12 Stocking Stuffers for the DIYer under $25

Twelve useful tools, gadgets and accessories under $25 that make great stocking (err... toolbelt?) stuffers for the DIYer in your life. What's great about most of these is even if they already own one, a second one to keep in another location will be very handy.
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Milwaukee Hackzall Review

I've owned my Milwaukee M12 Cordless Hackzall since almost the beginning of 2013. Since then, I've reached for the Hackzall more than any of my other saws and haven't used my corded reciprocating saw at all this year.

Every time I use it I'm blown away by how powerful this little cordless reciprocating saw is. Milwaukee has managed to squeeze a lot of power out of only a 12V Lithium-Ion battery.

Considering Jerome Schnettler and Edware Ristow invented the Sawzall (first reciprocating saw) back in 1952 for Milwaukee, it's no big surprise that Milwaukee would come out with such an innovative new design. Although it has the same shoe , uses the same blades and can be used for the same types of cutting activity as a reciprocating saw, it is a whole new type of tool.

While other cordless reciprocating saws merely tack a battery pack onto the back of a standard looking reciprocating saw, Milwaukee took a different approach with the Hackzall creating a compact reciprocating saw that can be used in a lot more places.

The smaller size of the Hackzall opens up a lot of possibilities. It's easy to carry and use with one hand which makes it great for using in tough to reach spots or when on a ladder. It leaves one hand free to secure the work piece but at the same time there's enough room on the small body to grab it with both hands for greater control.

The variable speed trigger smoothly controls the speed of the blade from between 0 to 3,000 strokes per minute and a bright LED illuminates the cut area. Four red LED's next to the blade lock indicate how much charge is left in the battery. These LED's are activated every time you pull the trigger so you don't forget to check.

A twist lock mechanism provides tool free blade changes of any blades that will fit in a standard reciprocating saw. The blade can also be mounted in reverse. With the blade facing the opposite direction you can get in some tighter spots since the shoe is shorter on the back end.

Overall the tool is built tough and can handle a lot of abuse. I've used it for cutting 2x lumber, some metal pipes, bars and have used it extensively over the summer in the landscape to cut thicker branches that would have taken a long time to do by hand.

I don't know that I'd grab it if I needed to demo a large area (nor would I use any cordless saw for that) but for the occasional cutting job throughout the day it works well. The Hackzall would be a great tool for plumbers, electricians, etc to in their tool bag whenever they need to cut through framing. Great saw for the homeowner that likes to tackle weekend projects but tough enough to withstand daily use too. I've put the M12 batteries through some tough situations and they've held up. Other Li-ion batteries for other tools I've owned haven't done as well through similar use.

If you already own other M12 tools you can purchase the bare Hackzall without a battery or charger. If you don't, you can purchase the Hackzall with battery and charger. If you need more power, a slightly larger 18V Hackzall is available that uses the M18 RedLithium batteries.
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Easy Way To Trim a Door

Here's an easy way to cut and install trim around a door that doesn't need a lot of measuring and gets you tight, accurate mitered corners. This is a little different from how most people I've seen measure and install door casing.

I was finishing up a little work in my laundry room and I thought it would be helpful to show others how I install door casing around a door. The way I install door casing doesn't create a lot of mess, is easy to install on your own and gets you good miters.

Door casing is the trim that you install around the outside of a door. It finishes the installation and covers any gaps or rough edges from where the drywall meets the door jamb.

It's available in a variety of styles, widths and grades. You can get expensive stain-grade hardwood molding or affordable composite or MDF molding. I went somewhere in the middle with this 5 pack of 11/16" x 2-1/4" Primed, Finger-Jointed Pine Colonial Door Casing.5 sticks of trim is enough to trim both sides of most single doors and the style matched my existing trim.

Finger-jointed trim is made up of smaller pieces of wood that have fingers cut in the ends that provide a strong bond when they are glued together to make longer lengths. This makes it cheaper to produce compared to whole pieces of trim. Since I was going to be painting the trim I didn't need more expensive stain grade molding but I still wanted to use solid wood, not composite.

