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SBW#46 – Kitchen Cabinet Build Part 16 – Base Cabinet The Final Material

We’re finally down to the 11th-hour cutting and preparing the material. The only thing left is the bottom, back, and top stretchers. Will there be enough time to complete it? Of course, there will be.

When I’m cutting smaller components I like to use a small scrap material that I can. That way, I’m getting the best use of my scrap. In the instance of what we have left to cut – the bottom, back, and top stretchers – it will all be leftover scrap from when I made the upper cabinets.

If you have ever been to a home center or any place that sells pre-built cabinets you know what I’m talking about – all widths are multiples of 3 (generally) so you end up with widths like 30″, 33″, 36″, and so on. Then, to make up that difference you use fill pieces. This all wastes valuable cabinet space in my opinion but does make things a little more complicated when building cabinets. But then again, this is about custom cabinets, not prefab cabinets.

First things first, we need to figure out the size of the bottom panel. Note the width of this panel will also be the width of the back panel because of the way I cut my dados and rabbits. So, I tend to maximize the width of my cabinets which means I cannot rubber-stamp out material that will be used as the width.

To get the width, I use a simple formula. That formula is Face Frame Width (FF) – any offsets on the sides – ( remaining side material after dado x 2). So in my formula, the only things that change will be FF and offsets. In case you’re wondering what I mean by offsets. This is what I call the amount of overhang a face frame has on the cabinet carcass. If the face frame is flush with the side, the offset is 0″. A pretty standard offset is 1/4″ unless it’s a finished cabinet size and that would be 0″.

So, the 3 different variations of my formula are:

  1. FF – 0″ – (1/2 x 2) OR FF – 1″ (no offsets, both sides finished)
  2. FF – 1/4″ – (1/2 x 2) OR FF – 1 1/4″ (one offset, one side finished)
  3. FF – 1/2″ – (1/2 x 2) OR FF – 1 1/2″ (two offsets, no side finished)

In the example I’m doing for this article and video, I will be using variation #2 with one side finished.

So looking at my face frame it is 15″ wide so my FF = 15. We will have one finished side so only one 1/4″ offset is needed and the remaining material after my dado cut is 1/2″ (3/4″ thick material – 1/4″ dado cut = 1/2″). When we plug all these numbers in we get the following:

15 – 1/4″ – 1 OR 13 3/4″. This will be the width of the bottom panel AND the width of my back panel.

Now that we have the width of the bottom and back panel we need to determine the depth. Well, my cabinet is a standard depth of 24 inches. I have a 3/4″ thick face frame and will have a 1/4″ back panel that fits into a rabbit on the back. So, the resulting measurement is 24 – 3/4 – 1/4 or 23″ for the depth.

I want to cut the plywood in a way that the grain pattern appears to come down the sides and across the bottom. This way, the grain will all be going in the same direction.

I ensure both cuts on the bottom panel are accurate and move onto the back panel.

With the leftover scrap from the bottom panel waste cut, I will cut it the right length and rip it in half to create the two top stretchers. These will be flat sections of plywood that keep the top of the cabinet from spreading apart while allowing the countertop to be affixed to the cabinet – either by screws or silicone.

Top Stretchers are at the far left. You can see how they are perpendicular to the sides.

Here are all the pieces to the cabinet except the back. From top to bottom on the layers, we have the top stretchers, the bottom panel, the two sides, and the face frame. We’ll tackle the back panel next.

The back panel consists of 1/4″ Maple veneer plywood that will fit into a rabbit on the sides. It will overlap the bottom panel. I want the back panel to be the distance from the top of the cabinet to the bottom of the bottom panel. This will allow me to use it to square up the cabinet carcass by flushing up all the sides of the back panel. This works provided your back panel is square. If it’s not, then your cabinet will be wracked at the same angles as your back panel is.

I cut the back panel using scrap and determine how I’m going to cut it to maximize the leftover scrap for future use. I carefully perform stop cuts on my table saw shutting the saw off between each cut to avoid any kickback. If you’re not comfortable doing this type of cut then I suggest ripping all the way through the material. It will however create less versatile waste pieces.

Now that we have all that material cut to size I’ll sand these pieces now before assembly and assemble the cabinet – that will be the next article. Stay tuned for it.

