Shaker Cabinet Door Fabrication Guide

Shaker Cabinet Door Fabrication Guide

If you want to learn how to make your own cabinet doors, or you want to understand how shaker cabinet doors are made, this guide is for you!  Our shaker cabinet door fabrication guide will take you step by step in how to make the popular shaker cabinet door style.

Shaker cabinet doors owe their origin to the humble yet incredibly talented Shaker woodworkers from the northeastern United States.  These doors are popular as they are durable, stylish, and offer a simple appearance. This is due in large part of the minimal woodworking tools the Shakers used and still use today.  This style is described as a clean and simple design which is incredibly popular.

Steps To Fabricating Shaker Cabinet Doors

The steps are the same for woodworkers in home shops or for cabinet door manufacturers.  While it’s easier for factories to crank out cabinet doors they can be made by patient and skilled individuals with a table saw and some hard work. Follow the steps below to make your own shaker cabinet doors.

Step 1: Measure

The saying “measure twice and cut once” will never go out of style and applies to any fabrication project.  To start your shaker cabinet door construction project you need to know what size they should be.  To measure for cabinet doors you’ll need to consider the “overlay”.  This is how far past the opening in the cabinet face the door extends past.

The standard overlay size for a single door is ¼ inch on the top, bottom, and sides.  For double doors hung over a single opening you should plan for the same overlay on the sides but not in the center.  Plant to remove 1/16th of an inch from the inside edge of double cabinet door sizes so they don’t close together in the center.

Step 2: Select The Wood

Next you’ll have to select the wood type you want to build your cabinet doors in.  Consider matching the type of wood already in your kitchen so your doors will match better.  If you’re going to paint your cabinet doors ensure you’re ordering paint grade cabinet doors.  Great wood species for cabinet doors includes: alder, soft maple, poplar, hard maple, and cherry.  Prices will vary for each different type of wood, so choose the one that fits your budget best.

Step 3: Rip The Frame Stock

The frame that makes up the rails on the top and bottom is not likely to just be laying on a shelf at your hardware store.  This means you’ll need to rip some of the thickness from the wood that’s locally available. Using the table saw is a good way to rip the thickness of wood, if done carefully.  This is one of the advantages cabinet door factories have in ordering the right sizes and having highly precise woodworking machines to rip wood to exacting specifications.

Step 4: Cope, Stick, Rails, and Stiles

The shaker cabinet door is made up of cope and sticks.  This is to say that the frame sections at the top, bottom, and sides are named cope and sticks.  These sections are joined with a mortise and tenon joint. To make that joint you can use a table saw, but this is incredibly dangerous.  Extreme caution should be used as these cuts will bring fingers very close to saw blades.

In addition to prepping the cope and sticks for joining to each other you’ll need to cut a grove on the inside edges of the frame sections to hold the center panel.  This area should be made small enough to securely hold the center panel, but with enough extra space to allow expansion.

Step 5: Center Panel Fabrication

Most cabinet doors feature a center panel.  There are inset center panels and raised center panels.  Ensure that the thickness of the edge of your center panel fits tightly in the grove you cut in the frame.  Shaker cabinet doors are typically built with a flat center panel, so you should only have to cut it to size and get it read for final assembly.

Step 6: Shaker Cabinet Door Assembly

To get ready for this step you’ll want your clamps, frame sections, center panel, and any wood glue you’re planning to use ready.  Assemble 2 or 3 sections of the frame and then insert your center panel.  Use clamps and you assemble your door to hold the sections in place.  After the center panel is secured in the groves attach the last sections of your frame and clamp it together.  The biggest challenge in this step is making sure your doors are square.  Use a square to ensure you’ve got 90° angles at each of the corners.

Step 7: Sanding & Edging

You can use a router or sandpaper to go around the edges of your doors to shape them and make sure they are smooth.  Sanding helps make sure there are no sharp points on the doors.  It’s best for DIY door builders to use a sanding block or electric sander to complete this step of the build.

Step 8: Finishing Shaker Cabinet Doors

This is the step where style comes into play.  Will you stain, dye, or paint your shaker cabinet doors?  Most of the authentic shaker cabinet doors are simply stained or dyed to give them an authentic look.  With that said more and more people are opting to paint their cabinet doors in earth tones and shades of white to keep up with style trends.  Choose the finish you feel best matches your home, style, and look you want for your kitchen.

Step 9: Shaker Cabinet Door Installation

Once your doors are completely dry you’ll be ready to install them in your kitchen.  The hinges, handles, or knobs you want should be installed at this point.  Hang your new shaker cabinet doors using the old hinges from other cabinet doors or purchase new Blum concealed hinges.  Follow the instructions for the hinge type you choose and complete your shaker cabinet door installation.

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