You'll need to learn how to attach door trim if you're installing a new door, repairing damaged trim or changing the look of the trim in your home.

What You'll Need

Materials

  • 5 pieces of door casing
  • Finish nails
  • Paintable latex caulk (white)

Tools

  • Miter box or power miter saw
  • Hammer and nail set or power finish nailer
  • (at least 3) 6" or greater bar clamps
  • Caulking gun
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil

Step 1: Measure Opening Width

This is the only measurement I take of the door. Measure the width of the top of the opening where the top piece of door trim will be installed.


To this measurement add 3/8". This will leave a slight (3/16") reveal around the door frame. This is the reveal I like to use. If there is a requirement to have a different reveal make the necessary adjustments.

If you want to be more precise you can set a scribe (compass) to 3/16" and draw a line around the door jambs to help line up the pieces.

Step 2: Cut Top Door Casing

Unlike other methods I've seen, I start with the top piece of trim first. I find this makes it easier to get tight corners and a good fit.

The top section of door casing has a 45 degree cut on each end. The width of the bottom portion is the width we determined in Step 1. In my case I had a 28" opening so I needed to cut at 28-3/8". When cut it will look like this.


Start by trimming one end of the casing stock to give it the appropriate 45 degree angle.  You don't need to measure anything for this first cut, just cut near the end of a piece to reduce waste.

Next, measure from the bottom of the 45 degree cut and mark for the length of the top (28-3/8" for me.) This is where it gets a little tricky because you can't just hook the end of your tape measure to the bottom of the miter. You have to hold it in place or what I usually do is use a rigid measure (drywall square or whatever is handy) instead of measuring tape. You also have to be a little more careful when making the cut because the mark is going to be on the outside.


I own a power miter saw but I decided to use my manual miter box which I discussed in my article How To Make Square Cuts In Dimensional Lumber. It takes a little longer to make the cut but the cuts are still accurate and clean up is a lot quicker because I don't have sawdust blowing all over the room. It's faster to make the cuts closer to the work area and all I needed was a small sheet of plastic to catch all the sawdust that falls straight down from the saw. No need to vacuum!

The door casing is positioned with the back down and the thick side of the trim against the fence. I used some small clamps to hold the casing tight in the miter box. One hand operated the saw, the other held the miter box in place. If you have a work table nearby you can clamp the miter box down. I'm using some of the Irwin Mini and Micro clamps that came in a set (Irwin Quick-Grip Clamp Set from Home Depot) which is an affordable way to get enough clamps for this project.

Repeat the above steps for the other side of the door. Use the first top piece as a template for the second top peice after you're sure it's the right size. Save the second top trim for later.

Step 2: Dry Fit The Top Trim

With the top piece of trim cut to size, test to see if it fits. Leave a 3/16" gap from the bottom of the door frame to create a reveal and center it over the opening. You don't need to be exact with your measurements. Just eyeball it and temporarily clamp it in place using at least a 6" clamp.


As you're dry fitting the trim, you might come across some high spots in the drywall edges or compound. Take the time to trim or sand them down to get a good fit with the trim.

Step 3: Side Trim

For the side trim we don't need to take any measurements. Take a long piece of trim and flip it over so the back faces out and the thick side presses up against the top trim with the bottom resting on the floor. Hold it square with the top piece. Using a pencil, mark where it meets the top of the top trim piece.


Transfer your mark to the front and mark the direction of the miter too so you don't make a mistake. Then make the cut.

Test fit the side trim. Now you can start making more precise adjustments to the top and side so the miter is tight and everything is lining up with a good reveal. Once you get it positioned, clamp the side trim in place.


Repeat for the other side.

Step 4: Adjust and Nail Door Casing

With all 3 pieces of door casing cut to size, make final adjustments to get the corners tight and the right reveal around the door frame. Clamp everything down tight and begin nailing.

I used a pneumatic finish nailer which made things go quickly but since everything is clamped in place it's not too hard to use a hammer and finish nails. Then follow up with a nail set to recess the head of the nail below the surface of the trim.

Use 18 gauge (or 5d if hammering) finish nails along the inside to secure the trim to the door jamb. Use 16 gauge (8d) nails to secure the thicker, outer edge of the trim to the wall framing.

