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Cabinet Making - Building Your Own Cabinets


Planning Your DIY Cabinets

The old adage certainly is true when it comes to building cabinets: "Failing to plan is planning to fail."

A roadmap for your project

Building cabinets is like making a journey. You need to know where you want to go and how you're going to get there. To help with the planning process, here are a few key things to think about as you develop your design:

Cabinet Style: Do you want a classic look (face-frame) or modern (frameless)?

Door style: Do you want flat-panel or raised-panel doors? Arched, cathedral, split-panel or some other panel style? Full overlay, partial overlay or inset? Do you want to make the doors yourself, or would a ready-made option be more convenient?

Drawings: Reliable measurements are critical, and sketching out your project can help you visualize whether your plan is coming together. Whether you use pencil and paper or CAD software, be sure to account for appliances, plumbing and any other elements that could affect your cabinet configuration.

Materials and cut lists: Figure out what you'll need before you go to the store, and make a list that the final dimensions and number of project parts. You'll save time, money and material.

Hardware: Think about the types of hinges and drawer slides you want. These can affect construction details of doors and drawers.

Rockler offers a variety of tools and products to help you plan your project, including the online Woodshop Calculator for designing cabinet doors, how-to books and videos and our custom cabinet door and drawer services.

Machining & Routing

Cutting Your Cabinet Pieces

Clean, precise cuts are crucial for fine cabinet construction.

Right gear helps you make the cut(s)

Once you've got your materials, it's time to make some sawdust. You'll need to transform those sheets of plywood and boards of solid wood into the final pieces of your project. Here are a few important considerations as you cut and shape the parts for your cabinets.

Get organized: Follow your cut list, checking off items as you go, and machine parts in groups to minimize the number of setups.

Straight cuts: If you're using a table saw, make sure the fence and miter gauge are calibrated. If you don't have a table saw, use a track saw system or a circular saw with a straight-edge guide to make sure the cut doesn't wander when dimensioning plywood.

Door-making router bits: You'll need these specialty bits and a table-mounted router to cut the profiles on the rails and stiles of your doors and to shape the center panel. A variety of profiles is available, so you can get the look you want.

Door templates: If you're making doors with arched or cathedral-style panels, you'll need to use some sort of template to guide the router bit when shaping the curves.

You'll find everything you need to machine and rout your cabinet parts at Rockler: table saws; track saw and other cutting systems; a wide selection of rail-and-stile and panel-raising bits; ready-made templates for arched and cathedral-style doors; and bits and jigs for making trim and crown moldings.


Installing Your Custom Cabinets

Now's when you can really see your project begin to take shape. (And, no, you can never have too many clamps.)

Putting it all together

It's the moment of truth, time to assemble all the different pieces you've machined into the cases and doors and drawers that make up your new cabinets. Here's what you need to think about for this step:

Glue: Different types of glue are available with different drying times, from traditional yellow wood glues to specially formulated cyanoacrylate (super) glues to polyurethane glues. Pick the glue best suited to your application.

Glue applicators: You've got to spread that bead of glue you lay down. Some folks use "acid" brushes, but some prefer new silicone glue brushes because dried glue peels right off, making cleanup easier. Specially designed glue paddles are available for getting glue into tight spots, such as dovetails or box joints.

Fasteners: How are you going to secure the pieces together? Screws? Pockets screws? Dowels? Biscuits? Floating tenons? Choose the joinery method that fits your skills and application.

Clamps: You'll need a good number and variety of clamps while gluing up your cabinet components – parallel or bar clamps for the case and doors (along with clamping blocks to hold door assemblies square); three-way face clamps for attaching a face frame to the case; pocket-hole clamps for assembling a face frame with pocket-hole joinery; edge clamps; and maybe even band clamps, depending on how you make your drawers.

Rockler has a full selection of products in these categories, including a line of easy-to-clean silicone glue tools; a wide variety of fasteners; doweling and BeadLOCK joinery jigs; and many clamping innovations like our award-winning Sure Foot Bar Clamps.

Sanding & Finishing

>Sanding and Finishing

Advances in technology make it possible for most do-it-yourselfers to achieve a professional-quality finish.

Bringing out the beauty

The right finish can make your cabinets really pop. For many people, though sanding and finishing can seem like a complicated, scary process. Here are a few things that can make it go more smoothly and successfully:

Sanding tools: Power sanders (especially random-orbit sanders) can speed up your surface prep, but there also are sanding blocks and profiled sanding guides for those who prefer elbow grease to electricity. Specialty sanding products are available for detail work and hard-to-reach areas.

Sandpaper: You need high-quality sandpaper in grits ranging from 100 or 150 up through 220 or 320. Sand with the grain; don't skip grits; and be sure to clear the surface of dust between grits.

Stains, paints and topcoats: You've got a few choices to make (beyond color). Paint, dye or stain? Waterborne or oil-based? Should you apply a sanding sealer first to avoid blotching? What kind of protective topcoat do you want?

Sprayers and brushes: Their pro-quality results and increased affordability have earned High-Volume/Low-Pressure (HVLP) sprayers a place among many DIYers. They can spray a variety of finish types and leave an even surface free of brush strokes. If you prefer a brush, be sure to get the appropriate type for your finish (natural bristles for oil-based; synthetic bristles for water-based).

At Rockler, you can find all the sanding and finishing tools and products you need to bring out the best in your cabinets.


Finishing touches like knobs, pulls, hinges and slides add flair and functionality to your cabinets.

Arriving at WOW!

They say the devil is in the details, and that can be true when building cabinets. You need to choose hardware, hinges, drawer slides and any accessories to round out your project. Here are a few key things to keep in mind:

Hinges and drawer slides: You should already have an idea of what type of hinges and drawer slides you want to use. (Remember planning?) Now you can focus on things like finish and whether you want special features such as soft-close and push-to-open.

Knobs and pulls: Choose the door and drawer hardware that fits your budget and gives you the look you want.

Installation jigs: You'll be able to install hinges, drawer slides, knobs and pulls far more quickly and accurately if you use jigs. You'll avoid a good deal of frustration, too.

Accessories: Do your cabinets call for a lazy susan, mixer lift or pull-out mechanism?

Rockler carries a complete selection of hinges, drawer slides, knobs and pulls (complete with mounting screws), as well as dedicated jigs to make installation quick, easy and accurate. We also offer a wide range of cabinet organization accessories.

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