How to build wooden tambour doors

Written by robert korpella
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Tambour doors are most commonly associated with roll-top desks, but they are also used in all kinds of cabinetry pieces and add both a pleasing appearance and a functional touch. Tambour doors are sold pre-assembled, but you can make them yourself in your home workshop. That way, you'll keep wood matched correctly, make certain the fit is precise and you won't have to wait to purchase the door.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Wood side panels
  • Solid wood boards
  • Router or router table
  • Push sticks
  • 1/4-inch roundover bit
  • Table saw
  • Heavy canvas
  • Contact cement
  • Knob
  • Safety glasses

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  1. 1

    Using the router, make parallel grooves in the two wood side panels. These grooves must match exactly as they will form the tracks that the tambour door will ride in. Tambour doors generally ride in a curved track.

  2. 2

    Determine what length and width to cut the slats that will make up the door. These slats must be ripped or cut to length on the table saw from solid wood boards. A trick to make rounding over the edges easier and safer in the next step is to cut each slat about 6 inches longer than needed and trim them down later. When determining the width of the slats, remember that the tighter the turns the tambour door will need to make, the narrower the slats must be.

  3. 3

    Using a router table or the router, use a 1/4-inch roundover bit to ease the edges of each slat to prevent binding and pinching when it travels along the grooves in the side pieces. The extra length of board you cut in the previous step will come in handy now. If using the handheld router, accidental tipping of the power tool and resulting gouging can be cut off. If using the router table, the slat can be pushed into the bit shy of the end of the slat using push sticks and removed before reaching the other end. This prevents wobble that can gouge your slats or kick the slat back at you.

  4. 4

    On the table saw, cut the slats to the length you previously determined.

  5. 5

    Lay the slats out rounded side down on a flat surface tightly together and with the ends parallel. Tacking two straight edges to your flat surface can help this process.

  6. 6

    Cut a piece of heavy canvas material about 6 inches longer and wider than needed.

  7. 7

    Apply contact cement to the wood slats and to the canvas material and press the canvas into place on the slats. Allow the glue to dry thoroughly.

  8. 8

    Trim off the excess canvas, assemble the knob to your door, place the tambour door into its track and finish assembling the piece.

Tips and warnings

  • The ends of the slats can be cut down to form a tab. This helps the tambour door panel make tight turns without binding.
  • Wear safety glasses when working with power tools.

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