Introduction: Bathroom Cabinet With Curved Doors

Picture of Bathroom Cabinet With Curved Doors

After renovating the bathroom, I needed a new bathroom cabinet that had some storage space underneath the wash basin and some extra storage space to the right of the basin. However, due to the layout of the bathroom, the part where the wash basin is located should preferrably be round (so you don't hurt yourself at sharp corners when you walk through) and the part to the right should be very shallow (max 12 cm).

Since I couldn't find anything like this, me and my dad decided to build one ourself.

This instructable does not include the complete instructions for the cabinet, but only for the part with the rounded doors since that is the most difficult part.

Step 1: Make a Mold

Picture of Make a Mold

To make curved doors, start by making two identical molds out of 18 mm medium-density fiberboard (MDF). For this part, we forgot to take pictures, but the process is fairly simple:
1. Nail 2 pieces of MDF together, so both molds will be exactly the same. Make sure the nails stick out a little so you can easily remove them later on.
2. Cut them to a rectangle that is much longer and a little wider than you need.
3. On one side of the rectangle, draw a half circle. Make sure the mold will still be much wider than you really need. Draw a center line on the molds. We will need this later on for alignment.
4. Cut out the half circle a little wider than you need. You should now end up with a mold that has an approximate circle that is a little too wide.
5. Shave the mold on all 4 sides to exactly the curvature you need. Do make sure that it keeps quite a bit longer than what you actually need.
6. Remove the nails to separate the two molds. You should now have to identical molds with exactly the right curvature.
7. Nail the two molds onto a third piece of wood, making an upside-down pi shape. The two molds should be spaced apart so that they are placed at 1/4 and 3/4 of the length of the piece of wood you want to bend.

Note: the molds can be re-used later on for top and bottom part (or interior shelf). The time it takes to make these two identical is thus not only for making a one-time only mold but also for making other parts of the cabinet.

Step 2: Kerf-cut Your MDF

Picture of Kerf-cut Your MDF

To make the curved surface, we will use 2 pieces of 8 mm MDF. Both pieces will be kerfed on one side and will be set on the mold and then glued together. The piece that will be on the inside will have its kerf-cuts towards and the piece that will be on the outside will have its kerf-cuts towards the inside. This way you will end up with curved doors that have a smooth surface on both outside and inside.

Both pieces of MDF should be a bit wider and longer than you need. When calculating the length you need, keep in mind that the piece that will be placed on the outside will have a bending radius that is 2 * 8 = 16 mm larger than the piece on the inside. It is a good idea however, to keep both pieces at the same length, since it will then be easier to remove the fixations of the inner piece later on.

If you haven't done so yet, calculate the half circumference of the outer circle (= pi * (r + 1.6), where r is the inner cicle in cm). Round this up to whole cm. (In our case, the inner cicle was 19.0 cm, so the half circumference of the outer circle was 647.2 cm.)

Follow these steps to kerf-cut the MDF pieces:
1. Start by finding the center of the pieces. Draw a dashed line there and make sure it extends on the sides and on the back. We will need these lines to align the pieces later on.
2. Working from the middle, draw two rigid lines at 0.5 cm from the center line: one to the left and one to the right. Next, draw rigid lines at 1.0 cm interval to the left and the right until you at least covered the length of the half circumference of the outer circle. (It doesn't hurt to add one more extra just to be sure. In our case, I've drawn 32 lines to the left and 32 lines to the right, for a total length of 65 cm.)
3. Take a piece of spare 8 mm MDF and draw a few lines, 1.0 cm apart. We will use this to find the right depth of the cuts.
4. Adjust your portable circular saw such that the blade will make a cut of only approximately 7 mm deep. Test this out on the piece of spare MDF. If the cut is not deep enough, it will be difficult to bend and might even break. If it is too deep, the material will be too fragile. See images below for how shallow the cut should be and how far you can bend it.
5. Once the saw is adjusted to the right depth and you are satisfied with the test kurfs on the spare piece, make the kerfs on the real MDF pieces. Save most of the saw dust as you will need it later on to make the glue thicker.

After making the kerfs, fixate the MDF sheets with several glue clamps on some solid pieces of wood to prevent damage.

Step 3: Place the Kerfed MDF (part 1)

Place the first piece of kerfed MDF onto the mold with the kerfs on the outside. Align the center line with the center lines on the mold. Fixate it onto the mold with a nail in the centerline, make sure the nail sticks out a little. Starting from the center line work your way down, use more nails to fixate the MDF to the mold. Make sure the space between the MDF and the mold is minimized. For the last nail, don't use a nail but a screw and screw it in all the way. These screws should be on the outer ends of the MDF.

