As a fine piece of furniture nears completion, the last major task before finishing the wood is often constructing and mounting the doors. A project within a project, assembling a door demands the same care as building the piece it accompanies. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing a carefully crafted cabinet offset by a door that is warped or ill-fitting.
In addition to providing a visual focus, doors serve the simple function of protecting the contents stored inside a piece of furniture.
One of the first recorded uses in cabinetmaking of a door as a physical barrier was the medieval aumbrey, a large cabinet used to protect food from vermin. The design of the door was primitive: a single piece of wood held in place with simple forged strap hinges.
Today’s woodworkers have far more choices than their counterparts from the Middle Ages. This chapter will examine five different door types, each with its own visual appeal and application, ranging from the rustic board-and-batten door to the finely crafted frame-and-panel model. You will also learn how to build tongue-and-groove doors, glass doors and veneered-panel doors.
To some degree, the design of a piece of furniture dictates the type of door you will install on it. A board-and-batten
door would be most appropriate on a simple carcase, whereas a fine period piece normally demands a frame-and-panel door. Glass doors are a good choice for a china or curio cabinet.
Since wood is prone to swelling and warping, solid doors should only be installed on relatively small pieces of furniture. With a larger cabinet—a floor-to-ceiling hutch, for example—a broad, solid door, such as the board-and-batten or tongue-and-groove door, would be more likely to buckle than would a frame-and-panel, veneered-panel or glass door, whose construction is calculated to accommodate changes in wood movement due to shifting heat and humidity levels.
Another point to ponder is the degree of precision a door requires. A flush-mounted door permits little margin for error. A gap as little as Vs inch can spoil the look of an otherwise finely executed piece. Overlay doors, on the other hand, do not require the same exactness since they are designed to exceed the size of their openings.
A vast range of hardware is available for doors of all types, from rustic iron hinges reminiscent of the aumbrey to fine cast-brass hinges for flush doors. Most of these accessories can be purchased with one of several finishes, including black or polished iron, antique or polished brass, and chrome.
A frame-and-panel door is hung on a cabinet with detachable cabinet hinges, which allow the door to be easily removed after installation.