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How to Make Your Own Cabinet Doors | What We Did in Our Skoolie Conversion

custom diy made kitchen cabinet doors being painted green with smiley face paint for school bus skoolie conversion

It's exciting! We've got most of the base work done in the front half of the bus, and can move on to the finish work.

Trim is going up, doors are being made, and we're prepping the room for paint.

Making the door for our kitchen cabinets was tedious since there were so many but we're really happy with how they came out.

As far as design goes, we decided to go with an inset shaker style door. This style door will look really well framed in by our beaded face frame on the cabinets themselves.

Today, I'm going to walk you through how we built our kitchen cabinet doors. I hope this gives you some useful information and helps inspire you to get creative with your own custom doors.


Build or Buy?

We’ve seen so many skoolie builds out there that use pre-made cabinets bought from Lowe’s or somewhere of the sort.

Though this is the cheap and easy rout, it often results in limited design creativity and, more importantly, a lack of space efficiency.

For us, being creative with the limited space has been a really fun challenge. By doing everything custom, we've been the most successful at bringing our aspirations of supreme space efficiency to fruition.

It is so freeing to make the cabinets exactly what you want and need them to be.

If you don’t have the resources available to make your own cabinets, then it’s great that you can buy pre-made cabinetry.

However, I strongly encourage you to take the opportunity to make something completely custom and efficient for your skoolie.

By building your own cabinetry, you allow yourself to get more creative without being limited to the pre-made decisions.

How Did We Do It?

A lot of design went into our cabinets. We’re planning on living in our skoolie full time for about five years, so we want to make ours as homey and well done as possible.

Below, I've written out a list of the tools and materials we used to

Tools We Used

  • Router

  • 1/4" round-over bit

  • 1/4" groove bit

  • 1/4" by 1/2" dome bit

  • Router Table

  • Table Saw

  • Miter Saw

  • Sander

  • Drill

  • Kreg Pocket Hole Jig

  • Kreg Screws

  • Impact Driver

Materials We Used

  • 1/4” Maple Plywood

  • 1” by 3" Poplar (actually 3/4" by 2 1/2")

  • Wood Filler

  • Paint

  • Paint Roller

  • Paint Brushes

  • 5/8” Dowels

  • Sandpaper

How We Built Our Cabinet Doors

We designed shaker style cabinet doors. This means having a frame built around a central panel.

We made the main panel of the doors out of 1/4” maple plywood. We chose maple since it is harder and very smooth which is good for painting. To cut out these pieces we used the table saw.

The frame of the doors were made of poplar. After cutting them to the right length, we used a 1/4" groove bit to router out a groove on one side of the poplar. This groove is what snaps onto the main 1/4" plywood piece and holds it all together.

Side note:
Anytime we used the router for the cabinet doors, we had it attached to a router table. This made the process super quick and easy, so I would definitely recommend you getting a router table as well.

On the same side as the groove, we used a 1/4" by 1/2" dome bit to add a bevel to the top inside edge. This will add nice dimension and detail to the finished door.

The last thing we did with the router was using a 1/4" round-over bit to lightly round off the edges on the opposite side. This makes it look better and the doors feels nicer without the sharp edges.

After all the steps with the router were done, we cut the ends at a 45 degree angle.

To begin assembling the doors, we put a small amount of wood glue inside the groove of the frame pieces. Since we used a 1/4" groove bit, the frame slides perfectly onto the 1/4" plywood panel.

To hold the doors together at a 90 degree angle while they dried, we made 90 degree angle corners out of scrap plywood and strapped the door tightly with ratchet straps.

You could also secure the door with clamps if you have some large enough. We just happened to have a lot of ratchet straps on hand so that’s the method we came up with.

We let the doors dry strapped up overnight.

Once they were dry, we added another level of strength to them. We drilled a hole diagonally through each corner of the door using a 5/8” drill bit. We then added a small dab of wood glue inside the hole and hammered a piece of 5/8” dowel through the hole. This ensures that the corners won’t come apart after being pulled on time and time again.

kitchen cabinet doors for skoolie conversion using plywood, poplar, wood glue, dowels and wood putty. Using dowels to secure corner of cabinet door
This door was different from the others and had a bead on the door itself. The doors I am explaining to make did not have this bead on them.

After letting those dry, we sanded everything down and added wood filler where needed. This was most common on the corners if things didn’t line up exactly right or if they dried a little wonky.

The next step is painting. We decided to paint our lower cabinets (face frame and doors) a dark earthy green and the upper cabinets an off-white. Leaving the top cabinets a light color helps make the room seem more spacious, whereas dark colors up top closes things in.

green painted kitchen cabinet doors diy custom made for skoolie school bus conversion.
Before I started painting, I wiped off each door with tack cloth to remove any dust. I used a foam brush to get into the beveled edges and used a roller for the rest. The texture in the image disappeared after drying.

You can get a more even finish with the paint if you use a paint sprayer. This will also speed things up. We didn't have a sprayer handy and using a roller, while it created a little bit of texture, certainly didn't ruin the doors.

In Summary

Building your own cabinets is the way to go. You'll get to make the most of your limited space and build something of much better quality than you find pre-made at Lowe's.

We found that building our own cabinet doors, while it was repetitive and a bit tedious, it wasn't that hard.

It is totally doable and we think they came out great!


I hope this gave you some useful information and encourages you to get creative with how you design your cabinet doors.

If you have any questions about how we did something, we'd love to share more with you! Fill out our contact form at the bottom of that page with any questions or comments and we'll be sure to get back to you!

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Meet the Author


Hey! I'm Kaitlynn, a lover of the outdoors and all things travel. I quit my job to travel full-time with my husband, Matthew, in our skoolie. 

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Matt & Kate

Project 63 

Bringing you travel information and inspiration as we travel to all 63 National Parks.

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