Modifying Miter-framed Cabinet Doors

Modifying Miter-framed Cabinet Doors

I want to put glass in my kitchen cabinet cathedral doors. I have read articles and seen videos on how to do it. I have the skills to do so, but there is a problem. The doors have mitered corners. On the inside of the doors, there are what appear to be metal wedges with a tab that extends approximately 1/2″ from the corners. This makes it impossible to route the inside stiles and rails at all! I have been in contact with numerous cabinetmakers and none of them have ever heard of these wedges being used or, for that matter, the corners being mitered on the doors! I am in dire need of advice on how to tackle this job. If I am lucky enough to knock out the wedges, will I stand a chance of destroying the doors beyond being able to repair them? Is there an expert in your group who can lead me in the right direction to follow, step by step? Need serious help! – Tony Grochowski

Tim Inman: A picture of your problem would be really nice to see. My confidence in my answer would be much greater if I could see your doors! But, here goes.

First, I agree that knocking apart the doors would most likely lead to disaster. Using the procedure I’m outlining here, I don’t think it would be necessary, either. I think you should be able to use a router and jig to rout out the rabbet for the glass everywhere but the last half inch or so, before you hit that little metal devil in the miters. Then, I’d go to hand tools. A simple little dovetail saw and a scrap block guiding jig should let you saw one edge of the rabbet close to the metal. A good sharp chisel and you should be able to pare away the remaining wood to reveal the metal part.

My secret weapon: For little trouble jobs like this, I often find that an ordinary Dremel tool with an abrasive cut-off saw does the trick. These little saws “don’t get no respect,” as Rodney Dangerfield used to say. My experience leaves me with a lot of respect for them. If you haven’t used one, let me describe the part. It looks like a little disc of abrasive material (sandpaper-like) about the size of a quarter. It has a hole in the center that lets it mount to a work arbor. It is not simply sandpaper; it is a solid carbide abrasive type material. It will cut metal easily, both ferrous and nonferrous. I think you’ll be surprised how readily this little saw will cut off the offending part. Be sure to cushion the glass when you install it so it doesn’t rub the metal edge and “Zing!” off an edge of your glass. If this answer misses the mark for you, please email us a picture!

Chris Marshall: I’m less optimistic than Tim about this one. If your cabinet doors are factory-made, the metal wedges must serve a structural purpose of some sort to keep the mitered rails and stiles connected. I can’t imagine how or why they would hold the wooden panels in place that are currently in your doors. The metal might even be the only mechanical connection holding the frames together, besides a glue bond. If you dive into installing that glass, pick a door you can afford to sacrifice before removing the metal wedges. If the wedges do come out, consider reinforcing the corner joints with some other mechanical connection (dowels or screws) just in case. The glass will add weight to the frames and consequently more stress when you open and close them.

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