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Stiles and Rails

Stiles and rails are woodworking terms that refer to the outer frame of a “frame and panel” construction.  A basic frame and paneled section consists of two rails and two stiles that surround the  panel. In the picture above, these panels are on a wall.

Remember this tip from Pierre Finkelstein– The rails are the horizontal pieces and the stiles are the vertical. Think of the rails like railroad tracks to remember that they’re horizontal.



These 5 pieces are the minimum construction (called a “five piece door”).  Sometimes, a mullion is sandwiched in between the panel and stiles & rails.

In order to respect the carpentry rules when applying a decorative finish, you must follow these rules:

  1.  The Stiles cut the Rails (in the most simple sections)
  2. The Rails cut the Stiles when the outer rail is a long expanse as part of a multi-paneled section (like a wall)

When woodgraining, often Pierre will glaze the panel along with the rails at one time.  Then, do the stiles at a separate time (or in this case with oil, complete just after).

Pierre Finkelstein painting a door

See also the order to paint a room and dado for more information.