In Techniques

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This excerpted chapter from our new Cabinetmaking Essentials DVD-ROM will give you a taste of what you’ll learn when it comes to building cabinets for your home.In these constantly changing times, learning new skills is a key ingredient to being more self-sufficient. If you’ve never built kitchen cabinets, a countertop, an entertainment center, a dresser or other basic storage projects, now is your chance to learn how.

Your kitchen is quite possibly the most-used room in your home. You want it to be warm, inviting and an efficient space in which to prepare meals, greet your guests, help your kids with their homework or linger over the morning paper.


1. If you are building face-frame cabinets, cut to size and assemble the face frames so they can be sanded and finished along with the doors.

2. While cutting and assembling the cabinet, finish the doors, drawer faces and the face frames.

3. Rip 4×8 sheets of to size with the aid of the cutting lists and layout sheets.

4. Following the ripping step, crosscut the boards on a radial-arm or table saw. On the wider pieces, you can use a circular saw and straightedge. Mark each piece with its reference number.

5. Before assembling the cabinets, drill the upper cabinet and base cabinet sides for the adjustable shelf pins and drawer slides.

6. If you are building frameless cabinets, apply edge tape to all edges that will be visible after the cabinet is installed. Use wood veneer or white melamine edge tape to match the cabinet doors.

7. Install the back flush with the bottom and side edges. This will square up the cabinet. Then install screws on the other side and top.

8. Install the face frame on the cabinet using glue and nails. Make sure of the orientation of any special face frames. Set the face-frame’s top edge flush with the top of the cabinet.

9. Cut the plastic cap moulding to fit the exposed edges of the shelves and secure with contact cement or construction adhesive.

10. If  the base cabinet will have a shelf or pullout installed, fasten wooden cleats at the correct height(s).

11. Fasten the sides to the bottom and install the back. Then install the upper rail.

12. Install the cabinet legs, four on cabinets under 30″ wide and six on cabinets over 30″ wide. Install the legs so they extend out from the base by 5/8″ to help support the sides (see the lower leg in the photo). The exception is when the cabinet is an open-ended and the kick has to be recessed 3-1/2″ from the cabinet bottom’s front edge.

13. Install the countertop brackets flush with the top edges of the cabinet.

14. Install the face frame as shown in step 8. Make sure that the top of the face frame is flush with the top edge of the cabinet and that the side overlaps are equal.

15. Cut to size and, using contact cement, apply 1/4″ plywood veneer to any cabinet sides that will be visible.

16. Assemble the drawers and check the operation. Follow the drawer glide manufacturer’s instructions with respect to side clearances.

17. Drill the cup holes for the European door hinges using a 35mm flat-bottom drill bit at 3″ or 4″ centers from the top and bottom of the door, and 1/8″ in from the door’s edge. Some door styles can be reversed while other designs, such as a cathedral style, must be installed one way. Check whether the door is right or left.

18. Drill the holes in the drawer faces for the handles you will be installing. Position the drawer faces on the cabinet with the drawer box in place. Drive screws through the handle holes and into the drawer box to temporarily secure the face. Open the drawer with the face attached and drive 1-1/4″ screws through the back of the drawer box front and into the back of the drawer face. Remove the temporary screws and drill holes through the drawer box, using the drawer face holes as a guide, and then install the handles.

19. Leave the toe kicks longer than required to allow custom fitting during installation. Test fit a sample section to verify correct leg placement and kickboard height.

20. If you plan to use the standard rolled-edge countertops you can order them custom-made. If you’re making the wood-edged top, follow the steps in chapter eight. This completes the assembly process and the cabinets are ready to be installed.
Danny Proulx (deceased) was an author for Popular Woodworking.

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