Introduction: How to Make Shaker Style Doors
If you’re getting into cabinet making, you’ll most likely have to make cabinet doors eventually. While there are many options for door making, the standard is “frame and panel” doors. These are doors with a “frame” made most of the time from hardwood and a “panel” made of anything from solid wood to plywood to MDF. The simplest form of the frame and panel door is the Shaker style door known for its no-frills look, clean and simple. Keep reading and I’m going to walk you step-by-step through how I built a shaker style door.
• Make sure to watch my accompanying YouTube video of this build!
Where to Follow along with my work:
My Website (full tutorials, plans, videos): https://www.mwawoodworks.com
My YouTube (all my build videos): https://www.mwawoodworks.com
My Instagram (behind the scenes stuff): https://www.mwawoodworks.com
My Pinterest (things I find inspirational) : https://www.mwawoodworks.com
Oil/Wax Finish (easy to repair)
Lacquer Finish (more durable)
Flat Grind Ripping Blade (for flat bottom grooves)
3/4" solid wood (preferable hardwood)
1/4" plywood or mdf
euro style cup hinges
Step 1: Layout and Rough Cut Stock
Start by measuring and laying out where your parts will be cut from your rough stock. At this point figuring out how long each chunk of stock should be to get your finished parts from is key. Make sure to plan 1-2 inches extra length so you can cut to final length once you've milled and cut your parts. The miter saw is the best tool for cutting the rough stock into rough lengths.
Step 2: Milling the Rough Stock
If you are using pre-surfaced and squared lumber (for example lumber that you would buy from the home improvement store) then you can skip to step 3.
If you are using rough cut lumber, you'll need to flatten one of the faces at the jointer and then square one edge to the flat face by running it vertically on the jointer.
You'll then need to put the flat face facing down and run the other face through the planer to get it flat and co-planar to the other side. This will give you three sides milled flat and square to each other.
Continue to run your stock through the planer until you reach a final thickness of 3/4" which is the standard thickness of cabinet and door parts.
Step 3: Cutting the Frame Parts
Now you can run your stock through the table saw (put the jointed edge against the fence). I recommend 2" for the width of your frame parts. You can go thinner or wider to your liking, but I think 2" looks good for standard sized cabinet doors.
You should end up with four frame parts per door, two side parts and a top and bottom part.
Now you have your parts with four surfaced and squared sides and you need to cut them to final length.
There are a couple things to consider to make sure that you end up cutting your parts to the correct lengths so when the door is assembled, it comes out to the correct dimensions. The typical way to assemble this style of door is to have the top and bottom frame parts join into the side parts. This prevents you from seeing the joinery on the sides of the doors.
With that in mind:
Side Parts: Whatever the final height of your door will be is how long to cut your side parts. Easy. Done.
Top and Bottom Parts: Here is where the math will need to be done to make sure your door comes out to the correct final width.
The equation (in inches):
Top and bottom length = (Final width of the door) - (The width of your side frame parts x 2) + 1(1/2" per tongue)
If the final width of the door needs to be 20" and your side frame parts are 2" wide then.... 20" - (2" x 2) +1" = 17"
Your top and bottom pieces would be cut to 17"
So now that you know how long your parts need to be, take them to the miter saw and cut them to final length.
Step 4: Cutting the Grooves for the Door Panel
Next, you need to cut the grooves in the inside of each frame part to accept the door panel.
The width of this groove is typically 1/4" which is great for using 1/4" plywood or MDF. And the groove should be very slightly less than 1/4" because most manufactured materials are undersized. The best thing to do is to dial in the right width by using a test piece and fitting it to the material you'll be using for the panel.
I recommend cutting these groves 1/2" deep which will match the length of the tongues of the top and bottom frame parts.
To center the groove in the frame parts, run your parts across the blade, then flip the part to the opposite face and run it again. This will center the groove automatically.
I recommend using a saw blade with a flat grind on the teeth. Most blades made for ripping stock will have this kind of tooth. Avoid using cross cut blades or all-purpose blades which typically have an ATB (alternating tooth bevel) as these blades will leave "bat ears" in the bottom of the groove and your joinery will not look crisp and clean. I personally use the Freud Heavy Duty Rip Blade which is pretty affordable and holds up well.
Step 5: Cutting the Joinery
Once the grooves are cut, we can cut the tongues on the ends of the top and bottom frame parts.
You want to set your saw blade to 1/2" in height (make a mark on your frame parts and raise the saw blade to that line as reference).
You will then set your table saw fence to the proper distance so that the outside of the saw blade tooth is just touching the edge of the groove you cut in your frame parts.
