Outsourced Door Tolerances

Fine accuracy is achievable if a producer cares to put in the effort. September 8, 2007

For frameless cabinets, what are acceptable tolerances for outsourced doors? I just had a shop that told me +/- 1/16". That won't work if my gaps are 3mm (1/8").

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor K:
Just like tape measures can read 1/6" variance from one another... I am afraid that it is the same with door manufacturers. Unless you are both using a measuring device that reads or is calibrated the same, this will always be the case.

For the larger door companies, considering Lean manufacturing methods, etc., I could be wrong, but I think it would be unrealistic to think that most have people that work on a door from start to finish.

1/6" shared between two doors or one (adjusted from one side to the other) is hardly discernable to your customer. The only challenge where I think it becomes a pain is when you are talking staggered depths with full overlay... Then you may have binding.

From contributor J:
I built frameless for about 8 years, doors for the last three. You may want to loosen your tolerance to 3/16" or 3-4mm, unless you want to order or build the doors fat and size and edge in house. You have to remember that a lot of variables affect the finish size - your tape, the door company shop foreman's tape, the crackhead cutting the parts, etc. The wider gaps don't really detract from the appearance nearly as much as differing widths on drawer stacks, drawer fronts over doors or stacked doors. Makes install much smoother and easier on the wallet. 1/8" is too tight for me. I can't seem to get my customers to spring the bucks to resize the door to the nuts after door assembly.

From contributor T:

I order doors from Walzcraft the size I need, and that's what I get. I use 1/8" (3mm) gaps on my doors. I guess I'm just lucky that my tape reads the same as theirs! I asked to see their operation one time when I picked up a door order. Didn't see any crack-heads... I got a nice tour through their very impressive plant.

From contributor V:
I agree with contributor T. I also order all of my doors from Walzcraft and I have also toured their facility. Very impressive! They size their doors in millimeters even if you send the sizes in inches. The quality of their product and service is excellent.

From contributor J:
I sell my doors locally at +/- 1/32". We do typically have 1-3 people working on an order, and one person typically lays up the panels for best color/grain match. Everyone is encouraged to find and fix any problems as early in the process as possible, starting with the guy breaking down the pile of lumber. Where I live, there is a strong "Buy Local" ethic for a decent percentage of the population. I definitely try to take good care of my customers in return.

From contributor I:
Over 15 years of buying doors from Roy's Wood Products in Lugoff, SC, the measurements are dead nuts. Any problems were dealt with ASAP and with a smile.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the comments. When we build, it is to .001/.1mm. Of course wood will move that much as you walk it across the shop, but we set our machines up with calipers and we have digital scales on everything else. We cut to final size on the slider. When it comes to installation, we use a piece of 3mm banding to test our gaps.

Contributor J, I understand your point about building in less tolerance. AWI puts it at 3mm with lesser tolerances for lower levels of workmanship. I prefer to maintain Premium levels. When the guys get it in their head that they have 1/16" to work with, then things can get sloppy, especially when you are trying to get a set of 3 drawers that are 1/16" shy to match up with a door.

For those of you using Walzcraft, do they build to the whole mm? Anybody using Conestoga? What are their tolerances?

From contributor M:
Maybe I need to revisit my setup. The tolerance is achievable and doable, just takes a lot more effort to get it, and can the average Joe really have an appreciation for it? Certainly some customers will, but the majority... I will say that my guy in the shop does a phenomenal job 98.9 percent of the time. The other 1.2 I'd swear he's stoned on crack. But that's what makes it fun and interesting, and certainly not boring.

From contributor V:
I have not tried ordering doors from Walzcraft to a tighter tolerance than 1 mm. I start with my sizes in inches, convert them to mm, and round off to the nearest mm. I also try to maintain 3 mm reveals and my method has worked out well with Walzcraft.

From contributor C:
We bought 200K+ from Conestoga last year, most of that pre-finished. I'd say 99%+ accurate and that 1% was us, I'd like to think. Hard to be wrong when Tiger stops, CNC setups and (web) order link is involved. We also are getting into buying beaded front frames with pre-fitted doors from them and they are dead on - have not trimmed a door down yet.

Try a few small jobs from them to check out first. Once you get to know the catalog, you will be using more than just a square raised panel or shaker door like the guy down the street from me who professes to make everything (but money).

From the original questioner:
Thanks. Like I said, we usually make our own doors, and our stops are either motorized, digital, or we set with calipers. This time we got in a time crunch and they wanted mitered doors. We ran the door stock and were shocked when they said that they only cut on the 1/16th. I looked online for Conestoga's tolerances, but could not even find a telephone number.

From contributor S:
Maybe your tape is wrong and you just don't really know how small 1/16th is.

From contributor U:
This is a quote taken from the Conestoga Custom Products Manual:

" Conestoga manufactures its products to the nearest 1/16". A tolerance of
+/- 1/32" is considered acceptable."

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I'm with contributor T - I don't understand why tolerances are so loose in the age of motorized stops and digital readouts.

Contributor R, the only thing we use a tape for is to hold a stack of papers down or to settle a bet when two people are arguing about how long the material is setting in the floor.