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Build a Front for an Existing Cabinet

Install the Rails

With the jambs in place, cut and install the horizontal and vertical rails. I used a plate joiner (also called a biscuit cutter) to hold the rails to the plywood shelves, but trim screws would also work. Plate joiners cut a slot in both pieces you will join. After you glue in a plate, the joint becomes extremely strong.

Like the jambs, the rails get a simple butt joint at the corners. Cut the ends for a snug fit, clamp the parts flush, and screw through the joint.

Screw through the side jamb into the center rail with a 214" trim screw. This screw will hide under the cove molding.

Trim the Face

With the face done, nail 34" cove molding around the edges. Use outside miter joints, as described for baseboards Install Crown Molding. (Note: If the drywall is not yet attached, nail the cove molding after it is.)

To attach the cove molding, drill and then drive a regular finish nail. Hardened trim nails generally don't need a pilot hole. A pneumatic brad nailer will make short work of attaching molding. Drive 1", 18-gauge nails at an angle so they don't come through the jamb.

Step 2: Cut the Doors

With the face and jambs in place, size and cut the doors. In the example, all doors are the same width, but the top and bottom were a different height. Each door is 1" wider, and 1" taller, than its opening, so they overlap the jambs by 12".

I used 1 × 4 hardwood for the door parts; 1 × 3 would work on smaller doors. Test the proportions with cardboard, which is a lot cheaper than hardwood!

Cut the door parts from hardwood, using a power miter box, if you have one, or a table saw or a hand miter box. Read your saw manual. If it's safe to cut two parts in a stack, cut both sides for each door together, label them, and glue them into the same door. The reason? Better accuracy yields tighter joints.

Cut the Joints

If you have—or can rent—a plate joiner, cut plate joints in the end of the door parts. Otherwise, put polyurethane glue—Gorilla Glue or PL Premium Construction Adhesive are two popular brands—in the joint. Clamp the parts exactly in position, and drive two 21 4" trim screws at each joint. Drill a slightly larger hole through the outer piece, and a smaller one in the inner piece. Polyurethane sets slowly, giving you time to get the joints right.

From here on, your technique will depend on whether your doors will get glass inserts or plywood panels:

  • Doors with glass get a rabbet—a two-sided rectangular cutout.

  • Doors with plywood panels get a dado—a three-sided rectangular cutout.

Rout a dado or rabbet on the inside of each door part, depending on whether it will get a wood panel or glass insert.



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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Simple Home Improvements © 2004 by David J. Tenenbaum. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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