Galley, Sink Cabinet, Part 3: Making a new Mahogany Door

The new mahogany door
Most cabinets need a door, so whenever you construct a new cabinet or modify and old one, the construction of a door for this cabinet might end up being something you place on your to-do-list. If this cabinet is something you plan to use regularly, then this door must be well constructed and well situated to provide years of service. For the construction of a new door for the sink cabinet in the galley of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25, mahogany was the wood of choice for this project. Solid mahogany and mahogany veneer plywood were used generously throughout this boat by the manufacturer. It, therefore, made good sense to make this new door correspond as closely as possible to the original. In this third of ten postings on the subject of the modifications I made to the galley sink cabinet, I describe in pictures and words how I constructed this door.

Construction begins on the mock-up
As with so many other projects and sub-projects on this boat, this one began with the construction of a mock-up. For this mock-up, I used a cheap piece of pine that was left over from some other project unrelated to this boat. Knowing that I wanted the door to be more than just some flat piece of wood that covered a hole, I began by using the router to rabbet all four edges of the inside of the door. The rabbet, of course, would allow the door to sit well within the frame, and would prevent it from protruding too far from the panel on which it would be hung.
After I had rabbeted all four edges, I inserted the mock-up into the panel to see how well it would fit within the frame of the hole. The angle of the picture, the angle of the panel, and the grain of the wood make the door appear as if it is not square, or as if it's not hung properly. This, though, is just an illusion.
Next, I needed to bevel the edges on the front side of the door. This was the way that the original doors on the boat were fashioned. I could have used an expensive router bit to get this bevel in the wood, but at the advice of finish carpenter, whom I know quite well, I opted instead to use a table saw for these cuts.
When I reach the point where I discuss the construction of the actual mahogany door, I'll describe, in detail, how I made these cuts. For right now, I'll simply provide this picture to explain what I mean when I speak of the bevel.
The finished mock-up.
Using the stainless steel hinges that I had purchased for the real door (that I would soon construct), I hung the mock-up, in order to check its swing. I thought it looked quite nice. Eventually, I would paint the plywood panel white. The mahogany door I would varnish. Likewise, I would varnish the piece of mahogany above the door. This piece of wood was intended to support the galley counter extension. For more on this project, see the article by the same name.
The mock-up swung freely beneath the counter extension, and even with the counter extension in place it was easy to access the space within the cabinet.
I opted to hang the door so that it would swing downward rather than upward. Downward would allow the door to rest on the settee cushion. An upward swing would mean that the door would be working against gravity and would thus require a holder of some sort - either a piece of line or someone's hand. Neither sounded like good options.
Satisfied with the mock-up, I proceeded with the construction of the real thing. I began by cutting a piece of left-over mahogany to the proper length. This was a scrap piece of wood from another project. Mahogany is sold locally at Southern Lumber here in Charleston, South Carolina. It is not in a finished state at the time of purchase. Instead it is in a rough-sawn state. This means that you must run this rough-sawn piece of wood through a planer. Since the planer ultimately makes the board thinner that what it was when you purchased it, you must take care to purchase a piece of wood that is thicker than what you really need. I needed a finished piece of wood that was 1 inch thick. Therefore, I purchased a piece that was 5/4 inches, i.e., 1.25 inches thick, in the rough-sawn state. For more on this, see my article, "Companionway Hatch Construction."
When I cut the board (above), I made sure that the grain of the piece that I selected would be oriented in a pleasing fashion.
Note how the grain (as seen below) emphasizes the center of the door. Everything seems to converge on that spot.
Next, it was time to cut the bevel. I had never been completely satisfied with the angle of the bevel on the mock-up. Therefore, I thought it would be good to make a another practice cut on another piece of wood. I selected a piece of 4/4, i.e., one inch, clear-and-better southern yellow pine. I wanted to use a 4/4 piece, since the piece of mahogany was the same thickness. The mock-up had been a cheap piece of 1x material. For those who might not know, 1x material, for example a 1 x 6 or a 1 x 12, is not 1 inch in thickness. Normally, it is only 3/4 inch. That's just the way they mill it and market it these days.
Using a large scrap piece of 8/4, i.e., 2 inch mahogany as a guide, I pushed the southern yellow pine across the table.
I set the angle of the blade to 5 degrees.
This resulted in a nice, clean cut. This angle was just what I had been looking for. It cut deeply enough to leave a noticeable ridge between the bevel and the face of the piece, but it also left enough material along the edge for me to cut the rabbet.
Satisfied, I clamped the real piece in place and pushed it through the saw.
Then I turned it and pushed one of the ends through the saw.
Here's what it looked like when seen from afar.

