Show off your china and glassware by replacing your cabinet doors with glass panels. This step-by-step tutorial shows you how.

January 26, 2019

Cabinet doors with glass panels are a hot look in custom kitchens. Clear glass in door panels allows you to show off china and glassware tucked safely in a cabinet. Cabinets fronted with fluted, pebbled, or frosted glass don't show off cabinet contents as clearly but do give the kitchen a lighter, airier look than doors with solid wood panels.

If your existing cabinet doors are sound and serviceable and are constructed with stiles and rails surrounding a wooden panel, follow the steps on these pages to replace the wood panel with glass for a new look.

The method is direct and fast, utilizing a jigsaw to remove most of the panel. A hammer, chisel, and locking-grip pliers then come into play to split out the remaining waste. Work carefully to remove the panel without damaging the door's framework.

Expect to spend about an hour per door, plus allot drying time for the finish to set. Before you begin, remove cabinet doors and hardware.

What You Need

  • Jigsaw with blades
  • Drill with bits
  • Chisel
  • Locking-grip pliers
  • Sanding block with paper
  • Utility knife
  • Hammer
  • Router with 1/4-inch straight bit (optional)
  • Touch-up paint or stain and clear finish
  • Glass
  • Retainer clips with screws

Step 1: Drill Entry Hole

After removing the door and its hardware, place the door facedown on your worktable. Drill an entry hole for your jigsaw blade, then slice out the central portion of the door panel, leaving a perimeter of approximately 1 inch around the door's framework.

Step 2: Split the Wood

Stand the door vertically, supporting it in a vise if possible. Drive a chisel along the grain of the panel to split the wood. Be careful that the chisel tip doesn't scar the door's rail. Make a second split about 1 inch from the first one. (Plywood doesn't split as easily as solid wood.)

Step 3: Remove Wood Piece

Solidly clamp the jaws of your locking-grip pliers onto the wood between the chisel marks. Hold onto the pliers, and give them a strong smack with a hammer to complete the splits and yank out the piece of wood. To avoid damage, make certain the hammer's path is parallel to the door. Also make sure the pliers or your hand won't hit the opposite rail when the chip is freed.

Step 4: Remove Remainder

After you've removed the first piece of the panel's perimeter, getting out the remainder is relatively easy. If you wiggle the pieces, move them side to side only so you won't accidentally split the door frame. Always pull toward the panel's center. Placing a carpet remnant or scrap of carpet padding between your worktable and the door will help prevent scratches.

Step 5: Remove Rear Lip

With the door panel removed, you can accurately measure the depth of the groove in the door frame. Chuck a 1/4-inch straight bit into your router, and use an edge guide with your router to remove the rear lip. This will convert the groove into a rabbet.

Step 6: Square and Smooth

A sharp chisel easily squares the corners of the rabbet. Inspect the entire perimeter of the rabbet and employ your chisel or a sanding block to smooth away any irregularities or puddles of finish that seeped into the groove.

Step 7: Apply Finish

Apply finish to the rabbet so that it matches the rest of the door. Take the doors with you to the glass shop to ensure an accurate fit. Consider double-strength glass, which measures 1/8 inch thick and is only slightly more expensive than single-strength. Many glass shops also can cut plastic glazing materials to fit the opening.

Step 8: Add Retainer Clips

Select retainer clips that will hold the pane firmly. The selection in the photo includes models that reach in to meet the glass, ones designed to secure glass that's flush with the wood, and a screw-adjust version that handles virtually every thickness—even bulky leaded-glass panels. Retainer clips, also called glass clips and glass retainers, are available from woodworking dealers and at hardware stores.

What to Do if You Don't Have a Router

Conduct some exploratory chisel work near the end of the panel on each frame member to find the depth of the groove. Draw a line to connect these points, then cut the line with a metal straightedge and utility knife. Tap a chisel downward along each line to remove the waste.


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