Tag Archives: Cabinets

Do Your Own Cabinets

Many cabinets are simple boxes. Some have added drawers and movable shelves. They can also be quite expensive when purchased pre-made at cabinet shops and even home supply stores. However, making your own cabinets can save money, especially when you need custom sizes or shapes. Here we will examine some basic cabinet forms and shapes.

The dimensions of cabinets vary but some are rather standard to account for height and surface area.

 

Dimensions Showing Overall Placement.
Dimensions Showing Overall Placement.

Parts of Cabinetry.
Parts of Cabinetry.

 

As one can see from these diagrams, the distance from the wall to the edge of the countertop will be somewhere between 24 to 26 inches. The space on the wall from the countertop to the bottom of hanging cabinets is around 16 inches, whereas the wall cabinets will be around 12 inches from front to back. All these dimensions are flexible depending on the needs or applications of surfaces and storage areas.

Base cabinets do not need a toe kick but would benefit with one if the unit goes from surface to floor in one piece. The usual size of the toe kick is 3-1/2 inches deep and up to 4 inches tall. Cabinetry can also rely upon legs or platforms to remove them from direct contact with the floor.

 

 

Bathroom Vanity Design With Toe Kick.
Bathroom Vanity Design With Toe Kick.

 

Toe Kick.
Toe Kick.

 

A Cabinet Design on a Platform With Legs.
A Cabinet Design on a Platform With Legs.

 

This is a Unit on Legs With a Bit of a Twist.
This is a Unit on Legs With a Bit of a Twist.

 

Once you have a box and put legs, a platform, or a toe kick on it, the face of the cabinet will determine what kind of doors, drawers, and hardware will be used. A box can have just shelves or just doors with pivot hinges. Pivot hinges allow a door to swing on pegs fixed on the top and bottom of the door allowing it to sit flush with the edges or they are scissor sort of looking things that attach to the top and bottom of the cabinet and the door.

 

 

Pivot Hinge.
Pivot Hinge.

 

Another Pivot Hinge Configuration.
Another Pivot Hinge Configuration.

 

Obviously, anything can be a DIY project and pivot hinges are no exception. I have taken a simple mending plate, placed a wood screw through an end hole that is inserted into a washer then screwed into a cabinet door. Once the mending plates for the top and bottom of the door are affixed to the carcass of the cabinet box at the top and bottom, the door can swing on the screws. To prevent the screw head from digging into the cabinet where it pivots, a small piece of embedded metal such as a penny, dime, or any other sort of wear resistant material will prevent the screw head chewing up softer woods. Even a nail with a large enough head will work in this situation as long as it is short enough not to go through the thickness of the cabinet.

I use pivot hinges a lot because I like the modern look of inset doors. Of course, there are many types of hinges. An excellent description of the four basic types can be found at this LINK.

 

HardwareSource Website.
HardwareSource Website.


A video on hinges:

 

 

The fronts of cabinets are essentially of two types. One is without any front face and the other is made with a frame or piece attached to the cabinet carcass. Without a face frame, the cabinet is basically a box with doors or drawers designed to close flush with the cabinet or to hinge or shut against the cabinet body directly. With a face frame, usually, doors or drawers sit on the surface of the face frame when closed.

 

 

Basic Cabinet With Shelf and Face Frame.
Basic Cabinet With Shelf and Face Frame at 24″ wide x 36″ high.

 

For a good explanation of the different types of hinges and the different types of doors, Rockler has an in-depth examination of all the basic types. The type of front and the type of door hinge will determine the door’s dimensions to a large degree.

The following instructions will explain how you can make the above cabinet, which is simply to illustrate the basic construction. The same method may be used for cabinets in other dimensions such as width or height.

 

Sides of Cabinet.
Sides of Cabinet.

 

To begin construction of the cabinet, you will attach the bottom shelf to the sides even with the top edge of the toe kick.

 

The Side Dimension Including the Toe Kick.
The Side Dimension Including the Toe Kick.

 

In this case, the toe kick is 4″ tall and 3-1/2″ in depth. The side dimensions are 35″ tall by 23-1/4″ in depth.

 

The Toe Kick.
The Toe Kick.

 

To connect the shelf to the sides pocket hole joints are used with a quality interior/exterior glue.

