Open Front Cabinets for Workshop

One Thing Leads to Another
The 8′ x 16′ workshop addition is finally completed (Well almost). Among other items on my punch list, I need to build cabinets. Hopefully this will help me to get at least a little bit more organized (Hope beats eternal).

Basic Design
The basic design I plan to use is shown in Sketch #1 below. It’s sketchy, but I like it. It gives the gist of what I plan to build, without being overly detailed.

Sketch #1

Decisions, Decisions
For starters, I had to decide what material to use for making my cabinets. In any event, I plan to use 3/4″ thick wood, except for the cabinet back. I plan to use 1/2″ thick wood for the cabinet backs. The options I considered were the following:

  1. 23/32″ thick OSB, cost approx. $13 for a 4′x8′ sheet.
  2. 23/32″ thick plywood (Listed as “RTD SHTG”), cost approx. $17 for a 4′x8′ sheet.
  3. 23/32″ thick plywood (Cabinet grade), cost approx. $26 for a 4′x8′ sheet.

The wood I decided to use was 23/32″ thick OSB. Since I plan to build around 6 cabinets for my new addition, cost was a big factor in my decision making process. And I reasoned, this is not corporate headquarters’. It’s just a workshop, besides I like a certain amount of rustic look in my workshop.

For the back of the cabinets, I plan to use 7/16″ thick OSB. I can get this for around $7, for a 4′x8′ sheet.

Now the $17 plywood (Listed as “RTD SHTG”) was only $4 more per sheet, but there were knot holes, some splits in the plywood, and bowing in some of the sheets I saw in the store. So in the end, the extra cost & plywood issues mentioned were the deal breaker for me, regarding this option.

The $26 plywood (Cabinet grade) was the most expensive option, I was considering. This plywood would have worked out great regarding looks. However, for me the cost was the deal breaker.

Boards Required:
Pictured below (Photo #1) are the OSB boards req’d for this project.

Not pictured above is board 7, denoted below as the backboard (7/16″ thick OSB). After boards 1 thru 6 have been assembled, I can then get the exact dimensions req’d for board 7. My main concern is the width dimension for board 7.

Photo #1

Board Dimensions

Boards 1 & 2———- 47-3/4″ x 13-1/2″ x 23/32″ (Dimensions for each board)

Boards 3, 4, 5, & 6 — 24-3/4″ x 13-1/2″ x 23/32″ (Dimensions for each board)

Board 7 —————— Best to wait until boards 1 thru 6 have been assembled before dimensioning & cutting board 7. Doing it this way helps to insure that the width of you backboard matches up with the width of your assembled cabinets. This way any variation in shelving board length or actual depth of dadoes, can be adjusted for. If all board
dimensions and dado depths are perfect, the dimensions of board 7 will be
47-3/4″ x 25-1/2″ x 7/16″.

Rough Cutting of the OSB Sheet at the Lumber Yard
To make the OSB sheet more manageable to deal with, I had the Lumber Store cut up the OSB with their panel saw. Sketch #2 below shows the cut dimensions for the 23/32″ thick OSB sheet that I had done at the lumber yard. These are rough cut dimensions. The final dimensional cuts will be made when I get home, in my workshop.

Sketch #2

Steps for Cutting up the 23/32″ OSB at AL’s Shop
Step 1 — First the dadoes for boards 1 & 2, the two cabinet side boards:
1. Start by taking one of the 48″ x 28″ partial sheets and trim it to 47-3/4″ x 28″.
2. I set my dado blade up to make a dado 3/4″ wide x 3/8″ deep. Made a test run on a scrap piece of the 23/32″ thick OSB, the fit was snug, and the scrap piece didn’t fall out when held upside down. This is exactly what I wanted.
3. Next I set my table saw rip fence up to cut a dado 3/4″ from each end of the board. See Photo #2 below.
4. Next I set the table saw rip fence up to cut a dado 16″ from each end of the board, again see Photo #2 below.

Photo #2

5. After cutting the four dadoes with my table saw, I cleaned up the dadoes with my router hand plane. I like this two step approach for cutting the dadoes. The table saw makes the rough dado cut, and the router handplane fine tunes the depth of the dado cut. This approach helps to insure that all four dadoes are equal depth wise. And photo #3 below shows my Veritas router handplane that I used.

Photo #3

Step 2 — Cutting of Boards 1 thru 6, to Width:

  1. Cut boards 1 thru 6 to 13-1/2″ width. Setting the table saw up once and cutting all six boards to width, will help insure uniformity of width amongst all 6 boards.
  2. The 48″ x 28″ partial sheet with four dado cuts, becomes the two side boards for the cabinet. Photo #4 below shows the two side boards for the cabinet, after being cut into two 13-1/2″ wide boards. However, the cut board on the left in photo #4, still has to be run thru the table saw to achieve the 13-1/2″ width. The 13-1/2″ width is only achieved between the blade and rip fence.

Photo #4

Step 3 — Cutting the Shelving Boards 3 thru 6, to Length:
Photo #5 below shows the table saw setup used to cut the shelving boards (Boards 3 thru 6) to 24-3/4″ lengths.

Photo #5

Assembly of Boards 1 thru 6
Step 1 — Drilling Pilot Holes in Boards 1 & 2:
1.  Drill three 1/8″ diameter pilot holes thru each dado cut. Space the holes as shown in Sketch #3 below.

