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Build Your Own Kitchen Cabinets

If you’ve dreamed of building a kitchen full of cabinets, stop dreaming and start building.
Here’s what you need to know to get custom results for half what stock cabinets cost.

F
or many home wood- building your own cabinets, able as long as you know
workers, outfitting a you can upgrade materials where to get started and
kitchen with hand- and construction methods. how to proceed.
crafted cabinets is the dream You’re also not locked into In the following pages,
project. Who hasn’t looked “stock” sizes. The style, we’ll walk you through how
at stock cabinets built with look, finish, and features are we built these cabinets and
particleboard, hotmelt glue completely up to you. how they compare with
and staples and thought, “I If you think about it, cab- stock cabinets purchased
could build something a inets are just a bunch of from a home center. And
whole lot better than this boxes. The only real chal- hopefully inspire you to
for half the money.” lenge is the size of such a consider building your
And they’re right. By project. And that’s manage- own.

RAISED PANELS BEVELED GLASS LIGHTED VALANCE 3/ " INSET DRAWERS CUTTING BOARD CUSTOM HARDWARE
8

From Workbench Magazine Page 1 ©2002 August Home Publishing.


One copy permitted for personal use. Other copies prohibited. All rights reserved.
CABINET AREA DIMENSIONS

54#/4"
54#/4"
96"
36"
145!/2"

45"

Allow 36" - 48" inches of open


access space between banks of cabinets
or between cabinets and a work island.

FLOOR PLAN
Window Sink Dishwasher

BUY OR BUILD?
Unless you’re independently wealthy,
there’s a limit on how much you can 24"
spend for store-bought (stock) cabi-
nets. The typical approach is to pick
out what you like, then whittle away 145!/2"
at the extras to stay within budget.
But suppose you could spend that centered within the space. I wanted (See the description and photo of
same amount on materials. By dis- the sink to be located directly these cabinets at the bottom of the
counting the labor (after all, this is underneath the window. Since there next page).
time spent in the shop), you can keep isn’t a soffit in this room, I could use To outfit the kitchen with these
some of those extras and upgrade the extra-tall (42") wall-hung cabinets. basic, no-frill oak cabinets (see the
materials and improve the quality. I To help justify building the cabi- next page), the estimated cost was
found this out first-hand with this nets, I decided to do a little compar- $2,553.When I asked them to price
kitchen project. ison shopping. So I took the layout to the same set-up in cherry, it jumped
Because kitchen configurations a local home center and asked them to $3,403. Shipping to our door was
can vary so greatly, I built one basic to fill the space with stock cabinets. another $110.
wall of cabinets shown above. The The stock cabinets I selected were a By contrast, materials for the
wall measures just over 12 feet long raised-panel style in red oak that fell cherry cabinets I built cost less than
and has a double-hung window slightly above mid-range in price. $1,400. And my design included a

PLANNING AND IDEAS


Obviously, you can’t just start building ities and features that are important to you.
cabinets without extensive planning. They provide grids for laying out the
While we don’t have room to address kitchen and are excellent sources for ideas
those issues here, we can steer you in the on cabinet styles and layouts.
right direction. For additional reading, check out
Some of the best information on kitchen Kitchens That Work: A Practical Guide to
layout and design that I found was pub- Creating a Great Kitchen by Martin and
lished by kitchen cabinet manufacturers. Richard Edic (Taunton, 1999), and Building
The free brochures at home centers contain Traditional Kitchen Cabinets by Jim Tolpin
checklists of what to consider: appliance (Taunton, 1994). Check your library or
sizes, utility locations, and the types of activ- contact Taunton Press at (800) 477-8727.

From Workbench Magazine Page 2 ©2002 August Home Publishing.


