Sliding doors for cabinets: what material, width, technique? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
 
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post #1 of 10 Old 05-11-2016, 06:52 PM Thread Starter
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Sliding doors for cabinets: what material, width, technique?

Hi all,


I'm new to woodworking and tackling my largest project yet (by far).


I'm planning some simple but strong storage cabinets with 3/4" Baltic birch and pocket screws. I don't want to make cabinet doors for 3 reasons: style (trying to achieve a mid-century look), cost (extra material and hinges) and complexity.


Instead, I'm thinking about making simple sliding doors for each cabinet opening, like this:





I have a few questions for the old pros here:


1. If the sliding doors are made from 1/8" plywood and are about 24" high, will I have a problem with the wood bowing?


2. What materials do you suggest for the doors? Is there a supplier of textured, patterned, or woven panels with mid-century styling, as in the above photo? What about hardboard?


3. What is the preferred method of construction for sliding doors? I was originally thinking to keep it simple and just cut 2 parallel grooves in the wood for the bypass doors, but now I'm thinking to purchase plastic track (pictured below) so that the doors will slide on plastic rather than wood. Any suggestions?





Thanks for your consideration!
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post #2 of 10 Old 05-11-2016, 10:02 PM
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1/8" thick doors you definitely will have trouble with the doors bowing. The hardware you have illustrated are for glass doors. Wood doors you make the doors 5/8" to 3/4" thick and make the tract out of wood and dado it for the doors to slide in. You can polish out the dado real smooth and wax it to where the doors slide pretty easily or there is rollers you can mortise into the bottom of the door. Some of the hardware has a metal T-tract which fits in the bottom of the dado and the rollers on the bottom of the door are like a pulley wheel that fits over the tract. Every brand of hardware is different so if you plan to insert rollers my advise is to purchase the rollers first and build the doors to fit the hardware.

I'm not sure what that texture is on the doors pictured. You could get prewoven chair cane and glue it to a sheet of plywood for that effect.
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post #3 of 10 Old 05-13-2016, 08:24 PM Thread Starter
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Hi Steve,

Thanks for the reply.

I'm confused why I think I see reputable furniture designs that use thin plywood for sliding doors.

For example, Here is a photo, showing a huge piece with ~2' tall sliding doors made of thin plywood (finished in formica) in the bottom-right corner:



Here's another design by the same company. It appears from the finger holes that the wood is thin - maybe 1/8"?




Also, I own some 60+ year old furniture with sliding doors that have not bowed at all. These doors are 1/8" thick - and hardboard, not plywood.

Why don't the sliding doors on these designs bow? I am very (!) new to woodworking and really don't understand what I'm missing.


Thanks!
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post #4 of 10 Old 05-13-2016, 09:04 PM
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Womp945,
Your doors will actually glide better on the plastic glides versus a dado in the wood.
The 1/8" doors are sometimes made from tempered Masonite.
I prefer a 1/4" panel of plywood.
There should be no warpage with either of these thin paneled doors.
My Dad liked to build cabinets with sliding doors in the '60's.
He used both the plastic glide and the dado.
The doors width should overlap by about 1".
The doors can be removed if needed by lifting up out of the channel.
Good luck to you.

If you don't have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?
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post #5 of 10 Old 05-13-2016, 10:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by womp945 View Post
Hi Steve,

Thanks for the reply.

I'm confused why I think I see reputable furniture designs that use thin plywood for sliding doors.

For example, Here is a photo, showing a huge piece with ~2' tall sliding doors made of thin plywood (finished in formica) in the bottom-right corner:



Here's another design by the same company. It appears from the finger holes that the wood is thin - maybe 1/8"?




Also, I own some 60+ year old furniture with sliding doors that have not bowed at all. These doors are 1/8" thick - and hardboard, not plywood.

Why don't the sliding doors on these designs bow? I am very (!) new to woodworking and really don't understand what I'm missing.


Thanks!
Without being there it's difficult to tell the exact construction. I think it's sheer luck the doors on the 60 year old cabinet are still usable. There isn't any reason to ask for trouble. There are a lot of stable materials a person could veneer over and make look like wood. A person could even veneer over a sheet of plexiglas or even glass. This would guarantee a door which would remain flat.

I do know 1/8" plywood is nearly impossible to prevent warpage. It's normally used for the face sheet of a door which is either solid or hollow with cardboard tubes in the center to bond both sheets of each side of the door together. There is a type of veneer which is actually formica with a wood face on it. If the thin doors were laminated on both sides with this type of veneer it would add a lot of stability to a thin door. If it also had a MDF core to it that would make it even more stable.
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post #6 of 10 Old 05-14-2016, 01:04 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Toolman50 View Post
Womp945,
Your doors will actually glide better on the plastic glides versus a dado in the wood.
The 1/8" doors are sometimes made from tempered Masonite.
I prefer a 1/4" panel of plywood.
There should be no warpage with either of these thin paneled doors.
My Dad liked to build cabinets with sliding doors in the '60's.
He used both the plastic glide and the dado.
The doors width should overlap by about 1".
The doors can be removed if needed by lifting up out of the channel.
Good luck to you.
I have some furniture from the late 50s/early 60s that uses 1/8" hardboard (AKA Masonite?) for sliding doors and it is perfectly true with no bowing at all.

