Building Cabinet Doors

How to Make Cabinet Doors: 9 Steps (with Pictures)

Image titled Make Cabinet Doors Step 1


  1. Choose which door to make. There are two basic types of cabinet doors - slab and flat panel - most often chosen. You should consider the need for speed of construction, durability, ease of cleanup and maintenance.
  2. Pick the correct material to fit your doors. Most slab doors are made of plywood. Use MDF (medium density fiberboard) on a painted or a covered surface for a wood grain look.
  3. Use solid wood for a door when you make a panel door. This is done by either gluing up a panel to the width and length you need or by using a solid piece that has been specially milled for you. However, you need to know that this is usually cost prohibitive.

How to Build a Raised Panel Door

Image titled Make Cabinet Doors Step 2
  1. Build a flat (raised panel) door for a quality look. You need to realize that this type of cabinet door requires more tools, skill and time to create. However, the finished results can be very rewarding if you are willing and ready to step up to the challenge. Panel doors consist of two stiles (side pieces) and two rails (top and bottom) along with a panel that sits between them.
    • Cut the stiles and the rails from 4/4 (2.54 cm) material - if you can - and mill or plane down the material to a consistent width of .75 inches (2 cm). Accuracy and consistency of width assures a good fit.
    • The rails need to be approximately .5 inches (1.2 cm) less than the stiles. The width depends on the project and the look you want for your cabinets.
    • Make the stiles blanks the length you need and then run the inside edge through a stile router bit mounted on a router table.
    • Cut the rails to the length you need. Determine this length by measuring from the outside edge of the stiles to the beginning of the round-over, or bead, you made with the router bit.Image titled Make Cabinet Doors Step 4 Subtract this from the width of the opening, then cut the rail blanks to length. Run the inside edge through the router using the same bit you used earlier.
  2. Change the bit to a coping or stick bit. The coping bit creates a secure and tight fit of the rail to the stile. Now, run the ends of the rails through the bit.
  3. Determine the dimensions of the panel by measuring from the outside edges to the beginning of the rollover (or bead). Subtract that distance from the total height and width of the door. A flat door panel will usually be made from .25-inch (.6 mm) plywood - the same wood type as the rest of the cabinet.
    • Cut the door panel insert slightly less than the size you need to allow for wood expansion and contraction. Ordinarily, this will be the width of a table saw blade.
    • Begin assembly of the door by applying glue with a brush to the inside of the stile where the rail meets it and insert the rail tenon.
  4. Image titled Make Cabinet Doors Step 4Bullet3 Place rubber space balls (available at most woodworking supply stores) into the groove you created with the router style bit. Insert the panel.
  5. Apply glue to the tenon of the rails and slide the second stile into place. Clamp the pieces together, and allow the glue to dry.
  6. Sand the door, finish as desired, install the hardware and hang the new cabinet door on the cabinet frame.


  • Accuracy is the key to success. Run scrap pieces through the bits and test the fittings for tightness to be sure that you have set the height and fence correctly set on the router table.
  • The style of panel cabinet door you want can vary from the flat one described here to raised and glass panel doors. Every choice depends on the look you are trying to achieve.
  • Reference to 4/4 refers to .25 inches multiplied by 4, so 3/4 wood would be .75 inches and 6/4 would be 1.5 inches.
  • Step up the look of slab cabinet doors by adding molding to the edge or offset from the edge of the door.
  • Do not glue the panel into place. The space balls keep the panel tight while allowing the wood to move or expand.


  • Do not attempt to build a flat or raised panel door without a router table. You cannot get the accuracy you need without a router table.
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Building Cabinet Doors - Arch Tops.avi
Taunton Press Building Traditional Kitchen Cabinets: Completely Revised and Updated
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