Wood Medicine Cabinet Plans

A bathroom mirror gets a lot of attention, so why not jazz yours up with a nice cabinet? The one I built for our home evokes lots of compliments. I used rift-sawn white oak and finished it with natural Danish oil. I really like the color and straight grain of the rift-sawn oak, and the oil finish gives the wood a rich, warm tone.

The cabinet's highlight is the door, which features an arched top rail. The door frame is assembled using "cope-and-stick" joinery that's cut using a router table equipped with "stile and rail" router bits. One bit cuts the visible edge profile (the 'stick'); the other bit cuts the reverse shape (the 'cope') on the rail ends. Another distinctive element is the lack of a door handle. The door extends 1 in. below the cabinet bottom, and that's what you grab to open it.

Construction notes
Building the cabinet is straightforward, but the door is complex. Take it slow and all should work out fine.

Routing the profile on the curved edge of the arch rail (C) requires that you make a curved fence for your router table. This is nothing fancy; it just helps to guide the router safely along the curved edge.

The rear of the door frame above the top-rail curve is routed square, which makes fitting the mirror and door back (H) easier. You'll cut the rabbets in two stages using a 1/2-in.-dia. straight router bit and a 5/8-in.-o.d. router-template bushing. First you'll apply pieces of medium-density fiberboard (MDF) to the rear outer edges of the door frame with double-stick tape, and then you'll tape 1/4-in.-thick strips of hardwood to the inside of the MDF pieces. The first pass of the router cuts the deeper mirror rabbet; then you'll remove the 1/4-in. strips and decrease the bit depth by a measurement that is equal to the thickness of the mirror to rout the door-back rabbet.

The door is attached with self-closing 110-degree full-overlay European-style hinges. I used a new style of hinge that has an integrated soft-close device, and it works nicely. However, installing it in this cabinet requires some deviation from the manufacturer's instructions. There is not enough overlay to cover the cabinet side if you drill the hinge-cup holes using the dimensions specified in the instructions. Instead, you must drill the center of the hinge cup 15/16 in. from the door's edge to make it cover completely.

Build the cabinet
Start building the cabinet by cutting the sides, top and bottom (A and B) to size (see cutting list). Cut the rabbets for the back (G). Note that the width of the rabbets is two times the thickness of your oak plywood, not necessarily 1/2 in.

Drill the 5mm shelf-pin holes in both cabinet sides, and bore the hinge mounting-plate holes in the right side. Cut the biscuit grooves in the mitered ends. Finish sand the inside faces of the sides, top and bottom. Test assemble (without glue) the cabinet to be sure all parts go together easily; then glue and clamp the parts together.

Cut the back pieces (G) 1/2 in. oversize in width and length. Laminate the pieces together ; then cut the back so it fits. Using a 1/2-in.-thick back eliminates the need for the typical (ugly) internal wall-mounting "hang strips." Drill the holes for the screws that fasten the back to the cabinet; then finish sand the back and screw it to the cabinet. Finally, mount the hinge base plates and make the shelves (F).

Make the door
Cut the door rails and stiles (C, D and E) to size. Make extra pieces for testing your router setups. You'll also need an extra 12-in.-long stile piece with a stick-routed edge for making two 6-in.-long arch-rail end backers (to be used later when you rout the arch-rail edge profile). Note that the width of the rails is oversize at first. Set up the rail-end (cope-cutting) router bit in a router table. Adjust the height and depth by making cuts in scrap wood; then rout the rail ends.

Cut the rails to their finished widths. Using plywood or MDF, make a 3/4 x 16 x 18-in. arc template with a 25-7/16-in.-radius curve on one 18-in. edge. Use a trammel point set to "strike" the arc. Trace that radius onto the arch rail, cut the shape, and sand the curve smooth. Keep the template; it will become your curved fence for the router table.

Routing the stick profile on the edges of the stiles and rails is done in two stages. The first cut is shallow and scores the corners of the groove, which minimizes tear-out. The second cut is full depth. Set up your router table with the stick-profile router bit. Set the height to match the rail-end cope cuts. Rout the inside edges of the stiles (E), rail (D) and 12-in. backer piece, making the first cut 1/32 in. deep and then making the full-depth cut.

Remove the router table's straight fence, but don't change the height of the bit. Now make a curved fence to help guide the arched rail along the stick profile bit. Cut a piece of plywood or MDF large enough to cover the back half of your router table. Cut the front edge of the fence to match the curve of rail. Then cut a notch large enough for the stick-profile router bit in the center of the arc template's curved edge. Attach a riser block and a small piece of polycarbonate plastic to act as a guard over the bit.

Next, cut the two arch-rail end backers to length, and cut their ends to follow the curve of the arch rail. Align and clamp them to the ends of the arch rail. Clamp the curved fence to the router table. Make the first cut in the arch-rail edge 1/32 in. deep; then make the full-depth cut. Glue and clamp the door frame together.

The next step is cutting the mirror and door-back rabbets in the back of the door frame. The routing is done using a two rabbet-routing guide strips. Adhere the narrow and wide guide strips to the rear of the door frame with double-stick tape. Make sure all is well-secured before you do the routing. Rout the mirror rabbet; then remove the 1/4-in.-thick strips, raise the router bit 1/8 in. (the thickness of the mirror) and rout the door-back rabbet.

Take the door frame to a glass shop and have a 1/8-in.-thick mirror cut to fit. Make sure the shop applies a vinyl safety backer to the rear of the mirror — that will hold the mirror together should it ever be broken.

Drill the hinge-cup holes in the door frame. Mount and test the hinges. Cut the door back (H) to fit. Drill the door-back mounting-screw holes close to the edge; you don't want those screws to crowd the mirror because it could break. Screw the door back in place.

Finishing touches
Now it's time to disassemble everything, complete the finish sanding, ease any exposed sharp edges and apply two or three coats of Danish oil. Once that's done, reassemble the cabinet and the door, but don't hang the door yet. Mount the cabinet on your wall by driving two screws into a stud and adding two toggle-style wall fasteners (or you can just use four toggle fasteners). Apply the door bumpers, hang the door, insert the shelves and adjust the hinges, and your cabinet is ready to dazzle anyone who enters your bathroom.

About the Author: Handyman Club Life member Bruce Kieffer is a custom furniture builder, freelance woodworking author and technical illustrator. A collection of his work can be viewed at www.kcfi.biz.