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20"-deep above-counter pantry cost difference to upgrade from ½"-
unit with a built-in cutting board thick melamine to ¾" veneer ply-
and a knife rack (see page 12). Such wood was fairly insignificant.
a unit wasn’t available in stock cabi- Poplar
netry except as a 24"-deep, full- RAISED PANEL SUBSTITUTES and MDF Quartersawn
height pantry unit that over- I decided to build these cabinets (painted) white oak Walnut
whelmed the small space. using raised panels. And I’ll admit it Curly
In fact, the cost was so far below added both time and cost to glue up maple Flat panel
stock cabinets I was able to add in a solid wood panels, but I thought it cherry
few more extras. One particularly was worth it.
nice touch was the display cabinet A quicker, less expensive option
with beveled glass in both the door is to build flat panel doors using ¼"
and the exposed side. The cabinets veneer plywood (see the top photo
also feature custom frame-and- at right).
panel cabinet ends and a cove mold- If painted cabinets will work in
ing along the ceiling. your kitchen, you might want to
consider milling the raised panels in
MATERIAL CONSIDERATIONS medium density fiberboard (MDF)
If you stop by any home center you and building the rails and stiles in
can find stock cabinets in oak, poplar. Inexpensive MDF offers the
maple, cherry, hickory, pine, and added advantage of being stable, My shop-built cabinets feature 3/8" inset, solid cherry
birch. In most cases, at least the face compared to the expansion and raised panel doors with wide rails. These features
frames, doors, and drawer fronts will contraction of solid wood panels. weren’t available in stock cabinetry.
be solid wood.
If you build your own cabinets, STOCK CABINET COSTS: (Raised-panel red oak) SHOP-MADE MATERIAL COSTS:
you’re not limited to these materials
(2) Wall Cabinets (12"D x 27"W x 42"H) $475.54 4/4 Cherry - 100 bd. ft @ $4.95/bd. ft. $495.00
(see some other options top right). (Face frames, doors, drawer fronts, toekicks)
(2) Wall Cabinets (12"D x 30"W x 42"H) 492.90
Another advantage is being able 4/4 Birch - 30 bd. ft @ $2.69/bd. ft. 80.70
(1) Three-drwr. Unit (12"D x 30"W x 18"H) 301.94 (Drawer sides, nailers, blocking)
to select and match grain pattern
(1) Base w/Pots/Pans Drwr. (24"D x 30" W) 377.27 /4" Birch plywood - 5 sheets @ $52.50/sheet
3
262.50
and color. Manufacturers can’t afford
(1) Base w/ Trays (24"D x 36"W) 380.99 (Carcase sides, bottoms, dividers, shelves)
to spend time doing this. Instead,
(1) Base w/4 Drwr. (24"D x 18"W) 194.37 /4" Birch plywood - 5 sheets @ $18.69/sheet
1
93.45
grain patterns are random and they (Carcase backs, drawer bottoms)
(1) Sink Base (24"D x 42"W) 221.34
use a toner to give the wood a uni- 22" Accuride full extension drawer slides 148.50
(1) Scalloped Valance 49.60 (11 pr. @ $13.50/pr)
form color and appearance.
(1) 3"-Wide Base Filler 17.67 18" Accuride full extension drawer slides 12.50
The materials used commercially
(1) 3"-Wide Wall Filler 26.66 (1 pr @ $12.50/pr)
for cabinet carcases, drawer boxes,
(2) Matching Toe kick Panels 14.88 Beveled glass (2 pieces) 100.00
shelves, and interior divider panels
TOTAL $2,553.16 Bin pulls (antique brass) - 16 @ $1.40 ea. 22.40
can vary widely. Usually, at least some
Knobs (antique brass) - 11 @ $1.10 ea. 12.10
of these parts are made from vinyl- NOTE: The costs shown do not include countertop. Hinges (antique brass) - 12 pr @ $1.99/pr. 23.88
covered particleboard or melamine. The stock cabinets as priced do not come with knobs Miscellaneous hardware 30.00
Because my cabinet project and drawer pulls. Stock cabinet installation is avail- Stain and Finish 60.00
required relatively small quantities able from most dealers at $30-$50 per linear foot. TOTAL $1,341.03
of material for these parts, the total

STOCK CABINETS: OVERVIEW


So you could see the actual differences These cabinets, pictured at right,
between stock cabinets and our shop- were a basic straight frame-and-raised
built units, we bought two base cabi- panel design that represented the
nets and two wall-hung units built by upper middle price range. For addi-
a nationally-known manufacturer. tional cost, we could have upgraded
We had to order them through a some components (more decorative
local home center — few distributors arched panels, plywood side panels,
actually carry an inventory of cabinets. and heavier drawer slides).
Even with the current building and At the bottom of the following
remodeling boom, it took just four pages we’ll show construction details
weeks for delivery. of these cabinets.

From Workbench Magazine Page 3 ©2002 August Home Publishing.


