Happy Friday – Shut the Front, Err, Cabinet Door!

Today I am thrilled beyond belief that we are starting to get cabinet doors installed on some of the (IMHO beautiful) cabinets that I built over the past year since my very first cabinetry-cation.

You wouldn’t think it’d be a big deal to get cabinet doors installed, but this is pretty huge. And now I can’t wait to get even more up so that we no longer have to check and make sure we don’t need to dust off cups, plates, and bowls before we use them.

After the fourth of July, I was able to take a few days off work and make some progress on the doors, so now we’ll have to OPEN cabinet doors to access some items! Novel, I know… but here are the doors that are hung so far.


knobs will be added before too long, to prevent our dirty hands from constantly touching the whitish/grey paint* that we chose for our cabinet color.

How did These Doors Come About?

Well, I built them.

A thing of beauty, no? =)

A thing of beauty, no? =)

I went back and forth on building them and ordering doors (unfinished) from one of the several suppliers of cabinet doors online. Either way, I knew I would be on the hook for priming, painting, and installing (though Mr PoP is essential on that last part!). But my worst nightmare was to order $2K+ worth of doors only to discover that the measurements were slightly off to the point where trimming them would look funny or that they wouldn’t work with the hinges I had picked out.

So after reading a bunch about building your own cabinet doors, I decided to give it a shot. If I failed, I would (at the bare minimum) gain some valuable experience on measuring overlays and cuphole layouts and hopefully be able to really place an order for unfinished cabinet doors confidently.

The Design Of Our Doors

The design we wanted for our doors was a pretty basic – rectangular shaker style doors with a plywood beadboard center panel. Rectangles are pretty easy, which worked in my favor. We also knew that we would be painting these doors, so I had the luxury of using non-hidden joinery methods that could be completely covered up with wood filler and paint at a later time.

How To Build Painted Shaker Style Cabinet Doors

Here’s how I constructed the doors using 1×3 poplar boards and 3/16″ birch plywood beadboard paneling.

1 – Use a router to make a slots 3/16″ wide in the interior edges of the poplar boards for the door frame.  The beadboard panels (3/16″ thick) will slide into these. Not having a router table, I set up a DIY-jig on our work table outside and used a Mikita hand router (this one from Home Depot) with the edge guide pressed up against my DIY jig to make four passes with the router taking off ~1/8″ each time in order to get the slots just over 1/2″ deep.


My DIY jig – the edge guide for the router ran along the back edge of the jig.

While I routed to the end for each of the rails (the horizontal pieces of the door frame), for the stiles (ie the frame pieces that make up the two sides), I stopped the routing 2″ from the end. This left me with a solid 2″ x 2.5″ space of unmolested wood at each corner where I could join it without worrying about the strength being compromised by routing.

2. Drill holes for joinery. This tutorial showed how to use mortise and tenon joinery on shaker style cabinet doors, and that seemed pretty cool.   But given that ours were going to be painted I went with the joinery method I had gotten pretty good at so far in this project, my good old Kreg pocket-hole jig/screws.

3. Drill cup holes for the hinges. The hinges we wanted to use are the European-style hinges that require a 35mm (1 3/8″) cup to be drilled to a precise depth and a precise distance from the edge of the door frame. To that end, I went ahead and bought the basic Jig It (the deluxe version didn’t seem necessary) and the long shank 1 3/8″ Forstner drill bit to use with our hand drill. Those two items cost ~$100, but were cheaper (and will occupy less space to store) than getting a drill press, which is how the pros would generally create these holes. Admittedly, I’ve never used a drill press, but the Jig It worked REALLY well to drill these holes. It was easy to set up and use (even for a person without a ton of upper body strength), and made precise holes each time. There are cheaper guides out there to drill these holes, but I liked that this one came with a feature that would help me keep the hole going straight down (instead of angling somehow as I have been known to do when drilling) as well as a stop collar that would make sure I didn’t drill too deep.

Clockwise from upper left: The guide on the wood, using the drill with the drill guide and stop collar attached to the Forstner bit, the shavings look like they came out of a pencil sharpener, but the cup is smooth, perfect, and fits a hinge perfectly.

Clockwise from upper left: The guide on the wood, using the drill with the drill guide and stop collar attached to the Forstner bit, the shavings look like they came out of a pencil sharpener, but the cup is smooth, perfect, and fits a hinge perfectly.