Step 5: Other Side

Repeat the steps above to trim out the other side of the wall.

Step 6: Caulk and Paint

When you're done with all the trim you need to install,  use a paintable latex caulk along all the edges where the trim meets the wall or door jamb. Fill in all the nail holes and any gaps you might have in the miters if you didn't get a good fit. When the caulk dries you're ready to paint. I like using Benjamin Moore Waterborne Satin Impervo mixed with a bit of Floetrol paint conditioner for trim.
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Do Leather Repair Kits Work?

Leather repair kits claim you can repair rips in leather yourself. These DIY leather repair kits are available at reasonable prices but do they work? Actually they do but there are some things you need to know before you jump in and try it. I bought a kit to try it out.

The armchair of my leather sofa set has seen better days. It's location makes the leather armrest a popular spot for pets and people to sit on. Over the years cat scratches combined with the weight of people sitting on the armrest caused a number of rips and tears in the leather. I was about to call a professional leather repair expert to see what they could do but I decided it would be a good opportunity to test a leather repair kit to see if it actually works. Reviews I read were mixed so I was curious to see if I could do it myself.
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How To Build Frameless Base Cabinets

Free Frameless European style base cabinet plans that you can build for your kitchen, bathroom, office, home theater or other renovations. This is more than just how to build a base cabinet. It's practically everything you need to know about building frameless base cabinets before you begin. 

When I first tried to learn how to build cabinets I had a hard time finding all the information I needed. There was a little bit here, a little bit there, but nowhere did I find all the information all in one place. I did my best to combine most of what you need to know in one place to make things easier for you. It's a bit of a long read but if you're serious about building your own cabinets it to save money it's well worth the time. One book I commonly saw mentioned was Build Your Own Kitchen Cabinets (Popular Woodworking) by Danny Proulx which might be worth considering. I haven't read it myself.

Frameless cabinets are easy and affordable to build. They also provide more usable storage space over face frame cabinets. Over the years I've looked into different construction techniques for frameless cabinets and have put all that information together to help you build your own frameless base cabinets. To build matching wall cabinets see my post on How To Build Frameless Wall Cabinets. Construction of the base cabinet is relatively straight forward. The most difficult aspect is planning and sizing which will make up a good bit of this post.

Frameless cabinets have a more contemporary look but can be dressed up with trim and more elaborate doors to have a more traditional look.

In this article we're going to focus on how to build a frameless base cabinet carcass. The cabinet carcass is the main box of the cabinet which does not include doors, drawer fronts or drawer boxes. The cabinet carcass can be configured in a number of different ways to allow doors, drawers, open shelving or any combination which suits your needs.

The frameless cabinet design I find easiest to build, install and provides exceptional strength is the one pictured right. It is made of 3/4" plywood throughout, including a full back. The top consists of 2 4" stretchers. Up to a 30" wide standard base cabinet carcass can be constructed out of a single sheet of 4' x 8' plywood.


This is the design we'll focus on but I'll address some other options and aspects.

Cabinet Base Options

There are 4 different ways you can configure the base of your lower frameless cabinet. Each one has it's pros and cons.

Standard Base

The standard base has the sides and back of the cabinet extend all the way down to the floor and is notched in the front to provide a toe kick. The notch is 3" deep and 4-1/2" tall. There is a "sub toe kick" that provides additional support for the bottom and makes it easy to apply your finished toe kick cover (such as a decorative baseboard) over a continual stretch of cabinets for a seamless look.

This type of base is marginally more difficult to build and uses a little more plywood but you get a single cabinet unit which has advantages. Each cabinet needs to be shimmed individually to make it level. This is what most semi-custom cabinets you buy look like.

Standard Base No Toe Kick

Sometimes you won't need a toe kick at all such as when you're building a built-in desk or library. This base has the same pros and cons as the standard base except it has no toe kick. Instead a decorative board, the same thickness of the doors, is applied over the base of all cabinets after installation for a seamless look.