One last picture to give you an idea of the way it looked at the level of the table.
The new piece and the mock-up, end to end for comparison.
After I had completed the bevels, I did something I don't normally do - I ran the piece through the planer. This is usually something you do prior to any finish work. I needed the edge of the door to be thick enough to accommodate the rabbet, but I didn't want it to be too thick. Now that I had cut the bevels, I could tell that it would be a little too thick. I wanted the door to be as thin as possible for two reasons. First, I wanted to reduce the overall weight. Secondly, I wanted the door to project as little as possible from the panel on which it would be mounted. The more the door projected from the panel, the less headroom there would be when using the settee as a berth.
Fortunately, I was able to plane down the door to the desired thickness without any snipe, i.e., gouging of the board.
Using the fence on the table saw as a guide, I then cut the first rabbet. The drywall sanding block I used as a push-pad to keep the material firmly in place as I pushed it through.

I then pulled out the Perko brand stainless steel cabinet hinges. I had purchased these at a local hardware store. Same brand, same hinges cost almost twice as much at West Marine.
These hinges were the flush-mounted style. This is the same style as the other hinges on the other cabinets on the boat.
Satisfied with the depth and width of the first rabbet, I cut the three others. The most challenging cuts were those along the ends of the door. When the material is oriented in this way, it is more likely to cause kickback, whereby the blade kicks the material back towards the saw operator. To avoid kickback, I made sure, as always, to keep the material firmly against the fence as I pushed it across the table.
The newly rabbeted door beside the original panel-and-door assembly, i.e., the one on the inboard side of the galley sink cabinet.
The next thing I needed to do was to see if the new door would fit into the frame of the new panel. It was a good thing that I did this. It was a little too snug on one side.
Therefore, I took the door back to the table and cut one of the rabbets a little bit deeper.
Satisfied with the fit, I turned my attention to the next part of this project - the installation of the door-pull hardware. I didn't want to use a handle. That would have projected into the space devoted to the settee/berth. Therefore, I opted for flush-mounted ring-shaped pulls. Just as was the case with the hinges, these I purchased at a local hardware store at a considerable savings compared to the price for this same hardware at West Marine.
The door pulls on the original doors consisted of recesses that had been cut into the door with a plunge router. Since I did not own a plunge router, this was not a cut that I could make. Even if I had owned one, I'm not sure that I would have used it for this door. In the picture below I have oriented the original door horizontally in way that mimics the horizontal orientation of the new door. When oriented in this way, this door looks awkward. It does not appear to have been manufactured to be hung in this fashion. This awkwardness was something I wanted to avoid. It was my belief that two, flush-mounted ring-pulls that were installed near the top two corners of the door would achieve for me the desired results. The ring-pulls would visually balance the door. Instead of there being a triangle of sorts (hinge to recess to hinge), there would be a stainless steel square (hinge to ring-pull to ring-pull to hinge). What I'm talking about will become more clear as we move along.
In order to install the ring-pulls, I had to drill mounting holes in the wood. Not wanting to drill into the mahogany without a good idea of how I should fashion the hole, I began by drilling a few practice holes in a scrap piece of wood. The paddle bit, which you see pictured below, was not the correct bit for this job. Why? The sharp, centering point on the end of the paddle bit would penetrate the wood before the correct depth of cut had been achieved. In place of the paddle bit, I needed a bit that would cut a clean hole without damaging the underside of the wood. For this I turned to the Forstner bit, the cylindrical bit you see pictured beside the paddle.
A chisel was also necessary for the cutting of the square-shaped recess on one end of this piece of hardware.

Using the mock-up as a guide, I set the center of each hinge at a distance of 3.75 inches from the edge of the door. Recall that I had already drilled the hinge holes in the panel, so it was necessary for me to set these hinges in the real door at the same distance.
Using the center of the hinges as a guide, I determined the centerline for the door-pulls. The centering of the hardware in this fashion, would, as I said, result in a balance appearance - stainless steel hardware above stainless steel hardware (two hinges, two door pulls).
After I had double-checked all measurements, I grabbed the drill and started making the holes in the mahogany with the Forstner bit.

Just as I had done on the scrap piece of wood, I used a chisel to make the final, square-shaped cut.

Now it was just a matter of joining the frame of the ring-pull to the wood with stainless steels screws.

The last piece of hardware was a stainless steel cabinet door hook.
This hook seemed to tie in well with the rest of the hardware and give the impression that it was integral to the galley and the boat itself.
This ends this third of twelve postings on how I modified the galley sink cabinet on Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

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