hanging the doors, and some revelations

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Gary Fixler posted 06-15-2009 10:27 AM 2176 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Here’s my most boring time-lapse yet – sanding up the cabinet doors to flush the rails and stiles, and prepare it for finishing. Speaking of… something I’d heard whispered around here a few times came to mind the other day while trying to get extremely gummy stickers off the maple I used in this project: mineral spirits. It says right on the can “for cleaning surfaces in preparation for painting.” I wiped some on, and just like goop-off, the sticker goo wiped away in one stroke as if on an infomercial. I’m using that stuff to clean my surfaces from now on. It made wiping away the sanding dust a snap, too, without the waxy leftovers and sticky fingers you get with a tack cloth.

Last night I worked for a couple of hours carefully hand-chiseling in the hinge mortises on one door and the cabinet frame on that side. The last time I did hinge mortises – and the only other time – was for 6 doors for a shed, and they fit inside door frames. Not thinking, I mortised the first door the same way – on the outer edge of the door. I realized only as I went to mark the hinge positions on the cabinet that they should have been on the back of the door. It was a depressing moment. At least that side faces the dust collector bag and garage door corner. Still, sigh… I redid them on the back, and it all worked out pretty well.

first door hung

first door hung and open

Some things I learned today:

1) 1/2” ply is a bit thin for a cabinet carcass. Screwing the cabinet into the wall in 4 places means it’s sagging away at the top corners. I’ll have to stick with the weight and expense of 3/4” from now on.

2) It’s just a bad idea to screw the cabinet directly into old drywall. The drywall itself has some give, too. I need to find some studs, which stinks in an ancient garage like this with 24” stud centers. Looks like I’m going to have to go with that french cleat system after all, and I hope I can manage to find 2 studs in this general vicinity.

3) Because of the sagging, the cabinet door, which is hinged nicely flush with the left edge, dips down in the middle. When I push the cabinet tops flush with the wall, it’s back to fitting pretty well.

4) There’s nothing like a sharp chisel. It was still a lot of work, but I did some hand honing, and later cleaned off and hooked up my WorkSharp 3000 and re-beveled it to a slightly tighter angle. Much better. Chiseling the 1/2” ply edges was kind of fun. It makes a nice, high-pitch shearing noise.

5) Cabinets usually have face frames, and besides looking nice, I can see where they come in handy from a structural standpoint. The front would hold up a lot better against the sagging if it was reinforced with the strength of some solid lumber framing. It honestly never occurred to me while hanging the doors. It was only much later that I thought about it. I’m such a newb.

Today I went at the other door, and got it hung, too:

2nd door hung

2nd door hung

I used the stock at full size. That was all the maple (with those patterns) and tulip poplar (with those colors) that I had, so I couldn’t grow the door widths, and I hadn’t planned the carcass around them – I built it before I really even considered doors. I was lucky they were just large enough, but as it turns out, they’re just a whisker too small.

There’s probably 3/16” between the doors when closed. They don’t meet properly, owing to the cabinet sagging – which should be fixed with the french cleat – but regardless of that, the doors are also a bit wider apart from each other at the bottom. I’m not 100% sure why yet. The gap widens probably by 1/16”. The cabinet is square (when I push it up against the sagging), the doors are square, the measurements are correct. I think what might be going on is the doors taper a bit, so I’ll have to check that out. I’m thinking of putting a strip along the inside edge of one or both doors – like custom edge banding – to close the gap.

As usual, a crazy, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants build. Now I also need to think about pulls and magnet closers.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

4 comments so far

View lew's profile


12100 posts in 3778 days

#1 posted 06-15-2009 03:40 PM

All great points about what you have learned.

Probably the French Cleat idea will solve many of your problems by making the overall structure more rigid as it hangs on the wall. Make sure to secure the cleat as close as possible to the edges of the cabinet to reduce the amount of back material that must support the weight.

The cabinet still looks great


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View a1Jim's profile


117115 posts in 3600 days

#2 posted 06-15-2009 03:42 PM

looking good

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Blackhawk6's profile


1 post in 3289 days

#3 posted 06-16-2009 07:17 PM

You can set up a French cleat with access to only one stud. Make it as an offset “T” with the French cleat horizontal and lined up behind your cabinet. The vertical is offset to line up with the one stud that lies behind your cabinet. Reinforce the “T” with a diagonal member on the long offset side. Joinery can be biscuits, pocket screws, half-laps or with whatever you feel comfortable. Make it as big as what will fit behind the cabinet.

The sag may be fixed also. You could glue gussets (6” right triangles of 3/4” ply) into the upper rear corners of your cabinet. Jack up the cabinet until the sag is removed. Glue and screw in two gussets oriented flat against the back. Next day, glue and screw two more gussets into the upper rear corners abutting the previously installed gussets but running against the sides of the cabinet. Give the glue time to reach maximum strength before you remove the jack.

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 3405 days

#4 posted 06-16-2009 07:39 PM

lew – thanks, and wish me luck!

Jim – thank you!

Blackhawk6 – all great info, thanks! I may end up using all of these tricks before I’m done.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics