Building cabinet doors is a skill that will serve you over and over again if you build furniture or cabinets. A Shaker style door is the only door I use on furniture around here. Luckily, it's probably the simplest door there is, and can be done in about an hour. There are several ways to do this, but I'm going to show you the method I use to build a Shaker style door.
Here’s what you’ll need to build this project:
Table Saw Sled
Scrap wood for a stop block
Sandpaper (220 grit)
Step 1: Take accurate measurements. This is especially important if you're planning to mount your doors inset. In this case, your total measurement should be about 1/4" smaller than your opening all around. This leaves a 1/8" gap on all sides so you have easy movement of the door, especially in humid conditions when the wood is likely to swell. Your vertical pieces will be cut to this measurement. The horizontal pieces will be cut 2 inches shorter than your width measurement. If you plan to overlay your door on the frame of a cabinet, use the actual measurements horizontally and vertically. You could subtract 1/8" from the vertical measurement if your door is under a countertop. This makes sure your door doesn't get caught when you open it. For the inner panel, subtract 1/4" from the measurement of your horizontal piece and 2 1/4" from the the measurement of your vertical piece. This 1/4" gap allows the panel to float inside the frame, giving some wiggle room for expansion and contraction of the wood.
Step 2: Cut all your pieces to size, making sure to label each one. Set up your table saw to create a dado down the center of the board. Mark the exact center of the end of one frame piece and line it up so that your blade sits just to the edge of your pencil line; not on it. Lock your fence in place, aligned to your board and adjust the height of the blade to 1/2". This determines the depth of the dado. Starting with a scrap piece, run one pass over the blade and then rotate the board, making a second pass next to the first one, creating a groove that's 1/4" wide and 1/2" deep. Check for a good fit by sliding a 1/4" piece of plywood into the groove. If you have a paper thin piece of wood left in the middle of your dado, you'll probably have a pretty perfect fit. Just scrape that out with a chisel or a flat head screwdriver. Make adjustments if needed. Repeat this step on all of your frame pieces.
Step 3: Cut the tongues on each end of your horizontal pieces. You're going to start by making some marks on your board to help set up your table saw sled. Using a combination square, draw two lines on the end of your board, visually extending the dado. Then, measure and mark 1/2" from one end on the faces of the board. These lines will help you determine the height of your blade and where to set your stop block.
Mount your sled to the saw and set the height of the blade by laying the end of your board flat against the blade. You want the blade to just barely reach the first line you drew extending the dados. Next, set the stop block so the blade sits slightly inside the line you drew on the face of the board. These settings are super important for a tight fit of your tongue and groove joints, so take your time setting them up. Again, test this out on a scrap piece to make sure your settings are good.
To cut the tongues, lay the board flat on the sled, pulled tight to the back board and to the stop block. Make your first pass over the blade, and then for every pass after that, pull the board away from the stop block 1/8" until you reach the end of the board. Then, slide the board back and forth over the blade as you slide the sled forward and back. This knocks down any high spots left from the blade, giving you a smooth surface on the tongue. Rotate the board and repeat on the other side, completing the first tongue. Flip the board and cut the tongue on the opposite end. Always be checking for fit, and readjust as you need to. Repeat this step on all your horizontal frame pieces.
Step 4: Assemble your door. Start by gluing both tongues of one horizontal board and slide them into the grooves of the vertical boards. Gently clamp them together, making sure your joints are flush at the bottom. Sand the 1/4" panel and then slide it into the grooves. It's much easier than sanding it when it's already inside the frame. Glue both tongues of the second horizontal piece, and slide them into the vertical boards. Again, make sure your joints are flush, and clamp at the top. Tighten your clamps and let the glue set for about an hour before removing them.
Step 5: Finish your door. Using a palm sander with 220 grit sandpaper, sand all the faces of your door, paying special attention to smooth the joints. Follow up with a loose sheet of 220 grit sandpaper and soften the inside edges of the frame. Wipe it clean with a tack cloth, and finish it with paint or stain.
If this is your first time building a Shaker style door and things didn't go... as planned, keep trying. It gets easier and your joints will get tighter.
If you've made a Shaker style door, I'd love to see it! Leave a photo in the comments.
Hey friends! Down below are some affiliate links to the products or tools I used in this project. They help keep my shop running so I can bring you helpful content for free. If that bugs you, a quick Google search will find you what you need to complete the project.