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Hi Dejfson, The main reason to use frame and panel construction (besides the fact that it looks nice) is to deal with wood expansion and contraction. A fairly wide board can expand and contract a fair amount and that can break things. So suppose you have a door that is reasonably wide. As a single piece of solid wood, it can expand and contract a lot. So you “float” the panel inside a fairly narrow frame. The frame pieces, being narrow, do not expand and contract much. And since the large panel is floating in the frame, it is free to expand and contract a fair amount without changing the overall size of the door. Bingo.
So when do you not need frame and panel construction? When it is not needed to control expansion and contraction. Here are some cases. 1. The example of the table top you mention. Of course, that wide table top can expand and contract, but you can take that into account by how you attach it to the apron of the table. 2. In a door where it does not matter how much it expands of contracts, say because it simply overlays the cabinet opening without being embedded in it. (Note, most of Paul’s doors are frame and panel because they embed into the cabinet opening so expansion and contraction will quickly jam and then loose them.) 3. Plywood does not expand or contract much so you can generally ignore the need to take it into account. This means that you do not need frame and panel for, say, a plywood door — though you might want it just because it looks nice. Modern furniture construction uses plywood for a number of reasons, and one is that it does not require frame and panel construction for wide pieces. 4. If you are dovetailing two boards together, say for a box, it is done end grain to end grain. So the two boards will expand and contract together and the joint will not generally break. (Hm . . . different species of wood expand and contract at different rates. I wonder if they differ enough to be a problem there when the boards are wide? )
Anyway, that is the general idea. Of course, frame and panel is sometimes used for purely decorative purposes too. My house has doors made from some sort of artificial material with fake grain and fake panels.
I am not sure, but it sounds like the bed you are thinking of is a sort of large box with holes for drawers etc. (A sketch of what you have in mind might help.) If so, like any box, I bet it is fine with dovetailed sides and no frame and panel construction, at least as far as wood movement goes.
Good luck with it!