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ANATOMY OF A CABINET
Nailer

STANDARD CABINET DIMENSIONS


Rail
(E N D V I E W)
Carcase
Back side
Stile

30" - 42"

Nailer

WALL CABINET Face frame


12" Corner
18" brace
Nailer
26"

Center Stile
Back Divider
Carcase stile

24" 36" side


Drawer
rail
4"

Toe kick Rail


3"
BASE CABINET Face frame

CABINET STANDARDS EXPLAINED Standard wall cabinet depth is SIZED TO FIT


If you think about it, cabinets are usually 12" — just deep enough to The beauty of building your own
really furniture for the kitchen. And hold most dinner plates. The height cabinets is that you’re not locked
like most furniture, stock cabinets can range from 30" to 42", depend- into these dimensions.They can still
are built to standard dimensions that ing on whether the room has a soffit. serve as a guide, but you can vary
make them comfortable to work at. There’s usually 18" of separation them to fit your particular needs.
The primary dimensions for cab- between the countertop surface and For example, you can vary
inets are shown in the End View the bottom of the wall cabinets.This heights and widths to easily work
above.The surface of a countertop is puts the middle shelf in the upper around strange door and window
typically 36" high, ideal for most cabinets at roughly 72" — a height configurations. A shorter base cabi-
kitchen tasks. most people can still reach without net puts the counter at a height that
Standard depth for base cabinets getting a step stool. makes kneading and rolling out
(not including the countertop) is 24". Width for most stock cabinets dough easier for bakers.
If they’re deeper, it puts you farther varies from 12" to 48", in 3" incre- While some manufacturers now
away from the wall cabinets and lim- ments.The drawback here is that not offer “universal design” cabinets that
its how far up and out you can reach. every wall space neatly fits this 3" accommodate persons with physical
Base units also have a toe kick scheme. My 12' 1½"-long wall, for disabilities (including those in wheel-
space that’s 3" deep and 4" high.The example, would have required me to chairs), you can really tailor your
toe kick lets you stand up close to the buy a filler strip and trim it to 1½"- shop-built cabinets to meet individ-
cabinets without bumping your toes. wide to “extend” the stock cabinets. ual needs. It’s all of those custom

From Workbench Magazine Page 4 ©2002 August Home Publishing.


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CUSTOM CABINET LAYOUT

This base cabinet is Cabinet butted against


built as a single unit. wall without need for
filler strip.

Continuous rail 2" 2"


16!/4"

End stiles
extend to floor
Dishwasher

Continuous rail 1!/2" Continuous toe kick

touches that provide one of the At first glance, the main section Cabinets this large
greatest incentives for building of cabinets in the two drawings on can be hard to move
instead of buying. this page look similar. Look closer once they’re assembled
and you’ll see that large base cabinet (that’s another reason
MAXIMIZE THE SPACE at the left (above) is a single unit you can’t buy a stock
The concept behind stock cabinets compared to the three separate cabinet this size). But as
is that manufacturers build a variety stock cabinets (below). you’ll see on the next
of small, easy-to-handle units that By building one large unit, it page, the parts can be
can be combined to fit most any sit- eliminated the double stiles and gaps machined ahead of
uation.They’re easy to mass produce between the separate cabinets (see time and easily assem-
and sized so the cabinet companies the photo at right). I was able to use bled in the kitchen just A single stile and a 3/4"-thick
can get maximum usage from stan- this extra space to make drawers prior to installation. plywood divider panel sepa-
dard sized sheet goods. And com- that are 141/4" wide inside, com- When you lay out rate compartments in the
pact sizes (42" widths or less) are pared to only 13" in the stock unit. your cabinets, look for large base unit.
easier to ship and store. There’s another advantage as the natural breaks
While this approach works well well. It took less material — two between cabinet sections, such as gaps
for the manufacturers, distributors, end panels, two dividers, and four for appliances. For example, I
and installers, it winds up wasting stiles vs. six end panels and six stiles designed my base cabinets in two sec-
space. Especially in a small kitchen on the stock set. I also think the tions, fitting them on either side of
where space is extremely valuable, continuous rails and toekick, and the dishwasher.The larger unit incor-
you don’t want to waste even a few the single stiles give my cabinets a porates the sink base, a drawer unit
extra inches. much cleaner look. and a drawer-and-doors base.

STOCK CABINETS: MULTIPLE BOXES TAKE EXTRA SETUP


When you install stock base cabinets, you 3" 15" 3"
have to shim the cabinets plumb and level
to the room and each other — a time
consuming process. Once they’re lined up,
the face frames are clamped together and Screws hold
long screws driven to fasten the face face frames
together.
frames together. 1!/2"
You also wind up with a double-wide
stile (with a joint line) where two cabinets
meet. It just doesn’t look as clean and
consistent as single width stiles.

From Workbench Magazine Page 5 ©2002 August Home Publishing.


