Four Ways to Make DIY Shaker Cabinet Doors

Four Ways to Make DIY Shaker Cabinet Doors

Cabinet doors can quickly add up, especially if you need to do custom sizes as I did! I experimented with a couple of different ways to build DIY cabinet doors, and there was one clear winner in my mind. But, something that I’ve learned is that everyone has a preference, and my favorite way may not be your favorite way. So, why not share all four methods!?

The Parts of a Door Explained

Shaker-style doors have three parts: the stiles, the rails, and the panel. The stiles are your vertical pieces, the rails are your horizontal pieces, and the panel is the centerpiece.

When measuring the size of these, you want the stile (vertical piece) to be the entire height of the door. Your rail (horizontal piece) will be the width minus the size of the stiles. Most DIY doors use 1×3’s for their stile and rails, so if you take the width of two 1×3’s, you have 2 ½” x 2, or 5”. Finally, the panel will be the width and height of the center PLUS the depth of your groove times 2. Making sense? Don’t worry, keep reading!


Option 1: Simple, Faux Shaker DIY Cabinet Door

Supplies and Tools

How To

Remember how I just said that the panel should be the size of the opening? Well, not in this case! Here, the panel should be the entire width and height of the door that you want to build! You’ll cut down your ½” panel using a circular or table saw.

Next, you’ll add your rails and stiles ON TOP of this panel to create a faux shaker look. Your stiles will be the entire length of the panel, and the rails will be the width minus the width of the stiles. Once you have them cut, you’ll just add some glue, and place them on the panel. I opted to nail gun for added measure, but you can also just clamp them in place, and give them time to dry. If nailing, make sure you check your nail size so you don’t shoot all the way through!

Once they’re dry, add some edge banding all the way around to clean up the edges and make it look like the rails and stiles are a continuous piece of wood!


In my opinion, the main pro of this method is that it is really simple and beginner-friendly. You don’t typically have to worry about your boards warping, and as long as you measure and cut correctly, your sizing should be pretty perfect. If this is your first DIY cabinet door, this may be a good option to try!


Because of the added weight of the ½” plywood, these doors will be heavier than your traditional doors. So, you’ll need to be careful how you are installing them and how large you go. Also, the back will be completely flat, whereas traditional shaker doors have an inset panel on both sides. Finally, it’s just not as professional! I personally wouldn’t do this in a kitchen or bathroom, but could easily see this method in something like a playroom or rec room that is more casual!

Option 2: Shaker DIY Cabinet Door using a Palm Router

This is actually the method that I used in Phase 1 of my kitchen build. I know that a lot of people love this method, but I can’t see myself using it again, for the reasons you’ll see below! It isn’t horrible, but I prefer the other options over this one.

Supplies and Tools

How To

First, cut your rails and stiles to size. Remember your stiles are the full height, and your rails are the full width minus 5”.

Then, you’ll add pocket holes to the back of both of your rails, on both sides. Assemble your rails and stiles together, to create a box using wood glue and pocket screws. Make sure to check for square and that everything is completely flush.

Next, it’s time to create a spot for your panel to sit. This is where your router comes in. You’ll use your router to create a groove. Simply start routing out the inside edges, and continue in a clockwise direction until you’ve gone all the way around.

Next up, measure the width and height of where your panel will sit, and cut it down to size. Since the router can’t create square corners, you’ll need to trim your edges. You can use any type of saw to do this, but you just want to cut them slightly so the panel will fit inside the groove. Then, you’ll add some wood glue along the edges of the groove, pop your panel in and clamp it until it’s dry. If you want, you can also add some small nails, but be really careful not to go too deep or they’ll pop out the other end.

Finally, you’ll want to plug your pocket holes using pocket hole plus, and use wood filler to fill any seams or imperfections. Then, you’ll add caulk around the edges where the panel meets your rails and stiles.


This DIY cabinet door method is relatively quick and simple, and great if you want to use your router or don’t have a table saw or router table. I really like using my router, but not so much for this!


I found this to be kind of a messy process. Not only does using a hand router create a lot of dust, but it can be difficult to get it perfect from the angle required here. Plus, the back requires quite a bit of work. You have to plug your pocket holes, which I’ve never found to be perfect, and the seam around the back panel is pretty obvious. I actually purchased some ¼” square wood dowels to try to cover the seam, but it didn’t really help.

You can also come really close to nicking the pocket holes as well. I did here and it can spark, which is harmless (just scary!), but it also makes the joint not as tight, and looks bad!

If you’ve tried this and had better luck, let me know! 

