basic cabinetry wrap-up

i completed my first building class at community woodshop, basic cabinetry with levi brewster. we learned so much, and had a great time. i would highly recommend levi if you are considering custom cabinets, he’s easy to talk to, gives good, solid advice, and prefers quality environmental solutions.

the basic box

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on our first day, we got familiar with measuring, planning, and using tools we could all afford to use at home. the table saw is very nice, but at 10x the cost and many times the size of a circular saw, levi thought we might like to have first-hand experience with things we might buy. we measured out our 4′ x 8′ ply to give us the pieces necessary for our basic box cabinet, with extra pieces for doors and shelves. we were also taught different cutting techniques, such as setting up a fence with clamps, or freehand cutting.

once we cut our pieces, we were also given the ins & outs of drivers and drills, discussed the differences between phillips-head and star-head screws, where & when to drive at an angle, what to look for in quality plywood, how to prevent chipping out, etc. you know, all those things you never knew that can make or break a beginner project.

the hand router

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for our second class, we took apart our box so we could add tracks for sliding doors. again, they have a really great table router in the shop, but we thought we’d look at the hand router to get some experience with it. we learned how to set it up, how to measure exactly where it will land, the rules for track depth, and how far to safely indent the tracks to prevent chipping.

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our doors are pretty small and kinda funny, but they were a nice, snug fit. not in this photo is the drawer box we built, also using the hand router.

concealed cabinet hinges

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back again to take apart our work and start with a new technique, the next on the list was concealed cabinet hinges. these seem fancy and complicated, but they often come with a template for perfect placement. the 2 tricks are, you’ll need a special drill bit for 1.25″ holes, and you’ll want to take lots of extra time hanging and balancing the doors. we had a moment of group doubt that we measured wrong, and trimmed our doors an extra .125″ only to find we had indeed hung one of the hinges incorrectly. once the error was corrected, our doors were slightly short. our main lesson for this day was, in addition to measuring twice and cutting once, maybe don’t cut twice before you double-check your hardware.

variable-height shelves, drawer sliders and facing

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for our final class, we talked about how to use variable-height shelf templates. you can buy templates for creating stacks of holes, but you’ll want to measure to make sure they’re all level. we talked about techniques for doing this, and the benefits of different templates available. once we checked & double checked our work, we drilled in, set the pins and installed the shelf. it was solid as a rock!

we also put a face on our drawer box and installed ball-bearing self-closing sliders. these tend to be fairly standard and have their own foolproofing, but are also a bit tricky to balance. we learned how to tack them with one screw, adjust and balance before tightening the 2nd screw. these fancy hardwares are nice, but each opens a new can of worms in terms of complications with installation. a good reminder to choose what will work well in the long term, but what will also be reasonable for your skill level.

in the end, we graduated officially as professional-level beginners at cabinetry. i’m excited to foist my beginner-ness on my next dream project!

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