When I decided to build this pocket office, I knew it would take several weeks, as I truly had no idea what I was doing, or maybe it was more of a hesitation as I navigated new tools and acquired new skills. Either way, at this point I had the shell of the cabinets built, and decided it was time to start tackling the doors and counters.
Most of the cabinetry tutorials I watched involved the use of pre made doors, but I had a hard time swallowing the cost of these, so I decided, if I could make cabinets, I could probably figure out doors as well. I have to apologize in advance for the photos, as mentioned before, I did not intend on sharing photos so most of what I have to share are screenshots from videos I shared in instagram stories.
These were the supplies I needed for the shaker style doors I built :
- 1×3 select pine
- 1/4″ oak plywood
- Wood Glue
- 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws
- Kreg Pocket Hole Jig
- Kreg Concealed Hinge Jig
- Soft Close hinges
- Table Top Router
- Mitre Saw
- Table Saw
- Wood Filler
- Oribital Sander or Block Sander
To start, I had to determine the size of the doors. I figured this out by measuring the face frame of the cabinets from the insides, and adding the amount I wanted them to overlap the face frame. For my cabinets that would have 2 doors, I would divide that in half to account for both the doors. I used this math for both the width AND the height. I used the 1×3 select pine for the rails and stiles. I cut the rails (the horizontal top and bottom pieces) to those widths, 2 for each door using the mitre saw. I then determined the height of the stiles (the vertical right and left pieces) by deducting the width of the rails from my earlier math (this was 2.5″ for each one, as that is the true width of a 1×3 piece of pine)… as you can see in my photo above, the stiles do not have to be the full height, as the rails add to it.
Once these pieces were cut for each door, I drilled pocket holes on the top and bottom of each stile. I took care not to drill the holes too close to the inner part of the door, as I would be routing a groove deep enough for the inner panel to rest. I used a table top router and routed a groove about a 1/4″ deep along the entire length of each stile. For the rails, I limited the how far I took the groove, careful not to go all the way to the ends, otherwise the groove would be visible at the edges of the door. Below are the best images I could capture from my videos.
After my rails and stiles were prepped, I would need to create the panels out of the 1/4″ plywood. I can’t promise you this is the most productive way to determine the size of the paneling, but this is what worked for me. I decided to assemble the bottom rail and the two stiles with the pocket holes/screws, using wood glue where the wood meet. A trick I discovered for screwing the rails and stiles together was to use a scrap piece of wood under the 2 pieces you are joining together and clamping along the seams, this helps to hold the wood flush as you drill the screws in place. Try as I might, I could not find a photo of this during the build, it seems I did not document that process. Once the 3 sides of the door frame were built, I took my measurements for the panel. I measured the width and height of the opening, and added 1/2″ to both to account for the 1/4″ groove depth along each rail and stile. I purchased my 1/4″ plywood in 2’x4′ panels so they were easier for me to cut down on my table saw. After it is cut to size, I added some wood glue inside the grooves, and slid the panel into place and attached the final rail to the top. Peep these beauties!
Once the door is assembled, you will want to eliminate the seams on the front of the door with wood filler, sanding it down once it is dry. To sand, I chose to use a block sander in a 120 grit. Once smooth, I sanded the entire door with a 120 as well, and then a 240 to prep for paint.
But don’t paint yet! You’ll probably want to prep the doors for the hinges. My Kreg concealed hinge jig made this incredibly easy. It drills into the wood to create the inset for the soft close hinges I chose to use. It comes equipped with options for the placement of your hinges as well as openings to drill pilot holes for the hinge screws. You will need a drill to use with the jig, so make sure you have one handy.
Once drilled, I was able to screw my soft close hinges into place. This was the simple part. I have to admit I struggled a bit attaching them to the cabinet face frame and aligning them, but then I discovered that the hinges I purchased could adjust while in place, so I was better able to align the doors. I primed my doors with Killz primer, and chose Sherwin Williams Creamy to paint them. It took 2 coats per door (sanding between coats), and they were done! Make sure your paint is fully dry before installing anything . . . you don’t want to rush and have to touch up your paint job like I may or may not have done. (Whoops!)
This project was a total of 7 doors for 4 cabinets, and while it only took me a few hours to build them (after an admitted bit of trial and error), plan for it to be a multi day project, as you will want ample drying time between primer and paint coats (dependent upon the paint you choose to work with). Trying to articulate the process through a blog is not as easy as recording a video, but I truly hope that this helps you get started on a door project for yourself. I am honestly looking forward to my next opportunity to build some doors, they truly were an easy project for me.