Making this cut safely:
This is a tricky cut if you've never tried it before because you need to run your parts across the blade VERTICALLY which is not safe to do without a way to properly support the work piece.
I highly recommend the use of a tenoning jig for this cut. You can see from the pictures a tenoning jig rides on your table saw fence and has a backer board that supports the work piece as you run it across the blade. Making a tenoning jig is another topic for a later time, so for now....
Once you make your first cut, turn the work piece around and make the same cut on the other side. This will establish the width of the tongue. Then just adjust the table saw fence to remove the remainder of the wast on the outside of the cuts you just made.
The result should be a tongue that fits perfectly into the grooves on the side frame parts.
Step 6: Cutting the Center Panel
The final cuts to make will be to make your door panel. To size your door panel properly we need more math (I know, I know)
To get the dimensions of your panel use these equations (inches):
Vertical dimension: Total Door Height - (width of frame parts x 2) + 7/8"
Horizontal dimension: Total Door Width - (width of frame parts x 2) + 7/8"
This will properly size your panel with 1/16" gap all the way around the panel inside the grooves (to allow for expansion and to make assemble easier.
Ease the edges of your panel using a block plane. This makes assembly go much smoother. Don't worry about being perfect because these edges will be hidden inside the grooves and nobody will ever see them!
Step 7: Assembling the Door
Now comes the fun part. Simply apply wood glue to one of the tongues and slide it into the adjoining groove on the side frame part to make an "L" (make sure the grooves are facing the inside).
Next, slide the panel into the grooves in the two parts.
Now, apply glue to the corresponding tongue on the opposite frame part and slide it into the groove on the opposite end of the door.
Finally add glue to the remaining tongues and slide the last frame part into place.
Step 8: Assembling the Door II
Now is a nice time to check for square. Make sure all four corners read square before you clamp the door up.
Now you need to add clamps to the top and bottom of the door to make sure you have tight glue joints. The shoulders of the tongues should tightly rest against the side parts for a clean look.
Leave your door in the clamps for 1-2 hours.
Don't over-tighten the clamps! You only need to apply enough pressure to close up the glue joints (look for a line of glue squeeze-out). Over tightening can lead to a door that is warped or distorted and we don't need any of that!
Step 9: Sand and Finish
Once the door is out of the clamps, I recommend sanding first with 120 grit paper on your random orbit sander. This will remove the mill marks from your parts and also make sure the glue joints are nice and flush.
I then follow that up with 180 grit to produce a smooth feeling finish.
Finish with the product of your choice. Since my door is going in my shop, I used an oil/wax finish that is super easy to apply but doesn't offer much protection. The good news is though its easy to repair/refresh when needed.
I recommend something more durable like polyurethane or lacquer if your cabinets are in a high use area such as the kitchen.
If using paint, I recommend an acrylic paint for durability or even a pigmented lacquer.
Step 10: Install the Cup Hinges on the Door
Finally we need to hang our door! I like using euro style cup hinges. Since each hinge and hinge manufacturer will be different, I recommend following the installation instructions that come with your hinges.
The general process looks like this:
Mark the center of the location where the cups will go. The little tool I'm using is a Center Punch (super handy tool)
Bore a hole to the recommended depth (usually 1/2")
Place the cup into the hole and mark the location of the screw holes.
Pre-drill the screw holes and then screw the hinges to the door.
Every cup hinge I've ever installed requires a 35mm forstner bit for the proper fit. Click the link to pick one up!
Step 11: Install the Hinges on the Cabinet
To install the cabinet side of the hinges it's quite varied depending on the hinge you buy so just follow the instructions that came with your hinges for proper installation. I know, not real instructive but that's life.
Step 12: Making Adjustments to the Door
Your cup hinges should come with a couple adjustment to raise/lower and adjust the distance from the frame of the cabinet. Make these adjustments per the instructions that came with your hinges.
Sight the door to make sure it sits with the same reveal around each side of the door and that it closes all the way.
Step 13: Finished and Hung!
Now sit back and marvel at the fact that you just made a shaker style frame and panel door!
Shaker style doors add a simple and clean look to your cabinets and add a level of true craftsmanship to your cabinet project. Other than the hinges there is no metal, just wood and glue. And if you are starting with wood that is already surfaced and squared, then you can build the entire door with just a table saw and miter saw.
Step 14: Thank You!!!
If you enjoyed this tutorial and found it helpful, you can see more of my work in the following places:
My Website (full tutorials, plans, videos): https://www.mwawoodworks.com
My YouTube (all my build videos): https://www.youtube.com/c/mwawoodworks
My Instagram (behind the scenes stuff): https://www.youtube.com/c/mwawoodworks
My Pinterest (things I find inspirational): https://www.youtube.com/c/mwawoodworks