Making cabinet doors is easy, fun and cost effective. With wood you can purchase at any hardware or lumber store, anyone can make beautiful and functional doors in no time. The only tool you need is a decent quality router and router table, and router bits. The wood we used for these demos is just 3/4” pine that was cut to 2” widths. It is important that thickness and width of the door components is constant, otherwise you will find uneven edges on you doors that will require sanding to make even again.
After you have cut your raw wood, that is the wood for the rails and styles you will need to cut those pieces to their proper length. The length for the stiles is easy, that is simply the length of the door that you will be making. This is because the stiles are ALWAYS the full vertical length of the doors.
Cutting the rails, (the horizontal components of the door) can be a bit trickier, that is why we like to use 2” for the width of stiles and rails (plus it just looks good). The rails when they are finished will need to have tongues cut into each end to fit into the groves of the stiles and this is where knowing woodworking math is a help.
In figuring out how long the rails need to be, you first need to measure how long the tongues are going to be with the bit set that you have. If you have a quality bit set this will likely be a simple measurement, for example the Freud tongue and grove bit set I use, the creates a tongue that is 7/16” long. This means that having a tongue on both sides of the rail will consume 7/16” times 2 which equals 7/8”. So with this knowledge I can now figure out the length of my rails by subtracting 4 inches (the width or each rail) and adding 7/8 inch, and presto that is the length of my rails.
After all the door components, the rails and styles have been cut to length it is now time to start cutting the tongues and groves. We ALWAYS start cutting the tongues first because we will eventually use the tongues as our guidelines to figure out where to position the groves for all the doors. It is important to remember (and even mark) all your wood on either the face side or back side so all the pieces always remain the same side up at all times during your cutting and assembly. This is VERY important. Install your tongue cutters into the router, isolate the bearing and set the height so that the tongue will be cut through the middle of the thickness of the wood.
Cut the tongues on all four rails and be sure to always cut them using the same side of wood as you marked. Now it's time to cut the the groves, and the groves go in all the door pieces, both rails and stiles. To figure out the height of the grove cutter, once the bit has been installed in the router, tightened, and the bearing has been isolated from the fence, use one of your rail groves to align with the grove cutter.
Turn on the router and make a tiny cut into the grove of the rail (about ¼” is about sufficient). From this you will be able to see if the bit needs to be raised or lowered. You may need to make few test cuts to check this height. When the grove bit is at the perfect height it will cut the tongue so that a tiny bit of wood on each side of the tongue is slightly flaired. When this happens you are now read to tighten up that router height and cut groves in all both the rails and stiles.
When you have cut all the groves in all the door components you are almost ready for assembley. All that you need now will be panels for the center of the doors. You could use plywood, glass, stained glass, plastic sheeting, thin MDF or you could make your own natural wood panels. When you have choosen and cut your materials to size you are now ready for assembly.
Copyright Colin Knecht