4.  Cut the beadboard paneling so that the lines will be symmetric after it’s inserted into the slots.  It takes 3 times as many cuts as just slicing a panel off at random, but I guarantee that it looks at least 3x better to have the stripes all centered.  =)

After that, it’s all assembly and finish work (wood filler, sanding, priming, sanding, painting, sanding, painting, sanding, painting, sanding, … painting). The plywood beadboard paneling we got is such a tight fit in the 3/16″ slots that tapping it with a hammer is sometimes necessary to really get it in, so I’m not worried about it moving around and there’s no “chattering” or rattling heard from the panels when you shut the doors. Installing them is also pretty darned easy with the 3-way adjustable Blum hinges that we bought. Eventually we’ll go in and make a few tweaks to the adjustments since they aren’t lined up EXACTLY right in a couple of spots (off by maybe 1/32?”).

Between the router (~$130), the 3/16″ router bit ($25), the Jig It and Forstner bit ($100), the wood for the frame (~$200 so far, probably another $200 or so to go), and the beadboard paneling (~$160) – unfinished doors are going to end up costing us around $800 or so. That’s about 1/3 of what we were looking at paying to have them built and shipped to us unfinished with pre-drilled cup holes. Sure, it’s more work, and does take some time (and a good pair of ear muffs) to zone out while doing all the routing. But like the cabinets themselves, I’ve really enjoyed the process of figuring it out and putting all the various pieces together from start to finish.

And it’s darned satisfying to see them finally hanging up on the cabinets!


* Are you aware just how many shades of grey there are?  At one point in the process I thought I had Fifty Shades of Grey(!!) on my hands, but luckily when I counted it was only 39 grey paint chips…  Phew!


What’s making you happy this Friday?

28 comments to Happy Friday – Shut the Front, Err, Cabinet Door!

  • Outstanding PoPs! This project has continued to impress and teach me. I know it’s a little thing, but I love the hinges. We have the same general type, and not seeing them from the outside of the cabinet gives a clean look. Maybe I was just scarred by looking at the rough looking black hinges on the 1980s house I grew up in…..

    Hope you have a great weekend
    Income Surfer recently posted..Update: Purchase, Fun, New SiteMy Profile

    • Thanks, Bryan! I love the hinges too! When we bought our house it had really ugly black hinges (probably the same 1980’s stock hinges you had, come to think of it…) that had been accumulating grease and grime for 25 years, and replacing those with some clean, slightly more modern nickel ones helped a lot in the years before we started the full remodel. But having the hinges completely invisible to the outside like these ones is a totally different look that I am just loving.

  • Nate R

    Great info, thanks for posting how you went about this!

    Is there an advantage in using the birch panels vs. a cheaper/thinner MDF or hardboard version of something similar?

    • We originally grabbed a small piece of MDF beadboard from home depot to test with (mostly since it fit in the car!). It was okay to work with, and about half the price of the birch plywood paneling. Really I think either would have been fine – but I liked the birch better for 2 reasons:

      1- Despite them both being labeled as 3/16″ thick, the birch is a VERY tight fit in the slots created by my 3/16″ router bit, and the MDF was a little loose. IIRC, our micrometer measured the difference between the two as less than 0.01″, but it was enough that I would have wanted to do more to secure the MDF to avoid rattling (staples? wood glue? caulking both sides instead of just the front?) if we had gone with it.

      2- Aesthetically, the MDF we saw in stock had the beadboard stripes 2″ on center (ie wide) vs the birch where they were 1.5″. I like the look of the 1.5″ a little better, especially on the thinner doors, and I liked the smooth back of the birch paneling compared to the kindof pebbly-textured back of the MDF, which you can see when the cabinet doors are opened.

      Are you thinking of building some cabinet doors? =)

  • Wow, this is really impressive. Congratulations on your cabinet-making success.

  • Looks great! I’m happy this friday because I hit my first big milestone of $100k!
    Gwen recently posted..MEGA MILESTONE: $100KMy Profile

  • Wow that’s pretty in-depth info for the cabinets. They look good. So does that mean the kitchen remodel is almost done.

    And hahha 50 shades of grey. :)
    The Roamer recently posted..2016 mid year goal reviewMy Profile

    • We’re getting close on the kitchen remodel, but our pace also slowed down A LOT this year compared to 2015. I think I’ve given up trying to quote a final end date. We’ll get there when we get there, but we do have to close out our permit officially next month, so that part will be done.

