Install Inset Doors With Ease
Four-step process uses the jointer and tablesaw to guarantee a perfect fit
Synopsis: Having hung hundreds of inset cabinet doors in his career, J. Speetjens has taken the guesswork out of fitting them into the openings. His method works for most styles of furniture and cabinetry. His technique, which relies on the jointer and tablesaw to make all the necessary cuts, allows him to fit a door in about 15 minutes. It centers around making light trim cuts in a specific sequence, and using simple but precise shims to check your progress and mark your next cut.
Over the years I’ve had to hang hundreds of inset cabinet doors. In that time, I have refined an efficient process for fitting them accurately to their openings. The method works for most styles of furniture and cabinetry.
As with any door fitting, the process is easiest if the door and the opening are reasonably square and free of twist to start with. However, my process makes it easy to compensate for typical variances in squareness—generally gaps less than 1⁄8 in.
What is different about this trimming and fitting process is that it relies on the jointer and tablesaw, as opposed to handplanes, to make all of the necessary cuts, whether straight or slightly angled. To reduce the amount of trimming, I build doors just a hair (no more than 1⁄32 in.) larger than the case opening. The ease and accuracy of the fitting process come with making light trim cuts in a specific sequence, and using simple but precise shims to check your progress and mark the next cut. I make furniture for a living, and this process lets me fit a typical door in about 15 minutes, leaving a thin, uniform gap all around—the calling card of a skilled craftsman.
Choose shims and prepare the case and door The fitting process starts with an inspection of the hinges. When they’re closed, butt hinges have a gap between the leaves, which creates the gap on the hinge side of the door after the leaves have been mortised in flush to the edge of the door and the case. To create a uniform gap along all four sides of the door, you must use shim stock that matches the hinge gap. I’ve found that a single thickness of laminate will yield a gap around the door that is between 1⁄32 in. and 1⁄16 in. thick, matching the gap in most high-quality extruded brass hinges. I use high-pressure Formica chips, but any hard shim stock will do. You also will need thinner shim stock, such as veneer.
After assembling the door, letter its top hinge-side corner and place a corresponding mark on the inside edge of the opening to keep track of the door’s proper orientation throughout the process.
From Fine Woodworking #176
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