 

Looking Underneath the Bottom Shelf.
Looking Underneath the Bottom Shelf.

 

Next, we attach the two back supports, which are 1 x 4 (3/4″ x 3-1/2″) lumber cut to 22-1/2″ lengths.

 

Back Support Pieces.
Back Support Pieces.

 

The top support piece should account for the placement of pocket joint holes that will come through the cleats used to affix a countertop. So bring the pocket holes down a bit. (Refer to the graphic further down in the article.)

 

Attachment of the Toe Kick.
Attachment of the Toe Kick.

 

The 24″ toe kick is connected at the front with pocket joint screws. Now, this toe kick is really only for reference since you may want to connect more than one cabinet together. When connecting several cabinets together a long toe kick will span all or some of the sections and will be attached with finishing nails, for instance. Seen in this graphic, the 24″ piece would leave a gap when slid up against another cabinet. So only take the above graphic as an example of a stand-alone item.

 

Back Panel.
Back Panel.

 

The back panel, 24″ x  31″, can be of any suitable material which should account for the function of the cabinet. If the cabinet might receive moisture, a water-resistant plywood could be used, for example. The thickness of the material should be between 1/8″ to 1/4″ depending on the material and use of the cabinet.

 

The Face Frame.
The Face Frame.

 

The face frame is made of 1 x 2 (3/4″ x 1-1/2″) material, with the uprights at 31″ and the horizontal pieces at 21-1/2″. The frame can be made of more expensive, denser materials since it will receive more wear and requires little. The frame should be glued and connected with pocket joints. However, as a tip, to keep the lengths even when inserting the pocket joint screws, clamp a piece across both connecting pieces to ensure that they do not move and become uneven. 

 

Placement of the Front Frame With 1/4" Overlap.
Placement of the Front Frame With 1/4″ Overlap.

 

In order that the cabinets appear even with each other, we give a 1/4″ overlap of the frame to make it easier to lay cabinets side by side. Otherwise, if there were unevenness, then gaps would be nearly impossible to hide.

 

Attaching the Front Frame to the Carcass.
Attaching the Front Frame to the Carcass.

 

The above graphic illustrates the use of pocket joints to connect the front frame. In this way, when cabinets are placed side by side the joints are not seen and not visible from the inside as well. However, the joints, depending on the view, may be placed on the inside, too. Remember that pocket joint holes can be covered with wooden plugs made for hiding them.

 

Front Frame Connection From the Other Side.
Front Frame Connection From the Other Side.

 

Next, we install the top cleats.

 

Top Cleats.
Top Cleats.

 

The top cleats are cut from the same 1 x 4 material used for the back supports and are also 22-1/2″. They are connected as seen in the graphic with pocket joints and glue.

 

The Shelf.
The Shelf.

 

The shelf may fit loose on a peg system or be permanently attached with pocket joints. A peg system uses pegs readily available at hardware stores that can be inserted along two lines of holes placed toward the front and back of each side of the interior of the cabinet. The allows the pegs to be moved and, of course, the shelf to be adjusted.

 

 

 

 

The Finished Basic Cabinet.
The Finished Basic Cabinet.

 

As was mentioned above, different configurations exist when it comes to putting a door on this cabinet. A future article will show various easy DIY doors that will work on the cabinet as well as putting in drawers using different methods. This is basically a reference work to show how one can easily build a cabinet in all sorts of sizes. Wall cabinets are essentially the same except they lack a toe kick and the top cleats are replaced with a solid piece. Also, they generally have only around a 12″ depth.

HBosler

Self-Portrait in Red.
Self-Portrait in Red.

 

Movable Cabinets

Movable Bathroom Sink and Cabinet.
Movable Bathroom Sink and Cabinet.

Why is cabinetry in the home expected to be built-in? When attending architecture school, I designed a rather inventive duplex where most everything was movable. This included the walls, the cabinets, the closets, and even a second story bedroom. Due to regularly placed pluggable drainage and snap on, snap off plumbing, sinks, bathtubs, and toilets could be moved. The walls were a steel mesh that allowed for hanging pictures and objects but a metal cleat system hung wall cabinets while kitchen cabinetry all sat on the floor as ordinary furniture with any backslash attached to the cabinets and not the wall without the need for special carpentry. One could change the entire floor plan. The number of bedrooms, bathrooms, or any room was only limited by the number of square feet of the structure. Since I still have the architectural drawings and plans for this duplex, perhaps I will include that in a future article because of the various space-saving ideas that would work in small or tiny houses.

