You are currently viewing What You Need to Know Before Making Shaker Doors with a Router

It’s week two of the One Room Challenge and this week we’ve built and installed two built-in bookshelves with shaker doors.

Don’t you think shaker doors are a classic!

Have you ever considered making your own shaker doors?

Last spring we built the wall of built-ins in Steph’s basement, but we didn’t build the shaker doors, her husband did.

So we thought it was time to learn this skill ourselves.

Before we began making our shaker doors I asked Dan for his advise.

He gave me the router bits and said I’d understand how it all went together once I practiced on some scrap wood.

What he didn’t tell me was that he struggled with the rails (the horizontal boards) chipping when they went through the router.

In fact, he finally decided to make his rails with MDF.

Well, I’m a stubborn person and I wanted to learn how to make my doors with hardwood on all four sides.

So, there was definitely a learning curve for me.

But before you get started, there are a few things you need to know.

In this blog post, we’ll provide tips on how to choose the right router bits and how to create the perfect rabbet joint.

This project is perfect for DIYers who want to add a touch of personality to their homes without spending a lot of money.

So if you’re ready to start making shaker doors, keep reading!

And be sure to follow us on Instagram for behind the scenes progress and updates!

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As a reminder you can easily navigate through each week of this dark and mood home office project.

Week 1 | Week 2 you’re here | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8


And for more inspiration head on over to the One Room Challenge blog.

You’ll find ideas for every room in your home.

Progress of the Home Office

Office built ins in progress, base cabinet painted blue installed with bookshelf mounted above

Before we jump into our post on how to make shaker cabinet doors, let’s take a look at the office space.

First we painted the room in this beautiful dark and moody color from Behr called Deep Breath.

Then we began constructing our built-ins.

We first constructed the basic cabinet box, this time we used a melamine MDF panel and drilled holes in the sides for adjustable shelves.

I really didn’t want a painted surface inside my cabinets.

Next we built the shelves that sit on top of each cabinet.

Office built ins in progress, 2 base cabinets painted blue installed with bookshelves mounted above, and a rough framed in window seat.

Constructing them with the same method we have with each of our other built-ins, only this time we added a groove in the back for a shiplap panel.

They are secured to the cabinet base with dowels and glue, then at the top they are secured to the wall with L brackets.

Office built in cabinet with shelves in the process of applying moulding to the shelves.

Moulding is then added to the shelves and a window seat is framed out between the two built-in bookshelves.

Supplies for Making Shaker Doors

Tools needed:


How to Determine the Shaker Door Dimensions

Plan for shaker doors

Before you begin to build your shaker doors you’ll need to know what hinges you are using.

This will determine how much of an overlap your doors will have on the face frame.

I chose a 1″ self-closing hinge.

Which means the side of my door will sit 1″ over from the inside edge of the face frame.

Measure the area covered by your two doors, then subtract 1/16″ and divide that number in half.

Then determine how tall each door will be.

The length of my doors is 28 7/8″.

My cabinet doors are slightly different in size.

One set of doors will be 18 1/16″ wide and the other set will be 15 7/8″.

Determine Wood Cuts

You’ll cut 2 stiles (the vertical board) for each shaker door.

They will be the full length of the door.

Then you’ll cut 2 rails (the horizontal board) for each shaker door.

To determine the length of your rails, take the width of your door and subtract the width of the board you are using x2.

So for my door that is 18 1/16″ wide, I subtract 5″ (my wood is 2 1/2″ wide) from 18 1/6″ and then add 3/4″ for the rabbet joint.

So my rails are cut to 13 13/16″

You’ll also need to cut a center panel.

The center panel is the inside measurement of your shaker door frame plus 1/2″ for the depth of the groove.

My center panel is cut to 13 13/16″ x 24 5/8″.

What Wood Should You Use?

For the frame of your shaker door you should use a hardwood.

Since we will be painting our shaker doors, we chose poplar, but alder is also another good choice.

Just be certain the boards are straight, flat, and free of knots.

You don’t want to have warped doors.

For the center panel you can use plywood, solid wood or MDF.

We chose MDF for our center panel since it paints beautifully.

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Making the Cuts

Woman places wood against stop at the miter saw.

You’ll want to make sure that your cuts are precise.

Set up a stop for the length of each piece.

It’s important that the 2 stiles and the 2 rails are exactly the same length.

Stack your wood and cut both stiles and both rails at the same time and they will be precise.

A piece of wood is clamped to the miter saw as a stop to cut each wood piece with precision.

For shorter lengths we clamped a piece of wood for a stop.

Woman's hand holding a piece of wood at the miter saw.

You’ll also find it easier to make all of your cuts at once.

Cut pieces of wood for the stiles and rails for the Shaker doors.

Stack your wood according to size and mark with a “S” and “R” for stiles and rails.

Believe me you don’t want to get mixed up.

While I had all of my wood marked, I grabbed a piece from the wrong stack and routed the rabbet on the wrong piece.

Take your time and don’t rush the process.

Cut panels with either a circular saw and a guide or a table saw.

Router Cuts

Rabbet Cuts

Woman's hand holding rabbet joint at router table for shaker doors.

Place the rabbet bit in the router.

You will need a router table to accurately make these cuts.

When you begin to make your cuts with the router, practice first on wood scraps.