Adjustable Cabinet Legs

Adjustable cabinet legs (such as these Platte River Cabinet Leveling Legs or better Blum Leg Levelers and Blum Kick Plate Clips) make installation of cabinets very easy on uneven floors and let's face it, most floors have some degree of unevenness to them.

What's more, it's easy to make changes to the cabinet height during installation (and with a little more work after installation) if the need arises.

The toe kick board gets screwed onto a plate that clips onto the legs after all cabinets have been installed and leveled. Unlike the standard base, it's easy to add a toe kick on the side of a cabinet such as the exposed end of a cabinet run. It also makes it easier to change the toe kick board to change the look of your kitchen at a later date.

Since the wood cabinet is kept off the floor these are good for spaces where dampness is an issue such as in basements, garages or other areas where cabinets are installed on a concrete slab floor.

The downside is it will add a little bit extra to the cost of each cabinet but not much and the benefts will usually outweigh the cost.

Separate Base Platform

Finally you can create a separate base platform that consists of a frame made up of 2x4's with a plywood top giving you a total toe kick height of 4-1/4" (3-1/2" 2x4 + 3/4" plywood). What's nice about this arrangement is you level the platform before installing the cabinets. Then you just need to place your cabinets on the platform without having to do much if any additional leveling. The base is also sturdier than a base that is part of or attached to your cabinets.

You can even create toe kicks on the sides of cabinets where necessary such as the end of a cabinet run or a kitchen island.

Cabinet Back Options

You also have a few options on how you construct the back of the cabinet.

Full Back

You can choose to use a full back that is the same 3/4" plywood used for the rest of your cabinet. (Some people choose to use 1/2" but I find it's easier to just use one thickness throughout.) This configuration will give you an enclosed cabinet with exceptional strength which is important when installing heavy stone countertops and supporting heavy countertop appliances. It can be a little more money but not much if you plan your cuts out well. We'll be using the Full Back in the example in this article.

Nailer Back

Sometimes you don't care if a cabinet has a back or not, such as in garage storage cabinets. This option can save on material. Instead of having a full back you create 2 nailing strips out of 3/4" plywood for the top and bottom of the back so you have something to affix the cabinet to the wall with and to provide rigidity and strength to the cabinet.

1/4" Back With Nailers

In some cases you'll want to have an enclosed back but you want to save some money. You can use nailers as in the previous option but also staple a 1/4" plywood back over the nailers to provide a finished look. This is cheaper than using a full back and provides a lighter cabinet. Many semi-custom cabinet manufacturers use this technique. It doesn't add as much strength as a full back but it does give you the look and feel of one. The 1/4" plywood is more prone to warping than the 3/4" plywood and may bow out over time.

What You'll Need

Tools

Materials

3/4" hardwood veneered plywood is the best option for building your cabinets. If you're taking the time to build your own cabinets might as well make them the best you can. You're still going to save money over most semi-custom cabinets that are usually made out of 5/8" particle board and wind up with a better quality cabinet. 

Plywood comes in different apperance grades. A1 being the best. If you plan on painting your cabinets or don't care about the apperance (garage cabinets) you can use a lower appearance grade cabinet. If you must use MDF to save money make sure you glue your joints in addition to using the appropriate pocket screws . 

Step 1: Calculate Cabinet and Component Dimensions

Chances are you will want to build a different sized cabinet than what I'm going to show in this example. In most cases you'll want to build multiple cabinets of different sizes so let's go over how to calculate the dimensions of the different components that make up the carcass. 

Cabinet Height

The height of the cabinet will be determined by the application. For example the standard height for the top of a kitchen work surface is 36". If our countertop thickness will be 1-1/2" that means our cabinet needs to be 36" - 1-1/2" or 34-1/2" tall.

Cabinet Height = Desired Top Height - Top Thickness

Some common work type heights are:
  • Kitchen 36"
  • Bathroom Vanity 33" to 36"
  • Desk 30"

Cabinet Depth

The standard depth for kitchen cabinets is 24" which includes the door. This should work for most situations but you may want to check the specifications of your appliances (slide in range, dishwasher, etc) to see if they require a different size. 

For bathroom vanity cabinets the standard depth is 21". For desks and other custom cabinets you can choose whatever depth works best for you though most are 20-30" deep.