Next, remove all the nails, but leave the 4 screws. These 4 screws are all that fixate the MDF to the mold now. Check again that there is hardly any space between the mold and the MDF.

Step 4: Fill Up the Kerfs

Picture of Fill Up the Kerfs

The next step is to fillup the kerfs with a paste of saw dust and wood glue:
1. Make a mixture of saw dust and wood glue (1:1 based on volume). If it is too thick to easily spread out, add a little bit of water. We used Bison wood glue D3.
2. Use a putty knife to work the putty into the kerfs. Work from the center along the cuts towards the outsides to prevent airtraps.
3. Once all kerfs are filled, dilute some glue (without saw dust) with a little water and use a brush to smooth out the grains of the glue / dust putty.

Place the second MDF plate on a flat surface and repeat steps 1 - 3 above.

Step 5: Place the Kerfed MDF (part 2)

Picture of Place the Kerfed MDF (part 2)

After you've filled both MDF plates with the putty and smoothed out most grains, use a brush to apply pure wood glue on both plates.

Place the second plate on top of the first with the kerfs to the inside. Carefully align the plate on the other plate and fixate it with a lot of nails to the bottom plate and the mold. Try to minimize the gaps between the MDF plates and the mold, but let the nails stick out a little bit for easier removal.

The most likely part that will deform during curing of the glue is the space between the MDF plates where the straight section ends and the curve begins. To prevent the deformation, add some wood and glue clamps to hold the plates together.

Step 6: Cut Out the Doors

Picture of Cut Out the Doors

Wait 24 - 48 hours to let the glue dry. Then draw the lines where you need to cut to create the doors. Remove all the nails and remove the mold. The bend wood should not deform and should be pretty spingy and strong.

Then cut out the doors. During cutting, use the mold as support.

As you can see in the pictures, we used the large piece to create the base of the cabinet.

For the hinges of the doors, we cut out a small piece at the edges of the doors where the hinges should be. Then we inserted a thicker piece where we had cut out a hole for the hinge.

For the final step: connect the doors to the base of the cabinet and check that everything fits.

Step 7: Paint and Install the Cabinet

Picture of Paint and Install the Cabinet

Now that the cabinet is ready, the only remaining thing is painting. I've used water-proof latex (bathroom quality) for the first 2 layers, since MDF tends to soak up paint and moisture. After that, I used 3 - 4 layers of high gloss white lacquer. The top piece is oak wood with 5 very thin layers transparent lacquer (marine grade).

Once the paint is dry, fixate the cabinet to the wall, add the faucet and sink. Connect all the plumbing and then marvel at the result. ;-)


Odama1 (author)2017-05-28

Hi there. Very well done ... so well done that I am thinking in doing one for my small bathroom. Since your cabinet it is suspended how did you fix the cabinet to the wall! Thanks Lino

admarschoonen (author)Odama1 2017-05-30

Thanks! I've used 4 shelf brackets similar to these:

I don't remember the size of the brackets any more, but I used 2 big ones for the round cabinet and 2 small ones for the small cabinet. The brackets were fixed against the wall and both cabinets have little slots in the back so they could just slide over. Add a few screws to prevent it sliding back and you're done.

Odama1 (author)admarschoonen2017-08-04

Thanks Mate. I just start the gathering of the materials and soon will start making one next summer (I mean in December).I love it. Once more thank you.

SQUAREeGG (author)2016-07-18

What do you use to seal your end grain on MDF?

admarschoonen (author)SQUAREeGG2016-07-19

Just the same water-proof latex that I used for the other side. I think I did only 2 layers at the end grain and then finished it with the lacquer.

It's been 3 years ago and haven't seen any issues.

jperry26 (author)2015-02-05

Awesome work! Thank you.

BenKochan (author)2015-01-26

This is a really simple way to make curved doors - do you think it would work with doors about twice the size?

admarschoonen (author)BenKochan2015-01-27

Hi Ben,

We didn't have much issues with this size, so I think it could be doable. Be careful though that the cuts don't break while handling and positioning the kerfed wood. The extra weight due to the larger size might put extra stress on the kerfs during this phase.

