Half lap on cabinet doors - kitchen or otherwise

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Forum topic by Charlie posted 11-05-2012 04:42 PM 5574 views 1 time favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1100 posts in 2309 days

11-05-2012 04:42 PM

OK I’m talking about simple mission style cabinet doors. No routed profiles. Almost could be termed “primitive”. Not the “fine furniture” types of doors.

Has anyone used… or WOULD you use… a half lap joint for the frame of a frame and panel door? I’m thinking half lap with 2 dowels, possibly in a contrasting wood for the dowels. Maybe even 3 or 4 dowels depending on the width of the stiles and rails. Not a mitered half lap. Just a regular old straight half lap. I would think it would be a strong joint with all that glue area and basically face glued although cross grain. No end grain.


14 replies so far

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3307 days

#1 posted 11-05-2012 05:09 PM


I don’t see why that wouldn’t work. As long as you can get good square joints and when you glue up the door you make sure it stays square. I believe the contrasting dowels would add a nice touch.

-- John @

View jap's profile


1251 posts in 2076 days

#2 posted 11-05-2012 05:10 PM

great answer ^

-- Joel

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3307 days

#3 posted 11-05-2012 05:15 PM

Forgot to ask; I take it you’ve fought enough with the hard maple wanting to blow out? LOL. If that’s the case, I don’t blame you and I think you might have found a good alternative. Good luck and let us know how you make out.

-- John @

View Nicky's profile


695 posts in 4114 days

#4 posted 11-05-2012 05:45 PM

I have used, and will continue to use the half lap for doors. I don’t think it’s primative but one of many options that are available. I’ve done this specifically to use a contrasting plug (square holes, but same idea as the dowel), and it looks good. I have a few pieces in my home, that are at least 20 years old and are holding up just fine.

-- Nicky

View a1Jim's profile


117115 posts in 3600 days

#5 posted 11-05-2012 05:55 PM

In a stress test Fine Woodworking did on all of the most used joints Half lap joinery came out on top for the strongest joint,even stronger than mortice an tenon joinery. Go for it. I doubt you will need four pegs or any for that matter,but two look good and couldn’t hurt.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View BHolcombe's profile


180 posts in 2098 days

#6 posted 11-05-2012 06:02 PM

Sure, I think it would be fine. Just my personal preference but I would use the same wood for the dowels. Three dowels in each joint would look cool. However, wouldn’t mission style typically call for M&T’s?

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2309 days

#7 posted 11-05-2012 07:34 PM

I’ve actually finished cutting and prepping all of my “removable panel” doors. I only popped a piece off of one of them so I made a new piece and….. just gotta glue everything up (gotta heat the shop for that. It’s 35 here today).

anything beyond 1 or 2 dowels I was thinking of as decorative :)

I used “mission” more to convey the idea that the frames had no ogees, arches, or other fancy stuff. Beyond that I’m not sure this would fit with a particular style.

And honestly…. this whole thought process came about because I had a dream last night and my dad was in it. We were very close and he passed away many many years ago. In the dream he was laughing at me and he whipped together these “removable panel” doors in a hurry. Now understand my dad was not a woodworker. Maybe he took it up when he crossed over (shrug). But he ran a 3/8×3/8 rabbet on one edge of each piece, half lapped the ends (which worked with that rabbet. The rabbet never bothered the half lap and vice versa). And this was interesting…. he took one of my big squares and laid it on my workbench with the corner hanging off, then he took 2 jointed pieces of wood about 18 to 24 inches (hard to tell in a dream) and screwed them down on the bench against the outside of the legs of the square. So I had this “V” on my bench with the bottom missing (because the corner of the square was overhanging the bench and the wood pieces were NOT overhanging). He set a rail and a stile in the “V” and showed me they were square. He glued them, clamped them, and then drilled a hole just big enough to put in an inch and a quarter screw. Removed clamp, rotated frame 90 degrees, did another corner. When done he set it aside to set up the glue a bit and did another. We were having a conversation while he was working. When done he grabbed the first one, backed the screw out, drilled the hole bigger and doweled it.


He laughed real hard. He had a great laugh.

Was a good dream though. We talked fishing and dogs and….. been a long time.

View BHolcombe's profile


180 posts in 2098 days

#8 posted 11-05-2012 09:28 PM

very detailed dream, mine are more like a Salvador Dali painting. Quick, what are the inner panels going to be constructed of?

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2309 days

#9 posted 11-05-2012 09:56 PM

The panels will be acrylic. We’re looking for a supplier of the panels that have like… botanicals in them. Clear panel with leaf imprints all over it… or grasses…

If we don’t find that before the doors are ready they’ll get a hardboard panel covered in fabric or I’ll make something from plexiglass and … something. :) We’re both pretty artsy

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2309 days

#10 posted 11-05-2012 09:57 PM

Oh and believe me not all my dreams are that detailed. This one was unique not only for subject matter but for the fact that I REMEMBERED all those details :)

View bandit571's profile


20210 posts in 2706 days

#11 posted 11-05-2012 10:23 PM

There is one half lap that might look better on a door. Called a Mitered Half lap. Front will look like a miter joint, the inside will look like a half lap.

Used to make these for Chimmneny Cabinets. Top and bottom rail is mitered first. Then set up the half lap, and half lap the back side of the mitered ends. Use these to mark out where to remove wood from the side pieces of the door. One could even add a couple Brass screws into the inside to secure the joint.

Just an idea….

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3181 days

#12 posted 11-05-2012 11:36 PM

No problem on the half lap, Charlie. But when I want simple, TS cut rails and styles, I like bridle joints. Same look as half lap, but a lot more sturdy. I don’t even use a tenoning jig…just push them through upright against a tall fence.

-- jay,

View Woodknack's profile


11771 posts in 2402 days

#13 posted 11-07-2012 09:07 AM

When my wife and I were cabinet shopping one of the companies had switched over to half lap cabinet doors. Honestly I’ve always thought the half lap was under appreciated.

-- Rick M,

View mountainaxe's profile


142 posts in 2528 days

#14 posted 11-08-2012 02:05 AM

I use half-lap joints on panel doors all the time if I paint the end product. It’s an easy to make and extremely strong joint. In practice, I like to use the simplest joint to fit the bill…works well every time. Here’s a few panel doors I just finished. You can’t see the seams at all.

-- Jeff, "The things I make may be for others, but how I make them is for me."

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