Cabinet Width

This one is easy. The cabinet width is determined by your design and your preferences.

Cabinet  Component Dimensions

In our example we're going to be constructing a 30" W x 34-1/2" H x 24" D cabinet using 3/4" plywood. We'll be making it with a standard base and a full back. In all the dimensions below the direction of the grain will follow the height.

*Note: if you're using thick edgebanding you'll need to factor that in where appropriate. Most edgebanding is less than 1/32" thick which is pretty insignificant so I don't factor it in most of the time. As long as it's used consistently and applied before assembly I consider it an acceptable margin of error. Wood expands and contracts. Not all human cuts are very accurate. Consistency is more important over precision and it makes calculating sizes and cutting components much easier.

Cabinet Side Dimensions

We will need two sides for the cabinet. The height of the side is simply the height of our cabinet minus an external base if using one. The width is the depth of the cabinet minus the thickness of the door.

Cabinet Side Height = Height of Cabinet - External Base (34-1/2" - 0 = 34-1/2")
Cabinet Side Width = Depth of Cabinet - Door Thickness (24" - 3/4" = 23-1/4")

We'll need 2 34-1/2" x 23-1/4" sides for our cabinet.

Cabinet Bottom Dimensions

The height for the bottom of our cabinet will need to be the width of our cabinet minus twice the thickness of the sides. The width will be the depth of the cabinet mins the back depth minus the door thickness. (Be careful sometimes advertised size isn't true size. A digital caliper can help you get an accurate thickness measurement. Your 3/4" plywood may sometimes be 23/32" or something else entirely.)

Cabinet Bottom Height = Cabinet Width - 2 x Side Thickness (30" - 2 x 3/4" = 28-1/2")
Cabinet Bottom Width = Cabinet Depth - Back Thickness - Door Thickness (24" - 3/4" - 3/4" = 22-1/2")

We'll need one back that is 28-1/2" x 22-1/2".

Cabinet Shelf Dimensions

If you're installing a shelf in your cabinet (as our example does) you want to size it appropriately. It's basically the same dimensions as the Bottom minus a little depth (1/2") so that it stays clear of the doors even if there is some expansion.

Cabinet Shelf Height = Cabinet Bottom Height (28-1/2")
Cabinet Shelf Width = Cabinet Bottom Width - 1/2" (22-1/2" - 1/2" = 22")

Cabinet Back Dimensions

We can use some of the previous dimensions we calculated to determine the dimensions of the back of the cabinet. The back of the cabinet will rarely be seen and even when it is it won't be lit very well. While it's nice to have a consistent grain direction for the backs you might be able to save a sheet of plywood by mixing the grain direction up for the backs if you don't mind a little inconsistency in an inconspicuous location.

Cabinet Back Height = Cabinet Bottom Height (28-1/2")
Cabinet Back Width = Cabinet Side Height - Stretcher Thickness (34-1/2" - 3/4" = 33-3/4")

Our cabinet needs one back measuring 28-1/2" x 33-3/4".

Stretcher and Sub Toe Kick Dimensions

Grain direction should be along the long side but in most cases these components will hardly be seen so feel free to change the orientation if it helps you maximize the usage on your cut plan. 

Stretchers should be 3-4" wide, the sub toe kick should match the height of the notch cut into the base (4-1/2" in our example). The height of both should be the same as the Cabinet Back Height (28-1/2").

We'll need 3 stretchers (4" x 28-1/2") and one sub toe kick (4-1/2" x 28-1/2")

Step 2: Attach Side To Back

Wow! You've read all this way and we're just starting to put the cabinet together! Careful planning makes the rest of the process easy.

Start by applying edgebanding to the front of both cabinet sides.

Drill pocket holes around the top and sides of the Cabinet Back and attach it to one of the sides as shown.


Notice that the bottom of the back is flush with the bottom of the side. There is a 3/4" space on the top of the back for the stretcher that will eventually be installed.

Step 3: Attach Bottom

Apply edgebanding to the front of the bottom, drill pocket screw holes as shown and attach the Bottom to the Side and Back previously assembled. Notice that the bottom of the Bottom is flush with the notch for the Toe Kick. Use your square to make sure everything is aligned properly.

