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.
The rails are the horizontal pieces and the stiles are the vertical. I always think of the rails like a railroad tracks and that’s how I 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:
* the Stiles cut the Rails (in the most simple sections)
* 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 I 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).