Frame and Plywood Panel: How to cut the panel grooves

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Forum topic by jstewart posted 06-24-2008 04:21 AM 7352 views 1 time favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View jstewart's profile


141 posts in 4089 days

06-24-2008 04:21 AM

Topic tags/keywords: frame and panel stopped dado question

I’m working on the design phase of a TV stand that will hopefully use frame and flat panels for the sides. I would like to join the rails and stiles using just pocket holes. I know I need to cut a 1/4” groove all around the inside of the frame, but how should I do that? Here are some thoughts I’ve been having. Please provide any feedback or suggestions you might have.

I could simply cut the 1/4” groove in all of the pieces before I join them together. This would be similar to using a cope and stick bit set in a router table. Then the panel would sit in the grooves cut around the inside of each frame piece. However, I’m using pocket hole joinery for the frame. Would the 1/4” groove running through the stiles weaken the pocket hole joints too much? I would think it would.

So, can I somehow cut stopped grooves in the stiles? I don’t have a router table where I could drop a stile down over a 1/4” straight bit. Can I do a similar thing using a table saw? Can I cut a stopped groove using a 1/4” dado set and dropping the board down on top of a running blade?

Should I just build a router table and do stopped grooves on it? I already have a router and a good router plate that I’ve been planning to build a table for. A flat piece of MDF to drop the plate into and a nice straight piece of hardwood for a fence and I should be good to go, right?

-- Joshua, Olathe, Kansas

9 replies so far

View HossMan's profile


42 posts in 3716 days

#1 posted 06-24-2008 06:45 AM

You might consider forming a tenon on the ends of the top & bottom rails that fit the groove you run in the stiles: it’s one way of making panels that depends only on a glue joint…maybe a pin to hold it while the glue sets. I don’t know that a pocket screw would hurt such a joint, and it eliminates the need of a stopped groove.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4216 days

#2 posted 06-24-2008 02:36 PM

HossMan’s idea is good. If I were you, though, I’d say it is time to go ahead and make that router table. It sounds like you already have the basic ingredients, and once you have it, I promise you will wonder how you ever got by without it.

Maybe someone had done it and will disagree with me, but I would not personally be comfortable with trying to cut a stopped groove with a dado set on a table saw.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View brunob's profile


2277 posts in 4167 days

#3 posted 06-24-2008 02:53 PM

I have cut stopped grooves on my table saw but I don’t feel real good not being able to see the blade. I’d vote for the router table and the tenon idea.

-- Bruce from Central New, if you'll pardon me, I have some sawdust to make.

View bhack's profile


349 posts in 3718 days

#4 posted 06-24-2008 03:15 PM

If you have an edge guide for the router you can gang the stiles together to give your router a wider surface to ride on and do a stopped groove.

-- Bill - If I knew GRANDKIDS were so much fun I would have had them first.

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3766 days

#5 posted 06-24-2008 04:08 PM

i’d go with the router table, but even just dropping the piece onto that bit spinning at 20,000 rpm isn’t something that i’m comfortable with. I’d just cut a tenon onto the rails and do a tongue and groove joint.

View gerrym526's profile


274 posts in 3806 days

#6 posted 06-24-2008 06:32 PM

Why don’t you build a “quick and dirty” router table. Just take the base plate off your stationary router and layout the screw holes on a piece of 1/2 baltic birch ply (that way you have a rigid platform without having to go out and buy longer screws-eg. if you were to use 3/4 MDF as the base). Countersink the screw holes.

Drill a hole for the 1/4 straight bit to fit through the table from the bottom.

Fasten the router base to the bottom of the plywood.
Clamp the homemade router table to your workbench ( C clamps work fine).

Cut a fence 3-4 inches high from hardwood, MDF, or plywood, and clamp it to the router table with C Clamps and you’re ready to go. You can then set stops for the grooves by clamping pieces of wood to the start/stop points on the fence.

If it takes more than 30 min to make the table and fence you can yell at me-LOL!

You can then throw it away, or keep it for the next job. That way you can take your time desiging the router table of your dreams without adding a lot of extra time to your current project.

-- Gerry

View jstewart's profile


141 posts in 4089 days

#7 posted 06-25-2008 05:13 AM

Since I already had the router plate and a piece of unused melamine laying around, I decided to start making a quick and dirty router table. I cut the recess for the plate tonight, completely covering myself in sawdust in the process. (It’s amazing how dusty that chipboard stuff inside the melamine sheet can be.) For doing a quick and dirty job, I’m pretty happy with how snug of a fit the plate is side to side. It has some little snuggers that helped get that perfect fit. It seems to be just about perfectly flush with the top of the table as well. Now I just need a quick stand made from some extra 2×4s I have laying around.

-- Joshua, Olathe, Kansas

View Loren's profile


10390 posts in 3646 days

#8 posted 06-25-2008 06:37 PM

Frustrating experiences with brittle woods forced me to explore
this issue in more detail.

1) Unless it’s a soft, well-behaved wood I cut the groove in 2 passes
with a 3-wing router bit. I tried it many times with a 1/4”slot cutter
(by Freud, so not junk) and consistently saw that 1/4” cutter cause
bad tearing out on the edges of the slot.

2) Loose-tenons, dowels, or circular (round) biscuits are preferable.
These joinery methods allow me to put together the frame as it
will be glued, route the groove with a hand-held router, take it
apart and fit the frame and glue it up.

3) Using a router table means you will need hold-downs and all that
stuff to press the parts down firmly on the table. Unless the parts
are short you’ll experiences variations in the depth of cut unless
you are super-vigilant. I’d rather dry-clamp and cut the grooves from
the back with a hand-held router.

4) I once cut a set of doors with grooves (on the table saw) and then
plugged the ends with scrap stock. It looked ok but while I saved time
and hassle cutting the grooves on the table saw it took time to fit and
glue the plugs.

5) You can cut the grooves on the table saw and then miter the corners
of the frame. I’m not sure if pocket screws will do this well but the miter
eliminates the problem of the stopped groove.

I always go for speed, ease of setup, and reduced chipping. I’ve used
pocket screws a lot for face frames and other joinery. They are fast
and strong.

6) with pocket screws you can just cut the screw pockets, assemble the
frame with a pair of K-body clamps (the joints and rails rest on the wide
clamp bar), clamp it tight, route the groove from the back, take it apart,
fit the frame and screw and glue it together.

View Loren's profile


10390 posts in 3646 days

#9 posted 06-25-2008 06:42 PM

Another suggestion you may not have though of. I used
this a lot when I was building a lot of cabinetry… looks great
and goes together quick.

Join the frame and route a rabbet from the front, square the
rabbet, pop in the panel (glue it if it’s plywood), then use applied
mouldings to cover the rabbet. You can get these at moulding
suppliers. They are easy to miter quickly for a friction fit… then
a few brad nails keep them in place. If the panel gets bashed
in you can pop off the mouldings and replace it.

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