How To Make A Tambour Door General Woodworking
To get started, we have to go back two years when I made the corner cabinet for my kitchen. I designed it to include what’s known as an appliance garage, a closed off area directly on the countertop (usually in the corner) where you can store small appliances. It keeps these appliances handy to use, but also hides them away and is typically equipped with a door that rolls up inside (similar to a roll-top desk) – a tambour door.
That type of door is made from slats of wood joined together on the back with a flexible material, usually cloth, and rides in a track. After I finished making the cabinet, I made the track and installed it before I installed the cabinet in the kitchen:
The photo above shows the cabinet upside down with the front opening on the right. The track is made from wood and is just screwed in place to allow for future adjustments.
Here’s a closer look at the corner:
The cabinet needs to be designed for one of these to begin with. As you can see in the photo above, the rail at the top of the opening (shown upside down) needs to be wide enough to conceal that corner where the door rolls up. The tighter that curve, the narrower the slats will have to be that make up the tambour door.
Back to the present, the wood I want to use for this project is the spalted maple I cut into boards three years ago:
They have been air drying out on my front porch all that time. I brought them into my shop to finish the drying, running my dehumidifier for a few days to get the moisture down to the point where I can work with them.
I picked out four of the best looking ones and flattened one face on my homemade jointer:
I then cut them into strips and laid them out to pick out the best areas on each one. The door itself needs to be just 16-1/2″ wide, and these haven’t been cut to length, yet:
They are staggered back and forth to get the best looking figure evenly presented. All of the boards have better spalting on the ends, but also have some (not completely unattractive) water damage that turned the wood gray.
After I was happy with the pattern, I cut them to the right length and also rounded all four edges on each slat using my router table:
I also numbered them to keep the order and then took them outdoors and sprayed on three coats of water based polyurethane:
You can see the wider slat I made for the bottom of the door. That extra width gives space underneath the handle to make it easier to grab.
Finally, the cloth is glued to the back of the slats. I used a piece of canvas drop cloth and polyurethane construction adhesive to fasten it – a thin bead on each slat:
That glue sticks to the finished slats and has a long open time, giving me plenty of time to get the cloth in place and pressed into the glue. You can also use small screws and cleats to fasten the cloth, but I’ve found the glue alone works great. Another consideration is how often this door will be opened. There’s no point spending time making it extra robust if it’s not going to be used often.
Anyway, here it is, finished and installed:
I made a video going through the build process and show the door being installed:
And if you are interested in more detail on this project, the kind of detail that’s not practical to put into a YouTube video, you should join my Makers Mob. Along with my projects, you get access to the detailed project tutorials of YouTubes top makers. If you are serious about learning woodworking, you owe it to yourself to check it out.