How to Make a Frame & Flat Cabinet Door

Written by judy kilpatrick Google
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How to Make a Frame & Flat Cabinet Door
Frame and flat cabinet doors used for cupboards and work island. (kitchen image by yong hong from

Construct your own cabinet doors in a style that matches your home's decor, enhancing traditional and period decor with frame-and-flat-panel cabinet doors. Make the cabinet door frames using stile and rail construction techniques. Using this technique, grooves are routed in the stiles, or vertical pieces, and in the rails, or horizontal pieces. Rout an edge profile on all stile and rail pieces for a more decorative door. A flat panel is inserted into the grooves, creating a cabinet door. Frame-and-flat-panel cabinet doors are sturdy as well as beautiful.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • 1-by-2-1/4-inch hardwood boards
  • 1/4-inch plywood
  • Table router
  • Stick and cope router bits
  • Table saw
  • Wood glue
  • Framing square
  • Clamps

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  1. 1

    Measure the amount of 1-by-2-1/4-inch hardwood boards needed for your cabinet door frames. Hardwood boards are typically available in 4-feet or 8-feet lengths. In general, you will encounter less waste with the longer boards.

    Measure the height of the opening of a cabinet. Add two inches to the height to allow for overlap with the cabinet frame. Count the number of cabinet doors needed. Each door requires two stiles, so multiply the cabinet door count by 2. Determine the number of stiles you can cut from one 1-by-2-1/4-inch hardwood board. Divide this number into the stile count to determine how many boards are needed for stiles.

    Measure the width of each cabinet opening. Each door requires two rails, so multiply by two. Determine the number of rails you can cut from one 1-by-2-1/4-inch hardwood board. Divide this number into the rail count to determine how many boards are needed for rails.

  2. 2

    Measure the amount of 1/4-inch plywood needed. Measure the height and width of the opening of each casement and add the depth of each routed groove, minus 1/8-inch to the height measurement and also the width measurement. Plywood is used for the flat panel inside the frame and fits into the grooves cut in the stiles and rails. The plywood panel must fit inside the grooves with 1/16-inch of space allowed for expansion. Determine the number of panels you can cut from one sheet of 4-by-8 plywood. Divide that number into the total number of panels needed for all doors. This final figure is the number of sheets of plywood needed for your project.

  3. 3

    Rout all 1-by-2-1/4-inch lumber pieces to shape profile. Choose the profile style of your choice. Use featherboards to hold the lumber firmly against the table while routing.

  4. 4

    Cut a 3/16-inch slot in a scrap framing board. Test fit the slot onto a sheet of plywood. Plywood sold as 1/4-inch is typically slightly narrower in width. If the fit is too tight, adjust the routing bit with shims and cut a slot in another piece of scrap framing board. When the correct fit has been reached, rout a slot into all frame boards. If you routed a decorative profile on your hardwood frame board, rout the slot in the same side of the board. Set your slot router to 1/16-inch from the back side of the board.

  5. 5

    Cut all stiles to length using your table saw. The height of the stiles is the height of the cabinet case opening plus two inches.

  6. 6

    Cut all rails to width: The rail measurement is the width of the cabinet case opening minus 2-1/2 inches.

    Cut rails for one door and lay out on table to check for accuracy. Place two stiles vertically with a rail between them horizontally. Measure the width from the outer edge of one stile to the outer edge of the other stile. This measurement should be equal to the opening in the cabinet casing plus two inches, the overlap allowance of the door.

  7. 7

    Cope ends of rails with your coping bit. Cut a reverse version of your profile edge on the narrow end of each rail. The reverse profile, mirror image, fits perfectly over the profile on the long side of the stile, including a 1/4-inch tongue that fits into the 1/4-inch panel groove. Coped rails and stiles fit together to form a frame, similar to a picture frame.

  8. 8

    Cut plywood panels, with wood grain vertical, to fit inside slots in the hardware frames.

  9. 9

    Put wood glue in the groove the entire length of one stile. Fit the panel in its exact position. Put glue on the end of a rail and slide it onto the panel, fitting the coped edge into the stile. Repeat with the other rail. Put wood glue in the groove of another stile and fit into place. Square up the frame-and-flat-panel assembly using a framing square. Hold the entire assembly together with clamps.

Tips and warnings

  • Check the door to make sure it is perfectly square before tightening the clamps.
  • Wear safety goggles to avoid injury.

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