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Shaker Cabinet Door Tutorial

Cabinet doors are the face of a finished project.  It is very important to have professional looking doors that will last through everyday use.

I live in Alaska, and it is exorbitantly expensive to have cabinet doors shipped up here.  The long lead times can also be frustrating.  So we decided to create a standard process to build our own cabinet doors with the same durability and quality as a professional shop.  

After a decade of trying different methods, testing, researching, and more testing, hours creating an automated system to simplify the math... We got it down to a science.  We built lots of doors.  It works. And we are finally ready to share that process with you.

 

Shaker Cabinet Door Building Guide

In this tutorial, we'll go through our steps to build Shaker Cabinet doors, sometimes called Frame and Panel doors.

Video Tutorial

Please watch the quick video tutorial on building these cabinet doors - seeing will help it all make sense.

 

Tools Needed

  • Table saw
  • Router and router table
  • Tongue and Groove router bits for cabinet doors (we use these)
  • Miter Saw
  • Sander
  • Clamps

 

Recommended Materials

  • 1x6 or 1x8 Hardwood (depending on desired door frame thickness)
  • 1/4" thick MDF panel (for paint grade) or matching 1/4" hardwood plywood for stain grade
  • Wood glue

 

Shaker Cabinet Door Parts

Just so we are on the same page, here are the parts used in building a Shaker cabinet door:

Step 1: Cut List

Generating a cut list is always a little scary, since hardwood is expensive, and it is very easy to make a mistake, especially when you are building many doors.  So I created a very easy to use and customize spreadsheet that you can download and use.

 

 

Click here to automatically download my spreadsheet. It's totally free, no gimmicks. You can use it locally on your computer with Excel, or you can upload it to Google Sheets and use it there.  

Each time you do a set of doors, copy and save the spreadsheet - so you can always have a reference copy of your door schedule.

This cut list is based off a "rip last" method - for one door, you only cut one stile (that is double wide) and one rail (that is also double wide).  More on this in a minute.

 

Step 2: Cutting the Boards and Panel

Use a miter saw to cut boards according to the cut list generated from the spreadsheet.

With a pencil, write the dimensions on face of every board cut, twice, so when the board is ripped in half lengthwise, each piece will have dimensions on it. Also note which are rails and which are stiles.

Use a tablesaw to cut the center panel pieces from the MDF or hardwood panel.  If needed, presand the panel - once the door is put together, you won't be able to sand the panel.  Pencil in the dimensions of the top of the panel.

 

Step 3: Routering the Tenon / Tongue Cuts

Set the tongue cut router bit up according to manufacture recommendations.  Make a test run on a scrap piece of wood and adjust up or down.  Adjust also the fence placement.  When you are set, run a small test piece through and save it to help with setting the groove bit height later on.

On only the rail pieces, router both ends with the tongue/tenon bit, pencil marks face up.

This will create a tongue on both ends of every rail piece.

 

Step 4: Router Groove Cuts

Change out the router bit for the groove cut bit.  Run your saved test piece in the router to make sure the cuts are in exact alignment height wise - the groove cutter should remove the entire tongue when properly adjusted.

Router grooves in all the stiles and rails, on both sides (with grain) of your boards, pencil marks face up.

Step 5: Ripping the Rails and Stiles

The benefit of ripping last is it is much easier and safer to router larger pieces of wood, and it is half the cutting.

Set your table saw to the desired rip width, and with the groove against the fence, rip your rails and stiles into two pieces.  Make sure each piece is run - so you can be sure each piece is exactly right in dimension.

Step 6: Glue Up

Once all the pieces are cut, it's time for assembly.  

Apply glue inside the groves and at the tongue/groove joints.  Place the panel in the grooves and adjust, pencil marks all on the same side.

Clamp the door and allow to dry on a flat level surface.

Step 7: Finishing

Doors can be run through the table saw to clean up edges or size down if needed.

A palm router can be used to round over outside edges.

Sand the door frames with 120 grit and finish with 150 grit sandpaper for a paint grade finish. For a stain grade finish, start with 150 grit and finish with 180 grit.

 

We hope this tutorial is useful to you and helps you build better looking projects.  Thank you for using it, please share photos and tag us #shelfhelpnow with your completed projects.