One of the great ideas involved in the house mentioned above is the use of mechanisms to allow the movability of cabinets and storage. One such mechanism utilizes the French cleat.

The French cleat is a strong, simple wall attachment mainly known by those who run a workshop of some sort. Woodworkers, carpenters, auto shops, and all sorts of workers affix shelves and carpentry to walls making use of the French cleat.  Why it is not taken advantage of in the home more often is beyond me but it permits cabinetry movement and flexibility in arranging.

The other great thing about the French cleat is how simple and cheap they are to make for those into DIY. Simply take a 1 x 4 or a long section of plywood and cut in the center at a 45-degree angle and voila! Attaching one piece to the cabinet and another piece to the wall and one has a system.

 

French Cleat Cut.
French Cleat Cut.

 

French Cleat Cut and Separated.
French Cleat Cut and Separated.

 

Showing Articulation in the Proper Orientation.
Showing Articulation in the Proper Orientation.

 

Connected.
Connected.

 

Beginning Attachment.
Beginning Attachment.

 

The top part of the cleat will connect to the cabinet, while the bottom will connect to the wall.

 

Attached to Cabinet Showing Articulation.
Attached to Cabinet Showing Articulation.

 

I haven’t bothered trimming the cleat to the width of the cabinet simply because that would be unimportant to the illustration. Also, normally one would only need a cleat at the top of a cabinet with a leveling piece on the bottom. However, if the cabinet will hold a lot and/or heavy objects, two cleats will secure the cabinet even more.

 

Further Illustration of the Articulation.
Further Illustration of the Articulation.

 

Bottom Articulation.
Bottom Articulation.

 

Top Articulation.
Top Articulation.

 

Wooden French cleats are not the only strategy. Metal ones are readily available at hardware stores.

 

Metal French Cleat.
Metal French Cleat.
Metal French Cleat.
Metal French Cleat.
Metal French Cleat.
Metal French Cleat.

 

 

Cabinets are not the only thing to work with French cleats. Shelves or anything meant to mount on a wall can utilize the French Cleat.

 

Showing a Wooden Shelf Support.
Showing a Wooden Shelf Support.

 

 A French Cleat Shelf System.
A French Cleat Shelf System.

 

French Cleat Board.
French Cleat Board.

 

French Cleat Board.
French Cleat Board.

 

Now, as far as free-standing cabinets go, one can find them at IKEA and other modern furniture stores. As long as a cabinet is well-built, one meant to attach to a wall can be slightly modified and find a place on the floor not attached to a wall. Credenzas and sideboards will work as free-standing cabinets.

 

Kitchen Unit. (From a DIY Project of Mine.)
Kitchen Unit. (From a Credenza DIY Project of Mine.)

 

Sink and Cook-top. (From a Credenza DIY Project of Mine.)
Sink and Cook-top. (From a Credenza DIY Project of Mine.)

 

Sink!
Sink! (From a Credenza DIY Project of Mine.)

 

The following IKEA free-standing cabinets are used just as an example of what is available in many places.

 

Ikea Varde Kitchen Cabinet.
IKEA Varde Kitchen Cabinet.
IKEA Free Standing Kitchen Surfaces.
IKEA Free-Standing Kitchen Surfaces.

 

IKEA Varde Sink Cabinet.
IKEA Varde Sink Cabinet.

 

IKEA Varde Kitchen Storage Cabinet.
IKEA Varde Kitchen Storage Cabinet.

 

 

Stainless Steel Free Standing Sink.
Stainless Steel Free Standing Sink.

 

Unless for safety reasons, a cabinet does not need to be attached to a wall and made a permanent fixture. For a small dwelling, the ability to move appliances, as well as cabinetry, gives an invaluable flexibility to account for changing needs and spaces. Sometimes, the best places to look for such things includes restaurant and office supply companies that aren’t wrapped up in conventional notions of what residential cabinetry is all about.

 

 

 

HBosler

Self-Portrait in Red.
Self-Portrait in Red.