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BUILDING THE BASES CABINET BASE CARCASE ASSEMBLY
At this point, you’ve seen some of the
basic considerations that went into E Nailer
my kitchen design. Now it’s time to
roll up the sleeves and get into the
actual construction. A
Notch
The first step is to build the base D for
C
units.As you can see in the drawings Back Divider nailer
at right and on the next page, the A panel
base units are simply big plywood Carcase
boxes with dividers and a face frame side
on the front. #/4"-wide dado,
I built the boxes (carcases) out of !/4" deep
birch veneer plywood. I decided
against melamine or MDF core ply- FF Toe kick
wood because those materials lose Carcase B
bottom
much of their strength once you cut
through the outer skin/veneer. 3" 3"
(They also produce some nasty dust.) E
I used ¾" plywood for the car- Nailer #/4"
case sides (A), the carcase bottom A C 30"
(B), and the divider panels (C). The Carcase Divider
back (D) is ¼" plywood. side
The nailer (E), used B #/4"
for mounting the cab- Bottom
inet to the wall, is solid
birch. Since the toe Toe kick F 4" 23#/4"
kick (F) is the only a. 24"
3"
exposed portion of the
carcase, I made it from
The bottom fits into a dado solid cherry. USE SIMPLE JOINERY To fit the nailer (E) in place, I
cut in the carcase side. The One trick I learned Joinery in the carcases is simple but notched the top corner of the
toe kick supports the bottom. early on was to perform strong. Dadoes are cut in the sides (A) divider panels using a jigsaw. Screws
all similar machining to accept the bottom (B), and rabbets hold the nailer to the divider panels
operations together. are cut along the back edge of the and the carcase sides.
That way, I didn’t waste sides for the back (D) as shown in the The plywood back completes
time switching tool photos at left and the drawing above. the carcase and helps square up the
setups back and forth. The bottom is dadoed for the entire assembly. I glued and clamped
For example, I cut all divider panels (C) and grooved on the back to the nailer and nailed it
the cabinet parts to size the lower face for the toe kick (F). to the sides, divider panels, and bot-
The nailer fits between the first, then installed my Besides strength, these dadoes and tom using ¾"-long ringshank nails.
carcase sides and against the dado blade and made grooves help keep things lined up The rings grab the wood so the nails
back. A brace adds support. all the joinery cuts. squarely during assembly. won’t loosen up over time.

STOCK CABINETS: CARCASE CONSTRUCTION


So you could see the actual differences box, the lightweight pine nailer on one
between stock cabinets and our shop- of the base cabinets pulled off (see the
built units, we ordered two base cabinets photo at right).The only things holding
and two wall-hung units. the nailer in place were a couple of small
When they arrived, the overall fit dabs of hot-melt glue and two staples
and finish was rough — doors and driven from the back side into a pair of
drawers weren’t aligned, some drawer MDF braces. It would take little force
slide attachment screws were missing. for the cabinet to pull away from the board. The sides and bottom were both
1
However, the carcase construction wall with this design. /2"-thick and the back was 3/8"-thick.
was a real disappointment. Before the The carcase sides, bottom, back, and The bottom was set into dadoes cut in
cabinets were even removed from the shelves were all vinyl-covered particle the sides and hot-melt glued in place.

From Workbench Magazine Page 6 ©2002 August Home Publishing.


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K Corner brace
FACE FRAME ASSEMBLY
H Rail
Pocket hole
screws G
End stile
Note: All face frame
pieces and corner
braces are cut from
#/4" thick hardwood.

J
Drawer rail
(1!/2" wide)
Panel Pocket hole
end cover screws
A Carcase side
I
Intermediate G End stile
H
Rail stiles H Rail
(1!/2" wide) (2" wide)
Panel
end cover G End stile b.
(2" wide)

ADD THE FACE FRAMES The end stiles (G) are left wider rails the same way, followed by the
Face frames dress up the front of the to cover the framed end panels that drawer rails (J).
cabinet and add structural strength as get added later or to give you some Before installing the face frame
well. When building face frames in extra for scribing to the wall. on the carcase, I applied finish to the
the past, I’ve used dowels, biscuits, and One other added feature of my inside surfaces of the carcase and
even mortises and tenons to join the face frame design is that the end stain and one coat of finish to the
horizontal rails and vertical stiles. stiles extend down to the floor.This face frame. It lets you get to both
The size of this project, however, gives the base units a furniture look sides of the face frame and eliminates
was the perfect excuse to try out a while covering the carcase ends. the need for masking off the carcase.
new technique. I’d heard that With the face frame parts cut to The pocket hole screws came in
pocket hole joinery was a quick and width and length, the pocket hole handy again when it
accurate way to assemble face jig (shown at right) is used to drill a was time to attach the
frames and this project proved it. couple of angled holes on the back face frame to the car-
Looking at the completed cabi- side of the rails (H). Then the end case (Detail b).
nets, the stiles and rails all appear to be stiles (G) and rails, are lined up and Corner braces (K)
the same width.The rails (H) are 1½" clamped together. complete the base cab-
wide, but the doors overlap the inter- Once everything’s positioned, two inet. These help stiffen
mediate stiles (I) on two sides, so I screws are driven across the joint (you the carcase and provide
made them 2" wide so the amount don’t even need glue). The interme- a way to fasten the
left exposed was the same as the rails. diate stiles (I) are then attached to the countertop to the base.

