How to Build Wall Cabinet Carcasses

Written by michael straessle
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How to Build Wall Cabinet Carcasses
Two sides, four shelves and a back (Image by Michael Straessle)

Cabinets are used in a variety of ways. The most commonly known use is in the bathroom and kitchen. However, they are also used in the garage, washer and dryer area and utility rooms. This means that once you learn the basics of building the carcases of cabinets in general, you are well on your way to becoming a master cabinet builder. To simplify the matter, cabinets are boxes with frames, doors and drawers.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Table saw
  • ¾-inch plywood (48-by-96 inches)
  • ¼-inch plywood (48-by-96 inches)
  • Framing square
  • Wood glue
  • 4d finish nails
  • 2d box nails

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  1. 1

    Set the fence on the table saw to 30 inches. Cut the ¾-inch plywood across the grain (called blocking). These blocks are for the end panels. Each cabinet carcase needs two end panels and four shelves. Cut as many blocks at 30 inches to give you the correct number of end panels. To learn more cabinet-making terminology, see "Building Cabinet 1: Introduction" in the Reference section of this article.

  2. 2

    Cut the ¼-inch plywood into 30-inch blocks as well. These blocks are for the carcase backs. They are as wide as the measurements for the cabinets. For example, if the cabinet is 24 inches wide, the ¼-inch back will be 24 inches wide.

  3. 3

    Set the fence of the table saw at 1½ inches narrower than the width measured for each cabinet. A 30-inch-wide wall cabinet needs four shelves 28½ inches in length. Since standard size cabinet carcases get four shelves, you will need one block for each cabinet. Cut all the blocks before moving the fence of the table saw.

  4. 4

    Set the fence of the table saw at 11 inches. Rip (cut with the grain) all the ¾-inch plywood blocks at this measurement. This is the best way for the end panels and the shelves to be the same. Do not cut the ¼-inch plywood yet.

  5. 5

    Set the fence of the table saw at 2 inches and cut enough strips so that you will have two for each cabinet. These will be the nailing strips used to secure the wall cabinet to the wall. The last two pieces to cut serve as a template for the shelves and measures 11-by-8¾ inches.

  1. 1

    Separate the end panels from the shelves and then separate the shelves according to their sizes. Cut two 2-inch strips per cabinet and place them with their respective shelves.

  2. 2

    Place the end panels on a worktable. Measure from one end and make a mark at 1½ inches. Then, measure from the other end and make marks at 9½ and 19 inches. The bottom shelf for the wall cabinet secures below the 1½-inch mark. Place the framing square on the 1½-inch mark and draw a line across the width of the end panel.

  3. 3

    Apply glue to the ends of the shelves and secure the top and bottom shelves to the end panels first with the 4d finish nails. Then, place the shelf templates on the top shelf, apply glue to the ends of the next shelf, set it against the templates and secure it to the end panels with the 4d finish nails. Move the templates to the second shelf and repeat the process for the remaining shelf. Use this method to secure all the carcase shelves to the end panels.

  4. 4

    Apply glue to the ends and one long edge of the 2-inch nailing strips and place them against the top shelf between the end panels and secure them with the 4d finish nails. Repeat this for the next nailing strip; only secure this one to the top of the bottom shelf. Once this is done, place the wall cabinets on their fronts. The nailing strips should be facing up.

  5. 5

    Apply glue to the edges of the end panels and shelves, place the ¼-inch plywood backs on their respective cabinets and secure them with the 2d box nails. To ensure nailing accuracy on the shelves, place the framing square on the backs and align it with the nail holes on the sides of cabinets. Draw a line across the width of the back to use as a guide to secure it to the shelves.

Tips and warnings

  • Clean excess glue immediately with a damp cloth. Set nail heads with the nail set and fill the holes with wood putty.
  • Do not leave power tools unattended in the presence of children. Do not apply paint or stain without proper ventilation.

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