By Michael Pekovich

Look through a catalog of cabinet hardware and you'll find dozens of gadgets made for keeping doors shut. Nonetheless, many woodworkers create their own catches and latches because they're attractive, not difficult to make, and cost little. Another benefit is that you won't see any clunky metal hardware in the cabinet. We asked four woodworkers to show us how they keep cabinet doors closed. The solutions include hidden rare-earth magnets, a traditional Shaker spinner, a wooden flipper catch made popular by James Krenov, and a button catch. All of these clever devices look a lot better than most store-bought hardware, and they can be customized to fit your needs.

Hidden Magnets

Use the power of rare-earth magnets to keep a door closed

To keep cabinet doors closed, I often rely on the magnetic attraction of rare-earth magnets mortised into the top and bottom of the door and frame. The magnets pull the door flush to the case once it swings closed—a satisfying effect, especially if the door has been fitted to close tolerances. I cover the magnets with wood plugs for a clean, hardware-free look.

Keep in mind that this technique works only with free-swinging doors. Avoid using this method with self-closing or other spring-loaded hinges.

Rare-earth magnets are my preferred pullers. Size them based on the thickness of the door and frame. For 1/2-in.-thick doors, you can use 3/s-in.-dia. magnets; V2-in.-dia. magnets work best for doors that are 3A in. thick.

Installing the magnets

Drill the mortises for the magnets in the case pieces before assembling them. Offset the mortises in the case toward the rear, which will help pull the door closed. Make the mortises Vi in. deep to allow for the Vs-in.-thick magnets and the wood plugs that hide them. To make clean, flat-bottomed mortises, use a Forstner bit.

To determine the door mortise locations, the door must be hung first. So go ahead and assemble the case and build the door. Take your time getting a consistent door reveal. Once you've installed the magnets

Mortise Drill

Drill mortises before gluing up the case. One set of magnets is recessed into mortises drilled into both the case top and bottom.

With the case assembled, transfer the mortise location. Use a piece of tape to hold the door flush with the outer edge of the case.

Mark the magnets to ensure that they are oriented correctly. Glue the magnets in place, add wood plugs, then pare and sand the plugs flush.

Mark the magnets to ensure that they are oriented correctly. Glue the magnets in place, add wood plugs, then pare and sand the plugs flush.

and covered them with plugs, you'll have little room for adjustments. I aim for a reveal of about V32 in. so that the door slows on a cushion of air as it is shut, then is quietly drawn in by the magnets.

With the door hung, transfer the center-line of the mortise in the cabinet to the bottom and top of the door. Remove the door and drill the mortise for the magnet. The best way to get precise mortises in the door is to use a drill press. But the job can be done with a handheld drill if you use care. Practice on scrap, and wrap a piece of masking tape around the bit to flag the correct depth.

Establish the proper polar orientation of each pair of magnets and mark them with a felt-tipped pen. Use epoxy or cyano-aciylate glue to secure the magnets. Now reinstall the door. If the mortises have been drilled correctly, the magnets will pull the door flush to the face of the cabinet.

Cover the magnets with wood plugs. By carefully matching the grain orientation of the plugs, they will disappear, and your friends will wonder what kind of magic is holding the door in place.

Drill mortises before gluing up the case. One set of magnets is recessed into mortises drilled into both the case top and bottom.

With the case assembled, transfer the mortise location. Use a piece of tape to hold the door flush with the outer edge of the case.

Andy Rae is a cabinetmaker, furniture maker, teacher, and writer in Asheville, N.C.

Door

Magnet

Wood plug

Cabinet -base

Door

Magnet

Wood plug

Cabinet -base

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