How to Build a Corner Door-Shelf Cabinet with Open Hands Gallery

We would like to introduce you to the door projects we upcycle at Open Hands Seed Project & Gallery.  Door-shelf cabinets have become one of our most requested and popular items and can be very useful in a variety of ways.  We are excited to share with you the detailed instructions using a standard door design.  Doors offer a wide variety of styles and design possibilities, almost as many options as there are in raw lumber choices.  Best of all, repurposed door projects are simple and only require a jig saw or reciprocating saw, a miter saw, drill, and a sander to facilitate a successful refurbished upcycle, along with some ingenuity, patience, safety, and as always… some fun time in the workshop!

Although there are many types of door styles, the most popular repurposed door project that we make at Open Hands is the corner door-shelf cabinet unit.  Corner units have become one of our staple items.  We took this plain old door, make a few simple easy changes, and turned it into a beautiful, useful, unique piece of furniture.  Here are the step-by-step directions to make it for your home. 

The first step of our project is removing any old paint.  Although we love the old cracked beat up look, old doors most likely have lead paint on them.  More often than not, the chips tend to fall off and create a mess whenever handled and no one wants old paint chips on their living room floor.  No matter how beautiful the original worn out paint may be, it has to go.  We will refinish it later to have a new or distressed look, just as beautiful as it was before.  Our most reliable and effective paint remover we use is the Star 10 Paint Stripping Gel from Woodcraft.  Many paint strippers vary in their directions for use, so for this portion, follow the directions on your stripping product.

After the paint is removed, start redesigning the door to suit your needs by removing the panels.

Begin transforming your door by drilling one hole in each corner of the panels large enough to fit a jig saw blade.  This allows you to cut around the edges removing the entire panel in one piece.  There will be pieces of the panel stuck in the frame which can be removed with pliers, a flat head screw driver or anything small enough to get behind the old glue and wood pieces.  Once the left over pieces are removed, feel free to sand down any rough spots inside the panel frame as needed.  Lay your cut out panels off to the side, they will be used later.

Next, cut your 2×4′s with a miter saw to create the brace support structures for your side panels.  Cut one end of the 2×4 at a 45° angle, measure 16″ then cut a straight line.  Do this four times to create four separate pieces.  Next, using two 10 x 2-1/2″ screws, mount them on the back of the door in each corner making sure your 45° angle is flush against the back of the door tilting inwards like a corner.  This is how the support structure should look once applied to the back of the door (photo right).

To complete the support structures, measure the gap between the two boards and cut a piece of wood at a 45° angle on both ends to attach a small piece of wood at the top and bottom, for supporting the back panel.

Now that the supports are in place, use plywood for the side panels.  They will need to be measured 16″ wide by how tall your door is.  In this case, our door backing is measured 16″ x 75″.  You will need to measure both sides to create two boards for your backing.  We typically use finished plywood from your local Woodcraft store.  You can cut the plywood to the size you need with a circular saw or table saw.  Make sure you wear your safety equipment during this process to prevent wood chips from getting into your eyes.  If you rip/cut your wood too quickly it tends to splinter the wood, so take your time.

Paint both sides after backing ply is cut.  Our door piece was painted with General Finishes Corinth Blue Milk Paint and General Finishes Antique White Milk Paint.  If a more weathered look is desired, you can use a sanding pad or sponge to give the unit a distressed look.  For a smoother more finished look you also have the option to use a High Performance Top Coat from General Finishes.  When the panels are dry, attach one of the side boards to the mounting brackets.  Use 8 x 1- 1/4″ screws for the side panel boards.  The side panels are attached to the brackets with two screws on each corner, top and bottom.

Remember the panels we cut from the door?  They will require their corners to be cut off at a 45° angle on one side of each panel to fit flush against the inside of the side panels.   These cuts were made about 3-1/2″ in from the tip of the corner.   After the corner cuts are completed, apply two 4″ Shelf-Brackets.

Once all four of the panels have shelf brackets attached, you can assemble them using 8 x 1- 1/4″ screws while making sure they are level. 

Now we can close in the other side and the back.  Attach the second side panel to the support structure the same way the first one was applied.  Fill in the gap between the two side panels by placing the back panel on the support structure and screw it in.

Finally, to seal the top and bottom, use what is left of the finished plywood.  Place the scrap on top of the corner piece, trace around the top, creating a pattern for the top cap shape.  Use a circular saw to cut the shape you created on the board.  Paint the cap item, and let dry and attach with 8 x 1-1/2″ screws.  Repeat for the bottom cap.  Since the shelves are supported by both side panels they should hold a significant amount of weight for showcasing decorative items.  Add a door escutcheon and knob handle of your choice, and the unit is complete.  If the door did not have a knob and escutcheon cover, you can find them at flea markets, antique shops, hardware stores, and even garage sales!

Stand it up on it’s bottom and VOILA!  You’re now finished with your very own corner cabinet door.  Stand back, admire your work, then show it off to all of your friends!

Additional design options:

The Open Hands Seed Project of REM Community Options provides employment as artists to people who may have a disability.  Our mission is to build the good in everyone.  For more information on Open Hands Gallery, please visit their Facebook page and this previous blog article.

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