October 28, 2022 15 min read

CNC machines were originally designed to help facilitate faster and better manufacturing. From the amount of CNC cabinet door designs out there, it’s obvious that these machines have found a home in the kitchen arena.

But, how do you design and create cabinet doors with a CNC machine? Below, we’ll take a closer look at:

  • Technical steps to follow when making cabinet doors with a CNC
  • Practical steps to follow when using a CNC machine to create cabinet doors
  • Which CNC device to use for cabinets
  • How different materials affect the process you follow for making cabinet doors with a CNC
  • The advantages of designing vs. downloading door designs

We’ll also look at some other elements that you might not expect. For example, did you know that you get other types of CNC machines that do things like drill, sand, and polish? We’ll take a closer look at machines like:

  • Edge banding machines
  • Sanding machines
  • Polishing machines
  • Side boring machines
  • Corner rounding or profile trimming machines

We’ll also investigate some of your options if you don't have these machines but still want to make cabinet doors. Let’s get into it. 

Are CNC Cabinets Good Quality?

Yes, CNC cabinets are of excellent quality when properly designed and executed.

If you use your CNC as a cabinet machine, and you create designs that work, you can produce reliably high-quality cabinets. However, as with anything, there’s a certain margin of error.

Not every cabinet produced with a CNC will necessarily be of good quality. But, in the right hands, CNC machines make excellent tools for creating cabinets and cabinet doors.

How to Make Cabinets with a CNC Machine - Technical Version

When you’re doing any type of project with a CNC machine, there are a fair amount of technical details that you need to consider. When you use a CNC machine for cabinets and cabinet doors, you’ll need to do several things.

CNC machines generally follow a fairly set process, that involves the following aspects:

  1. Computer-Assisted Design (CAD) - Where you either design your planned project or download a design that suits your purposes and modify it.
  2. Computer-Assisted Manufacturing (CAM) - Where you set the cutting bits, cutting depths, materials used, toolpaths, and other technical elements of the machining process.
  3. Converting the design and manufacturing data to geometric code (G-code) using a CNC control software or G-code sender.
  4. Using control software to communicate with the machine while you insert materials, and complete different steps of the machining process.

As you can see, a large part of the technical side involves the use of CNC software. However, there are other aspects to consider as well. In the following sections, we’ll discuss the above in more detail. We’ll also discuss some other considerations which are vital to a successful project. 

1- Create or Download a Design

A design is possibly the most important requirement when making a cabinet door on your CNC machine. There are two ways to go about getting one: designing it yourself or downloading a pre-created design.

Both of these have advantages and, depending on where your focus lies, you may prefer designing or downloading. 

Designing your own work model allows you to:

  • Customize the design completely, according to the client’s needs or your desires
  • Ensures that all the hardware, design elements, and materials are correctly placed

However, it also:

  • Takes longer than downloading a pre-made design
  • Has a greater margin for error since you have to input all the details yourself

If you download a design that someone else created, then:

  • It takes less time since you don’t have to spend time with CAD software
  • You can easily make minor changes to suit your purposes
  • The margin for error is less since these designs are tried and tested already

On the other hand:

  • You may have to pay for the designs
  • The materials used may be significantly different, leading to many changes in the CAM department

Irrespective of which option you choose, you will need a design when using your CNC router to make cabinet doors.

2- Plan the Toolpaths and Manufacturing Aspects

Once you’ve chosen or created a design, and completed it to your satisfaction, you’re ready to plan and program the manufacturing aspects of your project.

There are a few things you’ll need to consider when you get to this part:

  1. Choose a material to work with - The material you choose for your project has a significant impact on how you set up the toolpaths and which bits you use. Whether you’re using solid wood, plywood, melamine, or PVC, each has a bit type that works best.
  2. Select the appropriate bits and cutting tools - Once you’ve chosen the material you’ll be making cabinet doors from, you know which type of bits to use. Here’s a quick reference for some of the most popular cabinet-making materials:


Bit Material


Polycrystalline diamond (PCD)


Solid Tungsten Carbon 


Carbide or Carbide-tipped


Carbide or Carbide-tipped

Solid Wood

High Strength Steel (HSS) or Carbide 

Apart from the bit material, the selection is as usual, with rounded bits for outside edging, straight bits or tapered bits for engraving and carving, etc. You may want to consider using compression bits for composite materials like plywood, to prevent damage. 

If you’d like to learn more about which bits to use in which situations, check out our comprehensiveCNC router bit guide

Next, you’ll need to program toolpaths so that your machine routes, carves, drills, and performs other functions in the correct order. 

Remember that, if you’re using different bits to create an effect, you’ll need to run the toolpaths in the correct order. For instance, you may make a deep channel with one bit, then use another bit to create a wider surface over it. Another bit entirely may come into play for cleaning up edges and corners.