Step 4: Attach Other Side

Attach the other side to the cabinet assembly using the previously drilled pocket holes in the Back and Bottom pieces.

Step 5: Attach Stretchers

Apply edgebanding to the front of the 2 stretchers that will be attached to the front. Drill pocket holes and attach to the cabinet making sure everything is square. The bottom stretcher on the front is for the first drawer. To minimize visibility of the pocket holes install them with the pocket holes facing up. (The drawer will hide the second front stretcher holes.)


In this example we're assuming the cabinet will have a single full width drawer and 2 lower doors. The spacing for this bottom section will be determined by the desired drawer height. The standard top drawer height is 6". We're planning for overlay drawers and doors. A 1/4" gap should be on the top to avoid any binding against the counter top. That means the second front stretcher should be 6-1/4" down from the top of the cabinet.

Step 6: Install Sub Toe Kick

The Sub Toe Kick helps support the cabinet and add rigidity. It also makes it easy to nail in the finished kick board after installation. Drill pocket screw holes and attach it between the cabinet sides as shown.

Step 7: Drill Shelf Pin Holes

Using the Kreg Shelf Pin Jig make holes in the back and front of each side of the cabinet for shelf pins. Leave at least 3-4" on the top and bottom for room to install your door hinges depending on where you drill the bores for your hinge cups on the door.

Use the short side of the jig without the fence to get the holes 37mm from the front edge of the jig. When doing the back, flip the jig around.


When you're done, apply edgebanding to the front of the shelf, insert shelf pins in the appropriate locations and install your shelf.

To learn how to make drawers see my post on How To Make Drawer Boxes
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How To Build Frameless Wall Cabinets

European style frameless upper cabinets are easy to build with the right tools, are affordable and are used for a variety of projects from kitchens, to bathrooms, offices and more. When I first tried to find information on how to build my own cabinets I found it a bit confusing. In case it helps others I'm going to go over what I've learned over the years. In this post you'll find information on frameless upper cabinet construction and instructions on how to build them.

These basic wall cabinets have a very clean, contemporary look but frameless cabinets are versatile. By using nicer doors, adding some crown molding and light rail trim you can achieve a more traditional look.



You can save a lot of money if you build your own frameless cabinets. While building frameless cabinets isn't very difficult it is important that the cuts are accurate and the pieces as well as the assembly is square. Before you go crazy in your kitchen with a sledgehammer and order a large pile of plywood Try to build one small cabinet to make sure you're happy with your results.

What You'll Need

Tools

Materials

You'll need 2 sides, one top, one bottom, one back, one or more shelves and one or more doors. 

Unlike my other posts, there is no cut list or cut plan because these are general instructions and the size of the cabinet will vary based on your needs. Instead I'll provide information on how to calculate the dimensions of the components you'll need to build your own cabinets to your specifications.

The type of material you choose will depend on where you will be installing the cabinets. In your kitchen you'll want to use nicer material than in your garage.

Material for Cabinet Carcasses

The cabinet box is also called the carcass. The thicker the material you use, the stronger the cabinet will be and the longer you can make your cabinets. 3/4" material is recommended but in some situations 5/8" or 1/2" can also work. Some woodworkers use different thicknesses for different parts of the carcass such as 1/4" backs inserted into a groove with 1/2" nailing strips, or 1/2" for the back and sides and 3/4" for the top and bottom. This is mainly done to save money. If you're only building a few cabinets for yourself you can simplify the process and wind up with stronger cabinets if you just use the same thickness material (3/4") for all the components.

Plywood is better than MDF is better than particle board. If you're using plywood it's important to note that plywood comes in different grades. One grade for the good side and one grade for the back side. A1 is the best appearance grade of plywood you can get. If you want to save some money you can choose to build the carcasses out of a lower appearance grade plywood such as B2 and use the A1 plywood for exposed ends and doors. Some even like to use melamine coated particle board for the carcasses with better plywood for doors and end panels. If you plan on painting your cabinets the grade of the plywood isn't as important. 

