Advice on Disassembling/repairing Kitchen Cabinet Door

Hi Everyone

I have a kitchen cabinet door which has a raised center panel which has split along the grain. The crack runs the length of the panel and is probably just wide enough to pass a piece of paper through. It seems clear to me that the cabinet is made of 5 pieces (four edges with the 5th panel in the middle) all glued up. Similar to this

I believe that if I can take the cabinet apart, I can glue the two pieces of the panel back together and reassemble. Problem is, I don’t know how to take it apart without destroying it. The center panel is NOT free to move, so it doesn’t seem possible to squeeze the two pieces together while still in the frame. Of course, if someone knows a way to do that I am all ears.

The cabinets are stained, not painted, so simply filling the crack won’t work unless there is a product that will take the stain and not stand out- I’m open to that approach if there is a good product for it.

I recognize that disassembly will likely result in sanding and refinishing, and I am OK with that. I have successfully refinished most of the other cabinet doors and have put the cracked one off to last since I didn’t know what to do.

I did try ordering a replacement from Rockler, and while the new one is close it just isn’t close enough that it won’t stand out just as much as the crack.
I am not much of a carpenter, and I don’t happen to have any friends who are accomplished woodworkers, so I turn to the collective wisdom of the dope.

Thanks Everyone

If you have enough of a lip to get a ppe clamp on I would try squeezing it together before dis assembly. If that is not an option a heat gun might loosen the glue, do it in short areas sliding a putty knife under as you go. I had a problem where the knobs had damaged the outer panel and I just glued a thinner panel over the old one, it showed a little only if you were aware of it.

Howabout don’t dissamble it…

I think the crack will always be visible , because the surfaces will be torn apart,
Just figure out how to get wedges into the space between the centre panel and the two vertical edges… By driving wedges in, force the centre panel back together…

Another way to move the centre panel is to put tacks, or staples into the back (inside) of the panel, and then hammer the tack/staple… to drive the pieces along.

I think the crack will always be visible even if you dismantle it, so its not worth dissassembling… just get the crack closed up however you wish, eg with sawdust or filler…

You might try spraying both sides with water and see if the crack diminishes as the water soaks in. If the center panel is a separate piece, I don’t see where clamping is going to be very effective, although it may be worth a try. Just don’t over-torque on the clamp or you’ll damage the frame. If clamping closes the gap, I’d use a bit of epoxy rather than wood glue.

FYI, that is called “cope and stick” construction.

Matching stained wood can be very tricky. Wood changes colour with age and exposure to light, usually darkening, stain batches or even just application can vary, and wood from the same tree varies in colour and porosity. If you have already refinished it is going to be that much harder to do.

What you have is indeed called a five piece door. The horizontal members are called rails, the vertical members styles, rails are milled with a tenon that fits into the styles and they are glued together. The center panel floats, and is not supposed to be fastened to the rails and styles. Although the joint between the rails and styles sometimes fails on its own, they usually will not come apart cleanly. Usually we just replace a door rather than try to repair it.

Since you have already refinished the others, why not simply refinish the new door to match? I have to replace cabinet doors at work regularly and this is the route I would take rather than trying to repair the damaged door. If you hadn’t refinished the other doors I would recommend putting the new door under a halogen work light for a couple days, the UV will darken the wood. I use this technique to age wood to match existing doors when I have to.

You could fill the crack with Color Putty. I sometimes get excellent matches with this (by mixing colours). The problem is this usually changes the sheen of the surface due to the oils when you polish polish the putty repair. Polishing all the doors with cabinet polish helps match the sheen, but you can usually see the different sheen of the repair in the right light. You could refinish the door after the repair, but this would take some experimentation as the putty does take stain and the oil from the putty will also affect the finish.

Try this:

  1. On the back of the door, hot glue a couple of small wooden blocks parallel to each other on either side of the crack.
  2. Use a clamp to squeeze the two blocks towards each other.
  3. If this closes the crack, unclamp, squeeze some wood glue into the crack, and clamp again. Wipe off any glue squeezed out with a damp cloth.
  4. After the glue dries, unclamp, carefully knock off the blocks with a chisel, and use a heat gun to remove the glue residue.

This assumes that the door was built properly and that the raised panel does indeed float (i.e., is not glued in place). Unfortunately, the fact that the door split might be an indicator that some glue is holding the panel in place, causing the panels to split as the door expands with humidity. If this is the case, you might still get lucky and only a bit of excess glue caused the problem and you will still be able to clamp the split closed.