If you don’t set the toolpaths and bits for this process in the correct order, you’ll end up with fuzzy edges and a design that isn’t cleanly cut.

For reference, you generally want to set your bits for any design in the order of:

  1. Bits that create depth (like tapered bits or v-bits)
  2. Bits that work on a shallower area of the same design
  3. Bits that clean up the surface
  4. Bits that tidy up corners, and create design elements like faux joints

The more complex your designs are, the more effort needs to go into the CAM portion of the process. If you’ve downloaded a CAD file and you’re using it as is, it will take you considerably less time to wrap up this portion of the process.

3 - Run a CNC Simulator

When you’ve just spent a fair amount of time creating, editing, and adjusting a design, you want to ensure that your design will work out as planned. That’s why CNC simulators are incredibly useful.

They take all the design and manufacturing inputs that you’ve put together and run a three-dimensional simulation so you can see if the effect is what you’re looking for.

By running a simulator before you ever run the code, you’ll also be able to find any major mistakes. If, for instance, you chose a bit that doesn’t accomplish what you want. Or, if your cutting depth isn’t deep enough.

Once you’ve run the simulator, make any necessary changes, corrections, or design alterations before proceeding to the next step. This step is especially useful for ensuring that you’ve programmed all the toolpaths and bit choices in the correct order.

4 - Set up the Workpiece

Once you’ve programmed the toolpaths, the materials used, and the cutting bits you’re using into your CAM software, you’re ready to set up your workpiece in the CNC machine. Whether your particular model uses clamps, screws, or some other attachment method, now’s the time to attach and center your workpiece.

5 - Use a Controller to Run the G-code

Finally, use a CNC controller software or G-code sender to relay your CAD and CAM instructions to your machine. If you’ve programmed the manufacturing aspects correctly, the machine will create a beautiful cabinet door that you can be proud of.

Profile and Finish the Doors

Once you’ve gone through all the effort of getting the door done, you still need to do the finishing touches. We’ll discuss it in more detail later on, but now is the time to profile the edges, band them, and then sand and polish or paint the doors.

How to Make Cabinets with a CNC Machine - Practical Version

When you’re creating a cabinet door with a CNC machine, there are a few practical aspects to consider. Below, we’ll take a closer look at the practical, and less technical, side of making cabinet doors with a CNC.

1- Cut the Workpieces to Size

The first thing you need to do when making a cabinet door on a CNC machine is to calculate the door sizes. When calculating the size, remember to take into account the hinges, hasps, and any other hardware.

Using your CNC router, mill, or even laser cutter, you can easily cut your workpieces to size if you program the design into your CNC. A simple height by depth by width design with the correct dimensions and cutting tools will quickly reduce a square of wood to a cabinet door in the making.

2- Round the Outside Edges

What makes a cabinet door pretty? For one, they generally have beautifully rounded outside edges. Additionally, they typically have curves rather than corners. 

To complete this step, you need to figure out how much of the corner you want to turn into a curve. Then, create a simple CAD design of the right dimensions and degree of curve.

A nice finishing router bit and a G-code sender later, and your doors will have beautiful, rounded edges and corners.

You can also buy a machine specifically for finishing sides and corners. Called a profile finishing machine, this device can be handy if you make hundreds of cabinet doors. However, we prefer the versatility of a CNC router as you can easily change the shape and depth of the profiling cuts.

Edge Band the Outside of the Door

If you’re working with any sort of composite material (Formica, melamine, etc.) you’ll need to edge band the doors to give them that finished look. Edge banding is when you take a strip of material (specially made for this purpose, and readily available for purchase) and wrap it around the outside edge of the doors.

You can use a machine to do edge banding, or you can do it by hand. We’ll discuss those options later on, but edge banding is vital for protecting your doors and making them look complete.  

3- Add Any Reliefs, Designs, and Holes for Hardware

Once you’ve shaped the door for a cabinet on your CNC machine, you’re ready to tackle the visual elements. Whether you’re creating a relief, engraving a pattern, or just making a simple design with flutes, now’s the time. 

It’s best to preprogram your designs so you can just set up your workpiece and activate the CNC. You may also want to take this time to drill and countersink any holes you’ll need for the hinges and other hardware.

4- Sand, Seal, and Paint the Doors (if Required)

Since you’ve finished all the major structural work the doors will need, you can now move on to the finishing touches. Depending on the look you’re going for and the materials you’ve chosen now is the time to sand, seal, varnish, or paint your cabinet doors.

Most manufacturers prefer to sand the doors, then paint them, when working with composites like melamine or Plywood. In the case of solid wood, they either sand and polish, or sand and paint.

5- Install Hardware

Once you’ve completed all the previous steps, you’re ready to wrap up your CNC cabinet doors. All you need to do now is attach the hinges, clasps, door knobs or handles, and any optional hardware you’ve decided to incorporate.

