Cabinet Door

Project date: 2006


This is one of those projects that you think of after you look at something for awhile and keep thinking, "I have to do something to improve this...."

On the boat, there is a storage area that just seems out of place, and stuff has a tendancy to fall out from time to time. I am not sure what the original intent of the storage area was, but my solution is to construct a door.



The challenge here is to make the door to match the asthetics of the interior. The first thought might be to match the other cabinet doors, but there is a problem with this. The other doors are made from what looks almost like a gel-coated laminate. The typical white Melamine material common to lumber yards is not the same material, and would look out of place. Since a source of this material could not be located, a different approach is necessary.

Rather than make the door match, the concept I will use is to design a door that contrasts with the others. Amazingly, a contrasting item can be in harmony with its opposite. The notion of "opposites attract" is what I am trying to achieve. Since the interior is white with Cherry trim, the idea I came up with is to make the door from Cherry.

Another design consideration is that the door should have a nautical look to it, not something that looks like it belongs in a kitchen cabinet. After some design thought, the idea of lattice work, like those found on hatches in old sailing ships seemed appropriate. I think I have come up with a suitable design that gives a nautical look, and will contrast nicely with the interior. I am just not too sure how difficult this will be to make.

It is fortunate that I have a home woodshop, and while I classify myself as an amateur woodworker, I do have the tools necessary to construct this door. An alternative could be to find a woodworking store, senior center, or commission a high-school student taking a wood-shop class to make it.

The most difficult part is constructing the lattice, so might as well jump in and get this part done first. The first step is to saw 3/4in wide slots in the material, 3/8in deep and 3/4in apart. For this, I used a "dado" blade in a table saw. To help set the width and depth of the cut, I made test cuts in scrap wood. OK, that is easy enough to do. The difficult part is ensuring that each slot is exactly 3/4in apart. This was accomplished by using an Incra 1000 Miter Gauge. This device has a stop, which can be adjusted in 1/32in increments, with a published accuracy of 0.001. As each dado cut was made, I simply moved the stop-block with each cut to make the slots 3/4in apart. True to its claim, accuracy of the Miter Gauge made the distances between the cuts perfect.

After making the dado cuts, I then ripped the boards into 3/4in strips, which gave me the parts necessary for the lattice. Unfortunataly, when ripping the boards, my blade scored the sides - so much so that I had to lightly sand them. This resulted in a couple of the once-perfect 3/4in wide parts being a bit narrow. I guess I need a new saw blade.

Again relying on the Miter Gauge's accuracy, I cut each strip to length. I will be making two lattice units, each of which requires 6 strips. To assemble the lattice, simply lay out three of them with the dado cut facing up, then lay the other three over them with the dado facing down until they interconnect. I used a dab of carpenter's glue in each dado slot, ensured they were square, then clamped them until they were dry. When I showed the lattice work to my wife, she mentioned that if I had made four of them, she was going to keep 'em for herself, since they would make nice coasters!

The next step was to begin construction of the door frame. I began with the two stiles (vertical pieces) and using a micro-biscuit cutter and #3 biscuits, assembled the center piece to the stiles. Again, clamp the pieces until the glue has dried.

Now I simply need to slide the lattice work into the door frame. The lattice units are simply butt-jointed to the frame. This took a bit of fitting and trimming to get everything to fit, but once they were fit, they were glued and clamped.

The last step in assembling the frame was to attach the top and bottom rails to the door. Again, biscuits were used as well as gluing and clamping. After the assembly was finished, there were a few gaps here and there. I think this would almost be impossible to make without at least some imperfections. But the gaps were generally paper-thick, so a bit of wood filler took care of the problem.

Due to the tolerances and difficulty with working with wood, there was some uneveness between all of the parts - which is really to be expected. Therefore, the next step is to sand the entire door until everything is smooth and flush. This is not really that difficult - assuming the various parts are fairly close together to begin with. But, if it is a sloppy fit, no amount of sanding may fix it.

The next step is to finish the door with a nice, durable, glossy finish. For this project, I used Epifanes hi-gloss finish, which resulted in an outstanding gloss.

For simplicity sake, and to maintain the no-hinge look, I used Blum blind euro-hinges for the door. Unfortunately, the standard Blum hinge uses a 35mm cup size, but they also have a mini-hinge product available for narrow stiles that requires a 26mm hole. This is the hinge I used. The door will be mounted "face-frame", so I also need an adapter plate from Blum for this purpose.

The hinges are Blum part number 71M0550, and the face-frame plate is 175H6000. These may need to be special ordered by a Blum dealer.

I chose the same type of door pulls so common on boat cabinetry, but to maintain the contrast concept, I chose a brass pull (the other cabinets use a silver pull).

The door swings open to the rear of the boat, and allows access to both the DVD player and other items we may wish to store here. You can also see the rear berth's stereo amp in this closet.

To me, this little project really makes the difference on the boat. It only took a day or so for the construction, and the cost was really more in time than materials. This is the the contrast I was looking for, and I think it complements the existing doors quite nicely.

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