STOCK FACE FRAMES


Like my cabinets, the face frames on
these cabinets were 3/4"-thick solid
wood.And the stiles and rails were held
together with pocket hole screws.
Instead of mounting flush with the
carcase sides, the stock cabinets’ stiles
had a shallow groove cut in the back
side to accept the carcase sides (photo pneumatic fasteners. greatly. While the faces were sanded
at near right). To hold the face frames As you can see in the photo at the far smooth, some of the rail and stile edges
to the carcase, the manufacturer used right, the grain patterns and even wood still showed saw marks from when the
hot-melt glue and triangular shaped color used in the rails and stiles vary parts were ripped to width.

From Workbench Magazine Page 7 ©2002 August Home Publishing.


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Beveled 2#/8"
!/2" rabbet, #/4" deep glass WALL CABINET
11 #/4" 1#/4 "
Q Rail ASSEMBLY
3"
4#/8" N P Paneled end
Top Nailer cover

L
Side
42 " R
O R TOP VIEW
Stile
Back Stile
Paneled
end cover

3!/2" Stile overlaps


paneled
end cover.
Right End Panel
a.Glass(leftEndend)Panel M Stopped 1!/2"
S
Q Intermediate P b.
Bottom cove Rail stile Nailer

WALL CABINET As mentioned earlier, this The face frames go together just
CONSTRUCTION kitchen didn’t have a soffit. So I like those for the base cabinets —
The basic construction opted for 42"-tall cabinets that with pocket-hole joinery. The rails
of the wall cabinets is extend to the ceiling. Seldom used (Q) are drilled, then screwed to the
similar to the base items go on the harder-to-reach top end stiles (R).The intermediate stile
units. The ¾"-thick shelves. But at least when this stuff is (S) is screwed to the rails.
plywood carcase sides stored inside the cabinets — instead To keep the compartments wide
(L) are dadoed for the of on top of 30" or 36" cabinets — open, I let the doors butt together,
bottom (M), and rab- it doesn’t collect dust. eliminating the need for a divider
beted for the top (N) In a larger kitchen, I might have stile. This was also possible because
and back (O). considered using a mix of short and the plywood shelves are strong
The main differ- tall cabinets to provide display areas enough to resist sagging. Many stock
ence (besides the shal- for plants or collectibles and create a cabinets have extra shelf pins in the
lower depth) is the visual break. divider stile to hold up the center of
addition of a second The shelves in the upper cabinets the shelves.
Adjustable, nailer (P). While the are ¾"-thick plywood with birch The exposed ends of the cabinets
edgebanded ply- floor supports the load for base cab- edgebanding (see photo at left). To receive frame-and-panel covers, so I
wood shelves inets, wall cabinets must support keep things simple, I drilled a series of made the corresponding stiles wide
will support their own weight plus the weight of evenly spaced (2" apart), ¼"-dia. holes enough to overlap both the carcase
heavy loads what you put in them.With mount- in the carcase sides for adjustable shelf end and cover (Detail b). For added
without sagging. ing screws driven through the nail- support pins. To position these holes interest, I routed a 1/4" stopped cove
ers and into the wall framing, these consistently, I used a 2" × 30" strip of along the length of the exposed
cabinets are rock solid. pegboard as a drilling guide. stiles as shown above.

STOCK CABINETS: WALL UNIT CONSTRUCTION


Construction and materials used on plywood brace across the center of the
the stock wall units were similar to the back. But that’s not much to support
stock base units. The 1/2"-thick parti- the cabinets when they’re fully loaded
cleboard top and bottom fit into with china.
dadoes cut in the 1/2"-thick particle- The face frames were joined with
board sides. pocket hole screws, but held to the
The backs were mere 1/8"-thick carcase with those triangular-shaped
pressboard and add little to the struc- pneumatic fasteners.While the shelves
tural integrity of the cabinets.The cab- were a full 3/4"-thick, they were just
inets had nailers (7/16"-thick pine) at the vinyl-covered particleboard and were
top and bottom as well as a 1/2"-thick held in place with plastic shelf pins.

From Workbench Magazine Page 8 ©2002 August Home Publishing.


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VALANCE ASSEMBLY W Runners
U Bottom panel

V Cleat GLASS INSTALLATION DETAIL


%/8" wire !/4" x !/4"
brad glass stop
T Fascia

Beveled glass

U Bottom panel W Runner END VIEW


W V W
20"
TOP VIEW
Holes for puck lights
U
T
c. Fascia T Runner W Cleat V d.

