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Cabinet Building Basics for DIY’ers

Cabinet, Construction How-To October 26, 2006 Sonia


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art_60384_cabblead1

Regardless of whether you are building a stereo cabinet or dresser, a kitchen cabinet or bathroom vanity, basic cabinet construction is the same. A cabinet or furniture piece consists of the carcass or case with two sides, bottom and top, a back and a front. The front may contain drawers, doors or shelves or combinations of the three. Cabinet building has several variations which may be used in construction.

The carcass construction can be separated into three types: leg-and-rail, frame-and-panel, and box or case. Leg-and-rail construction is found on chairs, tables, benches, stools and on some furniture such as chests.

Frame-and-panel construction is used to make up the component parts of many types of furniture including the sides, doors and interior web frames with dust panels that are used on many fine, hand-built pieces of furniture.

Box or case construction is the basic design of dressers, buffets, desks and chests, as well as kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities.

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The simplest case construction is a box made of plywood. These can be softwood or hardwood plywood, and they can be painted or stained and varnished. Particle board, finished on one or two sides, is a common material for construction of some cabinetry. A case can also be constructed of solid wood, but these days solid wood is used only on small pieces or for extremely fine furniture.

The simplest cabinetry is a box construction such as a kitchen cabinet. Shown is the typical construction dimensions of an applied-facer kitchen cabinet base.

 

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Kitchen Cabinet Case Construction

Both upper and lower cabinets have the same basic construction details. On the lower cabinet, the first step is to cut the two sides. Incidentally, you can construct a custom kitchen cabinet to fit any space, rather than the small individual sections joined as with purchased cabinetry. Or you can make up smaller units and join them in the same fashion. If a side is to be concealed against a wall, that side can be made of more economical plywood. The exposed side should be cut from a good hardwood- or smooth softwood-surfaced plywood.

This is the typical construction of an upper kitchen cabinet with applied facer.

The following is the simplest method of constructing, using glue and finish nails that are then set below the surface and the holes filled with wood putty. Cut a 1/4-by-1/4-inch rabbet in the inside back edge of each side piece for the cabinet back. The bottom shelf is raised above the floor on most cabinets to create a “toe-space” or kick board. Locate the position of the bottom on the side pieces and mark the kick board cut-out on each cabinet side. Cut using a saber saw.