DIY Furniture: Bathroom Cabinet Design

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The shelf tracks fit into 3/16 inch by 5/8 inch dado grooves cut into the vertical frame members. Notice that the rail and stile facer strips are merly butt-jointed, and fastened to the cabinet frame with deep-set casing nails. The holes are filled and sanded flush.
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Do you welcome the convenience of a medicine cabinet but cringe at the typical offering's institutional appearance?
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Through mortise and tenon joints at thedoor corners are easy to make and offer a pleasing contrast between side and end grain. The joints are pinned with short wire brads. Magnetic catches are used because they're in expensive and self-aligning.
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Full-length continuous hinges are attractive and support the door frames evenly; they're fastened to the inner stiles. Cutting 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch rabbets into the door frames creates enough recess to accommodate the mirror glass, the backing, and the retaining strips.
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A full-width cleat recessed into notches cut into the upper corners of the inner frame members supports the cabinet for surface mounting. The cleat is fastened to the two inner uprights and through the outer frame members with countersunk wood screws.
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Diagram of MOTHER's home built medicine cabinet.

Whether you rent or own your home, you probably have a
particular something in common with the rest of us: an ugly
medicine cabinet. In fact, if you were to run a survey of
new construction, you might become convinced that there’s
no reasonably priced alternative to the stamped-steel,
refrigerator-white box.

DIY Furniture: Bathroom Cabinet Design

Enter MOTHER’s woodworkers. Our contribution to the war
against inch hospital decor inch is a DIY bathroom cabinet design made from oak that has enough
storage space to cache a lifetime supply of pills, blades,
and toiletries. The two outer mirrors hinge on the inside,
so they can be swung inward for proper primping.
And — unlike some three-mirror models we’ve
seen — the center door is also hinged to allow access
to the compartment behind. (See the diagram of the bathroom cabinet design in the image gallery)

Why These Dimensions?

Though we chose to mount our medicine cabinet on the
surface of the wall, the 44 inch width makes it comparatively
easy to recess the unit into a conventional 2 by 4 stud
wall. One or two studs must be cut, and headers have to be
installed above and below the cabinet. (To meet your local
code, you may need to double-frame the jambs and headers in
load-bearing walls.) Then the gap on each side of the
cabinet will allow shimming to correct for out-of-plumb
studs. (If you don’t get the cabinet plumb, the doors will
swing open to remind you.) Although the 3-7/8 inch stock width
on the cabinet frame may seem a little odd at first, it
will allow the main frame to recess into a standard 3-1/2 inch wall with 3/8 inch drywall so that the rear of the cabinet is
flush with the adjoining wall. However, if you are
recessing the cabinet into a wall with a thicker drywall or
into a plumbing wall (which has thicker studs), you’ll want
to back the cabinet with 1/8 inch lauan or Masonite, instead of
installing the cleat shown in the illustration. (Otherwise,
your Contact may be swallowed up by your stud wall.)

A Couple of DIY Tips

There are several possible approaches to cutting the joints
for the cabinet, but a table saw with an adjustable dado
really makes the work go quickly. You’d set the dado for a
3/4 inch width to cut the frame grooves, 5/8 inch for the shelf
track grooves, and 1/2 inch for the mirror recesses and the
mortises and tenons at the door corners. Don’t let the door
joints intimidate you; they’re much easier to make than
they seem to be at first glance. One hint, though: If you
use softwood, make the ripped mirror recesses after doing
the crosscutting, because there’s a greater likelihood of
tearout when crosscutting.

Also, if you decide to surface — mount the medicine
chest, check the wall to see if it’s flat before you hang
the cabinet. Many a drywall has bows or waves that are hard
to see until something flat is set against it. If your wall
does turn out to have this problem, try installing a second
cleat at the bottom of the cabinet between the frame members
for the center compartment will be sufficient — so that
you can pull the bottom and the top of the frame firmly
against the wall. Locate the studs, and anchor the cabinet
to them with No. 12 by 2 1/4 inch screws.

Replicating Off the Shelf Bathroom Cabinet Design

We had a tough time settling on a material to make the
shelves. Many commercial cabinets have beveled,
double-strength glass shelves, but we were too nervous
about prying little hands to use anything that might
shatter. What we really wanted was tempered glass.
Unfortunately, our area glass distributor wanted $8.00 for
each cut (the glass is actually cut and then tempered),
bringing the total hardware bill to well over a hundred
bucks. We cut the cost of materials, excluding lumber, to
$63.79 by using clear 1/4 inch acrylic glazing (often known by
the brand name Plexiglas). The plastic will scratch in
time, but it’s safe.

Bathroom Cabinet Finish

The humid environment of a bathroom can produce dramatic
expansion problems in woodwork. With this in mind, we set
aside our favored oil finish and applied polyurethane
varnish to our medicine cabinet.

Minwax natural stain helped accentuate the grain of the
oak, and three thorough coats of the plastic finish were
applied on top of that. The goal of finishing, in this
case, is to seal the wood as much as possible, so that
changing humidity won’t alter the wood’s moisture content
and loosen joints from the continual expansion and
shrinkage encountered in the ever-changing bathroom

“Good Morning, Mirror!”

For many of us, the first few minutes of a new day aren’t
the easiest. If you’re a member of the morning fog clan,
perhaps it will help to contemplate a fine example of your
own handiwork when you reach for your toothbrush.

Need Help? Call 1-800-234-3368