CREATING CUSTOM DETAILS The bottom panel holds two that extra depth easily holds cereal
Most of the custom features I added xenon “puck” lights (see page 13) boxes and food containers too large
to the wall cabinets came about and hides the wiring and ceiling. to fit in regular 12"-deep cabinets.
because I couldn’t find anything Once the wall cabinets were It also runs from the counter to
similar in stock cabinets. For exam- installed, I added matching surface- ceiling (60"). The only way to get
ple, I could buy a cabinet with a mounted pucks on the cabinets’ that height in stock cabinets was to
glass door, but couldn’t find one underside to brighten up the coun- stack a 42"-cabinet on top of an
with a glass end panel. tertop work areas. 18"-high drawer unit.
So, I created a display cabinet by The tall pantry cabinet, to the far As you’ll see on page 13, this
building a paneled end cover frame right above and detailed in the cabinet also contains a built-in cut-
and installed glass instead of the drawings below, was another extra I ting board and knife rack in the
wood panel — Glass Installation added. For starters, it’s 20" deep and pullout drawer.
Detail. Unlike the other cabinets, this
frame is part of the carcase. So once I PANTRY ASSEMBLY Scribe stile
assembled the frame, I cut a dado and to fit wall 20”
rabbets in the inside face to accept 3” 1#/4”
the carcase top, bottom and back.
You’ll notice in Detail a that the
rear stile is wider than the front one
"2/!1
and that the rabbet is cut deeper
than the ¼"-thick back. That extra
strip allows you to easily scribe the
cabinet to the wall. Paneled
I considered building some shal- end cover
low cabinets to go above the win-
dow, but decided lights shining on !/4" dia. X 60”
the sink below were more impor- #/8" deep
tant than the small amount of stor-
age space to be gained. The simple 2"
valance shown above bridges the
window and connects the two
Scribed 8"
banks of cabinets.
to fit
The arched fascia (T) attaches to countertop
the 3/4" plywood bottom panel (U)
and runner (W).Two cleats (V) attach
to the cabinets to provide a mounting e.
surface for the bottom (Detail c).

From Workbench Magazine Page 9 ©2002 August Home Publishing.


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DOOR ASSEMBLY 2!/2”
3!/2”
Y Rail
X Stile

Panel
Field

X Stile
Y Rail

#/8” lip
Stub tenon Z Panel

SECTION VIEW 2!/2”


!/16” !/4” %/16” %/16” SIZING THE DOORS AND PANELS
#/4” Before you start cutting, it pays to
work out all the door and panel sizes
Panel
!/16” !/4”
Stile Stile #/8” on paper. Start by measuring the
a. Note: No rabbet on stiles where two doors meet.
openings in the face frame.As a gen-
eral rule, doors should be at least
twice as tall as they are wide. This
STREAMLINE THE DOORS The bit cut smoothly, eliminating makes it easy to know if an opening
All the stock cabinets I looked at had most of the sanding.The bit profile I needs one or two doors.
overlay doors. The doors aren’t set chose cut a flat bevel (Detail a). To account for the lips and hinges
into the face frame, but lay com- and have some room for adjustment,
pletely on top of it.That ¾" thickness MAKING THE FRAMES I added ½" to both the width and
sticking out always looks a little To keep the doors simple, I used stub height of the opening.
clunky to me. tenon and groove joinery on the stiles For example, the opening on the
That’s why I decided to use 3/8" (X) and rails (Y) as shown in the Door pantry cabinet measured 24" wide ×
inset (sometimes called partial over- Assembly View.To fit the panel (Z) to 501/8" high. The total width for the
lay) doors and drawer fronts on my the frame and get it positioned prop- two doors was 24½", so I made each
cabinets (see drawings above). They erly, I made a number of test pieces. door 12¼" wide × 505/8" high.
have a 3/8"-thick lip that overlaps the With the panel field cut 1/16" high, With the door sizes set, the rail
face frame while the rest of the door’s I had to cut a shallow rabbet on the length and panel width can be calcu-
thickness is inset into the opening. back edge of the panel so it would fit lated.The stiles are 2½" wide, so the
I also wanted raised panel doors. in the ¼"-wide grooves (Detail a). door width minus 5" gives you the
In the past, I’ve cut raised panels on You’ll also notice that the grooves size of the opening inside the frame.
my table saw, but even a sharp blade (and tenons) are shifted slightly off But you have to add 5/8" to that
can leave saw marks and burns, espe- center so the front face of the panel distance to account for the two 5/16"
cially in cherry. So I invested in a won’t protrude too far beyond the grooves for the tenons and panel. So
raised panel router bit. surface of the frame. for the 12¼"-wide pantry doors, the

