How do you make and install perfect cabinets/cabinet doors?

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Forum topic by cpt_hammer posted 10-27-2008 02:20 PM 14499 views 1 time favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View cpt_hammer's profile


133 posts in 4261 days

10-27-2008 02:20 PM

Topic tags/keywords: cabinet doors hinges jig

I’ve been working on an entertainment center for our family room for several weeks (okay months) and I need to install 2- 24×24 cabinet doors. Well, after I built them and mounted them as overlay doors, my wife and I agreed that they should be inset doors. Luckily, when I constructed the cabinet (frameless) and edgebanded the plywood edges, I verified that the cabinet openings were perfectly square by measuring the diagnols. They were both within 1/16th of each other. Each edge measured 23 1/4th (plus 3/4 for frame) to equal 24 inches.

The cainbet doors are standard rail and stile measuring 24×24 and made with 1×4 red oak and a plywood flat panel insert. So I had room to trim off the edges, so I went and cut 1/2 of each side to get me to 23 (so I have 1/8th gap around the edges). I measured the diagnols again and they were within 1/16th of each other or better. However, when I went to place them in the cainbets, they as might as well been triangles.

I had a huge gap of 3/16 at one edge with less than 1/16th on each other on the bottom while the top was a perfect 1/8th gap. The only thing that I can think of is that they are opposing parallelograms and the accuracy I really needed, needed to be a lot higher. So in my wisdom, I scribed the edges, to give me a more uniform look rather than exact measurements. That at least, with the very dark color of the stain I’m using, should hide any imperfections.

Next problem, I bought cheap euro style hinges that instead of mounting using the 1 3/8 diameter hole type, used four screws on both the door and the frame. The good thing about this, is that when I changed the doors from overlay to inset, I could just cut the doors evenly on all sides and fill in the screw holes instead of big 1 3/8” diameter hole from standard euro hinges.

I followed the directions and mounted the frame first and then place the door in place as measured and placed in the screws, but they were off, after about twenty tries, I finally found the perfect placement. By the way, this left a huge amount of screw holes on the inside of my door and some in the frame (no problem with a little wood putty and touchup work). However, the screws are so hard along with the wood, I tore up at least 5 different #2 phillips screw heads for both my electric and manual screwdrivers. The only one that didn’t tear up was my Craftsman Screw Driver (insert plug here). Not a single screw was stripped (except for the one that broke the head off completely).

After this was all done and the doors hung, I had to take them back off, so I could finish staining and polyurethane the doors. So in a few days after everything is dry and ready, I will try again to hang these doors. Luckily I marked the screw holes I needed on the doors, so I hope to use the same holes again.

So my question to all of you, is how do make the perfect cabinet doors and hang them?

6 replies so far

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 4323 days

#1 posted 10-27-2008 02:56 PM

You have just discovered first-hand the reason why cabinets with full-inset doors are so much more expensive than cabinets with overlay doors. The level of precision required is significantly higher. You said you were going inset and your cabinets were within 1/16 and I winced – then you said the doors were also within 1/16 and I cringed!

I’ve never built frameless cabinets with inset doors, so I’m sure there are some unique challenges there. For face-frame cabinets, I build the face frames first and make sure they are absolutely square. Then I build my doors about 1/16 too big and use a panel sled on the table saw to trim them perfectly square. I always mount them with adjustable hinges – either cup hinges, or no-mortise butt hinges.

I’m sorry you had such a time of it, but just think of all the experience you gained!

-- -- --

View tbone's profile


286 posts in 4133 days

#2 posted 10-27-2008 06:32 PM

One more thing to check—the floor the entertainment center sits on. It’s probably different than the surface of your shop, be it a workbench or floor.
if you shim the entertainment center at the floor to level it or mimic the conditions of your shop, you will see your doors’ fit change.
Good luck.

-- Kinky Friedman: "The first thing I'll do if I'm elected is demand a recount."

View niki's profile


426 posts in 4528 days

#3 posted 10-27-2008 07:03 PM

Hi Cpt_hammer

I made a few cabinets with inset doors.

In my opinion, a “within 1/16” is too much of a tolerance. I think that you have to strive for much smaller tolerances like 1/64” or less.

I’m always trying to be as much at accurate as I can be because, “a little bit here and a little bit there” and the small mistakes can accumulate to big numbers.

In your case, 1/16” of the cabinet and 1/16” of the door are already 1/8” that is already visible and not so nice.

The dark stain can mask the mistake a little bit but, I using also another “mistake masker”...I round over the door edges around.

Normally, I make the door smaller by 1/16 or less than the frame…I can always “fine tune” it if it’s too big.

As for the Euro hinges for Inset doors, the “formula” is very easy – Door thickness + 3.7mm (~5/32”)

Please have a look at those posts

Hope it helps





View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4096 days

#4 posted 10-27-2008 10:17 PM

Here is part of the trick. Plywood, MDF… it’s not flat when you
make a cabinet with it – it doesn’t make a square hole even
if the corners measure out.

Why? the ply isn’t straight. Sure it’s straight enough for overlay
doors… but for inset you cannot depend on the sheet stock
to be flat.

One way to do it is glue, screw, or nail a 1” wide x 3×4” face-frame
on the front of your boxes. You can straighten the the inside
of the frame members before you attach it. That way you can
have a square hole for a square door. Make your doors a little oversized
and trim them to fit.

Thermal edgebanded ply doesn’t cut it for nice inset doors. Sheet
goods are far too unpredictable. You need to introduce an element
of control to the opening.

View Catspaw's profile


236 posts in 4264 days

#5 posted 10-28-2008 12:55 AM

Make it alittle easy on yourself in the future. Make your doors oversize and cut them to fit once the carcass in done. If you want to be really accurate. Install the cabinets first, then, install the doors. Tbone has it. Even the slightest crank on a mounting screw can really move the “square” of the cabinet.

IMHO, tight tolerances like 1/64” = major headaches. Wood moves more than that and it will whether you want it to or not. I have yet to see the peice of wood or house or whatever that will be and stay within such close tolerances unless you’re a museum with really expensive evironmental controls.

-- arborial reconfiguration specialist

View gusthehonky's profile


130 posts in 4191 days

#6 posted 10-28-2008 01:25 AM

I feel your frustration!

I have undertaken a JK inspired cabinet, and have had my fair share of problems also, especially with the knife hinges- amongst other things. Research has led me to believe he had relied upon files and rasps for fine tuning(his talent, skill, and master craftsmanship also factored in.) I could be mistaken however, on the files that is. Manipulating the hinges may help to solve the problem, minor tweaks, shims, or adjustments by minor bends may help.

I now fully realize why the title of master cabinetmaker is held in such high esteem.

Sorry I’m not much help, but I am sure you will prevail with an outcome to your liking.

-- Ciao, gth.

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