How To Make A Shaker Cabinet Door

Hi everyone! It’s Jill from The Rozy Home and I am here to share a tutorial that will change your life. I know what you are thinking – “Jill, it’s just a cabinet door. What’s the big deal?” As you know, cabinet doors easily make or break the style of your kitchen. If your cabinet doors scream their decade, painting them makes a huge difference – but the fact remains they are still dated. Why paint when you can easily make a shaker cabinet door yourself?

How to build a shaker cabinet door -- not as difficult as it looks! @Remodelaholic

For this tutorial I picked the hottest cabinet style in kitchens – shaker. Not only do shaker cabinets make a dated kitchen current, they are also incredibly easy to make. All you need is oak strips, plywood, wood glue and a table saw. That’s it! (If you have flat panel cabinets already, you can update them to be shaker style like on the drawer fronts here.)

6 renovated kitchen with white subway tile marble and farmhouse sink, Cobblestone DG on Remodelaholic
example of white painted shaker cabinets, Cobblestone Development Group on Remodelaholic


How to Build a Shaker Cabinet Door

Step 1: Determine the cabinet size.

This is pretty simple. All you have to do is measure the opening of the cabinet and then add the desired overlap. Most people opt for 1/2 inch. Example: Your cabinet opening is 17″ x 37″ so you would want your shaker cabinet door to be 18″ x 38″. In the illustration below, the grey represents the overlay of the new cabinet door.

Determine Cabinet Opening
Determine Cabinet Opening

Step 2: Gather your materials.

When selecting cabinet doors there are a couple of options in regards to wood. Due to the ease of finding, I usually opt for red oak. Red oak is strong and can easily be stained or painted to your desired color.

The stiles of the shaker cabinet door (the pieces that make the frame) are usually 2″ wide and 3/4″ to 1″ thick. Luckily this can be easily found at most home improvement stores. An 8 foot piece of 1″ x 2″ red oak strips is around $10.

For the panel (the center of the cabinet door), you will use 1/4″ red oak plywood. Again, these are easily found at most home improvement stores. A 4′ x 8′ piece is around $25.

Step 3: Cut your stiles and rails to length.

In the example above, an 18″ x 38″ cabinet door would have 2 – 38″ vertical stiles and 2 – 15″ horizontal rails. To determine the horizontal rail lengths, take the overall width (in the example, 18″) and subtract approximately 3 inches. Each vertical stile is roughly 2 inches wide and the horizontal rail will set in 1/2″ on each end (2 inch rail width  – 1/2 inch inset = 1 1/2 inches per side).


Step 4: Cut your dados.

Dados will change your woodworking life. Or at least they have for me. A dado is a grooved joint sized to fit another piece of wood closely (also called a groove, as in tongue and groove)

This is an example of a dado.
This is an example of a dado.

Making a dado is actually pretty simple. For this project, you will want to create a 1/2″ dado in each of your four stiles (the plywood will slide into the frame via the dad0).

Begin by adjusting your blade height to 1/2″.

Adjust your blade to 1/2".
Adjust your blade to 1/2″.

Place the vertical stile a little off-center and run it through the table saw.

Line up your blade just off center for the first cut.

Turn the stile around and run it through again. When you are finished, it should look like this:

Completed dado.
Completed dado.

Although cutting dados is not hard, I would suggest you practice with “junk wood” that is the same width. When making this tutorial, I went too far off-center and ended up with this:

If you've done this, you've gone too far off center.
If you’ve done this, you’ve gone too far off center.

Yeah, I was WAY off center. This happened because I eye-balled it. The best way to stop this from happening is by marking center on the wood and then having the blade line-up on the actual edge of the line.

To ensure your groove is the right width, grab your plywood and do a test fit. If it snaps on, your groove is perfect. If it’s too small, widen the groove as needed. If it’s too big, scrap the piece and start over.

Check the dado to make sure it fits snuggly onto the plywood.
Check the dado to make sure it fits snuggly onto the plywood.

Repeat this process on the other vertical stile as well as the two horizontal rails.

Step 5: Cut your tongue.

Ok, ouch! No, not that tongue. The tongue is the edge of the wood that will fit inside the dado (or groove). Doing this is a bit more tricky (but still easy). Again, I suggest using junk wood to practice.