For shop cabinets in the basement or garage you might be able to find "shop grade" plywood at your local lumber mill. This plywood would have more defects in the veneer but still have a strong core. Many people even build shop cabinets out of CDX plywood. It's not very pretty but the X in the name indicates the glues used can handle a bit of exposure to weather which could be good in a garage.

If you're going through the trouble of building your own cabinets you're already saving a considerable amount of money and it makes sense to go with plywood in most instances. For the purpose of these instructions I'm going to assume the cabinet will be built with 3/4" plywood.

Material for Cabinet Doors

You can make plain slab doors out of the same material you use for your cabinet carcasses. In our case plywood. This will be the cheapest option and the one I'll be using in this guide because there are too many options and methods to construct cabinet doors to discuss here.

If you're not happy with a plain slab cabinet door a number of companies will make custom doors for you in a variety of styles at reasonable costs.

Step 1: Calculate Cabinet Component Dimensions

Before we begin cutting and assembling our cabinet we first need to determine what size cabinet we need. If you've ever gone to a kitchen showroom you've probably noticed that the semi-custom cabinets they offer come in some standard sizes. Since we're building our cabinets we can choose any custom dimensions we want to suit our needs. There are some limitations however. The material and thickness chosen will decide how wide a cabinet we can build. In most cases with 3/4" plywood about 42" should be the maximum width but narrower cabinets will have more stability.

Standard upper cabinet depth is 12" (including door) when over a counter. Deeper when over a refrigerator and has more support. The 12" upper cabinet depth leaves a 10-1/2" interior depth. Dinner plates are usually 10" in diameter but can up to 12". If you have larger plates, or want to leave room for larger plates in the future, make your cabinets deeper. In our tutorial we'll build a frameless upper cabinet that is 18" W x 30" H x 12-1/2" D. This will leave an 11" interior cabinet depth.

Our cabinet will be made up of 6 pieces of plywood. 2 Sides, a top and bottom, a back and a door. All will be cut from 3/4" plywood. To determine the size of each component we'll use the following formulas.

(For consistency the "height" is also the direction of the grain.)

Cabinet Side Dimensions

There are 2 sides and in most case the dimension runs vertically. The height of the side is the same as our desired cabinet height. Because we're using overlay* doors the width of the side is our desired cabinet depth minus the thickness of the door.  In our case we have:

Side height = 30" (height of cabinet)
Side width = 12-1/2" - 3/4" (depth of cabinet - width of door) = 11-3/4"

We'll need 2 11-3/4" x 30" pieces of 3/4" plywood.

(Overlay doors sit in front of the cabinet. Inset doors sit within the cabinet. For inset doors the width of the sides will be the same as the width of the cabinet.

Cabinet Top/Bottom Dimensions

The top and bottom pieces have the same dimensions. The width of the top/bottom is equal to the depth of the cabinet minus the thickness of the door. The height of the top/bottom is the width of the cabinet minus the thickness of each side.

Top/Bottom height = 18" (cab width) - 2 x 3/4" (side thickness) = 16-1/2"
Top/Bottom width = 12-1/2" (cab depth) - 3/4" (door thickness) = 11-3/4"

We'll need 2 16-1/2" x 11-3/4" pieces of 3/4" plywood.

Cabinet Back Dimensions

The back of our frameless cabinet fits in between both sides and the top and the bottom. To determine the width of the back we need to subtract the thickness of each side piece. To calculate the height we subtract the thickness of the top and bottom pieces.

Back height = 30" (cab height) - 3/4" (top thickness) - 3/4" (bottom thickness) = 28-1/2"
Back width = 18" (cab width) - 2 x 3/4" (side thickness) = 16-1/2"

We'll need 1 28-1/2" x 16-1/2" piece of 3/4" plywood.

Adjustable Shelves Dimensions

Depending on the height and purpose of the wall cabinet you may want to have one or more adjustable shelves. These are peices of 3/4" plywood that rest on shelf pins which are inserted in a series of shelf pin holes inside the cabinet.

The shelf is the width of the inside of the cabinet and extends from the back of the inside to 1/4 inch from the front.