Once the glue has cured, it should be as solid (or even more solid) as before. Any small cracks in the kerfs on the outside can still be polished away with some wood-filler and a good paint job. (We had to do that as well in some places.)

lsymms (author)2013-11-06

how did you cut such straight lines on such a large curved piece? I'm guessing it wasn't a gigantic band saw. The cut at the top of the doors seems doable with a small circular saw, but the vertical cuts down the middle and side would probably need jigs for to keep the blade perpendicular.

admarschoonen (author)lsymms2015-01-27

Hi Isymms,

Yes, I made a small jig to make the vertical cuts in the middle. Nothing fancy so I didn't take a picture.

Sorry for the late reply; I only saw your comment just now.

admarschoonen (author)lsymms2013-11-06

Just a plain old hand saw (not sure which one, probably a carpenters crosscut saw). I have to admit that my dad made these cuts as he is a bit better at it than I am, but which such saws it's not very difficult to keep straight.

The only part where we used electric tools was a circular saw for making the kerfs, since you need very good control over the depth.

thayes4 (author)2014-09-17

wow, this form of a curved wood surface is exactly was I was looking for. Took a lot of misses before I hit this. Thanks a ton for sharing!

josdevassy (author)2013-11-23

perfect job

josdevassy (author)2013-11-23

good job

icooper2 (author)2013-11-14

That is friggin awesome!! Excellent share. I will now try and build one!

AngryRedhead (author)2013-11-13


emerson.john (author)2013-11-09

This is simply an excellent finished product. Very good job!

Tinworm (author)2013-11-07

This is really excellent. Thanks very much for a great set of instructions. I have been trying to find a way to do exactly the same, and now I can.

Thank you

OTP1 (author)2013-11-07

Excellent, thank you for you time to show us all, and you skills, great job

mpmansell (author)2013-11-06

Thanks for sharing such a flexible technique. To get a really smooth finish, I would suggest filling the kerfs of the outer layer with resin before forming it over the inner. That way, when they are set, it would be possible to sand the outer smooth without having to worry about sanding through the kerfs themselves. any voids after sanding could be filled with resin, or a paste made from resin and sawdust, and then shaped when set.

staida (author)2013-11-06

I have done this before by layering laminate sheets over the form and building up to final dimensions. If you're using a good glue, this can be done even with something like balsa and produce very strong results. I don't know that I would have ever thought of this nor that I would still do it having seen it but I'm sure it cured 100 times faster than mine, only required the lower half of the form (not a press) and it does look very good. Excellent work!

admarschoonen (author)staida2013-11-06

I thought if laminating as well. Nice aspects of laminating would be that there would not be any 'slots' and that you could have very nice looking wood on the outside. But as you mention, it also requires having a press which was a big drawback for us.

I was also not sure if laminating would work on such large surfaces (~ 90 x 160 cm). Do you have any ideas about that?

tomaschurizoe (author)2013-11-06

You should mention how you managed to make the cabinet attachments to the wall. Being that you show it in a floating mount I imagine there is a lot of weight riding on the attachments. I believe MDF is fairly brittle at the edges. Very nice instructables. Thank you.

Oh, we just mounted 2 very sturdy and long brackets to the wall. Sorry I don't have any picture of that.

We recycled the to half-circular parts of the mold as bottom and inner piece of the cabinet. The inner piece is just above the doors and is glued and nailed to the curved outside. This inner piece rests on the brackets and carries all the weight. I hope this description is clear, as I don't have any pictures.

It all seems very sturdy, even if I fill up the basin with water and put some of my own weight on it.

DJCoopes (author)2013-11-06

REALLY COOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I want one for my bedroom as a cubby door underneath my bunk bed.

admarschoonen (author)DJCoopes2013-11-06

Not sure what you mean, but as long as you want it curved in only 1 dimension (so not spherical or something like that) and not too sharp corners, it should be possible with this method.

Deltic (author)2013-11-06

Well done on a great looking final product. I would recommend purchasing outdoor grade MDF if you are going to be using it in a damp environment. You could save time by buying "bendable" MDF which already has the slots in, also by gluing the two sheets together, cutting out the doors & THEN using your sawdust / glue mixture to fill in only the visible gaps left.
When painting your 1st coat using a 50/50 mix of household emulsion paint & water should prime the surface nicely to stop further soakage.
MDF can also be bent quite happily by thoroughly soaking in water then allowing to dry whilst clamped in position, however I don't know what sort of deformation this method might cause.

admarschoonen (author)Deltic2013-11-06

I found out about the bendable MDF with the slots just a few hours after I cut them. It was no big deal though, since cutting the slots was only about 1 hour of work and the bendable MDF was ridiculously expensive and hard to get.

