How to make Cabinet Doors

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ferbit's picture
Joined: 2010-08-30 18:17
How to make Cabinet Doors
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I noticed most of your cabinet door plans call for a thinner piece of plywood and then trimming it out with hobby boards for that pretty, decorative look.  What do you do about the exposed plywood edges - for staining?  Does edge banding work in a situation like this?  Laura Heiselbetz posted this great photo on your Facebook page of what I'm talking about.  :)

Hopefully she sees this post.  I'm curious how the edges turned out.  :)  I'm about to make bathroom vanity cabinets to replace our extremely old ones...  With my new Kreg Jig, I feel totally comfortable making the boxes, the toe-kicks underneath, the cabinet face frames, etc...  but NOT the cabinet doors!  That totally freaks me out!  :)

I've looked in woodworking magazines and they use a mortise and tenon join for the stiles and rails and then route a groove along the interior for the thin plywood panel.  I can see how that would make perfect sense if I had a table saw!  :)

Ana, what do you do on your finished pieces?  I searched through all of your plans that called for doors and I couldn't tell what you did each time.  I could see a few photos where you had used pocket screws and then attached plywood to the back...  I think? 

Thank you!!!'s picture
Joined: 2011-10-27 08:08
Raised Panel Doors

I'm making a Clothes Press (Standing Cupboard) out of solid American Black Walnut. The press stands about 48" high and has two doors. Like you mentioned, I'm using mortise and tenon joinery to make the frame of the doors. Instead of a shallow mortise of only 3/8", I"m making them 1" long for strength. I was worried about the exposed grove line so I used stop grove on my stiles and rails. I use a solid piece of walnut 22"x16" and it will float in the frame.

Plywood can be glued in to the frame hiding any edges, but you should use solid wood for the frame. It is far stronger looks much better. You can use a shallower mortise because the plywood will give added strength to the door when glued in place. You CANNOT glue a solid wood panel and therefore the frame has to hold all the weight.

claydowling's picture
Joined: 2011-01-26 17:28
Mortise and tenon without a table saw

With just a little bit of practice, you can cut mortise and tenon joints without a table saw. I own a table saw, but I prefer hand work, so when I recently built a table I cut my tenons by hand. You'll need to pick up some reference material on sawing, and especially on mortise and tenon joints, but there are a number of good books out there. Also, I discovered that the inexpensive Kobalt back saw sold at Lowes was good enough to cut a nice tenon.

The mortise is a bit more of a pain. I used a drill press to get the bulk of the material out, then a chisel to clean up the sides, and a mortise chisel to square the ends. The solution wasn't entirely satisfactory, and I'm going to work on a horizontal slot mortiser before I build my next one, but it did get the job done quite well.

The biggest thing to remember is that your first one will probably suck, and you'll need to practice on scrap. Also, the time to invest in good chisels is at hand. Fortunately Lee Valley is selling excellent chisels at a great price right now.

DominicMaricich's picture
Joined: 2012-06-07 02:20
Easy Cabinet Doors

For easy and durable cabinet doors sometimes I will do solid-wood edge banding that looks a lot like this:

It's super easy but requires a table saw and a small laminate trimmer($75 @ Home Depot).

When making edge banding for 3/4" thick plywood doors I'll rip 5/16" x 13/16" x 8' lengths of solid wood (usually poplar if I'll be painting the doors because it's durable, affordable, and holds paint well). Use an awl for a pushstick, please :)

Then I'll cut the lengths slightly longer than the door sides (longer by about 1/8") and glue them and clamp them down with regular masking tape like this:

I always do the sides before the tops, I don't know why, but that's just the way it's typically done. I'll trim it flush with the laminate trimmer and do the same for the door tops.

Sand and paint(or stain) and Bob's your uncle.

claydowling's picture
Joined: 2011-01-26 17:28
Cool doors

I like the look of those doors. For those thinking of trying this at home, you've probably got some serious modifications to do for your table saw. Trimming those narrow little strips requires a zero clearance insert, which likely doesn't come with your saw (but they're pretty easy to make or buy). Cutting the narrow strip can also be dangerous without the right tools. The awl is a safety hazard, so build a proper push block (again, see the books).