Glass Kitchen Cabinet Doors

Convert Wood Cabinet Doors to Glass

Photo 1: Clamp and rout

Clamp router guides to the back side of the door. Run a pattern bit along the guides to cut away the inside lips.

Photo 1A: Special pattern bit

A pattern bit has a top-mounted bearing.

Photo 2: Arched window technique

Lower the router bit and cut away the shoulders on the back side of an arched upper rail to create a square recess for the glass.

A pair of glass doors can add a designer touch to any kitchen. They can turn an ordinary cabinet into a decorative showcase or simply break up an otherwise monotonous row of solid doors. We recommend this alteration only for frame-and-panel cabinet doors (see Figure A), where you can replace the inset wood panels with glass. Converting the two doors shown here took about two hours.

To get started, remove the doors from the cabinets and remove all hardware from the doors. Examine the back side of each door; you might find a few tiny nails where the panel meets the frame. If so, gouge away wood with a utility knife to expose the nail heads and pull the nails with a pliers. Look carefully; just one leftover nail will chip your expensive router bit.

Cut away the lips using a router and a 1/2-in. pattern bit (Photo 1). A pattern bit is simply a straight bit equipped with a bearing that rolls along a guide. Most home centers and hardware stores don’t carry pattern bits. To find a retailer, check the yellow pages under “woodworking” or order one at Be sure to choose a bit that has the bearing on the top, not at the bottom.

Use any straight, smooth material (solid wood, plywood or MDF) to make two 3-1/2-in.-wide guides. To allow for the 1-in. cutting depth of our pattern bit, we nailed layers of plywood and MDF together to make 1-3/8-in.-thick guides. Position the guides 1/2 in. from the inner edges of the lips and clamp them firmly in place over the door. Support the outer edges of the guides with strips of wood that match the thickness of the door to keep them level (Photo 1). Before you start routing, make sure the door itself is clamped firmly in place.

Set the router on the guide and adjust the cutting depth so that the bit just touches the panel. Cut away the lips on two sides, then reposition the guides to cut away the other two. With the lips removed, lift the panel out of the frame. If the panel is stuck, a few light hammer taps will free it.

If your door frame has a rectangular opening, it’s now ready for glass. If it has an arched upper rail, cut a square recess above the arch (Photo 2). This allows you to use a rectangular piece of glass rather than a curved piece (curved cuts are expensive).

Figure A: Panel Door Profile

Most cabinet doors are made like this one: A raised or flat panel fits into grooves in the rails-and-stile frame. To remove the panel, just cut away the lips on the back side of the door.

Figure A: Panel door profile

Photo 3: Set the glass

Set the glass into the frame and secure it with glass clips placed no more than 12 in. apart. Then reinstall the doors.

Photo 3A: Glass clips

Plastic glass clips anchor the glass firmly.

Buying Glass

Most hardware stores carry clear glass ($3 per sq. ft.) and will cut it for free or a small fee. Ask for 3/16-in.-thick “double strength” glass. Order glass panels 1/8 in. smaller than the recess in the frame. To find tempered, textured or colored glass (more expensive), check the yellow pages under “glass.” We bought clear textured glass and paid the supplier extra to have the two panels tempered. Building codes require tempered glass for locations within 5 ft. of the floor.

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