February 22, 2015

Building Custom Cabinets: Building the Door - Part 3

Hardware installed and ready to assemble!

Doors...yup, need 'em, and since my base cabinet frame are custom measurements, that means I need to build a custom door. Also, for those of you following this...I just want to say that I'm by no means a professional at this, far from it in fact! This is my first attempt at a cabinet so if you're following my blog on how to build one and it doesn't come out like you'd hoped, you can't blame me! Just sayin'.

I was debating on what wood to use for my doors, just when I was thinking birch plywood (which to be honest, I don't even know if plywood is recommended for the doors), I realised I had a giant piece of leftover MDF from my NES Coffee Table. There are many different ways you can build doors, but I decided to make just a simple shaker cabinet door with an MDF frame and plywood center.

So the outside frame is 2.5" wide made out of 3/4" MDF, the inside panel is 1/4" sanded pine plywood. I was actually planning on using 1/4" MDF but the Rona and Home Depot near me were out of stock. They also didn't have birch plywood so I settled with sanded pine, I needed both smooth sides and that seemed to do the trick! Fyi, I also had a peek at oak plywood veneered on both sides and fir plywood...awful. It would take WAY too much sanding to get it completely smooth.

I watched a whole bunch of YouTube videos on building shaker doors (I found this one helpful) and decided to go with cutting out a dado groove into my frame to hold the center panel, and then a tongue and groove joint to join the stiles to the rails. Now I don't own a router and didn't want to try to rent or find one, so I needed to make all of my cuts on the table saw. Found a method that seemed promising and it worked!

Below is one of the rails (rails run horizontally and stiles run vertically), you can kinda see the cut out on the center of the bottom piece and then a little tongue piece to join to the rails.

Here's a better picture to show what I'm talking about, on the right is the stile and on the left is the rail with the tongue piece cut out, that will fit into the groove that is cut out down the center of the stile. Note that if you do this right, they should fit snug and without that gap that you see there. Don't judge my skills.

Anyways, once the rails and stiles were cut, I used my table saw to cut out the groove (had to make two passes to equal 1/4" as my saw blade is only 1/8" wide, if you really want to know how I did this leave a comment), then cut out the tongue on both rails and did a dry fit with the center panel. BAM! It actually worked! I'm always a little surprised when things go according as planned :) Especially since this is my first stab at building a cabinet/doors.

Since everything fit well, I glued and clamped together one side as shown below. You can get a better idea of how the panel will now slide in to all those grooves I cut out.

Let everything dry, sanded my panel down (figured it was easier to sand it while flat than when surrounded by the MDF panels), inserted my panel, squared up the corners then glued up the second side. You can totally glue the panel into the grooves if you find it jiggling around, but mine was a perfect fit so I didn't glue it.

After sanding down the entire door, sucking off the dust, and using a tack cloth, I primed the door using my hand spray primer. Everything is a flat surface and a small area, so rather than dirtying up another roller with oil-based paint, I sprayed :)

Sooo....after priming and then painting, I figured the next logical step was to find the hardware (hinges and handle), install and bam, done right? WRONG. What I didn't see in any of the tutorials was that one should purchase the hardware FIRST and THEN prime and paint. Why? Same reason for not painting before assembling the carcass, scuffs, scratches, nicks, etc. Bah. More painting! But below is what it looks like after boring out some holes to fit a concealed European hinge, I lay down a towel to minimize scuffing.

So the proper order of building a door SHOULD be:
  • Build door
  • Assemble door
  • Sand door
  • Install hardware (or at least dry fit and drill all the holes)
  • Remove hardware
  • Prime, paint, and finish door

BAM. Door built, hardware on, time to finish this cabinet! Last steps on the door before assembling the hinges to the carcass, found some door bumpers to use, attached them on and then installed the hinges, the door bumpers gave me the spacing that I needed, if you install them AFTER the hinges, the spacing might be a bit wonky on the doors.

Wanna see how my first ever cabinet looks? Check out the final build post!