Think twice before you throw out an old kitchen; upcycle the cabinet doors into fabulous cabinet door art!
When Hubs mentioned to a friend that I was looking for a classic panel door cabinet to upcycle into cabinet door art, he went dumpster diving for me! By classic, I mean the kind of thick raised panel door made from real wood. A rarity these days and too good to waste in my humble opinion!
Despite having injured his finger (and requiring surgery, no less!), Hubs’ friend came through with this oak cabinet. I really don’t know how he did it; as you’ll see later, I too ended up hurting my finger and couldn’t do anything for weeks!
Just a little bit of cleaning and a new paint job gives us the perfect starting point for cabinet door art!
Watch the Video
If you’re a visual learner, watch this video!
IBC – Door Do Over Challenge
It’s time for another International Bloggers Club (IBC) challenge and this month our theme is Door Do Overs. Our cabinet door art is inspired by the amazing moving mosaics from cans by Hannah and Nemo who pioneered this craft. So go check out Hannah and Nemo’s Instagram page and website where their artwork is for sale!
The IBC is a group from all over the world who challenge each other every month to make something using a common theme. You’ll find our friends’ Door Do Over ideas at the very bottom of the post. So don’t forget to check them out before you go. And if you don’t have time to browse today, pop back in later in the week to pick up where you left off. Last time we participated in the IBC was the Ceramic Craft challenge and we made this ceramic tile mosaic.
Before we get into the tutorial, don’t forget to get your craft mojo on at Birdz of a Feather and subscribe to our newsletter:
Here’s a before and after; we’re using a beautiful blue paint as the background to our cabinet door art. I didn’t realize it until after we hung it, but it’s almost identical in colour to this project where we showed you how to hand paint furniture designs. I guess I’m drawn to blue.
We’re also upcycling drink cans. While the weather was still nice, we cleaned them outside by filling a bin with soapy water.
For the lowdown on how to break down the cans and punch the circles, check out our post on aluminum can art. It explains everything you need to know to create this beginner aluminum can art piece before you move on to working with this more challenging oak cabinet door.
Cabinet Door Art Supplies
[If you’re looking for some of the things we used, we’ve got you covered (disclosure): As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Clicking on the links in this post means we may receive a commission. But don’t worry, you don’t pay a cent more. Thanks for helping to support our blog!]
- X-Acto knife
- Titanium Scissors
- Aluminum cans
- Thrifted or upcycled wood door (ours was dumpster dived)
- Paint (we used leftovers from another project)
- Paint brush or foam brush
- Microplane cut resistant glove
- Rubber coated glove
- 3/4″ rabbit punch or available in 3/4″ EK tools circle punch (which also comes in a 1/2″ EK Tools Circle punch size too)
- 1.5mm Beadsmith metal hole punch plier
- Uvex Safety Googles
- Microfibre cloth (for cleaning spots on cans)
- Nail Guide or needle nose plier
- 1/4″ Spacer (diy from wood or plastic)
- 18 gauge 5/8″ nails
- Veritas plunge base for rotary tools with optional light (available at Lee Valley in US and Canada). If you can’t find the one we used, this one is made by Dremel.
- 1mm drill bits
- Metal french cleat
- Deadman’s foot switch
- Keyboard vacuum attachment
For troubleshooting (i.e. when a drill bit breaks in the pilot hole)
Cabinet Door Art Template
It really helps to print out a template of your artwork.
Tape it down well for the next step, which is drilling pilot holes.
For our initial beginner project, we used birch plywood which is much softer than the oak door we’re upcycling today! So that means you can’t simply use an awl to mark the pilot holes for the nails. After much trial and error, we found the best solution for drilling the all-important pilot holes which we only discovered after I had an unfortunate accident.
Drill Pilot Holes
Use a Dremel rotary tool with a 1 mm drill bit.
At first, I drill each hole manually. It’s very tricky to drill the holes at a perfect 90 degree angle.
As a matter of fact, drilling manually can cause the drill bit to snap off leaving it behind in the wood. Moreso, I also had a terrible mishap with the Dremel and accidentally drilled through my pinky. Not an ideal scenario when you’re recovering from an acute illness and on blood thinners! Funnily enough, even though I was the one with a broken drill bit in my finger, I remained the calm one as Hubs’ freaked out.
Anyway, just a little PSA here before we move on to a better solution for drilling the pilot holes. Keep a bottle of Liquid Bandage in your craft area for just such an emergency. Clean the wound well before applying. It not only stops the bleeding, but acts as a barrier to help with healing.
