Shop cabinet construction

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Forum topic by John posted 06-14-2012 11:06 AM 4610 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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29 posts in 4846 days

06-14-2012 11:06 AM

Ive searches through most of the shop cabinets that people have posted on this site. They all look incredible and I too would like to build some that are strong enough to hold all of my portable tools. What is the general joinery construction of a simple wall hung cabinet with doors? I’ve read so much on glue and screw and staple and every size back from 1/4”-3/4”. Most pictures don’t ever show the joints. I would rather not use screws and staples but rather dados and rabbets and glue. I also am doing a French cleat so my initial idea was completely dado a 3/4” back into the sides,top,and bottom and inset the back the thickness of the cleat.Then add a face frame. How do all you pros do yours which hold routers, drills, and saws for many years ? Thanks guys

15 replies so far

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29 posts in 4846 days

#1 posted 06-14-2012 02:38 PM

Is the top rabbeted into the sides? How does the load distribute as far as the top is concerened or is it mostly the sides, bottom and back? Thanks

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5280 days

#2 posted 06-14-2012 03:32 PM

When hanging, don’t forget the power of friction. With the back held snugly against the wall with a few screws, friction will actually hold most of the weight, greatly reducing the load on your cleat.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Fuzzy's profile


299 posts in 5050 days

#3 posted 06-14-2012 04:18 PM

One really strong/fast/foolproof technique for construction is offset tongue & grooves. Sommerfeld had a good video out demonstrating it (he also sells the bit set) and he has printed instructions on his website.

Setup is just about automatic, arbitrary, & fool proof, and the technique can be used in just about every aspect of building a cabinet. Everything is self-aligning, and the strength is unbelievable.

-- - dabbling in sarcasm is foolish … if you’re not proficient at it, you end up looking stupid … ... ...

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29 posts in 4846 days

#4 posted 06-14-2012 04:42 PM

I appreciate all the replies. The drawing above is what I had in mind. Since I’ve never built one I have no experience on its holding power. Thanks all.

View japanesewoodworker's profile


75 posts in 4114 days

#5 posted 06-14-2012 05:04 PM

@ Fuzzy

Is this the Sommerfield tool you posted about ?

I Have not found the video. please help.

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299 posts in 5050 days

#6 posted 06-14-2012 06:19 PM

Yep … that’s the set … he is currently having them made in China with his name on them … in years past, he had them made by CMT, which was a better bit, in my opinion. There are other manufacturers making similar sets, including WOODLINE … ( ) ...

I have two or three copies of the DVD that I could make available to you as a loan … check your PM for details.

-- - dabbling in sarcasm is foolish … if you’re not proficient at it, you end up looking stupid … ... ...

View LeeInAZ's profile


41 posts in 3537 days

#7 posted 06-15-2012 05:33 AM

I bought Tom Clark’s book Building Practical Shop Cabinets. I have basically used his ideas for all my cabinets, and never a problem. I have one cabinet with over 200 clamps in it and it is held to the wall with 3 4” spax lag screws. It it as solid as a rock.

-- Lee - Phoenix, AZ

View ChrisMc45's profile


117 posts in 3921 days

#8 posted 05-05-2013 01:22 PM

Maybe old news, but some video of Sommerfield is on YouTube

I am not trying for kitchen-grade, just shop grade. I need a cabinet 30” deep to hold router cases, longer boxes, etc

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Lee Barker

2172 posts in 3912 days

#9 posted 05-05-2013 06:32 PM

My general observation on LJ is that people tend to overbuild shop cabinets. This comes, I think, from two places: First, not understanding basic cabinet construction, and second, not appreciating the loads that basic cabinets can bear.

[If overbuilding is to gain knowledge of some specific practice, that’s one thing. Wasting material and time is what I’m seeking to advise against.]

Lots of us have scavenged upper and lower kitchen cabinets and put them in the shop and they are fine.

If an upper cabinet 12” deep is assembled (the case) with butt joints and pocket screws or biscuits or assembled with a dado in the sides, that’s going to work. It’s the face frame that gives the front of the box integrity and the 1/4 plywood back that does the obverse.

It would not be prudent to attach the 1/4 back to the wall without an upper nailer inside; a second bottom nailer would be a fine addition. Then screw it to the wall.

There is no need for french cleats, or thicker backs (just added weight with no structural benefit), or anything special attaching the top and bottom to the sides.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View nwbusa's profile


1023 posts in 3348 days

#10 posted 05-05-2013 08:27 PM

French cleats are ideal if you ever want to change your shop configuration and move cabinets around.

-- John, BC, Canada

View AlanBienlein's profile


159 posts in 3736 days

#11 posted 05-05-2013 08:28 PM

That guy in the Sommerfield video is nuts if he thinks that tongue and groove is something new for cabinet construction. I grew up using that method.

View Sailor's profile


544 posts in 4327 days

#12 posted 05-05-2013 08:34 PM


You need to go ahead and get yourself a Kreg Jig! I’m serious, that will be one tool purchase you will never regret and this project will be so easy and look great!

Just your sides/top/bottom out then a 3/4” back to fit in (without any dados or rabbets) and have your pocket holes hidden on the back side of the cabinet. It will be super simple and with glue the cabinet will be rock solid.

Get a Kreg Jig, I’m telling you! It will make this project and pretty much every other project you do so much easier.

Amazon has good prices…

-- Dothan, Alabama Check out my woodworking blog! Also my Youtube Channel's Facebook page

View AlaskaGuy's profile


6490 posts in 3371 days

#13 posted 05-06-2013 07:49 PM

I watched that video. That so call tongue and grove system seems like a lot of work. The guy is up and down on the floor, turning things upside down, climb cutting panels standing on edge, attaching the cabinet bottom on cleats. I don’t think that’s for me.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


8898 posts in 3471 days

#14 posted 05-07-2013 02:09 AM

Since I am known for changing things in the shop, like cabinet configurations, I prefer screws, NO glue and simple joinery. My take on this is that I have other things to build and not all day to make some fine piece of furniture that you only see if I give a tour which is never…. mostly never…okay sometimes but let us say it is rare. Old cabinets from anywhere can be taken apart, sized to fit and screwed back in plcae, they worked good the first time why bother with what works ya know? That being said be wary of newer cabinets. I was given 3 nice looking cabinets a few months ago. I took them apart with a heat gun, prybar, and about 10 minutes of time. Kinda scary I guess cost being what they are today a few screws would put the big guys out of business…..... Never mind they use that tree barf called particle board.

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View thewoodmaster's profile


62 posts in 4254 days

#15 posted 05-07-2013 02:19 AM

I have used the sommerfeld system to make cabinets. It’s relatively quick and easy once you get the system down. The cabinets are strong and stable. Definitely a good system to use.

I also second the purchase of a kreg pocket hole jig. It’s great! I use it frequently. I wish I could justify buying the newer design.

-- dan "insert pithy woodworking coment here"

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