Fortunately, since you’ve already drilled the holes, and recessed the spaces for the hardware, you can simply screw them into place. Once your hardware is attached, the cabinets are complete and ready for attachment. 

Beyond the Router: Other Types of CNC Machine for Cabinets

If you’re not sure that your CNC router is the ultimate cabinet door-making machine, you probably want to know more about other machines for cabinet-making. As with anything, there’s an entire host of additional options for making cabinets with CNC machines.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the many cabinet door-making machine options.

Edge Banding Machines

If you’re working with melamine, Formica, and other composites, you’ll need to band the edges. If you don’t band the edge of a composite, it leaves it exposed to the elements. This kind of exposure shortens the lifespan of the product and can lead to water damage.

Additionally, unbanded edges don’t give you that neat, finished look that you undoubtedly want to present to the public.

Edge banding machines are relatively compact and easy to use. They take a roll of banding, of the appropriate color for your cabinet door, and use adhesive or heat to apply the banding to the door’s outer edge.

These devices also handle the additional aspects of trimming excess banding, removing excess end material, scraping and smoothing, and general neatening.

Edge banding machines come in straight and curved models. When you need to band around curves or have a rounded-edge project, you may require an edge-banding machine that can deal with curves. Straight-edge banding machines have no curving abilities, while curved models generally have a folding arm that can wrap around curves.

Let’s take a closer look at how the process for these machines works:

  1. Pick edge banding with the right color, width, and density to match your project.  
  2. Insert it into the appropriate slot of the machine, ensuring that it’s correctly placed and that you feed the starting edge into the machine.
  3. Program the machine using built-in controls or computer-based controls (depending on the model). Some of the information you’ll need to input includes:
    1. Panel height and width
    2. Band width
    3. Banding speed
    4. Heat-based or adhesive-based banding
  4. Insert the cabinet door into the machine’s assigned receptacle, and lock it into place if the machine requires such. 
  5. Feed the door into the machine if required, until roughly half the door is in the machine.
  6. The machine will automatically complete the process, including trimming, edging, and other tidying-up features.
  7. Collect the door on the other end of the machine.
  8. Repeat the feeding process for the door’s other edges, if required.

Help! I Don’t Have an Edge Banding Machine!!!

If you’re a small operation, you may not have the resources to purchase a CNC machine and an edge banding machine. Not to worry, you still have options for getting that picture-perfect finish on your cabinet doors.

The first option is to rent a banding machine on a part-time basis, though this still may cost more than you can comfortably pay without cutting into your profit margin.

Failing to possess or rent a device, you can consider doing the edge banding by hand. If you use a banding that has heat-activated adhesive, you can easily apply the banding using a heat gun. Some people also have great success with using a towel and an iron.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to applying banding without an edge banding machine:

  1. Select a heat-activated banding with the appropriate color and width. The closer you can get to the width of your cabinet the better since you’ll have to trim off the excess later.
  2. Line up the edge of the banding with the corner edge of the cabinet door, and hold it or clamp it in place.
  3. Use a heat gun on medium-high to heat the banding, thereby activating the adhesive.
  4. Or
  5. Cover the banding with a thin towel and use an iron on medium heat to iron the banding through the towel. Use smooth, uniform strokes, and don’t leave the iron in any one place for too long.
  6. Use the side of a pencil, a soft plastic scraper, or another flat tool without a sharp edge to stroke and smooth the banding that you’ve just heated. This will ensure that the banding sticks uniformly, and doesn’t create air bubbles.
  7. Use a small, sharp utility knife to remove excess banding that extends beyond the edge of the cabinet door. If you’re very good at programming your CNC router to cut finicky edges, you can also program a CAM design to clean up the edging on all your cabinet doors.

Corner Rounding/Profile Trimming Machine

If you’re making hundreds or thousands of cabinet doors weekly, then having a machine that can shape your materials is very useful. When you’re making cabinet doors, you’ll start with a door that has sharp, angular corners.

Profile trimming machines can do the shaping for you. They take a normal square or rectangular piece of material and trim the sides and corners into the shape that you want.

Here’s how to use a corner rounding machine in your workshop:

  1. Switch on the machine.
  2. Insert the cabinet door into the machine.
  3. Slowly, take the door and feed the door into it as the machine works. It will round the corners, and shape the edges, so you get that perfect well-rounded cabinet door edge.
  4. Rotate the door so the machine can round the other three corners as well.

Help! I Don’t Have a Profile Trimming Machine

A lot of how-tos and other informative articles can make it seem like you have a plethora of different machines to do the job. Fortunately, if you don’t have a machine specifically for trimming edges and corners, your CNC router can do the job.

