Simple Shaker Style Cabinet Doors

4 Materials
1 Day

When I posted about the chicken coop that I built this past month, I mentioned I would have to give a few more in-detail tutorials for some of the add-ons. Some of those little details really might have tripped me up on that built, had I not figured out a way to simplify them. Example? These shaker style cabinet doors!

** Pricing estimate is based on my build - 4 cabinet doors, two large and two small. **

Most cabinet door builds were calling for something called mortise and tenon joints for the frame portion and some others were also calling for a dado. I had to look those up. Mortise and tenon joints are a form of connecting two boards that has been around for thousands of years. It is basically like plugging one piece into another using specific holes you have created. A dado is a small groove cut into a board for another board to rest on.

Either way, I did not have the tools for either of those things. Maybe one day I will become more professional, but this was not the day. So, the solution? Pocket holes, of course!

Measure Your Opening and Figure Your Door Measurements

If you have existing doors on, remove the doors. Measure the length and width of your cabinet opening - the area where you would like your doors to hang. Write both the width and the height down on a note pad to refer to later.

I wanted inset cabinet doors, so they would sit inside of the frame versus on top of it like a lot of kitchen cabinets do. For this, I took my opening measurements and subtracted a small amount so that there would be an even gap around all sides of the cabinet doors when they sat inside on the hinges.

For that to happen, I needed to subtract 3/16" from both the height and the width of each door in order to achieve 3/32" gap on all sides.

For the stiles (vertical portion of the door), it is pretty easy. Just subtract 3/16" from the opening height and you have your stile length!

For the rails (horizontal portion), it is just a small bit more complicated, but not by much. You take the width of the opening and subtract 3/16" first. Then subtract (2 x width of your stiles). For me, using 1 x 4 boards, it was 2 x 3.5" (or 7"). So, your formula would be:

Width - 3/16 - (2 x width of stiles) = length of rails.

Looking back, I would take an additional 3/32" off each rail length when hanging DOUBLE doors, to provide the space for them to close in the middle.

Cut Your Rails, Stiles and Plywood Back and Attach Using Pocket Holes

Using the measurements you calculated, cut your rails and stiles to length. Then, cut your 1/2" plywood back to fit inside of the rails and stiles. This is an easy calculation as well - width of back is going to be the length of your rail. The length of the back will be the length of stile minus (2 x width of rail). Again, I used 1 x 4 boards, so my calculation was length of stile - (2 x 3.5").

Using a Kreg Jig set for the specific width of my materials ( 3/4" ), I drilled two pocket holes on each side of each rail and several pocket holes around the plywood back. Using wood glue and clamps, I attached the rails to the plywood first, propping the plywood up on four 1/4" biscuits I cut with my miter saw (so they would be flush on the back). I followed that up with attaching the stiles to the rails and wrapped it up by securing the stiles to the plywood as well.

Once you have built the actual door, attach your hinges to the doors. I placed mine at the stile/rail intersection and it seemed to work pretty well.

Now, you have each door ready to hang (theoretically).

Hang Your Doors

This part was slightly tricky, because you need to maintain the even 3/32" distance around all sides, but I ended up figuring out a little trick. I created a credit card bundle (two cards taped together) and used it to help create the spacing I needed in order to get those doors on correctly. This method could probably be improved upon, but it worked for me!

I started with the credit card bundle on the side closest to the hinge (bottom). Propping that corner up, I pre-drilled a single hole so that the hinge could still pivot while holding the door up a little bit. Secure that single hole and slide your credit cards to the opposing side (furthest away from the hinge). This props up that corner (with the first corner supported by the screw) and gives you the even spacing along the bottom. Pre-drill and secure the top hinge completely and finish the remaining holes on the bottom hinge.

It would also help to add a second bundle to have between the frame and the cabinet door by the hinges to provide the proper spacing there. I eyeballed it, but that would probably get you a little more of an accurate fit.

Potentially Plane the Doors (avoidable)

This is probably avoidable if you add that extra 3/32" subtraction to the door rails, but I didn't do that. Soooo I had to plane the centers of the doors so they would actually close. It worked out, but it was an extra step caused by inexperience!

Prep and Paint

Once you have all of your doors hung and the hardware installed, remove all of the hardware and the doors to prep for painting. Fill all holes (I didn't do this for the coop but you might for nicer projects!), prime and paint!

Reattach all hardware and re-hang using the holes you have already drilled for the hinges.

Enjoy your new cabinet doors! This was a pretty simple way to build them, but effective for my purposes!

Suggested materials:
  • 1 x 4 boards   (Lowe's)
  • Sanded 1/2" Plywood   (Lowe's)
  • T-Hinges   (Amazon)
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