STOCK CABINETS: COPE AND STICK DOORS


Many stock cabinets come with cope the door frame. A vinyl bumper insert
and stick construction on the doors (see on the back of the frame cushions the
the photo at left). Instead of a plain stub door when it closes — a nice touch.
tenon, the ends of the rails are coped to The panels on the stock cabinets we
match the profile on the inside edge of bought were solid wood, but like the
the stiles. This joint usually requires a face and door frames, the grain patterns
pair of matched router bits or shaper varied widely.
cutters and creates a strong joint. On the cabinets with doors that butt
To visually reduce how the full over- together, the gap between the doors
lay doors stick out from the face frame, wasn’t uniform, but could be adjusted
a profile is cut around the outer face of easily by fine-tuning the hinges.

From Workbench Magazine Page 10 ©2002 August Home Publishing.


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DRAWER ASSEMBLY
AA Attach false
Drawer box side drawer front with
BB Drawer
#6 x 1" wood screws.
box back
CC
!/4" plywood bottom

Full extension AA The drawer boxes feature


Drawer box side
drawer slide 1
/2" birch sides joined at
(!/2" birch) DD
BB False front the front and back with
Drawer front (#/4" cherry) half-blind dovetails
(!/2" birch)
#/8" inset false front
Drawer slide
rails would be 77/8" long (12¼" - mounting cleats Drawer box
(2½" + 2½") + (5/16" + 5/16").
To allow for some cross-grain
Full extension drawer slide
expansion, I made the panels 1/8"
narrower than the length of the rails.
b.
To determine panel height, sub-
tract the total width of the two rails
(7") from the door height. (The rails should “float” in the frames. But But once I got my dovetail jig
are wider — 3½" — than the stiles.) before gluing the doors up, I applied adjusted, the actual cutting went
Then add back in the 5/8" for the two stain to the panels.This ensures uni- quickly.
grooves to get total height. Since form color across the entire panel, All the drawers in each bank are
panels will expand a little lengthwise, even if it shifts slightly in the frame. identical in size except for height.
subtract 1/16" from this total. With the doors assembled, you Even the ¼" plywood bottom panels
Once all the dimensions were can cut the rabbets that create the lip (CC) are the same.
nailed down, I cut to size and labeled (Detail a). But don’t rabbet the door
the panels, rails, and stiles for each stiles where two doors will meet. ADD FALSE FRONTS
door. Using the test pieces I made False drawer fronts (DD) simplify the
earlier as a setup guide, I machined DOVETAIL DRAWERS drawer installation. They let you
the grooves in all the rails and stiles. One stock cabinet feature I copied install the drawer slides and box first,
With the grooves cut, I cut the was half-blind dovetail joinery for the then position each front so it lines up
“deeper” face of all the stub tenons, drawers (see the Drawer Assembly properly on the face frame opening.
then lowered the blade and cut the View). A dovetail joint’s interlocking Like the doors, the drawer fronts
other, shallower face. Then I routed pins can stand up to the strong forces are lipped for a 3/8" inset, as shown
the the profile in all of the panels. exerted when a drawer is yanked in Detail b. And you size the false
Next, I dry-fit the frames around open or slammed shut. fronts the same way as the doors,
the panels. Only the rails and stiles You might think it took a long adding 1/2" to the opening’s size.
get glued together — the panels time to cut dovetails for 12 drawers.

STOCK CABINETS: DRAWERS, HARDWARE


The drawers in the stock cabinets we The slides operated fairly smoothly and
bought had dovetail joints and were had a positive, self-closing feature.
equipped with full extension under- The hinges (pictured lower right)
mount-style slides. The drawer portion were a Euro-style cup hinge designed
mounted to the underside of the drawer for face-frame cabinets. One nice fea-
so the slide was hidden (although you ture is that they allow minor adjust-
lose a little bit of drawer height). ments to the door position — both up
Plastic catches (top right photo) on and down and side to side. Because of
the underside of the drawer, clipped the overlay style of door, these hinges
onto the slides and allow slight adjust- were hidden from view when the
ments in the position of the drawer. doors were closed.

From Workbench Magazine Page 11 ©2002 August Home Publishing.


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CUTTING BOARD DRAWER ASSEMBLY
#/4"-thick
laminated maple
cutting board

Rubber feet
The cutting board is inset into
!/4" Hardboard cleat the drawer and serves as a
cover for the knife rack.
#/8" inset false front
!/8"-deep,
!/16"-wide saw kerf (cut with a thin-kerf blade)

Cutting board
24!/2"
Drawer slide
mounting cleats Hardboard cleats 5"

False drawer front


a. b. !/8"-deep, False front
!/16"-wide saw kerf.

