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Thread: Heavy Woodshop Cabinets

  1. #1

    Heavy Woodshop Cabinets

    Question for all of you cabinetry experts out there:

    I am designing for some workshop cabinets with heavy doors -- tools will be mounted to both the back of the cabinet and the inside of the doors (5-10 lbs?)
    There seem to be a bazillion articles and suggestions for cabinets and hinges that I've gone through with different wood types, thicknesses and hinges, but none seem to directly address this issue.

    I'm happy to use full-length piano hinges for surface mounted doors, but what modification would you make to basic carcass design to ensure that the weight doesn't rack or tear the door off in time?

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts (or suggestions to other threads here that I might have missed!)

    -- Chris J

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
    The question that comes to my mind when I read through your OP is what do you mean that the tools will be mounted on the doors? If you mean mounted so they are used while attached to the doors, it's a different situation than if you mean just stored on the inside of the doors. If the latter I urge you to consider drawers instead of doors. Drawers are hugely ("Yugely" ) easier to use than having to get down and get things out of the back of a cabinet via doors.

    That said, no way would I use piano hinges for this kind of project. Unless you spend a ton of money, most are pretty lightweight and prone to bending in my experience. I use them on some of my tack trunks when a customer insists, but none of them are willing to pay the money for the heavy, thicker piano hinges. I'd use quality steel "butt" hinges for this application if you're hanging weight on the doors.

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  3. #3
    Check out Blum's web site for recommendations for hinges based upon weight and height of doors.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
    Michigan, USA
    I took the OP's description to mean he's building wall-mounted cabinets. If not, I agree with Jim - I wouldn't even consider mounting tools to the back of a base cabinet.

    If it is wall-mounted cabinets you have in mind, you might try googling "hand tool cabinet plans." I've not built one of these yet, but it's on my list. Most of the plans I've looked at use piano hinges. My understanding is that the piano hinge spreads the load of the door more evenly on the side of the carcass and the door itself. That said, I've also seen some plans that use butt hinges.

  5. #5
    I'd just use the piano hinge. It will be the easiest to find. A lot of hinges will work but the adjustments on the hinge can kill the hinge as its a weak point.

    We used a lot of institutional hinges in commercial for abuse but in not sure what the weight rating would be or how many you would need..

    Remember people have used bookcases to hidden rooms. Look in that direction...

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    With tool storage it really helps to optimize. Assuming you are building shallow cabinets, maybe 8" deep with tools on the doors and on the back, definitely mock up the tool layout on paper first. Then make up the doors (3/4" plywood?) and clamp them to some temporary stands. Hang the tools and slide the doors to the closed position. Only then will you know how deep you really need to make the cabinets and what they will hold. At this point you will make changes that you could not have anticipated.

    And as Jim suggests, use ordinary door hinges. They have been tested on millions of doors in all kinds of conditions.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Pueblo, CO
    I built a wall hanging cabinet for tool storage about 12 years ago with tools on the wall side and in the doors. I used BORG piano hinges and haven't had an issue.

  8. #8
    I have piano hinges on one cabinet and regular hinges on the other. Both seem to work fine. The Studley cabinet has regular hinges, although I don't know the thickness or screw size for them. Speaking of Studley, unless you have a lot of tools to cram in a small space and have a lot of patience for removing them and putting them back, I wouldn't recommend using all the widgets and layers of tool holders like he did. I started out that way with the smaller cabinet, and ended up building the larger cabinet after getting irritated with all the trips and catches, etc.


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Evanston, IL
    I used steel piano hinges from Lee Valley on this cabinet, which now has many more tools mounted on the deep front doors. The hinges are much more substantial than ones I have seen from other sources. There is no chance that they will sag. I like them because the bajillion small screws you use to attach them spread the load very well. The sides of the cabinet and door frame are less than 3/4" thick, and using regular door hinges that would work with that dimension seems less robust to me. The only downside is that the hinges are very visible when the doors are open. That doesn't bother me for shop cabinets, but others may disagree.

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