Simple Storage CabinetUpdated: Dec. 19, 2017
Build this handsome utility cabinet in half a day with your table saw
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- A full day
CDs, kids’ books, craft supplies, household tools—everyone’s got a collection of something they need to store. And we’ve got just the cabinet for the job. We designed it with simple joints and details so you can assemble it in a morning, even if you don’t have any cabinet-building experience.
We also designed it so all of the cutting could be done on a table saw, the most versatile power tool ever invented. If you’re a table saw veteran, this cabinet-building exercise will hone your skills. If you’re a rookie, you’ll pick up every basic table saw skill.
Buy two 8-ft. long 1x8s, one 2×4 sheet of 1/4-in. plywood, a pair of offset hinges, four 36-in. x 5/8-in. shelf standards and a door pull. Our version is made of red oak that’s been stained with Watco golden oak finishing oil and topcoated with satin polyurethane (two coats). If you want to paint it, buy basswood or aspen along with birch plywood for the panel and back. That way the grain won’t show through the paint.
Use any basic table saw with a few accessories
You can build this cabinet with any table saw ranging from a basic 8-in. portable to a heavy-duty 10-in. cabinet saw. No matter what kind of table saw you have, you’ll be able to make all the cuts we show. But if you have an inexpensive saw, spend more time making sure fences and miter gauges are square and aligned during each setup.
To take full advantage of any table saw, you’ll have to invest in a good blade, a set of dado blades and a few special accessories to ensure safe, accurate work:
Figure A: Cabinet Assembly
Construct the cabinet as shown here. The cutting diagram showing the sizes of all the pieces is in Figure B.
Figure B: Cutting Diagram
Cut the pieces for the cabinet to the dimensions shown here.
Cut to width, cut to length, cut the joints
Photo 1: Cut the side, top and bottom
Cut the box’s side, top and bottom boards to rough length (an inch or so too long), then rip them to width (see Figure B).
Photo 2: Square the miter gauge
Square the miter gauge to the table saw fence with a carpenter’s square and tighten the lockdown handle.
Photo 3: Build a jig for square cuts
Screw a straight 1×3 extension board to the miter gauge and then cut cabinet sides, bottom and top boards to length. Use a stop block for repetitive cuts.
Photo 4: Set up the dado blade
Mount a dado blade in the saw. Clamp a sacrificial board to the fence, start the saw and slowly raise the blade into the board until it’s 3/8 in. above the saw table.
Photo 5: Cut rabbets for the back panel
Readjust the fence to cut a 1/4-in. wide rabbet and cut the rabbets for the back panel into the side, top and bottom. Push down firmly with a push pad to make a smooth cut.
Photo 6: Cut rabbets in the ends
Set the fence to cut 3/4 in. wide, then reset the miter gauge extension board to ride against the fence. Cut 3/4-in. rabbets on both ends of the box sides by making two overlapping passes.
Get started by ripping all the boards to width and then rough-cutting the sides and tops of the cabinet box to length (an inch or so too long) using Figure B as a guide. Turn the ripped edges of the side and top boards toward the back of the cabinet to hide the saw marks.
Cut the dadoes and rabbets with the dado blade. A rabbet is simply a groove on the edge of a board. Set up the dado blade to cut a 5/8-in.wide groove. You can use the same setup for cutting the rabbet that receives the 1/4-in. plywood back (Photo 5), the rabbet in the top and bottom ends of the side boards (Photo 6) and the shelf standard dadoes. You’ll only have to adjust the cutting depth, the table saw fence and miter gauge board for each cut as needed.
Fence and miter gauge extension boards
Clamp a 1×4 to the table saw fence to use as a “sacrificial” fence board when cutting rabbets in edges and ends (Photo 4). By raising the dado blade into the board to the proper depth (Photo 4), you create a pocket so you don’t have to cut the full blade width. Always use test boards with each new saw setup to check cutting depths and fence settings before making passes on project pieces.
Extend the miter gauge for making more accurate crosscuts by screwing a 1×3 through the mounting holes. (Select screw lengths that won’t penetrate the front of the board.) Clamp a stop block to the 1×3 for making multiple identical cuts (Photo 3).
Measure and scribe as you go
Photo 7: Cut dadoes for the shelf standards
Lower the blade and cut 3/16-in. deep dadoes to receive the shelf standards in the side boards, holding the boards down firmly with the push pad.