As always if you have any questions or comments post them below or on my YouTube video comments section and I’ll do my best to respond.

I’ve included a few Amazon Links below for the equipment and materials I used.

Equipment and Materials

I hope you find this video useful and can use some of the tips presented. Feel free to leave any comments, suggestions, or experiences you have had below.

Some of the links in my video description and article above are Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. If you would like to make a different purchase from Amazon, you can also use the storewide link.


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SBW#45 – Kitchen Cabinet Build Part 15 – Base Cabinet Side Prep

Once you cut the sides to their dimension, cut the toe kick and dado for the bottom you’re done right? I guess the answer to that is how versatile do you want your cabinets? Do you want to add shelving? Is that fixed, adjustable, full or half-depth shelving, or just slide-out drawer shelves? Are you planning on staining, painting, or clear finishing them? If the answer to any of those is yes, then you’re not done yet and you might want to read on to see what I do to cabinets I build.

Okay, I might not be a professional cabinet maker but these tricks can save you some time and headaches in the long long run. After all, who wants headaches and wasting time right? So, let’s get started.

First things first, you’ll want to have your sides cut to the dimension, dado cut for the bottom panel (if you’re going to do that), and toe kick cut out. If you haven’t done this yet, have a look at my article Base Cabinet Sides and Toe Kicks here first.

Now, if you’re doing adjustable shelving which is what I do when I’m not doing shelving drawers you’ll need to drill holes for the shelving pins. I drill 7 pin hole adjustment hole levels. That’s 24 total holes for each base cabinet. But because I want these to be pretty versatile, I also drill 14 additional holes (7 on each side) to total 42 total holes. I do this so I can have full-depth or half-depth shelving. Most of the time half-depth is what is requested but you never know when someone may want a full depth shelf and it’s easier to drill these holes now.

In order to drill all these holes accurately, I recommend using a shelving pin jig such as the Rockler JIG IT Shelving Jig. It is a quick and easy solution that maintains accuracy throughout the drilling process. The bit that comes with it is preset for the right depth so there’s no need to use a drill bit with a piece of tape or stop collar on it. If you don’t want to go this route and make you’re own, I’d recommend using something such as an aluminum bar or some very hardwood as to not wear down the pilot holes you’ll need to drill.

If you’re using an acrylic template like the one that comes with the Rockler JIG IT Shelving Jig, you’ll need to take a few breaks to allow the drill bit to cool down. If you don’t, you’ll start to heat up and melt the template.

Once all the holes are drilled, my next step is to fill in any blemishes using some sort of wood filler. I use DAP Plastic Wood but have recently also begun using DAP 540 Series Natural Plastic Wood. I use a putty knife to scoop up a bit and smear it onto the surface mashing it into the wood. If you’re using the original DAP Plastic Wood that is solvent-based and it is dried out, try adding a little acetone to it and mixing thoroughly. That should bring it back to life.

Once the wood filler dries (according to the directions on the container) I move onto sanding. Since this plywood is already decent in shape I just use 220 grit sandpaper with my random orbital sander, taking care not to sand through the veneer. Once everything is smooth and mark-free I’m done with sanding. I finish up by hand just by knocking the sharp edge off the toe kick cutout with a sanding sheet or sanding block.

In choosing the bottom material I look through my cutoff scraps of plywood that match the side panels. I choose one that will match the dimensions as close as possible so I don’t have a lot of waste material. After all, this stuff expensive and I want to make the most of it. Once I have a piece selected where the grain pattern matches the direction I want, I’m good.

As always if you have any questions or comments post them below or on my YouTube video comments section and I’ll do my best to respond.

I’ve included a few Amazon Links below for the equipment and materials I used.

Equipment and Materials

My next article will cover cutting and preparing the bottom panel of the cabinet carcass. Until then, I hope you find this video useful and can use some of the tips presented. Feel free to leave any comments, suggestions, or experiences you have had below.

Some of the links in my video description and article above are Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. If you would like to make a different purchase from Amazon, you can also use the storewide link.


Looking for a Gift Idea? Visit the Amazon Gift Hub
Or Check out our Deal of the Day page in the Top Right of the Menu