Adventures In Cabinet Making

I never thought I’d reach a point where my cabinet-making skills would be the sole determining factor in whether or not I get to take a bath in the next month, but hey, living in a garage here, so I’m not sure why I’m surprised.

With the inside of the full bath completely tiled I need to finish the outside edges with these standing stones…


And in order to do that I need to finish the wood on the second wall…


And in order to do that, I need to have a bathroom vanity in place. And since I’m too cheap to spend $1499 on this one…

I guess that means it’s time to break out the table saw. And I know all of that would lead you to believe that I’m going to show you a picture of that exact cabinet completely built and installed in my bathroom, but here’s about as far as I got with that one:


And that’s because I’m a horrible daughter. Yes, it’s true.

Here’s why it’s not fun being related to me:

  1. If you don’t like your bathroom I will encourage you to rip everything out because “we can re-tile this in a weekend”
  2. And if you re-tile your bathroom and decide you need a new vanity but the 60″ version is too big to fit, I will say ” no problem, get the smaller version and I’ll build you a 12″ filler cabinet for the side
  3. And if I’m also building a house when all of this is going on, you will not get your cabinet for, um, eight months

So you can see why before I built myself a bathroom cabinet it was imperative that I finished my mothers bathroom cabinet, which basically has looked like this since some time in August.


And now that I’ve wrapped up the guilt-ridden-confessional portion of this post, here are some highlights from my first attempt at cabinet construction.

I basically used the construction of her existing cabinet as a template for how I’d build this one. I used 1/2″ stain-grade plywood for the sides and 3/4″ aspen stock for the front.


My plan was to use the router to cut a slot in the side panels that the back panel would slide into. And then slot the front frame to fit on the side panels.

I used a 1/2″ straight bit on the router and set the fence up on the table to give me 1/8″ on the outside. (In retrospect I’d make that 3/16″ minimum.)


I tested this theory out with a scrap piece first.


And I was all, hey, this cabinet making stuff isn’t too hard.


Here are the sides, routered. Routered? Routed? Whatever… finished.


The back fit in without too much trouble.


The front was slightly more complicated because I needed to create a mortise and tennon joint for the top and bottom of the frame, and slot the back of the frame pieces to fit on to sides.



Here it is dry-fit again, and that’s basically all the pictures I have of this process because at some point I must have deleted images from The Epic Struggle With Squaring off the camera without putting them on the computer.


I do however have a video of this process which I haven’t been able to edit yet because I haven’t sufficiently healed from the trauma of trying to make everything fit together at 90-degree angles. Even with the large cabinet clamps I stole borrowed from my dad it was still a struggle, and the cabinet still isn’t 100% square. Suffice it to say this is why my attitude changed to, hey, this cabinet making stuff is a pain in the ass.

I decided to use standard shelf brackets for both shelves because I’m a novice.


Mom got in on the staining action…


And this weekend I finally cut the shelves to finish the thing up.


The shelves just need a little stain and coat of poly for the whole thing, and then my mom can have her bathroom back.

I would say it’s not bad for my first attempt although you probably won’t be seeing me do a rendition of this project on This Old House or anything. I mean, you never see those dudes fit a square shelf into a not-entirely-square cabinet by using a prybar, but I can’t be the only person that’s had to do that, right?

This experience taught me that I’m good to build a cabinet every now and again, but I feel supremely confident that buying cabinets for the kitchen was a better idea than building all of them.

For the full bath cabinet I’m totally going with dowel construction because, you know, more quality time with my drill can’t be a bad thing.

6 Responses

  1. Hah! You might not SEE them fit a square shelf into a not-so-square cabinet, but I can assure you, it happens all the time. We used to have the funniest names for the giant crow-bar and sledge hammers. A guy would say, “would you grab the wall adjustment kit from the truck” and that meant the sledge hammer! So no worries. Your cabinet looks great.

  2. The cabinet looks great! I think Norm Abram would approve.

    All of the cabinet-like things we build, look good from 10 feet away and are held together with tons of cauk and wood glue.

  3. Beautiful!!! I really love your work, it’s simple yet elegantly looking. I also love the color, although it’s just plain, it stands out. Keep posting more great works!

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I'm not interested in a mediocre life. I'm here to kick ass or die.