Photo 8: Assemble the box
Apply glue to the rabbets, then clamp the box and nail the joints. Glue and nail on the hanging rail. Nail on the plywood back to square the box.
We give you dimensions for nearly all of the parts, but when you’re building cabinets, it’s important to remeasure as the cabinet takes shape. For example, once you dry-fit the box (Photo 8), take new measurements for the plywood back. Use the back to square up the cabinet before the glue sets up. Similarly, first dry-fit the door rails and stiles together to size the plywood panel for the door. Use a thin ruler inside the frame dadoes and subtract about 1/8 in. in both dimensions to allow for expansion. Check the lengths of the cleats, hanging rail and top and bottom trim before cutting them, too.
Sneaking up on cuts
Photo 9: Cut slots in the stiles and rails
Cut 1/4-in. wide by 3/8-in. deep slots in the stiles and rails. To center the slot, make one pass, then flip the board end for end and make a second pass.
Photo 10: Cut the tenons
Set the dado blade at 5/16 in. above the saw table and 5/16 in. away from the fence. Cut the tenons at both ends of the door frame rails. Check the fit. Adjust width and depth and recut until the tenon fits the door panel dado snugly.
Photo 11: Clamp the door frame
Dry-fit the door parts, then smear a little glue on the tenons and assemble. Clamp the door frame together until the glue sets.
Photo 12: Rip the bevels on the trim
Set the saw and combination blade to rip at a 25-degree bevel. Rip the bevels on the top trim pieces. Sand out the saw marks.
Photo 13: Cut the miters
Cut the miters using the miter gauge set to exactly 90 degrees and the saw blade set at a 45-degree bevel.
Photo 14: Attach the top cleats and trim
Glue and nail on the top cleats as shown in Figure A. Fit the miters, then glue and nail the top trim to the cleats.
Photo 15: Attach the bottom cleats
Glue and nail on the bottom cleats (Figure A). Then glue on the bottom trim and nail it with 1-1/2-in. brads.
Photo 16: Screw on the door
Screw the shelf standards into the dadoes. Screw the hinges to the door (Figure A), then center the door and screw the hinges to the cabinet.
You don’t have to strive to set up the saw to make it cut perfect dadoes and rabbets on the first pass. Just remember to leave depths and widths a little on the short side. You can always crank up the blade or move the fence slightly and make second and third passes until widths and depths are perfect.
Flipping boards end for end and making a second pass will precisely center the dadoes for the door panel (Photo 9). You can simply eyeball the blade to center it in the door frame parts. After you make the first pass, flip the door frame parts end for end and send them through again. That’ll center the dado perfectly. Test-fit the 1/4-in. plywood for a smooth fit without forcing it. If it’s a little tight, move the fence very slightly away from the blade and repeat the same two passes. Continue until the plywood slips snugly into the groove.
Center the tenons in the door rails (the top and bottom door frame boards) with a similar flipping technique (Photo 10). Set the dado blade slightly less than 5/16 in. above the saw table, make a pass, then flip over the board and make the same pass on the other side. Check the fit in the grooves of the stiles (the vertical door frame boards). Raise the blade slightly and repeat the steps until the tenon fits snugly (Photo 11).
Sanding and finishing
You’ll have some sanding to do, particularly on the ripped edges. Sand out saw marks prior to any assembly. Start with 100-grit sandpaper and then work your way through 120- and 150-grit paper. Be careful not to round any edges where joints meet or you’ll have little cracks that’ll show. Ease sharp edges with 150-grit paper after assembly to “soften” the cabinet. Factory edges and surfaces should also be lightly sanded with 150-grit paper prior to finishing.
Mount the shelf standards, hinges and knob on the raw cabinet, but remove them prior to finishing. That’ll make the job easier, and keep finish off the hardware.
Required Tools for this Project
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
- Air compressor
- Air hose
- Brad nail gun
- Cordless drill
- Framing square
- Safety glasses
- Table saw
You’ll also need a dado blade, miter gauge, featherboard, push pad and push stick.
Required Materials for this Project
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.
- Door pull
- Four 36 in. x 5/8-in. shelf standards
- Offset hinges
- One 2 ft. x 4 ft. x 1/4-in. plywood
- Two 1 x 8 x 8
- Wood glue