How To Make Frame And Panel Cabinet Doors Home Improvement

With all of the upper cabinets for my kitchen made and installed, I moved on to making the cabinet doors. The style I picked is a simple frame and panel, with the frame made from solid maple. Here are all of the rough cut parts for the eleven doors I’ll need:

The process, at least for me, when working from rough lumber is to cut the parts to rough length from the longer board first, then cut them down from there. This makes the stock easier to handle in a small shop and can be less wasteful.

The stiles and rails are the same width for convenience and I marked the rough length on the ends to keep track of them. I also made a spare just in case I couldn’t use one or missed one:

Jointing and planing comes next, and although you can save a considerable amount of money using rough lumber instead of dressed, you will be making up for that with the time it takes to do the extra work:

It took several hours to get these parts dressed down to the final thickness and width. However, another benefit of using rough lumber is that you can wind up with thicker parts for doors like this. Since the stock was more than 1″ thick to begin with, I was able to make the parts a uniform 7/8″ thick. This doesn’t sound like much, but it does make these doors look more substantial.

At this point, I sorted everything out into sets for each door:

It’s easy to miss a part or leave it behind somewhere else during the milling process, so I like to do a count after each step to make sure I have everything. These parts have to be the exact same size to match up with each other, and making a new one from scratch can take almost as long as making all of them together.

After cutting the parts to the finished length, I marked a number on the face for each size door with pencil. Again, this is to avoid mixing the parts up and using the wrong one accidentally:

Seems like overkill, maybe, but it takes seconds to do and can prevent losing an hour to undo a mistake.

Next, I can put the frames glued together. I’m just using simple butt joints that will be reinforced later. For now, I just need to get the frames put together and to make sure the joints stay in line, I made simple “C” shaped clamps that slip over the edge and hold the parts flush:

I made these from a scrap of 2×4 that I cut a channel in both edges:

They work well:

I drew a mark across the joint on the face to help align the parts and let the glue dry fully before taking the frames out of the clamps.

In the meantime, I cut and planed thin strips of maple to use as splines:

These are the same thickness as a plate joining biscuit and will be cut into a semi-circular shape to fit into the slot correctly:

I used a cutting disk that just happened to be 4″ diameter to mark them out before cutting:

These will add a lot of strength to the butt joints I used on the door frames. To install them, I used my biscuit joiner set to maximum depth of cut to make a slot in the end of the doors across the joints, then solidly glued in the biscuit:

Cutting these slots and gluing in the splines is shown in greater detail in the video at the bottom of this page.
The major benefit of doing the joinery this way is how much it simplifies the door making process. Traditionally, you would need to build in some type of joinery before starting assembly, like mortise and tenon, dowels, splines, etc, and that can add a lot of time (and the potential to make mistakes) to the build. This was fast and easy to do, with little chance of error. And since the “biscuit” was cut with long grain, the joints will be more than strong enough for cabinet doors.

Always a good idea to keep the doors stacked flat like this while they are unfinished, as it can prevent them from warping and twisting:

I think you can see here how the extra thickness of the parts make the door frames look heftier – more solid.

While the glue was drying on the biscuit splines, I got started on making the reveal trim that goes around the inside of the frame. This is just a rectangular profile with a small reveal milled into one edge:

Again, I marked everything, but somehow managed to miss two pieces that I had to make later. Luckily, this trim is not difficult to make.
I cut this trim from the edge of the board and that presents a different grain pattern than the one that is on the frame of the door. I thought that doing this would add an interesting detail and contrast between the parts.

This trim is carefully mitered on the ends to fit into the frame and fastened with the minimum number of 1-1/4″ long pin nails:

It lines up flush with the face of the frame and leave space behind for the 1/2″ plywood panel. I made a video showing how I cut perfect miters like this, if you are interested in more detail.

It only happened twice, but the risk of using any kind of gun driven nail is to have it curl out through the front, like this:

Aggravating, but not impossible to fix. I used a 1/4″ chisel to cut through the very thin nail and pulled it out with vise grips. It leave a small hole that is easily concealed with some filler:

This image is very zoomed in and after the doors are sanded and finished, it would be a real task to find this, even when you know it’s there.

I only used pins for the trim and no glue to avoid squeeze out on the front of the door. Instead, the trim get glued in place with the plywood panel:

I added a bead of glue around the frame opening before setting the plywood panel in place. Again, I used pin nails from the back of the door to hold the panels in while the glue dried.

Once again I stacked the doors on a flat surface while the glue dried on the panels:

Sanding for these is better shown in this video and in the video at the bottom of this page, but the main point is to make sure you do it well. If you expect professional looking results, you need to do the sanding with the same amount of care that you put into building the doors:

Here are some close ups:

It took several hours to finish the sanding, and I stacked then up once again before moving on to the next step – spraying on the finish:

And that completes assembly, the doors are now ready for a clear coat finish and to be installed on the cabinets in the kitchen.

I made a detailed video showing the build: