Changing old flat panel birch cabinets to shaker style??

tuesday_2008January 12, 2010

I have the old birch plywood flat panel cabinet doors made in the late sixties by a local cabinetmaker. Does anyone remember those beauties? Orange is the only description that comes to mind. And they all had the curved, coppery colored hardware! Don't get me wrong - I did slightly refurbish them with a nice new coat of poly about 15 years ago and installed new hardware (yep, shiny gold). Got the picture yet? To top it off, when I changed out the hardware, the handles had to be installed at an angle across the corner to match/or cover up the holes from the curved handles.

If you can get past the looks, they are wonderful cabinets, well made, solid, clean, lots of them - but they have to be updated! Have priced new cabinets and refuse to pay the price! I have a lot of cabients. Now I am analyzing my options and here is where you folks might be able to help me.

What I really would like to do is put a nice thin, shaker style trim on these doors (this would also cover up the old hardware holes) and paint the cabinets white. I have researched and found several redos of old cabinets done this way and they look awesome. The one probelem that I see is the current slab doors have slightly rounded or beveled edge. What would be the best way to deal with that if I install a shaker panel on these doors? Can the small amount of "bevel" be ripped off square? I think there is enough "overlap" of the door onto the frame to do this.

My other option would be to totally strip and then stain a darker color, but I do not want to go to that much work and I will still have flat panel doors. Plus, I am not sure the wood filler in the old holes would ever take stain properly. If I go the shaker trim route and stain, I would have to be working with new wood trim on old doors and probably wouldn't take stain the same way???

Another option I have researched is Stain and Seal, which would probably cover the wood filler. Anyone familiar with that stuff?

Final option is completely new doors. I am thinking that would get expensive also.

Give me your best advice - good or bad. Replacing them is not an option. Is it possible to convert these to shaker style? I have a relative who is extremely good at woodworking and could do the work for me - he works cheap.


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I would look into replacing the doors, by the time you remove the bevel and attach the shaker overlay, the cost would probably be less.

Plenty of places on the web sell cabinet doors, and ebay.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 12:05AM
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you could also take a router, and run a groove on the door to simulate the rails

    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 4:56PM
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This was posted several months ago and life got hectic. Sorry that I did not acknowledge your responses. Perhaps we could bring this to life again!

Amrad, what do you mean by running a groove to simulate shaker style. Are you talking about the recessed line that I have seen on some of the cabinets from this era?

Does anyone out there have a picture or link to anything like I am talking about. I found one about a year ago, but can't find it again. My wood is a very clear birch and would like to be able to salvage the doors. Does a thin (perhaps 1/4 inch) plywood exist that I could use to do this trim with.

Just picking your brains - you guys seem to know everything!


    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 6:29PM
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There are ALWAYS options, but you're really going to have to supply pictures before any quality ideas can be put on the table :-)

    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 7:50PM
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Frame the doors by trimming them down and making or buying some styles and rails. Assuming the panels are only 3/8 to 1/2" thick a 3/4" style and rail should be fine. How would you finish the edges if you trim to the face?

    Bookmark   October 22, 2010 at 1:01PM
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What is a Shaker style trim?

    Bookmark   October 22, 2010 at 1:33PM
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I had similar cabinets and here are the options I found:

1. Cut out the centers (leaving just a frame around) and insert new panels inside that frame. I didn't opt for this option because my edges were pretty beaten up.

2. You can apply a "edge", like you mentioned, but you won't be able to really cover up the routed edges. You'd have to fill them with auto body filler and then sand - lot of work.

3. Get some poplar wood and plywood and using just a table saw, glue, and clamps you can build completely new shaker style doors. I built 12 doors and it cost me about $150 for the materials. It was totally worth it. The cabinets look like new!!!! If I knew how to, I'd post some pictures. Love the end effect!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2010 at 7:43PM
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"My other option would be to totally strip and then stain a darker color,"

If you clean them thoroughly you can stain right over the top of the old finish with General Finishes' Gel Stain. I'm doing my kitchen cabinets right now, and that faded 80s walnut is looking far better. I give them a good scrubbing with soap and water to get water soluble dirt off, then mineral spirits to get old polish off ... then it's wipe and let dry. Followed by a wipe-on gel poly coat and I'm done. My only limit is working space to lay the cabinets in.

Here is a link that might be useful: REview if stain

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 8:00AM
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Thanks to everyone for responding. You have given me lots of options and things to work through.

If I go the shaker trim route, trimming the edges would be a major concern as you folks pointed out.

Lazygardens, if I should go the gel stain refinish route, do you know if it would cover wood filler. The hardware has been put on at an angle across the corner (ugly) and when I upgrade, I will have an extra screw hole. I know I could cover with paint, but don't know about the gel stain.
I would probably end up with a "polka-dot" on each door!


    Bookmark   October 29, 2010 at 11:46AM
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You could trim off enough to become inset doors rather than overlay - then get some of those cool latches and make it look really vintage.

Re getting all new doors made, yes you could but I do think there is a certain satisfaction out of reusing junk that you can't get by buying new - it can be a labor of love - go for it!

    Bookmark   November 5, 2010 at 11:26AM
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