Sounds like your dad used to make cabinets the same way that I'd like to!

Good to know that the plastic guide can be / has been used before. I also thought about using UHMW tape (non-friction tape) in the tracks as well as on the bottom of the sliding door. This might be even more slippery than using the plastic track, as well as more concealed.

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Originally Posted by Steve Neul View Post
Without being there it's difficult to tell the exact construction. I think it's sheer luck the doors on the 60 year old cabinet are still usable. There isn't any reason to ask for trouble. There are a lot of stable materials a person could veneer over and make look like wood. A person could even veneer over a sheet of plexiglas or even glass. This would guarantee a door which would remain flat.

I do know 1/8" plywood is nearly impossible to prevent warpage. It's normally used for the face sheet of a door which is either solid or hollow with cardboard tubes in the center to bond both sheets of each side of the door together. There is a type of veneer which is actually formica with a wood face on it. If the thin doors were laminated on both sides with this type of veneer it would add a lot of stability to a thin door. If it also had a MDF core to it that would make it even more stable.
Thanks again for your input. Am I correct that it is probably a question of how tall the sliding door is? Obviously a very short sliding door (say 4" in height) won't bow, even in 1/8" plywood, right? So then the question is at what height would it become unstable?


I agree that there is no sense in asking for trouble by using material that is too thin. But I'd like to find out if I'm really borderline for wanting to use 1/8" sliding doors of about 24" in height. They will simply look better and slide easier if they are thinner rather than thicker.


I wouldn't push the issue if it weren't for the fact that I seem to see lots of furniture that uses such a design. Come to think of it, of all the shopping and browsing I've done for mid-century furniture, I've never seen a sliding door that was bowed.
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post #7 of 10 Old 05-14-2016, 07:00 AM
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With warpage on a thin door it's more the width than height. With wood when the moisture content of the wood gets higher on one side of a board than the other it will start bowing and twisting. We have had many threads where someone makes flat doors and after getting them ready to use just leave them lying on their work bench. Then overnight moisture gets to the side facing up and bow. With a sliding door if the door bows it will start draging against the dado they are in and can get very difficult to open. You may have never seen a sliding door that would bind in that manor but I have. I had a furniture refinishing shop in the 1990's and have had to replace several doors. As I said before if I were going to make a thin door I would make the core of the door out of some synthetic material and cover it with veneer.
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post #8 of 10 Old 05-14-2016, 09:25 AM Thread Starter
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Steve,


Thanks again for your explanation. I have been thinking the issue of bowing was more about the weight of gravity than humidity and your explanation makes sense to me.


How thick does a piece of plywood need to be before warping due to humidity is not a concern, maybe 1/4"? I suppose hardboard (Masonite) does not have this issue even at 1/8" thickness?
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post #9 of 10 Old 05-14-2016, 11:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by womp945 View Post
Steve,


Thanks again for your explanation. I have been thinking the issue of bowing was more about the weight of gravity than humidity and your explanation makes sense to me.


How thick does a piece of plywood need to be before warping due to humidity is not a concern, maybe 1/4"? I suppose hardboard (Masonite) does not have this issue even at 1/8" thickness?
Masonite is sold as Tempered or non-tempered. The tempered Masonite is harder, more durable, more moisture resistant, etc.
Sold in both 1/8" and 1/4" thickness.
Moisture is all woods enemy, but you should have no problems with either Masonite or plywood with the size doors you have planned as long as they are indoors. Painting or coating with a clear finish will help seal against moisture.

If you don't have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?
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post #10 of 10 Old 05-14-2016, 10:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by womp945 View Post
Steve,


Thanks again for your explanation. I have been thinking the issue of bowing was more about the weight of gravity than humidity and your explanation makes sense to me.


How thick does a piece of plywood need to be before warping due to humidity is not a concern, maybe 1/4"? I suppose hardboard (Masonite) does not have this issue even at 1/8" thickness?
A lot of factors would play into trying to make a door 1/4" thick. A 1/4" lumber core plywood would be more stable. Masonite for a core unless it was double faced tempered hardboard wouldn't be very stable. 1/4" MDF would make a good core. If you are laminating the veneer yourself the way it's done would affect it too. The peal and press veneer shouldn't be used. It would still need to be laminated like factory plywood with the first layer running horizontal followed by the face veneer running the grain vertical doing the same thing on both sides. The glue should be a resin glue done is either a veneer press or a vacuum press. It has to be a glue that dries hard. A lot of folks use contact cement. Contact cement shouldn't be used on veneer unless you only need it to hold a year or so. While sometimes contact cement will last years the cement manufacturers only warranty the stuff for a year and for good reason.
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