Begin by adjusting your table saw blade to around 1/4″ (actually a little less is better).

Next, move your fence so that it is 1/2″ away from the center of the blade.

Run your horizontal rail through on both sides and both ends. You should end up with this:


Move your fence 1/4″ closer to the blade and run the horizontal rail through again. Continue to move your fence closer and run the horizontal stile through until you have created a tongue. The final piece should look like this:


Yes, it’s a bit dipped in the center but that’s okay (as long as it’s not like that on the whole piece. If it is, it will not fit right).

When all pieces are cut, they should look like this:


Step 6: Measure/cut the center panel.

Fit all of your pieces together to get an accurate measurement of the center panel.

Fit pieces together.
Fit pieces together.

As you can see, there are small gaps on the edges. No worries… those will be resolved quickly.

Measure the width and height of the opening.

Measure the width and height of the opening.
Measure the width and height of the opening.

Add 1″ to the overall width and height of the opening. Use these measurements to cut your center panel.

Step 7: Add the center panel.

After cutting the center panel, slide it into the frame to check for fit.

Slide in center panel to check for fit.
Slide in center panel to check for fit.

If you are satisfied with the fit, remove the panel and apply glue to the grooves of each panel.

Apply glue to each groove.
Apply glue to each groove.

Slide the panel back in and place the top horizontal rail in place. Clamp the shaker cabinet door and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes.

Clamp the cabinet door.
Clamp the cabinet door.

I always double check the width of a door when clamping by measuring at each clamp. When I first began working with clamps I would tend to clamp one side tighter than the other – resulting in an uneven finish on the final product. Measuring at each end is a quick and easy way to make sure you haven’t over-tightened (or under-tightened) your clamps.

Allow it to dry overnight.

DSC_0440 copy

And that, my friends, is that. Simply sand and stain or paint your shaker cabinet door, add some awesome cabinet handles and hinges and you are good to go.


It took about 15 minutes to make each door (not including the time it took for the glue to dry). Cost per door is around $20 (you can get about 6 center panels from each sheet of plywood).

In as little as a weekend, you could completely transform your kitchen by making your own shaker doors. Not only are they stylish and easy-to-make, but the tongue and groove joint will ensure they hold up to the daily abuse in the kitchen.

Coming up in #ShutTheFrontDoorDIY:

(be sure to subscribe by RSS or email to get updates for every post of Shut The Front Door DIY week)

DIY raised panel doors

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Jill has been working for years to make her house into her forever home. With a love of high-end details, Jill works to recreate a high-end look on a DIY budget.

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  1. I think the rail measurement is 1 inch short. Shouldn’t they be 16 inches to account for the dado tongue? The exposed rail ends up being 15 which makes the door 18″ wide. 1×2 common boards are 3/4 x 1 1/2 actual.

  2. hope this doesn’t double-post. I think the rail should be 16 inches for the door to be 18 inches wide. That allows for the 1/2 dado tongue on each end, leaving 15 inches of wood revealed. Great tutorial and information. We’ll be doing these in our new house next year!! Can’t wait.

  3. Never glue in panels because it does not allow for expansion and the door will eventually warp. Instead, glue only the stiles and rails. There is a product called “Space Balls” that can be inserted in the panel grooves to eliminate rattle while still allowing expansion.

    1. I believe that she means that you make the groove a half inch deep. You are correct that it should be a quarter inch wide.

      By the way, a groove is not exactly the same thing as a dado. A groove is with the grain. A dado is perpendicular to the grain.

  4. The close up pic of what the tongue should look like really confused me until I realised it did not match the final example pic. The first pic shows something you will never see if you follow the text.

  5. I liked the tutorial but would recommend revisiting the cutting process using safer practices.

    Cross cutting with a fence is a potentially dangerous practice as well as free hand cutting the tongue cuts. I don’t want to see inexperienced diyers using dangerous practices

  6. It would be great to be able to save this as a pdf but the ads cover the content way too much to be able to do this. Not dragging a computer out to the workshop to be able to read it. Sad.

    1. Hi Kathryn,
      Thanks for the feedback. We do have easy printable versions of many of our tutorials, so I’ll add this one to the top of the list to do next.

  7. Since reading this blog, I will be attempting to build a face frame and 3 shaker doors (with glass inserts) for my hutch that I originally built in 2005. Wish me luck.