Cabinets are furniture featuring doors, drawers, or a mix of both meant to hold miscellaneous items. A well-designed cabinet can combine both form and function, offering itself as both a practical storage facility and contributing to the overall aesthetic of your room, kitchen, office or bathroom.
However, you will find in the markets ready-made, and even ready-to-assemble, cabinets to be quite expensive. A good quality cabinet can easily cost you thousands of dollars. Save up on cash by considering a DIY cabinet project in your spare time. This step-by-step guide will instruct you on how to build a wood cabinet easily without requiring expert knowledge or skill in woodworking.
Table of Content
- Stuff You Will Need
- Safety First!
- How to Make a Cabinet
- Step 1: Plan the Dimensions
- Step 2: Cut the Pieces
- Step 3: Create the Skeleton
- Step 4: Add the Walls
- Step 5: Secure the Structure with Nails and Joints
- Step 6: Install the Shelfs
- Step 7: Create the Cabinet Doors
- Step 8: Attach the Cabinet Doors
- Step 9: Adding Some Finishes
- Step 10: Paint or Stain the Cabinet
- Step 11: Add a Protective Coating
Stuff You Will Need
Here is a list of stuff you will need for the project. Consider improvising where you fall short of an item on the checklist.
- 1 ¼ Standard Plywood (or any suitable wood)
- Wood Glue
- Power Drill
- Corner Brackets
- Tape Measure
- Sanding Paper
- Framing Square
- Furniture Knob
- Magnetic door latch
- Paint brush
- Stain or Paint
Before starting with making a wood cabinet, be considerate of your safety. While working on the woodworking project, lint or sawdust can enter your eyes, causing irritation or even injury. You should always wear safety glasses while working with wood.
In addition, to prevent sawdust or any chemical particulates from entering your lungs, be sure to also wear a reliable mask filter, especially if working in an unventilated area. If the equipment you use is too loud, it might also be beneficial to wear earmuffs. When painting or staining the furniture, also make sure to wear plastic gloves.
How to Make a Cabinet
Step 1: Plan the Dimensions
First, consider the dimension of your DIY cabinet. How large would you want it to be? Are you aiming for a small cabinet to hang on the wall of your bathroom or kitchen? Or would you want a large cabinet for your living room that also acts as a tabletop for putting various items? Here is a link (INSERT LINK to your plans/ DELETE LINE if none exists) to some free woodworking plans for making cabinets.
For this example, we will be making a versatile 2 ft x 1 ft x 3 ft cabinet, which you can use either as a small tabletop or to hang over the counter.
Note: To avoid any confusion with the dimensions, all the ones listed here go in this order – Length x Width x Height
Step 2: Cut the Pieces
Using a tape measure, a ruler and a pencil, outline the dimensions of the cabinet pieces and cut them using a jigsaw. If you don’t have one, you can use a standard hand saw as well but unless you are skilled with its use, you may find it a bit difficult to achieve a uniform cut. However, even if you are unable to do so, don’t worry; if the uneven cut isn’t too big, you can use a sanding paper to sand it even.
You will need to cut the following out of the plywood:
For the Skeleton
Four 36’ x 2’
Four 12’ x 2’
Four 24’ x 2’
For the Walls
Two 12’ x 36’
Two 24’ x 36’
Two 24’ x 12’
For the Shelf
One or Two 22’ x 10’
Step 3: Create the Skeleton
You have the option to skip this step and simply attach the walls together. However, creating a skeleton is recommended if you want your cabinet to be more durable and last a long while.
Like a picture frame, the sides of thin facing panels would need to be angled at 45 degrees so that they fit into each other perfectly. Cutting plywood at an angle is a bit more challenging and with some practice, it gets easier to get it right.
Place the plywood at a level surfaced table and using a framing square and a pencil, locating the center line between the two sides of the 90-degree framing square and mark the 45-degree angle on the plywood. Afterward, using clamps hold the facing panel firmly in place. Carefully, using a jigsaw, cut the plywood along the marked age. Work slowly to ensure that you are cutting straight along the marked line.
Afterward, the process is pretty straightforward. Simply apply wood glue to the frames and stick them together. Use clamps to hold them firmly and wait for them to dry.
Step 4: Add the Walls
Once the skeleton is firmly dried, its time to add the walls. Add wood glue over the skeleton and carefully secure the walls to all sides except the front (more on that in later steps). Use clamps to hold them in securely and wait for the glue to dry.
Step 5: Secure the Structure with nails and Joints
Using a power drill, screw nails of appropriate length into the structure so as to secure the wall to the skeleton. Install corner brackets inside on the skeleton to reinforce the joints.
