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Forum topic by jstewart posted 07-16-2007 12:59 AM 3690 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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141 posts in 4570 days

07-16-2007 12:59 AM

Topic tags/keywords: workshop cabinets mdf joinery

I want to build some wall and base cabinets for my garage workshop area. Something basic is alright. I bought 5 sheets of MDF to start. (The local Home Depot and Lowes don’t sell MDO, which Norm seems to prefer.) I just need something that has simple flat doors that I can install some locks onto. I have a kid on the way in only 3 weeks, so I’m planning ahead for when this girl starts snooping around. I don’t want her getting into a cabinet full of chisels, drill bits, glues, etc.

Here’s where I need some help. I know nothing about building cabinets. Really, I know very little about woodworking altogether. However, I’m willing to learn. What I would like to know is what basic things I need to do to build some wall hanging cabinets. I could, of course, just slap a bunch of MDF together using butt joints and then just drill them into studs on the wall. I’ve seen Norm build some that he hung using a wall cleat and a matching cleat on the cabinet itself. I think he used a lot of dados and rabbets (combined with tons of glue and brads) for his joinery. Any other simple ideas out there?

If you think you have some good, basic cabinets, please post your ideas (and photos)! Any help is greatly appreciated.

-- Joshua, Olathe, Kansas

8 replies so far

View mjpierson's profile


86 posts in 4472 days

#1 posted 07-16-2007 03:14 AM

Joshua -

I would be careful with MDF and the weight – depending on the thickness (3/4 or 1/2) that you got – MDF can be pretty heavy and then you load it up with shop stuff – even more so. Reinforce for use and use rabbets/dados to increase strength of the cabs.

the cleat that you are talking about is a french cleat….is used in my shop for overhead cabs b/c it was the easier approach with one man – hang the cleat on wall then the cab, vs. holding the cab and trying to drilll and screw etc.

-- Mike - Columbus, Ohio

View jstewart's profile


141 posts in 4570 days

#2 posted 07-16-2007 03:51 AM

The MDF that I bought was all 3/4”. If you guys think that would be too heavy to hang on the wall, I could easily find other uses for it in the garage. I could still make the base cabinets out of it. They aren’t going to fall very far. :) I didn’t buy the 1/2” MDF because I thought it might not be strong enough to serve as cabinets full of handtools. Maybe I’m wrong. I often am.

-- Joshua, Olathe, Kansas

View Karson's profile


35197 posts in 4879 days

#3 posted 07-16-2007 04:09 AM

I’ve found something called sandply of something like that. it’s 3/4 and has a lauan type surface. It’s useful if you are foing to paint or stain or so. But it’s not birch or maple ply. around $25.00 per sheet. I use it for my base for veneering. when I make cabinets.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View jstewart's profile


141 posts in 4570 days

#4 posted 07-16-2007 04:54 AM

As far as basic design goes, should I just assemble the basic cabinet body using the dado and rabbet joinery and then add a face frame? If so, how should I attach the face frame? I guess my options are glue & brads or biscuit joinery, right?

For the backs, I would like to use a french cleat to hang the cabinets. So, I guess I need to rabbet into the inside, back edge of the sides enough to attach a thin 1/4” back, followed by one half of the french cleat (3/4” or 1/2” thick). Does this sound right?

Since I plan on making the cabinet doors flat doors, probably also out of the MDF (or whatever I use for the body), I don’t think I’ll have any problems or questions with those.

-- Joshua, Olathe, Kansas

View snowdog's profile


1166 posts in 4462 days

#5 posted 07-16-2007 01:16 PM

Here is a thought:
Take a look at my WorkShop pics, the hutch is not finished yet. It still needs pull out draws and maybe doors (maybe not). It was very easy to build. If your interested I could post my build process. My wife took pictures as I was building it. It might be something to consider instead of the standard face frame cabinets. I have hung many kitchen cabinets but never built one, it is why I went with the Workshop hutch :)

-- "so much to learn and so little time"..

View Hawgnutz's profile


526 posts in 4555 days

#6 posted 07-17-2007 06:00 PM

I used simple 1×8 pine for my router cabinet. I think MDF wojul be too heavy for a cabinet that will hold heavy woodworking tools. I cut the french cleat from a 2×4. It made for a simple cabinet and even simpler mounting! When I moved, I only had to lift the cabinet off the cleat, then I could remove the cleat from the studs. When I got to mu new place, I just atached the old cleat to the “new” studs and re-hung the cabinet. A real simple solution!

A clear example of the french cleat can be found in a magazine that is currently on the stands, now. The mag is “Tips, Jigs & Organizers.” It is published by Wood Magazine. The example is on page 60, used to hang a miter saw. Just transpose the idea onto your shelving and you should be good to go.

I hope this helps. If you woud like a picture of eth cabinet, just email me and I will send one.

God Bless,

-- Saving barnwood from the scrapyards

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 4640 days

#7 posted 07-17-2007 06:11 PM

One thing you want to make sure is not to get the MDF wet, as it will cause it to swell and break apart. While it would be good for the base cabinets, just make sure the floor does not get wet in that area, or you will be replacing those cabinets again.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

View cabinetman's profile


144 posts in 4623 days

#8 posted 07-17-2007 07:45 PM

Three quarter MDF is fine for wall cabinets. If fabricated properly, and installed properly, will hold a lot of weight. You should do sketches or drawings of each piece and draw in the joinery you will use. They don’t have to be certifiable architectural drawings, just sketches. Work out all the details on paper before you turn on the saw. Lay out all the pieces, figure how you will cut the sheets as to sizes of the panels to minimize waste.

Upper cabinets can have rabbeted ends and the top and bottom fit into the rabbets. If you want to do the french cleat, you’ll have to rabbet the depth of the cleat and the back. Allow at least 1/8” or 1/4” more depth to the cabinet cleat so it will seat as much as possible. If it is figured flush to the back edge the cleat may bottom out and not pull up tight.

For the base cabinets, rabbet the ends for the floor. Run cross rails on the two ends to carry the top. Fabricate a hangrail to the back rail to screw to the wall. You could make a loose toe kick out of PT, or exterior plywood, in case the floor gets wet. And last, you could make the cabinets frameless, and use european hinges, with a flat slab door. Less work and a clean design, with minimal materials.

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