Here’s how you can use your CNC router to shape and edge your cabinet doors:

  1. Create a CAD design for the shape of your door. Set the exact depth and size of the curved corners, ensuring that there’s no unwanted variation between corners.
  2. Do the CAM programming to facilitate an edging bit for the router. Be sure to set the machine’s zero point to the exact center of the workpiece.
  3. Run a simulator to ensure that the CAM programming is exactly to your specifications. Make any necessary adjustments.
  4. Set up your workpiece on the machine’s worktable, ensuring that it’s perfectly centered. 
  5. Insert the desired bit into the machine.
  6. Use a CNC controller to feed the door design into the machine, and activate the machine.
  7. Make any changes that the machine needs during the process (bit changes, etc.)
  8. Remove your beautifully rounded door from the CNC router.

Sanding and Polishing Machines

Many large-scale producers of cabinet doors have sanding and polishing machines that can sand the entire door at once. These machines can make a tremendous difference in the amount of time and effort it takes to sand the doors.

They’re relatively easy to use, but here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Switch on the machine
  2. Set the sanding and polishing intensity
  3. Place the cabinet door on the conveyor belt; the machine will automatically feed it through the process
  4. Collect the door on the opposite end of the machine
  5. Keep adding doors to the conveyor belt until they’ve all been sanded and polished

These machines make things significantly faster since they can keep sanding and polishing almost non-stop. 

Alternatives to Sanding and Polishing Machines

While machines that finish your doors for you can save a lot of time, they’re an expense that small businesses can’t always afford. Fortunately, people have been sanding and polishing since long before the advent of these machines. 

Let’s take a look at a few alternative options to sanding.

  1. Finishing the doors with your CNC router - If you set the machine up correctly, you can use the machine to remove a minute amount of material from the surface of the doors. This will leave you with a perfectly smooth door that’s around 2mm thinner than it was originally. Essentially, this is the same process you’d use to create or resurface aCNC spoilboard.
  2. Using small sanders - Small sanders like mouse sanders and orbital sanders aren’t as fast as large sanding machines. However, they’re affordable and allow you to finish doors faster than you could by hand. It’s important to keep the pressure you apply uniform when using this type of machinery.
  3. Sanding by hand - The most basic, slowest, and least expensive way to sand cabinet doors is to do it by hand. We’d suggest using a sanding block since it allows you to apply uniform pressure and get that perfect finish.

When it comes to polishing, you have only two real alternatives:

  1. Polishing by hand - since the days of yore, people have been using cloths to polish furniture. It’s still a viable option, just ensure that you apply the polish evenly to all parts of the door, and work it deeply into the wood.
  2. Use a polishing attachment - Many different power tools, including sanders and drills, can take a polishing attachment. While it won’t be as fast as using a polishing machine, it will make the process easier and faster than doing it by hand.

It’s worth noting that in edge cases, like when you’re working with acrylic or stone, you can buy polishing bits for your CNC router. These bits allow you to use your CNC router for finishing, as you’d finish spoilboards. Just run the machine and it will buff the surface to a perfect shine.

Side Boring Machine

When the time comes to install your cabinet hardware, such as hinges and clasps, a side boring machine can be very useful. It can drill holes where you need them without your having to stand the door on its side.

Here’s how to use a side boring machine:

  1. Switch the machine on
  2. Insert the correct drill bit into the machine
  3. Place the door in an appropriate position to drill the hole
  4. Activate the machine
  5. Move the door to drill the next hole, and repeat

Alternatives to Side Boring Machines

While a boring machine can be helpful, you may not have one yet. If that’s the case you can easily:

  • Use a standard hand drill
  • Use a bench drill or drill press
  • Stand the door on its side and use your CNC router to drill the holes

We hope that this article about how to make cabinet doors with a CNC machine has been incredibly useful to you. Always remember that, while machines make your life easier, there are always alternatives.

In almost any part of the process, your CNC router can do the job. It can:

  • Trim edges and corners to create the perfect profile
  • Drill holes for installing hardware like hinges and clasps
  • Create fluting and other designs to make your cabinet doors prettier
  • Cut your large materials to size so you can turn them into cabinet doors
  • Polish doors made from acrylic, stone, or plexiglass
  • Give your cabinet doors a smooth finish that makes them look remarkably like they’ve been sanded
  • Create realistic-looking marks that make it look like you’ve created a five-piece door, even though it’s a one-piece

Truth be told, the only thing your CNC router can’t do is paint the doors. Everything else you can do with a bit of ingenuity.

If you’re still trying to figure out which CNC machine is right for you, we’d be happy to help you. Feel free tocontact us, and we’ll help you find the right machine, and accompanying package, for your business.

If you’d like to learn more about 3-axis machining, choosing the right bits, and other CNC-related tidbits, be sure to check out ourblog. We add detailed articles monthly to help you take your CNC skills to the next level.

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