Shelf height = 18" (cab width) - 2 x 3/4" (side thickness) = 16-1/2"
Shelf width = 12-1/2" (cab depth) - 3/4" (door) - 3/4" (back) - 1/4" (space) = 10-3/4"

Cabinet Door Dimensions

Our cabinet only has one door and we are designing the cabinets to be full-overlay. This means that the door sits in front of the cabinet and covers almost all of the cabinet. In reality the door needs a little bit of space around it to prevent it from rubbing against adjacent doors or walls. 



The minimum space with most hinges is 1/16" so we need to subtract 1/8" (2 x 1/8") from each dimension. That will also give us a nice 1/8" spacing between doors from other cabinets too. 

Door height = 30" (cab height) - 1/8" = 29-7/8"
Door width = 18" (cab width) - 1/8" = 17-7/8"

If we were building a wider cabinet that required 2 doors we would still subtract 1/8" for the height but the width of each door would be (CabHeight - 1/4")/2. There would be a 1/8" space between the two doors and 1/16" space around the perimeter.

Now that we know what size pieces of plywood we need we can begin assembly.

Step 2: Assemble Sides, Top and Bottom

Should you use glue? Pocket hole joinery is pretty strong but glueing the joints in addition to screwing will give you a stronger more rigid cabinet. If you do decide to use glue, first assemble the cabinet without glue to make sure everything fits and lines up well. Then disassemble and reassemble with glue.

Edgebanding: Apply edgebanding to the edge of each of the 4 pieces that will be on the front of the cabinet.

Start by drilling pocket holes in the Top and Bottom pieces as shown and attach the Top to one of the side pieces.

Now attach the bottom to the side. Make sure the pocket holes are on the outside of the cabinet.


Attach the last remaining side, making sure everything is aligned properly and square.

Step 3: Cabinet Back

Double check to make sure the back of the cabinet is square and make sure it fits inside the back of the cabinet. If not, make adjustments to the back.

If everything fits together properly, is the right size and is square, disassemble the cabinet and repeat Step 2 above, this time with glue before inserting the back.

Drill pocket hole screws around the perimeter of the back and attach it to the rest of the cabinet as shown using glue.

Because we're using pocket screws we've built this entire cabinet without a single clamp. Normally a lot of long, expensive bar clamps are used when building cabinets or other furniture to keep the cabinet in place while the glue dries. One of the benefits of using pocket hole joinery is the screws act like clamps to hold everything together while the glue dries.

Step 4: Drill Shelf Pin Holes

Remove the fences from your Kreg Shelf Pin Jig and place it at the bottom of the cabinet as shown. The short side should be flush with the front of the cabinet. This will position the holes 37mm away from the front.

Use the second and third holes from the bottom to drill pilot holes for the hinge mounting plate.

Slide the shelf pin jig up to the top of the cabinet, keeping it flush with the front of the cabinet and drill holes for the top hinge mounting plate in the 2nd and 3rd holes from the top as shown. 


Now place the indexing pin in the bottom hole of the jig, slide the jig down to insert the indexing pin in the 1st Shelf Pin Hole drilled previously and continue your way up the side of the cabinet drilling shelf pin holes. Stop before you get to the pilot holes for the top hinge mounting plate.


Flip the shelf pin jig around and place it in the back corner of the cabinet so the short end of the jig is closest to the back as shown. Drill the 1st shelf pin hole in the last hole from the bottom. (We don't need pilot holes for the hinge in the back.)Then continue drilling the remaining shelf pin holes along the back using the indexing pin.


Repeat this step on the other side of the cabinet.

Step 5: Mark Hinge Bore Locations

On the back, hinge side of the door, mark 2 lines 3-3/16" from the top and bottom of the door. This is the center-line for the hinge bore.

Follow the instructions that came with your hinge boring jig (such as the Rockler Jig It Concealed Hinge Jig) to drill the 35mm bores for the cup end of the hinge. 

Finally attach and adjust your hinges so the door has an even overlay all the way around the cabinet.

Insert some shelf pins, and your shelf and the cabinet is done. Paint and prime, or stain and finish.


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