Fitting Inset Doors to Face Frames

      Pros discuss the efficiency and accuracy of various approaches to measuring, marking, cutting, and installing inset cabinet doors. January 21, 2007

What's the best way to fit an inset door using euro hinges? I set them in the hole, mark each corner horizontally and vertically with a 3/32 shim, connect the marks with the slider, sand off the saw scratches. 12 minutes on a bad day.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor D:
Since I don't have a slider, I use a strip of straight 3/8 MDF as a straight edge and make the cut with a pattern cutting router bit (straight bit with bearing on top). I think I average faster than 12 minutes once set up, but I've never timed it.

From the original questioner:
I used to use the jointer, but blowout was a problem. Not so with the router?

From contributor L:
I make my doors 1/16" over in length and 1/32" over in width. I use an edge sander to get rid of the excess (80 grit) and then drill the 35 mm hole. Use a jig to get the bottom hinge in the right place and then screw the top one in place, 6-7 minutes if I don't have any issues. If you make the FF/carcass square and the door square, there is no fitting, just sizing.

From contributor T:
38 doors, 16 heads in 21 frames. 1hr 15min to fill out the Conestoga custom front frame order forms, including pre-fit doors with boring. I'm selling another job while you are fiddling with doors.

From contributor A:
I order/build my doors to the rough size of the opening. Cut 1/8" smaller on the saw and edge sand to fit with 120 grit. Like contributor L mentioned, if you spend a couple of extra minutes at the front end making square frames and not racking them during installation, it can save lots of time at the back end. A small edgesander is key to fitting doors. Sanding out saw marks by hand will eat up all your time. I'm on board with contributor L. 8-10 doors an hour.

From contributor P:
Festool saw with guide rail. Mark the door, lay the guide on the marks, and cut. Takes a minute. Don't even have to remove the hinges from the door.

From contributor R:
What if your door has a raised bead all around it and can't be trimmed; you have to nail it first time?

From contributor A:
It's about time someone debunks this idea that a Festool guide and saw will replace your cabinet saw, panel saw, circular saw, hand saw, cordless saw, coping saw, jigsaw, siding table saw, etc. It warms my heart to hear someone tell me to cut an entire kitchen up with a Festool.

From contributor L:
"What if your door has a raised bead all around it and can't be trimmed; you have to nail it first time?"

You should measure the opening and make the door the proper size. Sounds like you're buying pre-made doors. If you are, then you would need to have a shaper or router profile that is the same. You can adjust the door size and re-mill the profile. If it is pre-finished also, then you are likely out of luck.

From contributor P:
Contributor R wasn't debunking any Festool myths. He was saying that you can't easily trim a door with a raised edge bead with any kind of tool. For the record, I have (and use) a table saw, too. And a coping saw. Not sure how to use it to trim inset doors, though... I like contributor T's idea. Does Conestoga make face frames with arched or radiused openings?

From contributor R:
Thank you. I own every tool Festool makes, but I don't do no stinkin' trimmin' when I do inset face frames; I make sure the frames and doors are right in the first place. That really saves time!

From contributor B:
There should be no need to fit inset doors in a face frame with Euro hinges. Fabricate the door, bore for hinge cups, attach door, adjust hinge. If you have to fit them, then there's too much slop in the early processes (case fabrication, face frame fabrication, door fabrication). Butt hinges are a bit different, but not much.

From contributor T:
Yes, they do arches. Just check off the roman arch on the order form. How they can do a beaded one - CNC? - for only 6 bucks is beyond me. It's not pinned on. Looked perfect on an open bookcase upper. I have not gotten one with a pre-fitted door yet. By the way, I get all the doors pre-finished and get their stain to match. Since I mainly do euro boxes, we modify the parameters for the face frame and biscuit and pocket screw the frames on.

From contributor Y:
Welcome to the 19th Century. I use story poles. The center of each hinge is on the pole. I make the doors exact width and 1/8th over on length for squaring. Mark the hinge positions from the story pole, mount and adjust. How hard was that?