MOUNTING THE SLIDES One feature I’m proud of is the the knives are still handy.At 18" deep
The side-mounted drawer slides drawer built into the pantry cabinet. and 23" wide, the drawer easily holds
used throughout the cabinets need to Designed to look like a pair of draw- a flat knife rack with space left for
be mounted flush with opening in ers to echo the twin doors above it, storing small cutting boards or other
the face frame. To do this I first the one large drawer holds a cutting knife accessories. (The knife rack was
screwed mounting cleats at the front board and knife rack (Cutting Board featured in the January/February
and back of the cabinet on both sides Drawer Assembly and Detail b). 2000 issue of Workbench.)
of the drawer openings (Detail a). The laminated maple cutting
These cleats, made from 2x4 stock, board rests on ¼"-thick hardwood TRAYS REPLACE SHELVES
were planed down until they fit flush cleats fit into the front and back Another hidden feature is tucked
with the face frame.The cabinet part panels (Detail a). The cutting board away behind the doors in the base
of the slide fastened to these cleats. has rubber feet and is designed with cabinets. Instead of fixed shelves or
built-in handholds to lift out for ones that rest on adjustable shelf pins,
LOOK FOR THE EXTRAS use. But if counter space is limited, the base cabinets feature pull-out
Now that you’ve seen how the basic you could use the cutting board trays, as shown at left below.
boxes go together and also some of while it’s in the drawer. Like the drawers, these shallow
the more dramatic features, it’s time The great thing about this drawer trays ride on full extension slides.
to take a look at some extra features is that it got an old free-standing They make it easy to organize and
that aren’t as obvious. knife-block off the countertop, yet access pots, pans, and storage contain-
ers that normally get stacked haphaz-
ardly in fixed-shelf cabinets.
Tray side Such trays are available as an
(!/2" birch) option in stock cabinetry. (It cost an
extra $54 to add four small pullout
2%/8" trays to the standard 36" wide base
!/4" plywood bottom unit pictured back on page 3.)
To get wide-open access to the
Full-extension space, I designed my base cabinets
drawer slide Tray front/back with two wide trays that spanned the
(!/2" birch) full door opening.The plywood car-
Note: Tray width equals door opening,
case is rigid enough that a center stile
less allowance for drawer slides.
between the doors wasn’t necessary.

From Workbench Magazine Page 12 ©2002 August Home Publishing.


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CHOOSE CUSTOM HARDWARE FINAL TOUCHES largest woodworking project you’ll ever
One way to put your own touch on As mentioned earlier, I also added low- take on. But the quality that you can
the cabinets is with hardware. Since voltage puck lighting to the valance, build into them and the daily use they’ll
the drawer slides and hinges are tied shown in the photo right,and under the get makes it one of the most worth-
to the cabinets’ design, it’s best to get cabinets to light the countertop work while projects I can think of to
them early in the planning process. areas. I chose xenon lights because they imporove your home.
But the knobs and pulls can wait until burn brighter than halogen bulbs and
you’ve got the cabinets built. produce less heat. The three-light kit,
The stock cabinets I priced did order no. 73549 - $99.99, is from
not come with door knobs or drawer Rockler.
pulls — these were available as an The finishing touch was the addition
option in a limited number of styles. of a 2" cove molding along the top of
On 3/8" inset doors and drawer the wall cabinets. It dresses up the cabi-
fronts, pulls and knobs are a necessity. nets, but more importantly it helps hide
But you can choose from hundreds of any gaps between the cabinets and ceil-
stock or special order styles available ing.Since I couldn’t find a cove molding
at home centers or from mail order this size in cherry,I stained a birch mold- Puck-style xenon lights and cove
catalogs. ing to match the cabinets. molding add finishing touches.
Hardware customization doesn’t Finish on the cabinets is a stain cov-
have to stop with knobs and pulls. ered with three coats of polyurethane.To
Many of the special bins, racks, and get the look of aged cherry,I used a mix-
turntables offered as options by cabi- ture of three parts Zar cherry stain with
net manufacturers are available from one part Wood-Kote Cherry Jel’d Stain.
mail order catalogs such as The latter gel stain minimizes blotching
Woodworker’s Supply (800–645- that sometimes occurs with cherry.
9292) and Rockler Woodworking Building your own kitchen cabi-
and Hardware (800–279-4441). nets is a big job — probably the

From Workbench Magazine Page 13 ©2002 August Home Publishing.


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