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Cabinet Door Construction

Making Cabinet Doors...

Part 1

 A major part of cabinet and furniture making, and often an area that causes stress to some woodworkers, is cabinet door construction. With a systematic approach, it need not be quite so intimidating. An understanding of the process will change this into "just another phase of woodworking". This article should be quite helpful in explaining how to make cabinet doors.


Cabinet Door Styles

The first choice in making cabinet doors is pretty obvious, and that would be what type of door / doors do you want on your project. Slab door, meaning a flat panel, generally made from some sort of sheet goods, ie.. Plywood, M.D.F., particle board, and so on. These options are usually covered with some sort of laminate or veneer.

The exception to the rule has come about with the advent of CNC machinery. This has enabled the use of a slab door, usually made of M.D.F. that looks like a panel door. These doors are very stable, and with the right equipment, can be very inexpensive to produce. These doors are often finished with a solid color, as there is no grain. The very high end machinery is capable of producing a foil coated door that is hard to distinguish from real wood, as the color and grain is photo copied onto the foil.

They can also be made out of solid wood, glued up into slabs wide enough for the application. While this can be beautiful, it is often not such a great idea, as it is one of the least stable of the choices. It is more likely to expand and contract, as well as warp, with the changing of the seasons.

Flat panel, or raised panel doors make up the other options. These doors are generally much more stable, but require more work in constructing them. They are made with solid wood frames, the vertical pieces are called stiles, and the horizontal pieces are called rails. This is referred to as stile and rail construction, or cope and stick. These doors are made with either a router or shaper cutter set, which can be two separate cutters, or a single cuter with multiple parts. The parts are configured by the user the form the desired cut. In the case of using a router, it must be done with a router table. Do not even consider trying to do these cuts with a hand held router. The cutters are machine matched and will form perfect joints. (providing it's a good set).

As a test, I made about ten pairs of doors for my shop cabinets, using a cutter set designed for a router table. When I assembled the doors, I didn't use any clamps, I just glued the joints, assembled them, and gave them a good whack with a mallet. I let the glue dry and hung the doors. This was over twenty years ago, and these doors get severe use. So far there have been no failures in these doors. The set I used for these doors was a Freud cabinet set, which also included a raised panel bit, a glue joint bit, and a drawer face bit. We made a couple hundred doors with these cutters, and never had any problems with them. They also held an edge very well.

Some makers will use mortise and tenon joints, in addition to these cutters, but I don't feel it's necessary, as we've made a large number of doors, and so far, so good.(Knock on wood).

The next choice to be made is an inset door, meaning set into the cabinet body or face frame, or an overlay door. Overlay doors can be broken up into two categories. Full overlay, where the door covers the casework, or cabinet body, and two, which is a half or partial overlay. This arrangement will allow a part of the cabinet carcass, or face frame to be exposed. These overlay doors allow some "play" in fitting to the cabinet.


Part two

  Link To Router Table Cutter Sets 

  Link To Shaper Cutter Sets

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