Step 6: Install the Shelves
Using your tape measure and a pencil, measure and level locations for 4 or 8 corner brackets depending on whether you want a single or two shelves for your cabinet. Using the power drill, screw the end of the corner brackets facing the cabinet walls. Afterward, make appropriately sized cuts to the front-facing skeleton frame so as to slide in the shelves snugly into the inside of the cabinet.
Step 7: Create the Cabinet Door
The front-facing wall will serve as your cabinet door. However, you have plenty of options at your disposal to make it more interesting and useful. If you intend on handing the cabinet, consider attaching a mirror on the cabinet door. Or, you can add to its aesthetics by printing a high-quality picture, securely gluing it on to the cabinet door and afterward, inserting a wood and glass frame over it. Alternatively, if you have enough woodworking skills, create a basic design out of the wood, sand it smooth with sanding paper and glue it on to the door. Get creative and add a personal touch to the cabinet door according to your preference.
Alternatively, you can also create a two-door cabinet variant. The process is pretty much the same. The only difference is that you would need to follow most of the required steps twice for each door and would need to cut the front-facing wall into two equal portions.
Step 8: Attach the Cabinet Door
Attach two hinges to one side of the inside wall of your cabinet and screw them in firmly. Afterward, attach the door to them and screw it as well. If you leave the cabinet as it is right now, you will see that the door doesn’t close shut at all.
For this, you will need to attach a magnetic door latch, which you can easily find in many hardware stores. Attach the magnetic part to the inside of the cabinet and the metal part of the extreme side of the door so that when closed, both parts attach perfectly together. For a two-door version, attach the latch parts at the top of the door and cabinet inside instead. Glue a very thin wood panel on the inside of one of the doors that would shut first so that just one magnetic latch would be needed to close them both.
Step 9: Adding Some Finishes
Your cabinet is nearly done. Now is the time to add some finishing touches. To easily close and open your cabinet, install a furniture knob. Alternatively, you can try creating a knob or handle yourself but then the task would become a lot more complicated so stick with what is simple.
If you want to hang the cabinet, you would also need to install two hangers at the backside of the cabinet. If you want to fix it in place on the wall, consider screw hangers. However, if you would like the flexibility of hanging it anywhere, D-ring hangers would be suitable.
Alternatively, if you want the cabinet to also act as a tabletop, you should instead attach legs to it. Legs will help keep the structure elevated above from any moisture present on the floor and also prevent the cabinet from scratching the surface of your flooring when you move it around. Ready-made furniture can be purchased from the market and are very to install.
However, you can also make your own legs for the cabinet by cutting four 4’x 4’ x 4‘ blocks from wood boards. Before attaching them to the cabinet, smoothen their edges with sandpaper and glue a layer of felt around them. Afterward, use wood glue on the exposed surfaces of the blocks to stick them to the bottom of the cabinet and wait for it to dry. Screw them in place using your power drill and long nails screwed through the inside surface of the cabinet into the blocks.
Step 10: Paint or Stain the Cabinet
You may want your finished cabinet to look even better by adding a coat of paint or stain over it. Start by covering any parts of the cabinet with a newspaper or tape that you don’t want coated e.g. the front mirror in case you installed it onto the cabinet door.
Before getting started with either paint or stain, sand the surface of the cabinet to make it ready for the coatings and to smoothen out any uneven surfaces. Use a piece of rag to wipe away any dust left afterward.
To stain the cabinet, choose an oil-based stain and conditioner. Using a paintbrush, carefully apply a thin layer of conditioner on to the surface. Wait 10 to 20 minutes for it to get absorbed and wipe away the excess with a rag. Wait an hour for it to become fully dried and apply a thin, even layer of stain. Let it sit for 5 to 15 minutes and wipe away the excess. Wait a few hours before applying a second coat. For a more vintage look, coat the door with a dark stain and rest of the cabinet with a lighter one.
Alternatively, to paint the cabinet, prepare the cabinet for painting by first applying a layer of oil-based primer. Once it is fully dried, apply an even coating of paint onto the surface. Use an unloaded paint for the tipping process. Wait for a day for the paint to fully dry before applying the second layer of coating.
Step 11: Add a Protective Coating
Your finished cabinet would require a protective coating so to ensure it is better able to withstand punishment from the element and continue looking good as new for longer. Very lightly sand the surface of the cabinet and coat it with a suitable sealant. Wait for it to dry and repeat the process 1-2 more times.
Congratulations! You have made your own wood cabinet.