First Time Cabinet Builder - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 02-06-2019, 10:31 AM Thread Starter
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First Time Cabinet Builder

Good morning!

I am just about to get started on building my first set of cabinets for my house that I am remodeling. We went to Menards and got a quote of $7400 for 10 cabinets (1 large pantry). That price didn't include the island I want to do, the countertops or installation. So, I figured, Id buy some nice tools and do it myself, save some money along the way and buy some nice lifetime tools. I have an eye for details, so I'm not too intimidated.

I used to paint for a living, so I figure finishing the cabinets will be the easy part for me. Although I've never done them from the ground up.

I'm going to pick up a 1970's Delta Cabinet Unisaw next weekend. I have already purchased the DeWalt 735 planer, an older Jet JJ6 cast iron jointer, and a Bosch GCM12SD mitre saw.

I am here to ask questions along the way. What other tools should I be looking to pick up to make my cabinet building experience easier?

Thanks everyone!
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post #2 of 11 Old 02-06-2019, 11:19 AM
where's my table saw?
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Your biggest issue is ....

Breaking down 4 X 8 sheets of material is the biggest issue. There are several ways, a track saw, a straight edge guide with a standard circular saw, a panel saw, a very large capacity table saw with an outfeed support table.

My experience is as follows;
I bought the best track saw there was, a FestoolTS 75 and all the goodies, but never used it because I had a plan B.
Plan B was to make my own panel saw, a 2 axis sliding type cabable of both ripping and crosscutting without moving the material, just the saw carriage, but didn't use it because I had Plan C.
Plan C was never implemented because I lost interest in making large cabinets and I had Plan D.
Plan D is my Triple 12" 10 ft wide Craftsman table saw, Sawzilla shown in my avatar. I can rip/crosscut to the center of a 48" panel easily with plenty of side and rear support.

I sold the Festool, I still have the 2 axis panel saw, but haven't used it much and I love my super wide table saw.

Lifting and moving heavy sheets of plywood is no fun and working at ground level is no better. If you have the space, I would make a 4 X 8 ft assembly/cutting table about 24" off the floor. It needs to be flat and well supported, preferably a torsion box box, at least 4" deep/thick. You would cover it with 2 " foam when breaking down your sheets and use it for assembling the cases when gluing up. The cheapest way to break down sheets is with a straight edge guide and a standard battery or corded circular saw with a 60 tooth blade.

The second biggest issue you will have is storing all the finished cases since they will take up a lot of space. Finishing them will also require a large area, dust free and well ventilated. I would suggest pre-finished plywood which will reduce your exposure to fumes and you'd get both sides factory finished.

I have only built one complete kitchen in my lifetime, and it was a matter of budget at the time. I did it somehow in the basement of a rental house, with limited space and machines. I bought all my cabinets for my present kitchen.......

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)

Last edited by woodnthings; 02-06-2019 at 12:16 PM.
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post #3 of 11 Old 02-06-2019, 12:21 PM
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For around $350 you can get a nive HVLPself contained spray set-up. Not so good with paints but great with laquers. The over-spray will be dust before it hits your shoes. Not very much of an overspray pattern also. Again, it is usually dust bt the time it hits an unintentional surface.
If you never sprayed lacquer before, consider this: it dried to 'dust free' in about 2 minutes and can be gently handled in about 5 to 10 minutes.
Generally, you apply a primer, wiath about 10 minutes, then spray the first coat of lacquer, wait about 10 minutes and apply your second coat. Then Clean-up. You can handle it and put it into service the next day. When I say lacquer, I am referring to pre-cat lacquer, not the older nitro-cellulous lacquer. Most lacquer suppliers, other than Sherwin Williams, will color it any color you want for around another 12 - $15/gallon.
It's a profession, commercial finish and easy to apply.

Enjoy your build

Tony B Retired woodworker, among other things.

"Strive for excellence and settle for completion" Tony B
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post #4 of 11 Old 02-06-2019, 12:29 PM
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Quite an undertaking for a first timer, but not something you can't do. I've done several kitchens over the years, a couple for myself, and a few for others. There is significantly more work that you might imagine, every box has to be made, and stored until installation. Every drawer, drawer front, and door has to be made and installed. Every drawer slide, and hinge must be installed, and drawers installed and adjusted. You kitchen will be out of service for the duration of the install, longer if you decide to demo, then build the cabinets for the space. Even with great planning you will likely be without a kitchen for several weeks, it isn't fun.

When it comes to the build it is all about square, and plumb.

I learned from a guy that did a lot of the trim and cabinets in houses that were built around here back in the '50's, so a lot of jobsite work. He was a great teacher, and if there was one thing he wanted you to get a grasp on, was the use of a story stick. It is your roadmap for a run of cabinets. It will have the length, depth, all the stiles, all of the rails, shelves, toe kick, and all of the partitions marked on the story stick, so it is an easy reference, for cutting, and as you are assembling the cabinets. And you can take the story sticks into your space and make sure it fits.

