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Building Shaker Style Cabiner doors out of MDF?

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Forum topic by AAANDRRREW posted 05-17-2017 02:53 PM 2927 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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AAANDRRREW

216 posts in 1595 days


05-17-2017 02:53 PM

Hello All,

We have oak cabinets in our kitchen, stained the traditional honey oak color. The wife has determined (and so it shall be) they will be painted. I’m less than excited about painting them, both because its a pain and seems silly because its nice oak. At any rate, if she really got her way, she’d have shaker style doors too – and that got me to thinking, I could potentially make new doors and not have to go through the effort of painting the old ones.

I browsed around online and learned some things, but am still seeking some answers and advice. I see people using solid wood for the frame, dado’ing it and slipping a 1/4” piece of MDF or plywood in. I’m not sure I’m a fan of this because I wonder if the frame being wood and the panel being MDF the paint might adhere differently. Also, I’m not a fan of the 1/4” panel – my last house had that and it seemed cheap because the panel would flex alot.

My thought was could I not use 1/2” MDF (or 3/4”) and cut a panel the exact size + 1/4” on all 4 sides of my existing door and just glue a 1/2” face frame over the top of it and once dry cut it down to the exact size of my existing door, giving a clean transition between face frame and door panel? I’d paint it then, which would cover any potential line you’d see up? I’d like to use MDF due to its low cost and ease of painting.

Or am I talking out of my backside here?


10 replies so far

View ShaneA's profile

ShaneA

7084 posts in 3020 days


#1 posted 05-17-2017 03:15 PM

1/4” MDF panel glued into a real wood frame will work just fine. The MDF is dimensionally stable, easy to paint, super flat. Should not be any problem with that. You could use Maple for the frames.

View weathersfuori's profile

weathersfuori

96 posts in 1552 days


#2 posted 05-17-2017 03:48 PM

I’m in a similar predicament- My wife wants shaker doors and honestly our cabinets are in such rough shape, I agree we need something new. Same thing- honey oak cabinets. FWIW, my plan is to get rid of the existing cabinet doors, build new shaker doors out of maple with a 1/4” panel slipped into the dados, then see if I can successfully fill the oak grain on an old door and paint it. If that works, I’ll fill the grain on the existing cabinets and paint them to match the doors. It all sounds good in my head, but I’m sure it won’t go that easily. I’ll be starting this project in a few weeks and if you haven’t done anything by then, I’m happy to pass along any lessons learned.

For the flex issue, I don’t know the answer, but maybe certain species of ply are better than others for this application? I planned on just using maple panels since the frames will be maple, but I don’t know if that’s the right answer.

I hear you on the cost advantages of MDF, but the way I’m looking at it is that by building the doors myself I’m saving a ton of money even with maple. And having more fun.

-- Weathersfuori, Texas, www.facebook.com/f5creations

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000

2859 posts in 1321 days


#3 posted 05-17-2017 03:59 PM

I would use poplar or alder for the frames
1/2 mdf for the panel. back cut the panel for the 1/4” tongue.

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mike02130

170 posts in 1095 days


#4 posted 05-17-2017 04:27 PM

AAA, you answered your own question. 1/2” and 1/4”. The advantage of poplar is it holds screws better. Mdf is much easier and cheaper

-- Google first, search forums second, ask questions later.

View AAANDRRREW's profile

AAANDRRREW

216 posts in 1595 days


#5 posted 05-17-2017 04:43 PM

So, maybe I wasn’t clear or maybe its such a stupid idea noone has responded to it, but I was thinking of taking 1/2” MDF, cutting it full size and then making a separate face frame out of MDF, assembling it, then gluing it on top of the panel I cut. No dado or rabbet – is this just a stupid idea?

I can do the dado/rabet, just it’s something I don’t do frequently and I’ve always had trouble getting it just perfect…

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000

2859 posts in 1321 days


#6 posted 05-17-2017 04:51 PM

^You can do it the way you’re talking about, It’s not stupid.
But you will always end up seeing the line between the frame and panel.
If I was going to do it like that, I would rabbit it out for the panel, like so.
Miter the corners.

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AAANDRRREW

216 posts in 1595 days


#7 posted 05-17-2017 04:52 PM

jbay – I thought that too – BUT, if I oversize the frame and panel by 1/4”, once glued together, trimming it to size in the table saw, then with priming and painting maybe the line would be hidden?

I also wasn’t sure about long term durability and swelling of MDF with moisture.

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000

2859 posts in 1321 days


#8 posted 05-17-2017 05:00 PM



jbay – I thought that too – BUT, if I oversize the frame and panel by 1/4”, once glued together, trimming it to size in the table saw, then with priming and painting maybe the line would be hidden?

I also wasn t sure about long term durability and swelling of MDF with moisture.

- AAANDRRREW


After 1 season the line will show up, although it won’t be horrible you will be able to see that a back was just added onto the frame.

View Kazooman's profile

Kazooman

1328 posts in 2374 days


#9 posted 05-17-2017 05:02 PM

If I understand your description correctly you plan to make the door entirely with MDF. I would be a bit concerned about how well the screws for the hinges would hold up.

Added: I see that Mike also mentioned the screws issue in his earlier response. I missed that. MDF is heavy stuff and not known for holding screws all that well. Glued panels in dados are great, but all MDF doors with screwed in hinges may well fail in the long run.

View TungOil's profile

TungOil

1274 posts in 917 days


#10 posted 05-17-2017 06:13 PM


So, maybe I wasn t clear or maybe its such a stupid idea noone has responded to it, but I was thinking of taking 1/2” MDF, cutting it full size and then making a separate face frame out of MDF, assembling it, then gluing it on top of the panel I cut. No dado or rabbet – is this just a stupid idea?

I can do the dado/rabet, just it s something I don t do frequently and I ve always had trouble getting it just perfect…

- AAANDRRREW

If you do this I Think what you will find is two things that you won’t be happy with.

1) As Jbay said, the joint between the layers of MDF will probably be visible, even if you cut it after assembly as you suggest. Maybe not the first year, but after some time it will appear.

2) The exposed edges of the MDF are going to take paint very differently than the factory smooth faces. I think you will be unhappy with the variation in the appearance of the edges and tops of your doors compared to the factory faces.

and they won’t hold up…..

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"

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