Can warped cabinet door be straightened?

saydeOctober 28, 2010

We are restoring our 1927 gumwood kitchen cabinets. There are four uppers with 48 inch high doors that have the gumwood frames around leaded glass. One of the four door frames is warped at the top -- not too badly (the glass is still held in nice and tight) but definitely noticeable. I understand this is not uncommon with long doors. The frames are one inch thick.

Is there a way to safely straighten the door frame? Or at least improve it somewhat? We did try clamping it but it seems to return to its warped shape when released.

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Getting the warp out is a very long shot at best. I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, But I work with warpage on old furniture weekly and there are a few tricks to get rid of the warpage, but they are "out there" and often times the results are not worth the effort. On top of that, doors are the worse :-)

The good news is that if it's not bad, often times a catch will work as well as any repair to the door itself. It just depends on the severity of the warpage.

Here is a link that might be useful: lawless hardware

    Bookmark   October 28, 2010 at 8:58PM
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Some catches have enough force to flatten warped doors when they are closed.

It can take a couple catches instead of a single one, and the closing and opening force is then increased.

It can be a good trade though for a door not used on a daily basis.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2010 at 5:09PM
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Thanks for the responses. The section that is warped is up at the ceiling so it would not be practical to have a catch up there. I was wondering whether anyone every uses anything like steam with clamps to "encourage" the door to relax. Or any other thoughts? Thanks again . . .

    Bookmark   October 29, 2010 at 5:16PM
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Not gonna happen. The amount of heat and moisture that it takes to soften the lingin enough to do that sort of reshaping would destroy the door. Besides which, any force you apply to the door risks breaking some leaded glass. Give up now on the idea of un-warping it.

Perhaps a hinge could be repositioned to help hide the problem? You could also have a new frame built and transfer over the glass, but it would probably be a very expensive door.

It always helps to post pics so we all know what we're talking about.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2010 at 5:59AM
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We have tried it all. Having been in the restoration bussiness for a long time, you have a tendency to come across these situations from time to You can search around and find people and articles that will tell you what you want to hear, but for most cases it's not practical and won't give the desired results. I understand it's not what you want to hear, but jon and I are dealing you the truth.
Adjusting/ moving hinges and adding catches are the #1 most effective method. If you choore to use heated moisture, it must be applied to the exterior side (concave) you will need to strip the door of it's finish and sand before steaming. It then must be clamped for a week or two. Then...most likely, it will just spring back either right away or within time.

The reverse of that repair is a better option to try. That is to attempt extracting the moisture from the wood from the convex side. Again, no finish can be present on the wood. Use a hot (dry) iron on the back of the door and then clamp. Be careful, but you must heat the wood to the point of extracting all moisture.
A hot plate works better if you have a larger one. I have a large griddle in my kitchen I have used. careful not to overheat the wood.

Your last and most invasive option is to cut grooves with a router and glue in battons and clamp up on a perfectly flat surface (I use a large piece of 1" thick marble on my workbench).

Obviously, the glass needs to be removed for any of these options to be explored...or you could try the catch and hinge adjustment and be done. If you can refinish the door, you can shave it down with a wood plane until it's flush.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 30, 2010 at 9:02AM
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"The section that is warped is up at the ceiling so it would not be practical to have a catch up there. "

Sure you can.

A spring catch or magnetic catch will work just fine.

Do not confuse a catch with a latch.

A latch need to be at a height that you can reach, a latch can be just about anywhere.

Simply pushing (or pulling) the door activates a catch.

I recently used some small 'super magnets' to hold a kitchen end panel to a steel frame supporting a granite counter (DW at end of run).

i have also used the magnets with a simple steel backer plate to hold cabinet doors closed.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2010 at 9:16AM
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Umm what side is convex?? OK, OK I'm getting a dictionary, never mind.

Could you tell me more about the "invasive" method - what size router bit, how deep, how far apart, do the grooves go lengthwise via the grain or across grain. I have some warped table top parts I want to get flat and then glue together - and then hopefully once I attach to the table apron/legs it will stay flat, I could even glue some oak plywood underneath - it won't show since its under the table.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2010 at 5:07PM
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"I have some warped table top parts I want to get flat and then glue together"

Just rip them into narrower strips and then glue them back together.

A trip across a jointer for each strip (or some hand planning) to square up the cut surfaces to the top and bottom is what really flattens warped wood.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2010 at 5:12PM
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Thank you for all the responses. I guess we are going to just live with it and accept it as one more old house eccentricity. But it greatly helps to know that we didn't overlook any opportunities. I will look into the catch that was recommended.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   November 3, 2010 at 8:25PM
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Kashka Kat,

Table tops can be straightened, but a table saw works better in that application. There are so many variables, every job is unique. I never go into a job such as yours with my mind set on any one way to accomplish the repair. I don't mean to be vague, just being real. Plywood will bend with the warped top in most cases. Besides, it's probably a solid wood top because it's warped, right? Solid tops need to have the ability to expand and contract, so glueing and screwing the top to plywood could be bad news down the road :-)
Warpage is a tough problem to beat unless you have a good deal of woodworking knowledge. Even so, it's a tough fix sometimes. Tops are easiest that's good news for you! We'd really need to see pictures of the table to be of any help.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2010 at 12:20AM
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