He would break the cabinets down into sections, as large as possible instead of building a lot of individual boxes like the store bought cabinets, just make sure you can get them into the space.

Square is crucial, measuring boxes corner to corner is a good way to insure you are square. Out of square affects everything, drawers will have issues, doors won't look right, it just cascades, so take the time to insure they are square. You will need a carpenters rule, this isn't a place to use a tape measure, accuracy is key.

Installation is fun too, no room is square or level, so a lot of work to get everything in there to look right.

And you know the effort involved in finishing...

Acquiring all of the materials, breaking them down, machining pieces and parts, assembling pieces and parts, it all takes time, way more than you anticipate. There will be waste, it will take time to develop a cut list(after you have made a drawing/plan) to keep the waste at a minimum. And there will likely be mis-cuts, so make sure you have a little extra materials. And don't forget your hardware, it will surprise you what the hardware will cost, I'm building some dressers for our closet right now, 12 drawers, slides are $13 a set for the ones I am using, you could easily have 30 or more drawers in a Kitchen...

So I would encourage you to really take a look at your cost, you will definitely get a better product, and have the pride of building it, but I think you will find the cost savings isn't going to be dramatic. And remember, you time really isn't free, it is time you could be doing something else.
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post #5 of 11 Old 02-06-2019, 08:14 PM
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If you are building face frames how do you plan to join the components? Also how will you join the boxes to them. You may want to consider a pocket hole jig such as Kregg jig. This may be controversial to some here, but for this type of joinery it is fast and simple, IMHO.
Think about your doors and drawer fronts. What style will they be? Will you need a router and accessories to create the rails, stiles, panel profiles and drawer fronts. A router and table with good lift will help with these processes.


Last edited by samandothers; 02-06-2019 at 08:18 PM.
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post #6 of 11 Old 02-06-2019, 08:56 PM
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For the cabinet faceframes you might get a doweling jig and dowel them together or you might use a Kreg pocket hole jig. Other than that compressed air, nail and staple guns is about all you need. I would recommend buying the doors if you plan on raised panel doors. You could buy them made for what the wood and tooling would cost. If you are doing a shaker type door you could get a tongue and groove router bit set and do those on a router table. Just use 1/4" plywood for the panels. If you buy them made have the shop drill the holes for euro hinges if that is the type hinges you plan to use. Otherwise you would need a drill press and a 35mm Forstner bit.
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post #7 of 11 Old 02-07-2019, 09:30 AM
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Honestly I think you'd be best served by watching the Kitchen series of New Yankee on Youtube. Norm goes over a lot of considerations for someone looking to do their own kitchen. It would be time well spent IMO.
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A handful of patience is worth a bushel of brains...
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post #8 of 11 Old 02-11-2019, 10:37 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you to everyone who commented. I definitely took some useful information away from it!

I look forward to getting my project started.
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post #9 of 11 Old 02-11-2019, 12:22 PM
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Back when my shop was a lot bigger than now, I stored all my plywood flat in a rack I had built. Handling a sheet of plywood alone can be tough. If you can envision a 3/4 inch plywood platform 24X36 inches with 10 inch swivel castors and on top of the platform build an "A" frame the width of the platform. Make the top of the "A" frame low enough it will fit under the front of your table saw.

Pull the plywood out of the flat storage. Let plywood drop down onto the "A" frame dolly. Walk over to the table saw, tilt the end of the plywood up onto the table saw and kick the dolly under the front edge of the table saw. It worked great for me. I did have a piece of rubber in the top of the "A" frame so it didn't scratch the plywood.


Anything is possible IF you don't know what you are talking about.
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post #10 of 11 Old 02-11-2019, 12:47 PM
where's my table saw?
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Breaking down 4 X 8 sheets ..

My days of handling full 4 X 8 sheets are over. This is why I suggested
combining an assembly and break down table that's low to the ground, 24" or so. It will save your back an make sawing with the table saw much easier. Often a rip down the length will do when making cabinets because rarely are there any dimensions over 30" in width. You can rip that on the table saw, but a helper or a outfeed table is a must. If your piece gets sideways, you have ruined it.

Having put up with moving heavy sheet goods around for years, I decided to build my own 2 axis panel saw and IF I were still making them, it would see more use than now. A piece of 2" foam on top of the 4 x 8 low table would make it easy to rip or cross cut to any size you need with a straight edge guide.... measure twice, cut once.

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #11 of 11 Old 02-11-2019, 01:08 PM
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Oh dear, I'm afraid I bought flat pack units and the company designed the kitchen for free. I assembled the units and placed them in the garage to match the kitchen lay out. While doing this, the kitchen was out of use for just one day when I put the sink and new water pipes in to serve a washing machine and dish washer.
I got over the electric regs requiring connection to a fused outlet by simply plugging into the existing wall socket and leading connection to a fused socket and then the machines. All worked perfectly. This was done before digital cameras and regret have no photos of finished kitchen which was two moves ago.
I am sure you have flat pack companies in US.


Last edited by johnep; 02-11-2019 at 01:13 PM.
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