marking test board

You can save money by making your own cabinet doors. Learn how to make frame and panel cabinet doors using a table saw and dado blade set. With this simple system, you can build custom cabinet doors for your home.

Skill Builder Video

Video: How To Make Tongue & Groove Cabinet Doors - Video Transcript

Speaker 1: I'm going to show you how to build one of my cabinet doors so you can take the idea and run with it for your cabinet projects. Let's get started. You only need a table saw and a few other supplies to build these doors, but it's really important that the stock you use for the door frames is flat and straight. Buy the straightest grain lumber you can find, and if necessary, get it run through a jointer and then through a planer so the faces are parallel and the faces and edges are dead flat. If they aren't, your cabinet doors aren't going to be flat either. Get started on the right foot with quality 3/4-inch material.

Our first task is to rip our rails and stiles to width. I'm going to use two inches for these doors here, but that width could be anywhere from an inch and a half to two and a half inches depending on the door size. Determine the width of your rails and stiles. Measuring off of one of the flat edges of your board, mark one end. Now, slide and lock the rip fence to line the blade up with your layout mark on the waist side of the cut, then rip your rails and stiles to width. For my door, I'll rip enough stock for two rails, two stiles and a couple of test pieces.

Now that we've got our frame stock ripped, we can cross-cut these pieces into our rails and stiles. For my doors, I need 11.5'' long rails and 28'' long stiles, but I also have to remember to add in an extra inch to the part length of my rails to account for the half-inch tongues on each end of those parts. Now, to make all of these cross-cuts, I've attached a long piece of scrap plywood to my miter gauge because it's important for the stiles and particularly for the rails that the part lengths match exactly. This scrap fence will make sure of it.

Cross-cut one end of your frame stock pieces to make sure they're square using the miter gauge. Next, measure from the blade slot along the miter fence the length you need for the stiles. Clamp a stop block here, then set the squared edge of the stock against the stop block and cut the stiles to length. They'll match exactly. Now, move the stop block and repeat the same process for cutting the two rails to length. Now we've got our rails and stiles cut to length and we can move on to the tongue and groove joints. The right place to start is with the groove cuts. It's always easier to size a tongue to fit a groove than to do it the other way around. This is the right place to begin.

Now, for my cabinet door, I'm going to fill it with this quarter-inch plywood panel. As you probably know, these days a quarter inch plywood is almost always thinner than a quarter of an inch. We're going to have to size this groove undersized to fit that material. If the groove is too wide, the panel will rattle in the door. I don't want that. It's going to take a little bit of trial and error, but that's the purpose for making test pieces. We're going to dial in our cuts at the table saw using these test pieces first before we commit to our actual cabinet door framework pieces.

To set up the groove cut, start by finding the center of one of your test pieces on its edge and mark it on the board end, then raise your saw blade to just a little higher than 1/2-inch. For these groove cuts, I'm going to use a ripping blade. It has flat top teeth and that will give me nice, flat bottoms on my group cuts. If you only have a standard saw blade with angled teeth on top, that will work fine too. Now, adjust the rip fence so that one edge of the blade just crosses over your center mark. Lock the fence here, then clamp a feather board in place in front of the blade to make sure the stock will stay pressed tight against the fence when you make the groove cuts.

Now make one cut from end to end, flip the board around, and make a second cut just like the first to widen the test groove. After my first round of passes, my groove fits a little bit tight. I'm going to have to reset the rip fence just slightly and make two more passes to check it again. If your groove is too tight, move the fence a tiny bit further away from the blade to widen the groove. If it's too loose, move it a nudge closer to the blade. Usually, the smallest adjustment is all that's needed. Then make another round of test cuts. After a second round of test cuts, my groove is slightly wider and the plywood fits right in as it should.

I'm all set to plow all the grooves in my rails and stiles using the same two-cut process. Now that we're done with all the groove cuts, we can finish up these door joints by cutting tongues on the ends of the rails. The fastest way to do that is with the dado set. Start by stacking a quarter-inch wide dado blade in your saw. If it's like most, just use the two outer blades. The grooves on the frame parts make a handy guide for setting the dado blade to the correct height. Set one of the rails or stiles next to the blade on its side and adjust the height of the blade until the tops of the teeth line up with the bottom of the groove. Make this adjustment carefully.

Now, we still need to set the length of the tongues. Slide your rip fence over until the outside of the dado blade is half an inch away from the fence and lock the fence. With the settings locked in, go ahead and cut the first tongue supporting the test piece from behind with your miter gauge. Press the workpiece against the rip fence and make two passes, flipping it over for the second pass. These cuts form the shoulders of the tongue. Now pull the workpiece away from the fence and make more cuts to remove the rest of the waste.

Now, let's see how this test tongue fits the grooves. That is pretty good. I got lucky this time. The parts go all the way together as they should in a nice push fit. You should feel a little bit of friction when you put the pieces together, but you shouldn't have to force it. If the tongue is just too tight, raise the blade up slightly and make another test cut to cut a slightly thinner tongue. If the tongue is too loose, lower the blade a little bit, make another test cut to cut a slightly thicker tongue. When you get the blade setting just right, go ahead and cut all four tongues on the ends of the rails. Remember, only the rails should have tongues on the ends. The vertical stiles have flat ends.

This cabinet door frame is just about done. All of our tongue and groove joints are finished. The last big step is to cut the plywood panel to fit the frame. Now, the width of the panel is the length of the rails from the end of one tongue to the other, and the length of the panel is the inside measurement of the frame plus one inch to account for the grooves. I can go ahead and make a couple of cross-cuts and rip cuts to bring my panel to final size. Well, the five pieces of this cabinet door are now done. Before I reach for the glue bottle, it's important to carry out a full dry fit to make sure the corner joints close properly as they should.

Then I'm going to take the door apart and give the panel and the inside edges of the frame a good sanding. After that, I can glue the door together, including gluing the panel into its grooves. It's plywood after all, so it doesn't expand and contract. Gluing the panel into the door frame just makes the door that much stronger. Once it comes out of the clamps, I'll give the outside of the frame a good sanding, including flattening those corner joints, then my door is all set for finishing and hanging. There you have it, tongue and groove cabinet doors. They're quick, strong and adaptable to many styles, and all it takes to make them is a table saw.