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Has anyone built cabinet door frames using pocket holes to join the rails and stiles?

I have to build a few more doors for my cabinet project, and wondering if I can get away with using pocket holes.

The existing doors are shaker-style, birch 1x3 and 1/4" birch plywood for the panels. I built the doors using tongue/groove, but wondering if I can get away with just using pocket-hole screws and glue to connect the rails and stiles. These are for upper cabinets. Wondering if I am asking for trouble.

This is for cabinets at a cottage, so they wouldn't be used as much as a normal kitchen.

Picture of the existing doors attached.

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I have been building cabinet doors with pocket screws for several years now on mitered door frames.  So far, no trouble and makes a nice tight joint.  I've used glass, plywood, and raised panels for door centers.

Brian, you're using mitered corners? I'd love to see some photos.

These will be standard shaker-style (rail and stile) to match the others that I've already built, but I have a few other projects in mind too!

Brian Rogers said:

I have been building cabinet doors with pocket screws for several years now on mitered door frames.  So far, no trouble and makes a nice tight joint.  I've used glass, plywood, and raised panels for door centers.

When building doors I prefer using a matched rail and stile router bit set. I also have built alot of doors on my table saw by cutting a 1/4'' groove in the stiles 3/8's of an inch deep and then cuttting a stub tennon on the rails that was 1/4'' thick and 3/8'' long to fit in the stiles. I Imagine that using pocket hole joinery to make the doors would be plenty strong but like David said cutting a stopped dado on a table saw in the stile can be a little dangerous. I made all the doors and drawer fronts for my kitchen cabinets on the table saw using the method I just described and they have been working great now for about three years now.

 I made a pair of cabinet doors using my Master System Kreg4. I don't have a picture so, I can't show them to you but I do know that they look really good unpainted and painted. The client painted them after he installed the last set because the opening needed to be planed down to fit the doors on the other side of the display cabinet.

These are my first ever doors, made with frame and panel construction.  I used cope and stick router bits with Rockler's coping sled, but if pocket screws are just as strong, they sure would be easier to build!

Nice doors, Rick.  Yeah, pocket holes would be easier, but they wouldn't have that nice inside profile.  If you want an inside profile on pocket-hole-joined-doors, you'd have to make a stopped cut on the router table, then cope the joints with a 45 router bit or on the table saw, get them EXACTLY right, then put them together with pocket screws.  Or, you put them together without the panel, rout your profile around the inside, which makes a curved profile in the corners at the joints, disassemble, put in your panel, then reassemble.  If they're plain doors, yep, pocket holes are way easier.  If they're some kind of profiled door, cope and stick glue joints are still the way to go.  The complimentary router bits are expensive, but eliminate the need for making mitered cuts on your inside profiles.  I'm the biggest Kreg fan on the planet -- have at least one of almost everything they sell and swear by it all.  I use pocket holes in almost every project I build.  But some things are still best done the "old" way because there's no other way to do it.  Again, sweet doors.  Make sure you put three hinges on those!

Thanks Russ.  Those cope and stick bits and the coping sled cost me $150 on sale.  I finally took the time to learn to make doors. 

Uh-Oh.  Why three hinges?  I thought the Rockler chart showed I only needed two.  Doors are 39 in by 15 in. 

Next I have to work on my paint techniques.  2 coats sealer, 2 coats primer, 2 coats paint and I'm still not completely pleased with the finish.


Russ Haynes said:

Make sure you put three hinges on those!

Doors take lots of abuse---oftentimes exposed to slamming, when closed.

 

Large panel doors are exposed to "torsional” loading (twist motion)---

joints loosen---screws strip---joints open.

Repeated impact loading, on screwed joints, will result in failure.

(glue in the end-grain, is not very strong).

You got a great deal -- bits and a sled for that is a good deal.  I've never used a sled but I've thought about it -- looks like a good way to do the ends of the rails.  

For number of hinges, I go by (1) weight, and (2) how much abuse they're going to take.  If it's a storage cabinet in the shop that I know only I will use, I can get away with less.  But if my daughter will be opening and closing it as part of a makeshift drum set, I beef them up.  For a pantry, that could be opened and closed 30-40 times per day, plus doors that big, I think I would put 3 hinges on each one, not because I'd expect the two you used to fail, but to help prevent wear and tear.  Fixing cup hinges after screw failure sucks.  You have to drill them out, replace with a dowel plug bigger than the cup, re-drill, and remount the cup.  If you have a drill press, probably no big deal.  I don't.  Man I really want one though.

Yeah, painting is hard, especially cabinets.  I prime everything before assembly.  No sealer, nothing fancy, but I use Kilz Premium, which will seal it all and stick to everything, including glue squeeze out.  I don't sand past 120 when I paint -- no point.  Kilz Premium, then light sanding with a green nylon pad, then assembly, then two coats of latex high gloss.  Sand it LIGHTLY with 600-grit wet-dry paper and a little water (put a drop of soap in every 1/2 cup of water), or a grey nylon pad.  Then put on three coats of water-based poly, sanding with 400 or 600 grit in between.  The water-based poly won't cause the water-based paint to bubble.  And depending on the sheen of the poly you use, you can adjust the sheen of the paint, which is why I always start with high-gloss paint.  If I cover that with 3 coats of satin poly, it looks like semi-gloss.  The rough feel of the 120-grit sanding, primer, and paint gets completely covered with the smooth, flat, glossy finish of the poly.  And the poly will help protect the paint from discoloration, running, staining, or chipping on things like cabinet doors, mantels, painted floors, counters, etc.

