How to build shaker style cabinet doors

Written by michael straessle
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How to build shaker style cabinet doors
Shaker panels inside the frames of these cabinet doors. (shaker style doors image by Rob Hill from

For the homeowner who likes working with wood, building shaker style cabinet doors is a worthy project. Shaker style doors require the use of a table saw to cut the shaker panels to the correct size -- and to make the tongue and grooves in the door frame pieces. The new shaker style cabinet doors will become a focal point of your kitchen.

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Things you need

  • Dado blade, 6 mm (1/4 inch)
  • Table saw
  • Strips of timber, 5 cm (2 inch)
  • Electric mitre saw
  • C-clamps, two
  • Plywood, 6 mm (1/4 inch)
  • Wood glue
  • Bar clamps
  • Damp cloth

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  1. 1

    Install a 6 mm (1/4 inch) dado blade in the table saw, according to the manufacturer's instructions. Locate the wheel on the front of the table saw that raises the blade and set the blade at a 6 mm (1/4 inch) above the table. Set the fence of the table saw so there is a 6 mm (1/4 inch) between the blade and the fence. Stand each 5 cm (2 inch) strip on one of its 1.8 cm (3/4 inch) edges, set it against the fence of the table saw and run the strip through the saw to create a groove in the centre of the edge. Do this to only one 1.8 cm (3/4 inch) edge of each strip.

  2. 2

    Measure the door opening and add 1 inch to the length and width. For example, if the door opening is 37.5 cm (15 inches) wide and 70 cm (28 inches) tall, the working measurement for the door is 40 x 72.5 cm (16 x 29 inches).

  3. 3

    Cut the shaker door side pieces first. Separate the side pieces by length. Vent hood cabinet doors are shorter than other wall cabinet doors. This is also true for microwave cabinets and refrigerator cabinets.

  4. 4

    Determine the width pieces by first subtracting the side pieces from the overall length of the width pieces. This means for a door that measures 40 cm (16 inches) wide, subtract 10 cm (4 inches) because the side pieces to the door are each 5 cm (2 inches) wide. Before cutting the width pieces, add 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) to the length because the width pieces fit inside the groove cut with the dado blade. Cut the pieces with an electric mitre saw.

  5. 5

    Clamp a piece of timber to the inside of the table saw fence with a C-clamp. Turn the table saw on and slowly move the fence toward the blade. When it touches the blade, set the fence so it won’t move. Set the ends of the width pieces against the fence and run them over the blade. Turn them over and run them again. This produces a "tongue" on the ends of the width pieces to fit inside the grooves of the side pieces.

  6. 6

    Put the doorframe pieces together without glue. Cut 6 mm (1/4 inch) pieces of plywood 1 cm (7/16 inch) larger than the opening in the doorframe (width and length). For the doorframe with an overall measurement of 40 x 72.5 (16 x 29 inches), the doorframe opening becomes 30 x 62.5 cm (12 x 25 inches). That means the 6 mm (1/4 inch) plywood for the shaker panel measures 31 x 63.5 cm (12 7/16 x 25 7/16 inches).

  7. 7

    Insert the plywood into the doorframes. Apply wood glue to the tongues of the width pieces before inserting them into the side pieces. Clamp the doors with bar clamps at the top and bottom of the doors. Clean up excess glue immediately with a damp cloth.

Tips and warnings

  • Cutting the 6 mm (1/4 inch) panel 1 cm (7/16 inch) larger than the 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) provided by the 6 mm (1/4 inch) grooves allows the door room to expand and contract due to moisture in the air.

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