure it's convention/tradition, however I have seen exceptions. Without speculating about why those exceptions were made (I has theories!) the conventional way is to be preferred, basically because: gravity. Pin the tenons however, and you can do it with complete safety, even if you were glueing with hide glue.
    – Graphus
    Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 8:17
  • I had totally forgotten about this previous Question (which, unusually, the Related column at right didn't supply). So although you've asked this in a different way this is still a possible duplicate.
    – Graphus
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 15:40
  • 1
    Does this answer your question? full length stiles versus full width rails on doors
    – Graphus
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 15:40
  • You generally can't see the top and bottom of the doors except when they are open, but you can see the sides. To me it's an aesthetic reason.
    – LarryBud
    Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 15:34

1 Answer 1


Can I...?

Sure. It's your door.

Is there a reason for this?

I have some theories:

  1. It's easier to mill one stile for each side than 2 or 3 or 4.
  2. There are fewer joints to make - there are 2 for each rail (a vertical one at each end) instead of 4 for each rail (two horizontal joints at each end).
    1. It's less time consuming to make 4 joints than 2.
    2. There are fewer joints to fail with 2 joints instead of 4.
  3. A horizontal joint across the stile relies on the glue to hold the lower parts of the door in place.
    1. Even a well glued, tight M&T joint connecting the short stile sections to a longer rail has gravity trying to pull a vertical tenon out of the mortise 24/7/365 for the life of the door.
    2. A M&T joint from rail to stile will keep the door together against gravity even without glue at all. It's only centrifugal force from rapidly swinging the door that might try to pull the joint apart. At the most this would only happen when the door is used by hyperactive 4 year olds or possibly disagreements with the spouse over new tool purchases.
  4. It looks funny because our brains have been trained to expect a 1-piece stile uninterrupted by rails.
    1. This applies to electric cars, too. Many of them look funny because they only have part of the "face" that we're used to seeing on cars that need air flow to cool their internal combustion engines.
  • I would normally not upvote an Answer on a Q that will be, or is likely to be, closed but I'm totally making an exception in this case <thumbsup>
    – Graphus
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 15:42
  • I usually don't like answers for questions that should be closed @Graphus, but I figured if the OP removed the "Can I" part it was a good question. That was before you found the dupes, though.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 15:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.