Can glass be inserted into routed mdf?

hestia_flamesAugust 11, 2009

Hi, this is my first post in the woodworking forum. My dh and I have been installing second hand QuakerMaid kitchen cabinets. We have cut butcher block and installed it, and are getting pretty handy with tools. We knew that when we installed the cabinets that we would be replacing the doors, however we are now tight with our budget, and it will be a couple of years before we can replace the doors via Scherr's. We have two options:

Purchase Ikea Adel doors in the "As Is" section, (for about $8 a piece) take apart the wood frames (instructions on Ikea site), cut to fit our cabinets where needed, re-glue, paint and install. We would need new hinges to create the correct overlay - we could also create glass doors with this style. I feel confident in doing this.

The cost to us with be about $500 total, including new hinges, paint, etc.

Second choice is gluing lathing onto the current cabinet doors. They are 80's style, with GOLD beading that I have patiently pulled out - we had thought about adding wood filler in the left over channel, but it does not look "finished" - I have added wood lathing strips around the thin inside frame on one of the doors, and have achieved a somewhat paneled look. We both prefer the Adel door style, but also like the idea of reusing what we have. However, we are at a disagreement over the glass doors that I would like. If we go this route, I believe that we should purchase frames for the glass in a similar narrow frame style - the current doors (QuakerMaid) are wood frames with MDF panels - the solid wood frames are narrow, and in the back you can see where the current hinges (european, 35mm) are half-way over the MDF, and halfway on the wooden frames. My husband thinks that I could attach the wood strips to the front of the MDF doors, and rout out enough of the MDF panel to hold glass panels. I do not think that will work because in order to have the MDF panel hold the glass, it will hold the glass out behind the wood strips that I add, leaving an odd gap. I don't think it would look good, and I am not sure if it is safe. DH just said that instead of gluing the strips, we could finish nail/glue the strips on, then route. What should we be concerned about? I don't feel confident with this.

I am attaching two photos - one of our "baking area" where you can see the doors below (they look worse in real life) and the door where I glued lathing on to give it the impression of a paneled door. (It is in two different colors of paint as a test of color.) With ordering a few glass doors, it would be within $50 of the Adel doors. If I route the doors myself for glass, it would be closer to us spending $300, reusing the old hinges.

Baking Area - Old doors Below

Old Door with Lathing Attached (disregard two different colors)

Any and all comments appreciated.

ps, the link is to the Ikea Adel style we would take apart, cut, put back together & paint - we can't do this with the white, only with any of the wood doors, which are solid wood with thin mdf panel. It would be fairly straightforward to add glass to this door, using a rabbit edge, as it is an all wood frame.

Thank you all for your help and opinions!

Here is a link that might be useful: Adel Door we would paint

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I'm not sure I follow what your husband is proposing, largely because I don't understand how the existing doors are built. Can you say more about that and/or provide a larger, close-up photo? These tiny pics aren't all that informative.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 4:02PM
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Thanks jon,

I just uploaded some photos. I hope they are large enough.

A door in the original shape.

Door with gold band removed - channel needs to be covered, but it looks almost as bad with wood putty.

Back of door where the hinge fits. You can see where the wood frame of the door ends and the mdf begins.

On one trial door - where I glued a thin strip of wood to create a false inset panel. This adds an inch and a half, and helps the door look a lot less 80's.

Door from further back (don't know why it is pink in the photo.) With more careful painting, I believe that this could look ok.

As you can see from the "back shot of the hinge area" above, there is not much of a wood frame. Is there any way that we could add glass instead of the mdf for some of the upper panels? Would we still be able to add a little wood molding to make it look like the lowers? We are still not thrilled with the rounded edge of the doors, but believe that they would be acceptable for a few years with the added molding. Should we give it up and go with the Adel doors? Thank you for your expertise.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 8:12PM
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It probably doesn't matter much, but the core of your existing doors appears to be particle board, not MDF. MDF is very fine-grained, and looks like the cardboard a cereal box is made from. Particle board is made from coarse sawdust.

As to the Ikea doors... I haven't examined one up close, but I'm wondering whether you have the machinery to properly resize the parts. Google helped me find a page about disassembly of these doors, and it looks like the frames have doweled tounge-and-groove joints. This means that making the door narrower will require cutting a new tounge on the end of the shortened rails, and boring new dowel holes too. This is not all that easy to do with typical homeowner equipment. I also don't see why you'd want to buy premade doors, completely disassemble them, re-machine all of the parts, reassemble them and then paint over the original finish, and buy new hinges to boot. If you're willing and able to do all of that, why not start from scratch?

