Kitchen Cabinet Doors

Blog entry by Renaissance_Man posted 01-14-2019 05:17 PM 2439 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Having seen one of my earlier attempts at making kitchen cabinet doors (which weren’t all that great), my wife informed me that she wanted new kitchen cabinet doors for her birthday.

A little background. Our kitchen cabinets are original to the house (and made to look like the dark, rather tacky looking Tudor design which was popular back then), which was built in 1972. Made of 1/2 inch particle board, they were covered in this sort of industrial grade contact paper stuff, which had shrunk and was bubbling and peeling in places. We pulled all this off the face frame and the doors, but not the cabinet interiors, sanded off as much of the remaining sticky residue as possible, then painted over everything.

The old doors were plain and flat. Not frame and panel. Some of them had warped over the years and wouldn’t close all the way.

But our budget did not include buying new cabinets or even just cabinet doors, so we lived with things the way they were.

For the heck of it, I took as stab at making a simple shaker-style frame and panel door, with rails and stiles of common pine and a piece of floor underlayment for the panel. The rails and stiles were joined with a spline made of the same material. I later learned that the knots in the pine might bleed pitch through any paint I applied to them, unless I used special (and expensive) primer. Also, cutting the slots for the panel, and especially the ones in the rails for where they would join to the stiles was a bit scary. I attempted a jig for cutting them, but the fence on my DeWalt jobsite saw wasn’t really substantial enough for the jig to ride on.

So cabinet doors went on the back burner.

Then I found Ana White’s plans for simple Shaker-style frame and panel doors, though strictly speaking, they are faux frame and panel. The rails and stiles are joined with pocket screws, and the panel is exactly the size of the center opening and does not fit into a slot. It is held in place with pocket screws as well. The center panel was of half inch plywood and was flush with the back of the door, rather than inset.

The idea intrigued me, though I was skeptical about cabinet doors held together with nothing more than pocket screws.

So I came up with a variation. My original intent was to substitute dowels for joining rail to stile, and rabbet the center panel into the rails and stiles.

I made a homebrew doweling jig with 3/8 ID metal spacers from Lowes, based on some described in Youtube vids.

I purchased a piece of 3/4×2 1/2 wide poplar from Home Depot to use for my initial attempt, but didn’t get around to making that attempt until several weeks later. When I went to use it, I discovered it was so warped and twisted so as to be unusable.

So, plan B.

I bought a sheet of 3/4 birch plywood, also from HD, and a sheet of 1/2 inch birch ply as well. I had them cut up both in to manageable sections.

I ripped half the 3/4 inch ply into 2 inch wide strips. These were to be used for rails and stiles. My piece of warped poplar was to be cut into 1/4 inch strips to use as edge banding. I figured the warp/twist in it wouldn’t be an issue with such thin strips. The 1/2 inch ply was for the center panels.

I cut all my rails and stiles from my stock of 2 inch wide strips.

I had an improvised router table built for a previous project and set that up to cut a 1/4 inch wide rabbet exactly the thickness of my 1/2 inch plywood (which, of course, wasn’t exactly 1/2 inch). I figured the rabbet and some glue would be loads better than having the panel simply fit into the center opening, plus the rabbet would give it something to register against. Each rail was fully rabbeted. The ends of the stiles were left un-rabbeted for the rails to join to.

I figured I was good to go. I drilled the holes for the dowels using my jig. I was as careful as possible.

I made three of the smaller cabinet doors. With none of them would the rails and stiles line up in the same plane. They were out of alignment as much as .050. I kept hunting for the cause and finally determined there was too much slop in the diameter of the metal spacers used to construct my jig. I fixed the alignment issues in the three doors with the judicious application of some 80 grit sandpaper.

So decided to bite the bullet and switch to pocket holes for the remaining eleven doors. Also, it was too much hassle to drill the pocket holes to attach the center panel in place, so switched to using my Ryobi brad nailer with 5/8 brads spaced every 2 inches or so to glue-nail the panel into the rabbet.

Both changes in approach worked well. The rails and stiles lined up near perfectly. the panels went into the center with no trouble.

Finally the edge banding was applied. It was slightly wider than the 3/4 plywood was thick, so tried to get it so that it was a little proud of the surface on both sides. I also cut some 1/4 inch by about 5/16 inch strips to edge band the center area. The outside edge band was glue nailed in place. The inside strips were held in place with some improvised clamps made of 3 inch PVC pipe. Blue tape was put in place to catch some of the glue squeeze out.

With the glue on the edge banding dry, everything was first planed with a block plane to get it close to being flush, then sanded down until everything was even.

Lastly, liberal amounts of Durham’s Rock Hard Water Putty were applied to fill in the pocket holes and the gaps left from routing the rabbets. Then more sanding, and re-puttying any areas that needed it.

Finally, the doors were painted.

Fourteen doors, total cost of materials was less than $150, plus another 20 or so for paint. Hardware is going to be another $90.

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