Option 3: Shaker DIY Cabinet Door using a Table Saw

Supplies and Tools

How To

The main difference between options 2 and 3 is how you create your groove for the panel. You’re going to cut and pocket hole your 1×3’s in the same manner. This time, however, you’re going to wait to assemble them.

So, you have your 1×3’x cut and pocket holed, now you’re going to cut your grooves by using your table saw. Most table saw blades are between ⅛” and ¼” thick. You need to fit your ¼” panel in the grooves, so it’s going to require several passes. You’ll lower your blade to about ¼” height, and move your guard so that the blade is hitting the center of your wood.

Very carefully and slowly, start making multiple passes along the blade to create grooves on the insides of each of your 1x3s. You may need to use a flat head screwdriver to dig out any tear out and make sure the groove is completely clean.

Next, you’ll cut your panel to size using your circular saw and start assembling your door. My suggestion is to secure both rails to one stile before sliding your panel in, then add your other stile. Make sure to use wood glue along the way for an extra tight bond.

Then, you’ll finish by adding your pocket hole plugs, wood fill and caulk!


I found that this gave me a bit more of a professional look, especially with the back of the panel. I like that the panel fits within the grooves, so it feels more secure too.


Again, I don’t like using pocket holes and having to plug and fill them. Also, because you do need to make several passes to create your grooves, it can take quite a while to get right!

Option 4: Shaker DIY Cabinet Door using a Router Table

This is my favorite DIY cabinet door method that I finally got to test out when I was building my new workbench. I don’t know if I’ll try any other methods in the future since this meets all of my needs!

Supplies and Tools

How To

Once again, we’re going to cut our rails and stiles to size. Then, we’ll use our router and router table to create the grooves. They do sell tongue and groove bits, which would probably make this a little easier, but I just used my straight bit and went at it from a different angle and it worked out great. Before I started, I created a template so I could match up the height of the bit, and the distance of the guard to get a perfect fit.

You’ll create grooves along the inside of each of your rails and stiles, then you’ll want to adjust your bit to create the “tongue” on the outside edges of your rails. This will allow the rails to slide right into the groove of the stile. This means NO POCKET HOLES REQUIRED! Obviously, that makes me quite happy!

Once I had all of my tongue and grooves routed, I just needed to cut my panel down to size. Then, I just had to pop everything together. Since I used a ¼” bit and it was ¼” material, it’s a tight fit, but that’s good! It just takes some patience and adjusting. You’ll want to make sure you’re adding a bead of glue around all edges, then GENTLY clamp it in place. You don’t want the clamp to be too tight, or it could warp your pieces. Leave it on a flat surface for a bit to let the wood glue dry, and you’re good to go! You can add a little bit of wood filler or caulk if you like.


This leaves a much cleaner, more professional look and requires a lot less cleaning up afterward. Plus, you only need to do one pass on the router table, instead of multiple on the saw table. Note that you can create the tongue and groove joints on a table saw as well, but it’s a bit more dangerous (multiple passes) and takes a lot longer to get clean.


The only reason it took me so long to do this method is that I didn’t have a router table. Aside from this, I’m not sure there are a ton of uses I’ll get out of having it in the future, and it does take up a bit of space in my workshop, but I definitely won’t look back!

How to Install DIY Cabinet Doors

OK, so you’ve picked your way to build doors, now, let’s install them!

Create Holes

I like to use the Kreg Concealed Hinge jig to create my hinge holes. It just guarantees a perfect fit every time! You’ll clamp your jig right to your board, and just drill until the bit hits the guard that tells you you’ve gone deep enough.

Prep to Install

Once the holes are created, you’ll grab your hinges and place them in the holes. I like to get everything lined up, then use the screws to gently poke two small holes where the screws will go. The jig does have places to pre-drill, but they don’t line up with the hinges I like to buy, so I just do this manually. Then, now that I have my screw hole placement, I gently start to screw them in. I don’t tighten all the way on either until they are both screwed in. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a crooked hinge. So just take your time and go back and forth until they’re both nice and tight.

Once you’re ready to install, I line up the doors to where I want to install them and draw pencil marks inside the screw holes.

Then, I put the door down, and pre-drill the screw in about halfway, before removing it. This ensures that my screw placement is in the right spot, but also helps the screw go in much easier. When you’re holding doors, quick, easy, and accurate are the keywords!

Install your DIY Cabinet Doors

Again, I don’t fully tighten the screws until they’re all in. But, just hold your door up to match the screw holes, and start installing! Most hinges are adjustable, so you’ll likely need to play around a bit before you get everything perfect.

And just like that, you’re now a door expert! If you’re going to try one of these methods for the first time, let me know which method you choose and why!

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