If I had to make a glass door from one of your existing doors, I'd be inclined to cut the rectangular glass opening all the way through the particleboard, then attach the faux frame strips such that the overhang the particleboard and create a rabbet; the glass would sit directly against the false frame, and the retaining strips behind the glass would conceal the edge of the particleboard. This IS a kludge; the door will not stand up to much abuse, as no particleboard frame is going to have the integrity of a solid wood frame. But if you're not abusive, it would probably last a couple of years.

Having said all of this, it seems like you could easily find yourself spending more time on the project than it's worth. I realize you're trying to avoid spending cash, but isn't your time worth something? If this is really a short-term stopgap, might it make sense to just paint the existing doors and then focus on saving the money for properly built doors?

    Bookmark   August 12, 2009 at 9:07AM
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Thanks for your answer. It confirmed what I thought about creating glass doors - I can't see my 15 year old ds being all that careful with a cabinet door opening it and closing it.

I guess I wasn't clear on my first post, sorry - we are seriously considering the Adel doors because most of our cabinets would fit these doors - we would need to adapt just a few of the uppers. The frames are solid wood, and the low cost per door in "As-Is" is just not touchable with raw materials. We will rip paint grade lumber for slab drawer fronts as needed. According to the instructions I saw on resizing Adel doors, all that I would need to do (after disassembling and cutting to size) would be to drill holes for the pegs. As my widths are standard size, (the reason we would need to cut the stiles is that our cabinets are 33" tall, not the Ikea standard 30" or 39") - I believe that I would only need to drill the holes properly, line up and glue. Since the stiles are being cut and not the rails, I don't believe that I will need to cut a new tongue. To add glass, I may or may not have to cut a rabbit. (If the glass slides in, I could glue it in and add clips to the back if needed.) I couldn't do an entire kitchen this way, but for the 5 or so doors I need to retrofit, since I am painting anyway, I think it is worth it. The only reason most of the doors are in As-Is is that there are small scratches, very easy to take care of when prepping to paint.

Thank you, thank you for answering my questions.


    Bookmark   August 12, 2009 at 10:57AM
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I see. I suspect you'll find it challenging enough to drill the holes in exactly the right spot, but having to do it on only a few doors, and not having to mess with the tounges, makes the idea sound a lot better. If you don't have a good drill press (or dowel press, or horizontal mortiser), it might be worth it to have someone drill the holes in the stiles for you; it's a piece of cake with the right equipment, and almost impossible to do well without it.

Anyhow, my inclination would be to go for the Adel doors, paint them nicely, and probably never need to buy replacements.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2009 at 11:57AM
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If you decide to go in either of your proposed directions for the upper doors, have you thought of some sort of plexiglass for the upper doors, as it would be a lot lighter in weight?

I also find myself asking the question posed by Jon regarding how much time this is worth for something that I can't be convinced will be all that great a result either way. To be (brutally) frank, and I hope you'll forgive me for it, I thought I was good at creating the greatest possible amount of work for no reason other than to worsen a situation, but I think this outdoes me :-)

It seems to me - and I know it's a matter of taste - that the existing doors could be made to look quite seriously acceptable with only paint, and no challenges at all with respect to fit, hinges, glue strips, or any other adaptations. In particular if you did something fancy with stencils or faux finishes, or even with wallpaper inserts on the panels, you could get a really nice look, fast, on a door that is secure and solid and that fits. For the cost of paint or wallpaper - and if you go with mistints or the leftover wallpaper bin, that could be very cheap indeed. Like ten bucks.

Then put some money into some fabulous handles, and you're free to start baking!

Not that you asked "whether" but only how, I know. And given the choices you've mentioned, I'd go with the lath strips and skip making the uppers transparent. Or, do the lath on the lowers, and then you've got a few dollars to spend on proper (not adapted) glass doors or plexi for the uppers.


    Bookmark   August 13, 2009 at 1:13AM
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Or what about taking a long walk around your local moulding and millwork warehouse, if you have one, to see if there is a piece of moulding you could use on your existing doors to disguise either the outside of the rounded edges, or the channel where the gold bead was removed, or both? Pieces like chair rails or crown mouldings or even a base shoe can be adapted for myriad uses.

Other options that occurred to me overnight for making your existing doors look decent were either some tile accents, which again you can get cheap or second-hand, or pressed tin panels...


    Bookmark   August 13, 2009 at 1:01PM
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