Intro: Great Kitchen Facelift
Give your kitchen a facelift with new cabinet doors.
I'll explain how to make the red door in the photo, with integrated pull (handle), which you could add as an accent to your kitchen, or make enough to replace all your old doors.
You'll need a router and a few common cutters, and either a circular saw, hand saw, or similar, and some clamps.
The door itself is made from 18mm MDF.
A template for cutting the hinge mortises can either be made from the MDF sheet or bought. A template for the door pull, and a straight edge can be cut from the MDF sheet as well.
Step 1: Cut Basic Door to Size
Mark out the size of your cabinet door onto the MDF sheet. The easiest way is to remove the hinges and any other door hardware from the old door, and use it as a pattern: aligning one or two edges with the factory edges of the MDF sheet, and drawing around the other edges with a sharp pencil. Alternatively, use a tape rule to measure the old door, and transfer these measurements to the sheet.
Use a circular saw and a straight edge clamped to the sheet, to cut out the door. Measure the offset between the saw's base plate and the blade to determine how far from the lines to clamp the straight edge.
If you don't have a circular saw, then use a hand saw or jigsaw, etc. to cut close to the lines first. Then use a straight edge clamped to the door as a guide to clean up the cut using a straight cutter in the router; offsetting the straight edge from the line by the distance from the cutter to the edge of the router base plate.
Making a straight edge guide for the circular saw (and router) from the MDF sheet
Use a circular saw, jigsaw, or hand saw, to rip a 150mm (6"), full length strip from the whole MDF sheet. Mark the factory edge of this strip, which will be straight enough to use as a guide. Also mark the edge from which you removed the strip, so that you know it isn't straight!
Step 2: Profile Door Edges
For a clean, contemporary, look, use a bearing guided round over cutter in the router, to create a round over on the front edge of the door.
There are different radius cutters available, but 6.35mm (1/4") or less are best for that modern look.
You can see in the photo that I cut the door pull first, but in retrospect, profiling the edges first is easier.
Step 3: An Integrated Door Pull
Of course you could mount a conventional handle on your new door, but integrating one is easy and costs nothing.
To be able to replicate the door pull design over multiple doors, and draw fronts, you need to make a template guide for the router. I used some old 9mm MDF, but a cut-off from the 18mm sheet would do.
Making a Router Template
You need to cut the shape you want your pull to be, only a little larger, in the edge of a spare piece of MDF. You can do this with a jigsaw, or with a straight cutter in the router. Refine the cut with sandpaper or files, so that the edges are all smooth - imperfections will be copied to the door later, so take care.
My cut-out was a simple curve, but feel free to experiment. If you choose something that isn't symmetrical, you can flip the template to cut matched pulls on doors that close together.
To cut the door pull, use a dovetail cutter with a guide bush on the router. Set the router depth so that about 5mm (3/16") will be left uncut on the door. The actual depth will depend on the thickness of the template of course.
Clamp the template in place on the door, so that the cut-out is positioned where you want the pull. The router base rides on top of the template, so make sure the clamps won't be in the way as the router is moved around.
Cut the door pull by removing material with the cutter, until the guide bush contacts the template all along the cut-out edge. Dovetail bits aren't as strong as straight bits of the same diameter, due to the slim 'waist', so take it slowly.
Step 4: Paint the Inside of the Door
Now is a good time to paint the inside of the door. It saves any paint from getting into the hinge mortises, which could make them too tight.
Using a white paint will help reflect more light into the cupboard when the door is open.
There are paints available that can cover MDF in just one coat (no primer required), which saves time.
Step 5: Cut the Hinge Mortises
Commercial templates are available for routing the standard 26mm and 35mm hinge mortise holes. They're accurate, and will save you time making and testing your own. But you can make your own accurate template:
Make a Hinge Mortise Router Template
Take a piece of MDF, about 300x200mm (12"x8"). Bore a hole, midway along the length and centered about 75mm (3") in from one edge. The diameter of the hole, together with the router guide bush and cutter diameters will determine the diameter of the routed mortise, so you may need to do a little math! But the following may help.
For my 35mm hinges, I bored a 48mm (1-7/8") hole with a forstener bit, and used a 20mm (13/16") guide bush with a 6.35mm (1/4") cutter. This should have made a hole too small, but the bored hole was slightly over 48mm, and the mortise was spot on.
The math goes like this:
Difference between guide radius and cutter radius = (20/2)-(6.35/2) = 6.825
Therefore, radius of mortise cut using the template = (48/2)-6.825 = 17.175
And so, diameter of mortise = 2 x 17.175 = 34.35mm
For a 26mm hinge, you might try a 40mm (1-9/16) hole with the same guide bush and cutter. The math would suggest the mortise would be a little loose, but by winding a few turns of tape around the guide bush first, you could creep up on a good fit, removing a turn of tape at a time.
The combination you use will depend on the forstener bits you have, and the guide bushes and cutters to hand. You may even get away with using a forstener bit to bore the mortise, but it has to be vertical as well as a good fit, and the tip of many bits will go through the thickness of the door before the mortise is deep enough.
To copy the exact locations of the mortises from the old door, place the template so that the hole is concentric with the mortise and clamp two battens on it that touch adjacent edges of the door. Now lift it off the old door and place on the new one, aligning it to the edges with the battens. Clamp in place.
Place the unpowered router on the template, with the guide bush in the hole, and plunge the cutter until it contacts the door. Lock the plunge, and then set the depth stop to the thickness of the hinge 'tenon'. Release the plunge lock. You're now ready to cut the mortise. Take it in a few passes at increasing depth.
Step 6: Finish Up
Your door is ready to finish now.
All surfaces that have been cut should be fine sanded before painting the door. To consolidate these areas first, I recommend a coat of primer first.
I used a brush on, one coat, gloss paint for the door. It did take an extraordinary long time to cure, but the finish was very pleasing.
Install hinges, hang on cabinet, and enjoy!
Thanks for reading my Instructable. I hope I've inspired some of you to give this, very rewarding, project a go.