Sketch #3

2.  I used an awl & hammer to tap a starter hole for my 1/8″ drill bit. These tools and others I used are shown in Photo #6.

Photo #6

3.  The purpose of these pilot holes is to mark where to insert my dry wall screws for fastening the shelving boards (Boards 3 thru 6) to the cabinet side boards (Boards 1 & 2). I used 1-5/8″ length dry wall screws.

Step 2 — Fastening Shelving Boards (Boards 3 thru 6) to Cabinet Side Board 1:
1.  I fastened one shelving board at a time to just board 1. For fasteners, I used 1-5/8″ length dry wall screws, located as shown in Sketch #3 above.
2.  All four shelving boards (Boards 3 thru 6) fastened to board 1 is shown below in
Photo #7.

Photo #7

3.  Insure that the front and back edges of the shelving boards (Boards 2 thru 6) stay coplanar with the front and back edges of cabinet side board 1, while fastening the boards together with dry wall screws. To insure that the boards noted stay coplanar, I used a pipe clamp as shown in Photo #8.

The pipe clamp insures that the shelving board doesn’t shift position relative to the cabinet side board while installing the dry wall screws.

Photo #8

Step 3 — Fastening Shelving Boards (Boards 3 thru 6) to Cabinet Side Board 2:

1.  With all shelving boards fastened to cabinet side board 1, next thing on the agenda is to slip all four shelving boards into the dadoes on cabinet side board 2. This is shown in Photo #10 below, along with the pipe clamp and “F” style clamps. The pipe clamp shown is positioned to hold the shelving board shown and cabinet side board 2 coplanar to one another.

Next fasten shelving board to cabinet side board 2 with three 1-5/8″ length dry
wall screws.

Photo #10

2.  Repeat the above process for each shelving board, regarding use of pipe clamp to hold shelving board edge and cabinet side board 2 edge coplanar with one another. And fasten shelving board to cabinet side board 2 with three 1-5/8″ length dry wall screws.

Step 4 — Time to Attach Cabinet Backboard (Board 7):

1.  After the cabinet is assembled minus the backboard (Board 7), measure the outside cabinet dimension. Using the dimension just taken, I cut the backboard to this width with my table saw.

Regarding the height dimension, I elected to leave it at 48″. Of course if you want the height of the backboard to match the height of your cabinet side boards, you can obviously trim it accordingly.

2.  Clamp the backboard (Board 7) to the rest of the cabinet as shown in Photo #11 below. The two “F” style clamps were used to hold the backboard against the rest of the cabinet.

The three pipe clamps shown were used to square up the sides of the backboard with the rest of the cabinet. Use of the pipe clamps worked nicely, to remove any lack of squareness in boards 1 thru 6 with board 7 (The backboard).

Photo #11

3.  With the backboard clamped to the rest of the cabinet as shown in Photo #11, I penciled the backboard sides as shown in Photo #12. The penciled line represents the edge of the cabinet side board on the other side of the backboard. I used the width of a scrap piece of 3/4″ OSB to draw the penciled lines.

Photo #12

Next I proceeded to fasten the backboard to the cabinet side boards (Boards 1 & 2) with 1-3/16″ brad nails. I spaced the brad nails at approx. 6″ on center.

4.  I also fasten the back of each shelving board to the backboard (Board 7) with 1-3/16″ length brad nails (Approx. 6″ on center). To mark where to drive the brads, I used a combination square to pencil the location of the dry wall screws on both cabinet side boards and extended this line onto the back of the backboard.

Steps for Wall Mounting the Cabinet:
1.  First I fastened a 2″ x 8″ ledger board to the wall, for the length of the wall that I will be mounting the cabinets on. Top of ledger board was mounted at 54-1/4″ above the floor.

The 54-1/2″ dimension will give me an 18-1/2″ clearance between the bottom of the cabinet unit and the top surface of a workbench that I plan to place below the cabinet units on this wall. Ledger board was fastened to the wall with lag screws (1/4″ x 5″) and 3/4″ diameter flat washers. I installed the lag screws along the ledger board to matchup with the wall studs (Two lag screws per wall stud). A partial view of the ledger board is shown in Photo #13.

Photo #13

2.  After installing the ledger board, I lifted the cabinet into place on top of the ledger board. With my brad nailer within arm’s reach, I next shot 1-3/16″ brad nails into the top inside of the cabinet.

I spaced the brad nails at approx. 3″ on center. Purpose of the brad nails was to hold the cabinet in place while I installed the lag screws noted in the next step.

3.  It’s time for the lag screws, installed as follows:

a) Used 1/4″ x 3″ lag screws & 1-1/2″ flat washers.
b) Fasten cabinet to wall with four lag screws & four flat washers. I installed two lag screws & two flat washers at the top of the cabinet, and two lag screws & two flat washers at the bottom of the cabinet.
c) Lag screws were installed to matchup with wall studs.
d) Pilot holes 11/64″ in diameter were drilled for the lag screws, and the portion of the hole going thru the back of the cabinet was enlarged to a 1/4″ diameter to matchup with the lag screw diameter.

Final Thoughts
I have completed three cabinet units, that’s all I have room for on this wall. I am thinking around three more cabinets on the opposite wall, of my new addition. But that’s not yet set in concrete. Here’s one last Photo showing the cabinets in use. They still need to be organized, currently their in a state of chaos.


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Until we meet again (Electronically speaking), take care.