You’ll need the bit to be adjusted so that it removes 1/4″ material from each side while keeping the 1/4″ rabbet.

As we did this we discovered it’s best to make the rabbet cuts first, then the 1/4″ groove cuts.

You’ll see that’s not how we did ours.

From the tutorial we watched they did the all the grooves first, then the rabbets.

But we discovered that when we guided the rail along the router bit it would cut deeper where the groove was.

We did have to re-cut a few pieces and we did the rabbet cut first and then the groove and it worked so much better.

Woman's finger points to chipped wood at the rabbet joint on the shaker doors rails.

With every rabbet cut we made at first there was chipping as the right edge hit the router bit.

This was so frustrating!

After a little research we learned that you need to place a sacrificial piece of wood at the right edge of your rail as you cut to prevent chipping.

Rail for the shaker doors at the router table clamped with a sacrificial board to prevent splinters.

Another challenge we faced was that the rail was so narrow it didn’t reach all across the fence and resulted in crooked cuts.

Woman's hand holding clamped wood guides rail with sacrificial wood through the router.

So our method was to clamp together a piece of wood on each side of our rail piece and then run it across the router bit.

With this method we had success.

With a little more research I discovered there’s a tool called a rail coping sled for the router that makes this entire process easier.

So, if you’re making a lot of doors, I’d suggest investing in one.

I think you’ll be glad you did.

Make all of your rabbet cuts before you switch to the groove bit.

Groove Cuts

Woman's hand holding stile running it through the router to get the 1/4" groove into the board.

Place the groove bit into the router and adjust to make a 1/4″ groove in the center of the board.

Make groove cuts in all of the stiles and rails.

Glue the Shaker Doors

the 5 pieces that make up a shaker door are places out on a table.

Gather all of the pieces for one door and lay them out.

Woman holding stile applies wood glue in the groove for the shaker doors.

Apply glue to the grooves and rabbets and assemble your shaker doors.

If you are working with a solid wood center panel do not apply glue to the panel.

Glued and clamped shaker door setting a work table.

Then clamp the door together while the glue dries.

the five wood pieces used to make a shaker drawer front.

If you are making a shaker drawer front, the center panel will be made from 1/2″ thick wood.

Route 1/4″ deep and wide groove around the outside edge of the center panel.

Then assemble with glue and clamps like the shaker doors.

Sand and Putty

As this was our first attempt at making shaker doors, they were by no means perfect.

Once the glue dries, sand all of the door frames until they are smooth.

I began with a medium grit paper and finished with a fine grit.

Then I filled in any imperfections and the seams with wood putty.

Once the wood putty dries, do a final sanding.

Wood putty and sanding are your friends!

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Paint Shaker Doors

White primed shaker door hanging in garage from plastic hanger.

To make it possible to paint both sides of the shaker doors at the same time I placed two small cup hooks at the bottom of each door.

Then I hung each door from a hanger that I suspended from a rod in the garage.

With my paint sprayer I was able to apply the primer to both sides of the door at the same time.

Then I placed the hanger on the rail of the garage door and repeated the process until all of the doors were primed.

Next I lightly sanded the primer before applying the paint.

Blue paint is applied with a paint sprayer to the white primed shaker door.

Finally I applied two coats of Behr cabinet paint in Deep Breath.

Once the paint has dried and cured the hinges are inserted and we hung the shaker doors on the office built in cabinets.

Built-in blue painted bookcases with open and closed storage with brushed gold hardware, windowseat bench seating with a brown herringbone pattern cushion and kilim pillows, window has a bamboo roman shade, windowseat has 2 drawers for storage. Natural white oak floor with a cow print rug.

While there were times I wondered if these doors would even turn out, I’m really pleased with the results.

By no means are we expert woodworkers, but all in all I think our doors look pretty darn good for our first try.

Certainly we learned a lot and will be better prepared the next time we make shaker doors.

Finished Shaker doors painted dark blue with champagne gold pulls on an office built in bookcase.

And take a look at the gorgeous cabinet pulls that Amerock gifted us!

I chose the the Destine pulls in champagne bronze.

Don’t you think they look stunning with the blue cabinet doors.

We always love the opportunity to work with Amerock.

Their quality hardware is like a beautiful piece of jewelry on our projects.

Built-in bookshelves, with brushed gold cabinet pulls, filled with books, blue wall with picture frame moulding, windowseat with brown herrinbone cushion with kilim pillows, window has a bamboo roman shade.

Are you ready to try your hand at building shaker cabinet doors?

If so, we’ve got all the tips and tricks you need to get started.

In this blog post, we walked you through the process of making beautiful and timeless shaker style cabinet doors with a router.

And don’t forget to practice your rabbet joints and groove cuts on a scrap piece of wood before cutting into your actual hardwood door pieces.

In addition, if you’re planning on making a lot of doors invest in a rail coping sled.

With these simple tips in mind, you’re ready to start crafting some beautiful DIY cabinet doors that will add personality and character to your home.

Thanks for following along!

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Beth

    Wow, what an impressive undertaking! You did a great job. Love the color, too.

    1. Michelle Dickson

      Thank you Beth! We certainly learned a lot in the process. We are so pleased with the results.

  2. Maggie D Overby

    It’s looking great. Now I need to go build some shaker doors!

    1. Michelle Dickson

      Awe, thanks Maggie. There was definitely a learning curve, so next time it will be a snap!

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