But enough about cabinet doors, lets talk about the counter top! Your materials will vary based on the width of your desk, in fact, I used different sized pine for the two sides of mine.
- 1×6 select pine
- 1×2 select pine
- 1×8 select pine
- 1×4 select pine
- 3/4 pine (any heavy duty quality will work such as red oak or birch)
- stainable wood filler
- wood glue
- stain of your choice and stain pre stain wood conditioner
- orbital sander / 120, 180 and 220 grit paper
- Brad Nailer
- 2 inch brad nails
Let me say upfront that if I could build these counter tops again, I would do them slightly different, but this was my first go, and I was dealing with some pretty bowed walls, so I made them the best I could figure out. When I say build them different, I would have pre built them and then installed them, but because my walls were so uneven, I built them on the cabinets. The first thing I needed to do was determine the length of each countertop (my cabinets would be an L shape) and then the depth I wanted them based on the cabinet depths and the overhang I wanted to achieve. Once I figured out the overall sizes, I cut my 3/4 plywood using my circular saw, placed each piece on my cabinets with wood glue and used the brad nailer to attach them to the support beams I had built across the top of the cabinets. I made sure to also build a support beam between the two cabinets on my longer wall for added support out of a 1×3 pine board, with 1×4 supports below that (because this wall was along the exterior, there are no studs, as Florida exterior walls are cinderblocks, so I had to secure the support beams using concrete screws and a hammer drill)
Once the plywood was in place, I chose the appropriate sized pine boards to create my countertops. For the shorter wall, I wanted these to be about 13 inches deep, and for that I would need 2 1×6 boards, and 2 1×2 boards, all cut to length. I placed the first 1×2 on its side (so the 1.5 inch side), then the two 1×6’s . . . I attached all of these to the plywood with wood glue, and attached them to each other along the sides with wood glue as well. I used the 2nd 1×2 as my trim piece across the front to cover the pine and the plywood front. These were installed with 2 inch brad nails using my brad nailer as well as wood glue. I repeated a similar process for the longer side of my counter top that would serve as a desk, however because it would be deeper, I used wider cuts of pine. Once everything was glued, I used a lot of heavy items from around the home to hold all the wood in place while it dried over night (DIY calls for a lot of creative makeshift processes lol). You’ll notice the shims at the back of the counter to accommodate for the bowed walls. I cut those down after the wood dried and the pine was secure.
After the glue dried overnight and I felt that the pine was secure, I applied wood filler in all the seams, and because I would be staining the counters, I chose a wood filler that would be stainable. Once the food filler was dry, I sanded using an orbital sander. I sanded A LOT. I went over the desk in entirety to smooth out all the wood filler with a 120 grit paper and the orbital sander. Be advised that this is incredibly messy (which is another reason I would build it before installing next time), so if you can, seal off the room you are working in. Once all the wood sealer was smooth, I went over everything again with 180 grit, and once gain with a 220 grit. This preps the wood to stain (or even paint if you should so choose). Which I would do next, but I won’t bore you with the staining process here.
At this point I realized I would need to build a support for the middle of the longer counter on the front end. So I glued together 2 2x4s (cut to height), wrapped it in 1/4 plywood to cover the seams where the 2x4s met, and then cut some more 1/4 plywood to create some shaker style decorative trim (I ripped all this down on my table saw). I attached all of this with wood glue and brad nails. It really was a last minute thing to build, but I was very happy with how it came together. I attached it to the bottom of the counter with some pocket screws that I had drilled into the 2x4s before covering it in trim.
With cabinet doors and countertops / desktops finished, this would mark the end of phase 1 of the pocket office, just in time for the kids to start their first day of e-learning! You’d think I would have taken some better photos of the space before the next phase, but I only took a few shots, so below is the best I have to share of this point in the process.
As much as I wish this process was as fast as it seems across these two posts, it took me around 5 weekends to complete as I figured things out along the way. There was quit literally a lot of blood, sweat and tears poured into this project but I cannot tell you how proud of myself I was once done. You notice I mentioned “phase 1?” . . . . well that’s because the next step would be to build some built in shelving units . . . but that my friends, is for yet another post. I hope you join me next week when I share that process!
Remember you’ve got this, so just go for it!