  • I continue to be super impressed by your carpentry skills. Also, the beadboard is such a classy touch. Well done!

  • Kristy

    First time poster (I think?), long time reader… I love your carpentry adventures! I have been looking at replacing our cabinet doors, and I didn’t realize you could buy them online.

    Do you mind posting some of the places you looked at before deciding to build your own? I’m pretty handy but have a toddler, am due with our second kid in 5 weeks, work full time, and have a military husband who’s deployed a lot so I know my chances of building my own doors for this house are moot.

    Maybe for the forever house, I really like the look you went with! I am hoping to do straight shaker (no beadboard inserts), for comparison.

    • Hey Kristy – it really does sound like you’ve got your hands full. Congrats on your upcoming arrival!

      The two places that I remember looking at the most were called Cabinet Authority and Cabinet Door World. They both had unfinished paint grade doors and drawer fronts that you could get pre-bored for hinges, etc, and both seemed to have good reviews. I also read (I think on the MMM forums ages ago) of someone getting a crazy bargain on shaker style doors they bought from some amish folks up in Eastern Pennsylvania. They got paint-grade shaker doors for most of a normal sized kitchen for something like $300-$400, which is crazy cheap. But the amish don’t have a website and probably wouldn’t ship to FL, so we were out of luck there. =P But maybe you live closer to a community like that and could get lucky?

      • Kristy

        Yay I got a Mrs PoP reply! Thanks for the info, I will check into the online choices. My husband’s family is from central PA, so that might actually be an option too… Good thing I’m ok with slow renovations 😉 We’re pushing 2.5 years on the current house and just got around to starting crown molding over this last weekend.

  • Nice progress. The doors look really nice. I love that you’re doing this yourself.
    Investment Hunting recently posted..Blogger Interview 7 – Dividend DiplomatsMy Profile

    • Thanks! I got a few more primed this afternoon before a rain storm blew in. Sadly, gotta work around the weather sometimes. =)

  • It is Saturday now, but polka dots are making me happy. And my house is about to be cleaner than it’s ever been. Sure, it’s because the real estate agent is coming to take pictures, but I will get to enjoy it a little bit, too.

    Those cabinet doors look AWESOME! I am in absolute awe. And of your patience, too!

    Your title made me giggle. I was joking the other day that I spend so much time bellowing “Close the door!” (at the boys coming in and out the back) that I am in danger of turning into a reverse Hodor–like a Clodor.
    Frugal Paragon recently posted..I Made Another Skirt!My Profile

    • yay for polka dots! Have you tried slightly bigger polka dots? One of my favorite skirts has polka dots about the size of a dime and they make me smile whenever I wear them.

      Ha! The title is actually in honor of a friend of mine at work who recently came the closest I’ve ever heard him to swearing. I shocked him by giving him a way better result of some research than he was hoping for and he almost yelled into the phone, “Shut the front door!” (instead of shut the f…. up) I laughed so hard.

  • Papa POP

    When you two started this project I had no doubt that it would look great when you were finished. Then you (My Dear DIL) started talking about MAKING the cabinets and to tell you the truth, I had a moment of doubt! That doubt soon disappeared, however, as I watched you work with the wood and produce cabinet after cabinet that were much more perfectly made than any you could have bought! Then you began to talk about buying the doors and my only thought was “Why on earth would she do that?” I was relieved when you changed your mind! THEY LOOK GREAT!

  • We’re planning out a kitchen remodel of our own, and I’m at least considering building the cabinets ourselves. I think we’ll probably just buy some pre-made…or maybe RTA. But you’ve got me thinking.
    Done by Forty recently posted..Our Trip to AfricaMy Profile

  • Great DIY Project the cabinet looks fantastic! I would never know how to do what you did even with the detailed instructions you gave because I am lacking in knowledge of tools. Sitting at a desk and cranking out spreadsheets is what I can do! I should probably learn how to use tools along the way though…
    Solve FInance recently posted..Dow Jones Reaches All Time HighMy Profile

  • y’know… You should do a youTube video showing how you’re doing this.. It’s interesting, & it could be pretty popular.
    Funny about Money recently posted..Live-Blogging from the LakeMy Profile

    • A friend of Mr PoP’s tried to make a YouTube video of tuning his car and came to the conclusion that he didn’t have the personality for it – he just didn’t light up the footage and translate the excitement. Pretty sure I might be the same way. =)