Alderin (author)2013-11-05

Very nice work!

I was a little confused about the molds until the pictures of the kerfed MDF laying on them. A picture of the finished mold rig would be helpful in step 2.

I love the glue-and-sawdust paste idea. Since that is basically what MDF is in the first place, it should end up re-making the MDF solid in the kerfs. Wish I had thought of that. Thanks!

admarschoonen (author)Alderin2013-11-06

Thanks for reminding me that a picture of the mold was missing. I've added it now.

The idea of glue-and-sawdust paste came from one of the websites where I've seen this technique. I was really surprised both how flexible the MDF became and how sturdy and strong it became once it was set in place and the paste had dried.

estructor (author)2013-11-05

Nicely done. I've built curved doors for a vanity; out of cedar that was finished clear. For that, I coopered staves together. Technique involved ripping many individual (book-matched from same stock) staves to bevel their edges at correct angle to meet desired curvature. Using sector division, desired arc is drawn on a paper plan, then divided with equal marks along the line. Correct bevel can be determined then. It was a fun project. --Yours looks great!

admarschoonen (author)estructor2013-11-06

Wow! Your method sounds pretty complicated and tough! Would love to see a picture of it. I'm very curious how the cedar turned out.

strship47 (author)2013-11-06

Really nice job,I'm thinking of using the same technique to build a
sub-woofer about the same size.thanks

Spokehedz (author)2013-11-05

Oh my god, my dream of a Portal 2 bathroom is now a possibility.

AJMansfield (author)Spokehedz2013-11-06

Exactly what I thought when I first saw it.

AJMansfield (author)2013-11-06

That looks like something that would fit right in with an Aperture Science theme.

DJCoopes (author)2013-11-06

By the way, Will it work?

zeroaxe (author)2013-11-06

Love the work. Love the result. Good job!

It just occurred to me. with this type of build, 'funky' doors can be cut-out. Don't have to follow/cut straight lines. That should make for an even better futuristic, teleportal cabinet! ;)

Sailingsoul (author)2013-11-05

Great job with the cabinet and with the instructable. Thanks

clazman (author)2013-11-05

Great design, Great job.

This is an age-old procedure for bending panels, but nicely done. Especially like your idea of hiding the kerf via the sandwich method.

As for the larger than desired gaps why not just glue a veneer to the edges?

Also, your finish procedure is exemplary. Using the water based paint for the primer coat and the more durable lacquer for the top coat.

Not sure if I like the hinge mounting blocks. I might have made them a little differently to distribute the loads. But, that might be unnecessary for such light weight doors.

A well thought out project to be proud of and enjoy!

Oh, exposed plumbing is nice it it well done.

EvilDaveCanada (author)2013-11-05

I didn't want this to sound like an ad BUT:

To make great circles for templates, check out Rockwell's semi-new 5.5-A Multi purpose Saw Model #RK732. It can be found in the major Canadian DIY stores for under $200 CAN. There is also a great YouTube video on how to cut circles on a table circular saw. The Rockwell saw is really just an upside down jigsaw that works like a band-saw that you can hang on the wall when you are not using it. It is on the Christmas list so I can't buy one until Boxing day if I don't get one on the 25th.

The Idea on making curved wooden panels is great but the real trick is getting the round template in the size you want. This instructable is a great example on how to make what you want in the size you want with not having to just buy what ever size the 'big' manufacturers feel like making.

tmallos (author)2013-11-05

Fantastic! Many, many applications for this. Thank you for sharing!

ArizonaSRMC (author)2013-11-05

I know what I am doing this weekend!!!!

spikec (author)2013-11-05

Way cool, thanks for sharing!

B00mrang (author)2013-11-05

This looks really good ! I did not know this technique to curve MDF. I suddenly have a lot more respect for this material !

zenderon (author)2013-11-05

That's Really a good job, loved the way you did the double skin :)

ledshed (author)2013-11-05

Nicely done!

Bettybstt (author)2013-11-05

Beautiful work! What a great idea for a free-standing sink - I don't really care for the 'plumbing hanging out' look, this would fix it in style. Great instructable.

Alderin (author)Bettybstt2013-11-05

It is a very rare occasion that I want my plumbing hanging out, :-)

G-W-H (author)2013-11-05

Neat cabinet. Great idea. For those that want a wood finish here is a link for bendable plywood...


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