Here's what I'm working on right now -- a new toy box for my daughter.  The finish is exactly as described above -- it just got the final coat of poly last night.  It holds up -- "Destructo-Daughter" hasn't managed to scuff up anything I've made for her yet.

I put in a new master bath, and this cabinet is a rebuild of the one there before above the toilet.  The old cabinet had louvers which were dated, so I laminated all the shelves, and built new doors.  I'm thinking 3 hinges may be a good idea.  Another problem I have is getting straight wood, and making flat doors.  3 hinges will keep the hinge rail straight.  This was also the first time I used 1/4 in MDF, which I found nice to use.

Drill press I have is cheap 8in Ryobi for $99 at HD closeout bin.  I scavenged an old tool-less check from a Dewalt hammer drill, which makes it easier to use.  But accurately locating cup holes in the doors with forstner bit was difficult to hit center line any closer than 1/16th in, so AFTER I built the doors, I built a jig table top for the drill press.  I guess I'm doing it all backwards.

Thanks for the tips on painting -- I never put poly over paint.  Do you use Polycrylic?  Did you ever use Zinsser primer, is Kilz better?

"Destructo" is a cutey!

Russ Haynes said:

You got a great deal -- bits and a sled for that is a good deal.  I've never used a sled but I've thought about it -- looks like a good way to do the ends of the rails.  

If you have a drill press, probably no big deal.  I don't.  Man I really want one though.

Thanks!  She's lucky she's so cute or she'd be in time out constantly.  I use the Jig-It thingy from Rockler for drilling 35mm and 25mm euro hing cup holes.  It clamps to the stile, fixes the correct spacing from the edge of the door, and drills the hole the correct depth.  Nice little jig, although I would rather have a drill press.  I look at them from time to time, but I just don't have the room for another tool right now.

Yes, I usually use the Minwax Polycrilic for water-based poly just because it's cheap and dries really fast.  A lot of hardcore woodworkers have a secondary hobby of making fun of Polycrilic.  I say laugh if you want, but in the right setting, it's a great product.  I use it a LOT on painted surfaces.  Like trim in the living room -- if marker or crayon gets on it, my wife can scrub the crap out of the trim without worrying about taking off any of the paint -- all of the stains sit on top of the poly.

I like Zinsser's stuff -- their amber shellac is a mainstay in my shop, as is their clear shellac, although I've been mixing my own shellacs lately from flakes and think it works better.  I used their primer one time on a set of cabinets that were painted and after six months, the color had changed.  The cabinets were painted bright white  and after six months the MDF panels had darkened up a bit.  I don't know if it was because of dust or smoke (those doors didn't get a top coat of poly) or if the primer didn't really do its job and the MDF started showing through.  All I can say is that I've put Kilz over some pretty hairy stuff and it just stops everything dead.  There are some dedicated furniture primers out there, usually pretty expensive.  But I've never found them to justify their cost.  I like Kilz's oil-based primers too -- they go on really creamy and are easy to knock back with sandpaper.  Their downsides are (1) cleanup, (2) fumes, and (3) drying time.  On hardwood or MDF, the Kilz primer is ready for paint in 30 minutes to an hour.  The oil-based products usually need a good 4 hours to fully adhere to the surface before it's safe to cover them up.

You have access to a jointer?  It's true -- having stock that isn't perfectly straight can turn into an absolute freaking nightmare when making cabinets.  I lost a couple doors made out of hard maple because the stock didn't come out totally straight and true.  The joints had gaps I wasn't comfortable putting my name on and hard maple just doesn't bend.  It shows every imperfection.  So I trashed them, had a friend joint up some new lumber for me, then I bought a Delta Shopmaster 6" jointer the next week.

Thanks, Russ ...

Too cute for "time-out" is dangerous indeed! 

I saw that Jig-It at Rockler, but had already spent my monthly "quota" on router bits.

I like Polycrylic, just never put it on paint.  I put it on my table-saw bench top, but gasoline ruined it when I rebuilt my mower carb.

I never used Kilz, and been using Zinsser products forever.  Recently i narrowed things down to Seal-Coat and 1-2-3.  The doors I posted were Zinsser bath paint, which has mildewcide.  Just wondering if Kilz was a better product.

I do not have a jointer, planer, or wide sander.  I buy my wood S4S.  I just got a bunch of clear pine for $4/bf on sale. 


Russ Haynes said:

 I use the Jig-It thingy from Rockler for drilling 35mm and 25mm euro hing cup holes.

Yes, I usually use the Minwax Polycrilic for water-based poly just because it's cheap.

I like Zinsser's stuff -- All I can say is that I've put Kilz over some pretty hairy stuff and it just stops everything dead. 

You have access to a jointer? 

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