Everything is A-OK!
The doctor insisted on an X-ray in case I drilled through the bone. Luckily everything was intact and A-Okay!
In retrospect, when recovering from any illness, it’s probably a good idea to lay off the power tools until you’re fully recovered. But who am I kidding? Crafting is a creative outlet I can’t stay away from. So this is a case of do as I say, not as I do!
Options for Drilling Pilot Holes
If you happen to have a drill press, by all means use it! This particular press holds a regular drill.
However, you’ll be limited by the depth of the spacing between the drill bit and metal column at the back. Unfortunately, it can only drill so far from the edge of the door as you see below!
Because of that limitation, we were only able to drill the outermost holes around the perimeter with this one.
The SAFE way to Drill Pilot Holes
The best solution is this Veritas plunge base. Although primarily made for routing, we’re using like a drill press! It’s waaaay better than either manual drilling or a drill press because you can use it anywhere on a piece of wood. Hindsight is 20-20, but I wish I bought this brilliant piece of equipment sooner :).
It’s made especially for a rotary tool, like the Dremel. Since it plunges straight up and down, your hands are safely out of the way as you drill, keeping your fingers safe!
Another safety feature we added is combining the Dremel and Veritas Plunge Base with a deadman’s foot switch to turn it on and off. When I had my accident, a big drawback of the Dremel is that it remains on until you physically turn it off. So, while I was flailing around trying to find the off switch, the bit broke while still in my finger and Hubs had to turn the Dremel off. A foot switch ensures that the machine turns off immediately as soon as you step off and release it. Even if you don’t buy yourself a plunge base, for that reason alone, you may want to invest in a foot switch when using a rotary tool.
After completing the rest of the pilot holes, we lift the paper template and vacuum away the sawdust. For small projects like this, we like to use a keyboard vacuum attachment with a brush end on our vacuum system.
Cabinet Door Art – Chevron
Now, use the template to play around with the aluminum punch colours to create a chevron pattern. I can’t wait for you to see this design pop on the painted blue background!
But before proceeding with nailing the pattern, install your hanging hardware on the back. Our hanger of choice on heavy pieces like this door is a metal french cleat.
Measure, predrill, install and then uninstall so the door will lay flat as you are working. Doing this first is just easier; trust me!
Having the punches beside you as you work makes assembly a breeze. Just grab them in the order they appear.
Assembling Cabinet Door Art
All you need is a nail guide to keep the nails straight as you hammer each circle (but a needle nose plier will work too). Hubs also made me a ‘height setter’ out of a scrap piece of white plastic that’s 1/4″ thick.
Lastly, you’ll need a hammer.
First, put a punch onto a nail and hammer the nail into the pilot hole using the nail guide to hold it.
Then swap for the height setter. Slip the slot around the nail to hammer the rest of the way; it keeps the height of each nail consistent as you see below. If this sounds confusing, you’ll see exactly how assembly goes on the video.
Troubleshooting Broken Drill Bits
When you’re working with tiny 1mm drill bits, chances are they are going to break. The frustrating part is when they break off in the wood leaving some behind.
To remedy that, you can buy a special tool that drills around it so you can remove it. But then you have to install a wood plug to hide the hole. Instead, we chose to punch it deeper into the panel of the door.
Then we mix up two-part epoxy and fill the hole.
Thread the nail through the punch, as usual, and set it into the glue. Use the 1/4″ spacer to set the height and tape it down while it dries.
Back on track! It’s so satisfying to hammer in that last nail!
We never want to forget the humble beginnings of the upcycle materials we use so we’re installing the knob back on the door again.
Add a few felt pads on the back.
Lastly, install the french cleat on the wall and reinstall the other half on the back of the door.
The level that comes with this particular kit is handy to ensure it hangs straight (although with our walls out of whack, you’ll see that it actually doesn’t look level further ahead).
Ready to hang!
Now, step back and admire saving that oak door from landfill and the beauty of all those colourful drink cans.
Although this project took literal blood, sweat and tears to compete, it was all worth it. Why? Because for us, creating is fun and upcycled cabinet door art can be stunning.
Don’t those colours pop against the blue background?
By the way, there’s also a tutorial for painted end table you see under the cabinet door art.
Now, just when you think it couldn’t be more striking, let’s see how it shimmers in the breeze!
Pin Cabinet Door Art
Pinning is always welcome and appreciated!
Door Do Over Challenge
Be sure to check out these creative door do over projects from the rest of the IBC team!