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Thread: Tools needed to make simple cabinets

  1. #1

    Tools needed to make simple cabinets

    Hi all ,just starting to set up my own shop in my garage and was wondering what i can get away without.I am buying an older grizzly table saw for 150.nodel G 1022,i was planning on getting a router and table i really need to buy a planer and jointer to get started making some cabinets?can i get away with a hand power planer?First i want to make some cabinets for my shop,then the bathrooms,and then when i have some experience under my belt move on to the kitchen.any help would be great.I dont have thousands to spend on tools right now,

  2. #2
    Hi Thaddeus,

    First, let me welcome you to the Creek -- great group of folks here with lots of great info.

    In terms of your tools, it all depends on what you want to do and how you want to make things. Using sheet goods for your cabinets and you would be fine with a table saw and router as your first primary tools. If you start to work with a lot of solid lumber, then a jointer and a planer will help greatly as stock is rarely flat, straight and true from the lumber-yard. With that said, you can get by picking out straight pieces. Another option would be to get any solid lumber dressed at your supplier for a nominal fee.

    As you gain experience, your tool collection will grow allowing you to tackle other projects more easily.

    I am sure that others will weigh in here too.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Westchester County, NY
    Basic cabinets are really easy to make. The doors can be a little bit of a challenge, depending on what you want, but if you are ok with basic panel doors (what we used to call "European style"), then it's extremely easy.

    Cutting the panels to size and cutting the dados will be your biggest challenges. If your table saw doesn't have big extensions and a long fence, you might make up something like that (plywood table next to the saw, with good fence capable of at least 32 inch rips). Alternatively, you could get some of those long "clamps" that mount to a piece of plywood/mdf/whatever, and a decent hand-held circular saw. Then invest in blades. The blades are more important than the saw. Even easier than this, you could get a couple of straight pieces of hardwood, 8 and 4 feet long, and a couple of simple clamps, and measure the distance to run your circular saw along that as a straight edge. That way you can cut your panels to size on a couple of cheap saw horses.

    For the dados, you can use the table saw, or use the above rig and a router. The latter is easier for a one-man operation.

    If you plan to make panel doors of any sort, a decent miter saw would probably come in handy. But basically you can set up a simple cabinet shop for less than $1000, using a router, a table saw and a handful of hand tools. I worked in a small cabinet shop as an apprentice many years (decades) ago, then ran my own for a while. It's not difficult. The hardest part is dealing with customers, and if you are your own customer, you can just argue with yourself.

  4. #4
    Looking back- my first set of cabinets were made with a router, circular saw,small belt sander and a hand plane.

    I used straight edges to cut up the ply for the carcasses with the circular saw scribing each cut with a razor knife first to keep from tearing the veneer. Dado's cut with the router and straight edge. Used a slotting bit in a router to cut biscuit joints for the solid cherry face frames and door frames. Solid fronts on the drawers and more router work to join up the boxes.
    The cabinets are still hanging in my dads house and look great & I really enjoyed making them.

    I have lots of tools now but spent fruitful years with very few.
    Start with what you have.

  5. #5
    As mentioned, you might spend as much on blades as the table saw is costing you...but a good blade is worth it. On the router, be sure it will accept 1/2 bits and maybe look at the ones with a fixed and plunge base. They will run a little more than a smaller router but might serve your needs much longer.

    Also, some good measuring tools. Squares, straight edges, etc.

    You can build some pretty good jigs that can make not having certain tools livable. For example, using a router and good straight cutting bit to edge and face joint.

    You'll probably also want an assortment of clamps. Pipe clamps with various lengths of pipe give you lots of variety.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Leesville, SC
    Look at some nice cabinets that are built in new homes. Most of these cabinets can be built with a table saw, a miter saw, and a router.


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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Columbus, Ohio
    I'll go against the grain here, I don't think you need a router or router table as your second major tool unless you plan on raised panel doors or doors/drawers with edge profiles. I build my first few kitchens and vanities with sheetgoods edgebanded with veneer and some solid wood edging and accents I cut on a table saw. I primarily used a tablesaw, drill and a random orbit sander with some hand tools. A circular saw (rough cutting panels), drill press (drilling for euro hinges and cutting plugs), and high quality jigsaw (cutting integrated toe-kicks) are optional but very nice to have. I prefer cutting my dados on a tablesaw so I did not really get into useing a router and table too much untill I started making raised panels.

    It's all about what you really intend to do and what your tastes are.

    Good luck, and welcome to the creek,

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Santa Barbara, CA
    Also take a good look at the Kreg Pocket Hole Jigs if you are going to build face frame cabinets. You can find many YouTube instructional videos of their jigs to get you started, including how to make your cabinet drawers with their pocket hole system. For roughly $135.00 it's a great way to get started on your projects.

  9. #9
    Pocket screws are a great way to start doing face frames and attaching them to the cabinets. You don't need to get the whole kit though. I bought the basic kit ($20 I think) and a few pounds of screws. It will let you put a pocket hole anywhere, and while it takes longer than some of the fancier sets, it has gotten the job done for me. (I just finished building the last cabinet for our new kitchen this week!)

    I started with a table saw and 1 3/4hp fixed based router in a home made $20 router table (without a plate) and portable planer. I did half of the raised panel doors like this, but that was a bad idea, and I upgraded to a 3 1/4hp router for that. I also have a miter saw that I rarely use any more for this type of work (I cross cut on my table saw - way more accurate for me), a jig saw for some of the curved work, a circular saw and straight edge with clamps for breaking down panels, and two drills. I have a few hands saws, a block plane, a basic set of chisels and I recently added a set of cabinet scrapers (unbelievably cool!). I have a simple method of sharpening the plane/chisel/scrapers. Oh, and I have a ROS.

    That's it, and I've been able to build a kitchen full of cabs.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Northwestern Connecticut
    Skill saw with a shop made edge guide, router with a real basic shop made table, a ROS and a belt sander. That is pretty much the minimum. For face frames and moldings a small compound miter saw can also be very helpful. With these and some prepared stock you can make some very elaborate cabinets. A cordless drill driver is also a big plus, as are some basic clamps and possibly a pocket screw kit, particularly for a small shop making face frame cabs. Consider out sourcing the doors to simplify production as well.

    A big shop full of machines gets you more control over what stock you can use and what types of doors you can make, and how fast you can make them. But all the tools in the world wont buy you the ability to make basic cabinets beyond the basic tool set above. They are simply not that complicated.

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