This blog post on how to build cabinets is sponsored by Massca Products. It also features affiliate links to the products I used in this project. This means that I may earn a commission should you chose to make a purchase through my links.
Building cabinets has quickly become one of my favorite DIY projects! As part of our Mudroom makeover for this Spring’s One Room Challenge, I decided to design and build a desk with upper and lower cabinetry. In today’s post I’ll take you through the process of how I built and assembled our lower cabinet boxes using wood glue, the Massca M2 pocket hole jig, and pocket hole screws!
I have had my Massca M2 pocket hole jig for over a year now, since I first used it to build the wainscoting in my son’s nursery. I love how durable, well-made, and easy to use it is, and I can’t wait to share how I used it for my cabinet builds!
Design + Planning
The first step in building cabinets is to determine what size you’d like them to be. This will vary depending on your space. For our desk, the base cabinet boxes are each 24.75” wide x 24.5” deep x 23.75” high. These will then sit on top of a 4.5” tall toe kick, which I built separately. After I add a ¾” thick wood top, the desk will be 29” tall. The best part about building cabinets yourself is that the size can be custom-made to best fit your space!
Using the dimensions above, below are the pieces I needed to cut for one base cabinet:
From ¾” cabinet-grade plywood:
- (1) Bottom: 24-1/4” x 24-1/2”
- (2) Sides: 24-1/2” x 23-3/4”
- (4) Braces: 23-1/4” x 4
- (2) Toe Kick Pieces (Depth): 19-3/4” x 4-1/2”
- (2) Toe Kick Pieces (Width): 24-3/4” x 4-1/2”
From ¼” cabinet-grade plywood:
- (1) Back Panel: 23-5/8” x 22-3/8”
Once I had a list of pieces needed to construct both cabinets, I used this helpful cutlist optimizer website to create a diagram of the most efficient way to cut all of my pieces out of my plywood sheets.
Cutting the Cabinet Parts
Using a straightedge, clamps, and my circular saw, I cut the bottom and side pieces of the cabinets first (you can click here for a short video that shows you how I do that!). Then I used a table saw to quickly cut the 4” wide braces. You could also use the circular saw for this step instead if you prefer!
Next, I used my table saw with a dado blade to create any grooves and rabbets in the plywood. Cutting these rabbets helps the pieces of the cabinets hook together really nicely, and creates a groove for your back cabinet panel. (Note that if you’ll be adding drawers to your cabinet, this back panel is not necessary since you won’t see the back of the cabinet.) Once you have all of your pieces cut, it’s on to what I think is the most fun part- assembly!
Attaching the Cabinet Sides
I placed my cabinet bottom on some scrap pieces of 2×4 wood to elevate it off of my work surface, allowing room for my clamps. I added wood glue to the rabbeted edge of each cabinet side and used my 90-degree clamps to keep the cabinet square while the glue set. You can also use parallel bar clamps to apply pressure to the wood while the glue dries.
Drilling Pocket Holes
Once the glue dries on the bottom and sides of the cabinet, it’s time to add your braces. These cabinets will have four braces: two at the top to support the wood desk top, and two at the back for securing the cabinet to the wall. This is the step where I use my Massca M2 pocket hole jig to secure the rest of the cabinet box together!
Since I am using ¾” thick plywood, I start by adjusting my jig and drill bit accordingly. The Massca M2 jig makes this so easy! Here are the three areas where you’ll want to adjust your jig/drill bit:
- Guide Block: Loosen the knobs on the side of the jig and adjust the height of the guide block to match the thickness of your wood
- Drill Bit Depth: Use Massca’s drill depth turret stop to set the position of the collar on the drill bit. The position of this collar will ensure that the depth of the pocket hole you drill is the right size for the thickness of wood you are joining!
- Push-Pull Clamp: Rotate the adjuster on the clamp that will hold your wood in place as you drill your pocket holes. You can re-adjust as needed if you find that you made the clamp too tight or too loose at first.
Next, I drilled a set of (2) pocket holes into each end of each cabinet brace. Notice that I also am using the dust spout here, which allowed me to connect the jig to my shop vac for dust collection!
Choosing Screws + Installing the Cabinet Braces
To attach the braces to the cabinet sides, I used Massca’s pocket hole screws. The screw length and type that you should use depends on two factors:
- The thickness of the wood that you are joining
- The type of wood (plywood/softwood vs. hardwoods)
For my ¾” plywood cabinet shell I needed 1-1/4” long coarse thread screws. These are intended for plywood and softwoods, such as pine. For the face frame, which is poplar, I used Massca’s fine thread screws.
I held the braces in place with a clamp, and then used the long screwdriver bit that comes with the jig to add the screws.
Before you add the top brace, remember to slide your 1/4″ thick back cabinet panel into place! I cut my back cabinet panel width to be about 1/8” less than the width available. This is so that it wouldn’t be too tight of a fit and put any pressure on the sides of my cabinet.
Building the Toe Kick
Building the toe kick was nice and simple! I used wood glue and nails to assemble all four pieces, making sure to keep them level to one another. Alternately, you could attach the toe kick pieces by using pocket holes on the inside.
The reason I built the toe kick separate from the rest of the cabinet is so that I can add shims between the toe kick and cabinet, to level it as needed. There are certainly ways to build cabinet with an integral toekick; this is just the method I personally prefer!
Building the Face Frame
I built my cabinet face frame out of 1x poplar which is ¾” thick. I chose poplar because it paints well and is a durable hardwood. The face frame is applied to the front of the cabinet, and really gives it a finished look!
For my face frame design, I took into account the fact that I wanted three drawers in this cabinet. The typical width for each stile (vertical piece of the frame) and rail (horizontal piece of the frame) is 1-1/2”. However, I did increase the thickness of the stile at the wall (2”) and the top rail (2-1/4”) to account for other trim I will be adding.
Once I cut all of my face frame pieces, I used my M2 pocket hole jig once again to drill pocket holes on the back of the frame.
I then assembled all of the pieces using wood glue and the fine thread pocket hole screws. Before adding the screws, I clamped the two pieces of wood together on top of a flat surface using Massca’s locking face clamp. This keeps the pieces flush to one another and creates a seamless joint, that will disappear with a little wood filling, sanding, and paint!
Test Fitting the Cabinets + Next Steps!
Now the cabinets are really starting to come together! What do you think, do they look like the rendering and diagrams? Next steps will be installing the cabinets to wall and painting then attaching the face frame. I can’t wait to share the next steps in this project!
Are you feeling inspired to start your own cabinet build? If you have any questions on how to build cabinets, leave them below and I’d love to help!