Strengthen Cope-and-Stick Joints with Dowels
I’m making a cabinet that will see everyday use. It has two frame-and-panel doors with solid-wood panels. Are cope-and-stick joints strong enough to be used on the doors?
Bert Kneal, Chico, CA
No, the joint isn’t strong enough for daily use, because the lateral forces created by the door repeatedly striking against the case or face frame weakens the joint and may cause it to fail. I’ve repaired numerous doors that have suffered that fate. If you want to use a cope-and-stick joint, reinforce it with two dowels. After milling the rails and stiles to their final dimensions, use a doweling jig to drill the holes for the dowels before cutting the cope and sticking. I like using 5⁄16-in.-dia. dowels, splitting the 2-in. length evenly between the rail and stile.
By the way, the situation would be different with plywood panels, which can be glued into their grooves, strengthening the door and eliminating the need for the dowels.