Want to build shaker style cabinets, but don’t have a router? You’re in luck! Neither do we.
There are three main ways to build shaker style cabinets without a router. The first is using pocket holes. The second is to glue ¼” wood on top of a panel in the shaker style frame. The third option is to use a table saw. And no, you don’t need a special blade for this option.
In this post, we’ll walk you through how to create a genuine shaker-style cabinet using a table saw.
The first two options are great for ease and for many projects, but if you want a genuine shaker style cabinet without a router, this table saw option is your solution.
How to Make Shaker Cabinet Doors Without a Router
You Will Need:
- 1x3s for rails and stiles (we like to use primed pine when painting)
- ¼” plywood for door centers (we like to use maple)
- Wood glue
STEP 1: MEASURE FOR RAILS AND STILES
If you aren’t sure exactly what size your doors need to be, check out this post on how to measure for cabinet doors. It’ll walk you through how to determine the correct size based on whether your doors are overlay or inset.
Once you have the overall door dimensions figured out, use the following equations to determine the dimensions for your rails and stiles.
Rails are the horizontal pieces of the cabinet doors. Stiles are the vertical pieces.
Rails = (width of door – 5*) + ¾”
*We used 5” here because that is the width of 2 1×3 stiles. If you are using something other than a 1×3, swap out 5 for 2x whatever your stile width is.
Stiles = height of door
Yay! No extra math is needed here.
If the thought of doing all the math makes your head spin, be sure to sign up for the waitlist for our door and drawer calculator. Yup, we’re working a calculator that will do all this math for you!
STEP 2: CUT YOUR RAILS AND STILES
Cut your rails and stiles down to length according to the measurements you found in step 1. We like to use our miter saw for this step, but you can use your table saw if you prefer.
Cut an additional rail and stile (or two) to use as a test piece. This will allow us to make sure our settings work well before cutting all the pieces. Since we’re using a table saw, there’s a bit more of an art to these shaker style cabinets.
STEP 3: CUT FIRST GROOVES
While your table saw is unplugged, adjust the height of the table saw blade to be ⅜”. We like to use our Kreg Multi-Mark Tool for this step.
Adjust the fence of the table saw so that the blade is cutting close to the center of the board. It doesn’t need to be exactly centered, so you can eyeball it.
Clamp a scrap board to help keep your rails and stiles against the fence when cutting the groove. This scrap board should be clamped where you can freely slide your rails and stiles through, but close enough to help guide the boards*.
*This guide board step isn’t completely necessary, but we found it helpful when making a lot of doors.
Run your first test piece through the saw with this setup. Double-check that the groove is close to the center and that your scrap piece is clamped in a way that’s helpful for you.
If you’re happy with the setup, run all of your rails and stiles (and any remaining test pieces) through the table saw to create an initial groove.
STEP 4: CUT THE SECOND GROOVES
The first groove we cut isn’t quite wide enough to slide your ¼” plywood into, so we need to make the groove wider. They sell dado blades designed to cut wider grooves so that you don’t need to run your pieces through a second time. That said, they are an additional expense and are illegal in many countries outside of the US.
Instead of using a dado blade, we’ll use this method.
Adjust the fence slightly out so that you can make the groove a bit wider. This is a very slight adjustment. You don’t want to move it too much or else the center plywood panel won’t fit snug.
Run your test piece through the table saw and then flip it and run it through again. Flipping it will make the gap slightly larger and will also center up the groove.
Slide your test piece onto the material that you’ll be using for the center panel (¼” plywood). It should slide on and fit snugly. If the groove is too large, adjust your fence in a bit and repeat the process with a second test piece. If the groove is too small, adjust your fence out slightly and try again.
Make any adjustments needed until the test piece fits well on the center panel material. Once you’re happy with the placement, re-adjust your guide board and run all of your rails and stiles through the table saw twice, flipping between each pass.
STEP 5: CREATE TENONS
Unplug your table saw and clamp a scrap board behind the blade. This will help prevent kickback and will help you determine where to cut. It should be clamped so that it’s close to, but is not hitting, the blade.
Set the height of the blade to be in line with the groove that you cut in step 4. Insert the miter gauge into your table saw to keep your wood perpendicular to the blade when cutting.
Mark ⅜” in from the end of the rail and adjust the fence so that the line is just on the outside of that mark. You can always cut more off later, but you can’t add material back. It’s better to start by making the tenon too big at first than too small.
Slide your piece through the table saw and then make multiple cuts, slightly sliding the wood over each time, to notch out the tenon. Flip the test piece over and repeat these cuts to create the full tenon.
Check the test piece by sliding it into one of the grooves you made in step 4. If it’s too wide, adjust the height of the blade up ever so slightly. If there is a gap between the and the stile, you can adjust the fence slightly to cut off more material, therefore making the tenon longer.
Make adjustments until you get a snug fit. Once you’re happy with the placement, repeat this process with all of your rails.
Unlike the previous steps, you’re only doing this for the rails. The stiles are already finished.
STEP 6: MEASURE FOR THE CENTER PANELS
Loosely place two rails into a stile and measure from tenon to tenon. Subtract ⅛” from this measurement to get the height of the door.
To get the width of the door, subtract ⅛” from the total rail length, which includes the tenon. So in other words, subtract ⅛” from the rail measurement you found in step 1 (assuming your rails were cut accurately).
STEP 7: CUT THE CENTER PANELS
Cut all the center panels according to the measurements you found in step 6.
STEP 8: ASSEMBLE THE SHAKER STYLE DOORS
Before officially assembling your doors, dry fit the doors to make sure the center panel fits well and everything else goes together.
To assemble, we’ll start by putting board rails into one stile. I like to add a little bit of glue into the groove of the stile where the tenons will be. This is optional.
Add glue to the entire tenon and insert the rails into the stile so that the top and bottom are flush.
Slide the center panel in.
Add glue to the remaining tenons and insert into the stile. Evenly clamp the top and bottom of the doors while the glue dries. Be sure that you don’t over tighten the clamps and cause the corners to warp up. The door should be nice and flat.
Measure from corner to corner to check that the door is square.
Wipe the excess glue off of the door using a wet paper towel. Be sure to actually wipe the glue up off the surface instead of smearing it into the surface.
STEP 9: PREP FOR PAINT OR STAIN
After letting the doors dry according to the instructions on your glue bottle, unclamp the doors and sand them with 220-grit sandpaper.
If you are using concealed hinges to hang your doors, I recommend drilling those holes before staining or painting your project.
There you have it! Now you know how to build shaker style doors with a table saw – no router needed!