What Is Stile & Rail?

You can easily get the gist of stile-and-rail construction by looking at a frame-and-panel wood door.

All Over The House

Contractor talking about construction plansContractor talking about construction plans
The stiles are the vertical members and generally run the full height of the frame. The horizontal rails bridge the stiles and usually terminate at them. Flat or raised panels fill the spaces inside the frame. If you have a four- or six-panel door, you'll notice that the center stiles terminate at the rails. Combined with well-executed joinery, such as dowel or mortise-and-tenon, rails and stiles make a strong door that resists warping.

Quality wood sash and casement windows, where dimensional stability is especially important, are made with stiles and rails. In the kitchen, you'll find them not just on cabinet doors, but also on cabinet face frames. Sometimes, in order to impart a traditional look, cabinet doors that lack true stiles and rails are made to look as if they have them. Case goods -- dressers, bureaus and bookcases -- often feature stiles and rails. On dressers, for example, rails separate and support drawers. Decorative table and case aprons, such as you might find on a Queen Anne-style highboy, are simply bottom rails with decorative flourishes.

About the Author

Robert Lewis has been writing do-it-yourself and garden-related articles since 2000. He holds a B.A. in history from the University of Maryland and has training experience in finance, garden center retailing and teaching English as a second language. Lewis is an antiques dealer specializing in Chinese and Japanese export porcelain.