From contributor F:
I think that building flush inset doors that install straight into the openings with perfect 3/32" gaps is really easy… with the mouth! There are a whole lot of very meticulous craftsmen who do their best to make both the door and the opening as square as they can and yet they still fit the doors one at a time. I wonder if the guys who claim to be able to build a whole kitchen worth of inset doors and not a door on the job needs fitting even know how to true up a square?

From contributor L:
Who uses a square to check if things are in square? I always measure corner to corner and strive for measurements within 1/64". I'll accept 1/32" if I can't force it. I'll use a square to set up machinery, though. To true up a large steel square, you would use a punch. On the inside corner to make the square more open and on the outside corner to close it up.

From contributor F:
Contributor L, I wasn't expecting a rebuttal from you since you make your inset doors oversize. I was trying to say I don't believe anyone can make numerous inset doors and net a perfect 3/32 reveal all around with zero fitting on any door on the job. I agree that sometimes you have to accept 1/32" out of square. That's my point. Get a door 1/32" out one way and a frame opening 1/32" the other way and you need to fit a door.

Also, I discovered a new trick. Your flat steel squares can be trued with flat hammer blows on the points you mentioned instead of a punch. It really isn't necessary to mar up a square with the punch... try it.

From contributor B:
Measuring corner to corner is not nearly accurate enough to determine door or face frame squareness in this application. Neither is using a square. Relying on those methods is not only time consuming, but allows too much slop in the process.

Yes, we have built an entire kitchen, face frame with inset doors, 2.4mm gaps, and all doors and drawer fronts were basically within tolerances to install without fitting. Euro hinges let you adjust or fudge enough that this works out fine. Mortised butt hinges are much less forgiving, and on those jobs, some bumping of edges on an edge sander will be required. Like I said, your process and machinery has to be set up for very tight tolerances.

From contributor Y:
If the doors are square, the face frames were built square and the dimensions are correct, the doors should fit when hung. If not, the cabinet is racked and should be shimmed until the face frame is square. I don't see the problem.

From contributor F:
I build my beaded face frames and inset doors with the utmost attention to squareness I can muster and I am still unable to obtain 100% perfectly square openings and doors. I even rip all of my stile and rail stock oversized, and straighten it again before planing to net width across the grain and still there are some stiles or rails that bow a bit. I don't build frameless but I do use sheet stock and rarely ever see a sheet of it that yields rippings that stay straight.

Anyway, you guys that can build thirty or more doors and the openings for them all at net size and just hang the doors with perfect or very close to 3/32" reveals, and then just ship them, have nothing but my respect.

From contributor W:
When I began cabinetmaking, working for others (32 years ago), an inset door with a 2.4mm gap would get you back to the rough lumber mill post haste. Currently our parameters allow no more than 1mm. If you aren't competing with the big box stores and are doing custom work, you are essentially building furniture and I might add you should be charging for it.

Virtually every door we build for inset ff requires fitting, sometimes more, sometimes less, but each door is handled individually to fit the opening.

In answer to the original question, I allow 8 minutes for standard size doors and 15 for large doors. There are 3 men in the shop capable of doing this work. The doors are squared on an Altendorf and then hand planed to fit perfectly. Some of you are thinking "how archaic," but having used all of the methods mentioned above, absolutely nothing beats a properly honed smoothing plane.

From contributor A:
I'm sure your are a very skilled, competent cabinetmaker, but I believe you might want to review your mm/inches conversion tables. Your 1 mm converts to just a micron over 1/32". As far as I know, any common wood or plywood will expand enough to bind that door at some point during the year. The 2.4mm quoted above converts to about 3/32". That has been the standard for most everyone. We all want the smallest margins. 1/16" is usually too tight and 1/8" is just plain ugly. Also, if you are planning on sanding the doors at some point, I would still use my edgesander versus your plane. In as much as I like using my planes as much as possible.

From contributor Y:
1 mm would be mighty tight. Impressive, though.

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