Joe Abbott's Weblog

Letters home to mom

The Project: Building a cabinet–Part 2

Posted by joeabbott on December 19, 2013

I was excited about the progress I’d made on the design\planning of the cabinet yesterday. Admittedly this was more of happiness that I’d come to grips with design choices, but things were falling into place.

The Good

While working this out with Suzy, we happened to agree on which way the grain direction would go: length-wise on top, vertically on the sides and doors, and length-wise again on the toe kick; and we settled on a 24” height to the overall cabinet. All the was left was building it.

The Bad

Unfortunately, some of the items we could have stored in the unit won’t fit! At least not as things are now. We have a box in which we store a chafing tray that’s 24” long … our longest cabinet space is 22.25”. We could start to play around with the internal support structure or the door sizes, but neither of us are sure this is meaningfully problematic but it would have been nice if everything just fit without concessions.

The Ugly

While trying to model the color of the final cabinet, I took pictures of the plywood in the garage. The light wasn’t good, my camera phone likely isn’t the best, and overall the color came out strong in the red part of the spectrum. All of this is to say the final product looked bad. So bad that I didn’t model up the cabinet doors properly (we intend on having them with a strand body and VG edges) … the colors were so off that it didn’t make sense to fiddle around for the sake of getting the look right.

I could continue playing with the colors and continue tweaking, but working on the model is now stealing time from working on the actual cabinet. So, I’ll shelve this plan (pun not intended but enjoyed for being subtly apropos) and get to work.


I ended part 1 with the base structure laid out. With dimensions for the wall studs, from the top down, it will look something like this:


But, that’s just what will hold things up. I then went into more detail than necessary on the decision to use an entire piece of plywood for the sub-base layer. Fine. Now things start to get interesting as we add structure that will play into the actual cabinet.

Reminder: please forgive the unfortunate coloring. It’s not an exact match so I promise the final product will look much better!

Details on the cabinet bottom

The next picture is the cabinet with the bottom on and seen as if you were in front of it looking down.


I’ll call out three items:

  1. The end and center vertical walls will go from the back edge to the front edge
  2. The vertical walls between these will only come out part way
  3. The grooves running along the front lip will support sliding

I’ll go into detail on the sliding doors later in this post … I want to capture a number of details as I only have one reference for the information on how to build these and I found my cat chewing on the pages yesterday. I want to preserve this information!

Vertical supports

Now let’s see it with the vertical supports added.


I’m giving an ever-so-slightly different view to help call to attention the fact that all of the internal walls have a notch cut out in the back on the upper side. You may have noticed the outlet that the cabinet will cover up. As we may have a TV on top of this cabinet and we will have bookcases (along with curios, artwork, etc.) up here that will need power, we were going back and forth about options.

I’d originally wanted to add a small tray in the back of the cabinet … a recessed slot that I could drop a long power outlet/extension into so we could plug into that. That didn’t pan out and so we’ll do the usual put-hole-in-top-and-run-power-cords-into-the-cabinet method. This is standard on a lot of office furniture and has the benefit of doing away with a lot of cords and cables on the outside. The notch cut out in the back of the vertical walls will let power cords run along the upper back interior.

Notice the white rectangles in the picture above? Remember that we decided against having a back panel … a piece of structure that usually provides shear stability … the white rectangles are shear blocks which will allow me to tie the top panel into the wall studs to lock it in from moving.

I’m not sure I’m super-happy with my current plan. I have a small 5” shear block to support the top at each stud. I may make those about 18” long and span a pair of studs, tying into both. Additionally, I may or may not include the tie along the cabinet wall. In the picture above, it’s the long white rectangle on the right wall. Probably not necessary … I will likely build the unit without it and see if I’m happy or think it could use a bit more meat there. How’s that for science and physics? <g>


Here’s the part I was least happy about color-wise. The strand bamboo plywood photographed much more “red” than it is in person. The colors between the Vertical Grain (VG) … which is what all of the above pictures have on them … is much more complementary.


The picture also had a light spot in the middle and darker edges, giving the above photo a less homogenous look across the entirety of the top. I promise you’ll like the final (real) picture much better!

The idea with the top will be to have most of it done in the strand-cut wood, but include a border of VG to help it blend in. This was a stronger consideration when we were going with the Tiger strand (see this post for the different types of wood), but we’ll still include a banding.

I don’t have the hole for the power cords shown in this picture but it’ll likely be centered and we’ll have all the cords just work in through that one hole.


And finally we have the doors added.


Again, the actual doors will be strand (as shown) but with and edge of VG … probably about a 2” band on each side. In each band I’ll cut a small dish for your finger to get a little purchase so you can slide the doors.

With the colors not really hitting well, I decided to stop fiddling with it and leave will enough alone. Once I start building and need to stop to let glue dry and while I get the gumption to make the next set of cuts, I’ll probably reconsider and fix up the model. For now, this is what you get!

How to build sliding doors

imageFor anyone interested in more information on this method of creating sliding doors, you should look for Fine Woodworking magazine, October 2004 (no. 172). An article by Seth Janofsky titled Sliding Doors for Furniture covers the method I’m using. The article is available from and a link to the article is here; this is premium content and you’ll need to subscribe/pay to read the article.

My notes here are intentionally partial and made for my own reference from a copy of the actual magazine … which, as I noted above, I’m worried my cat will destroy. He’s pretty big for a kitten but still a kitten at heart!


Source: SlidingDoorDetail.skp

End Cabinet Project

As I finish this post up, I realize that I may not be done. We need to make sure we’re happy with the storage space (there are a couple things we could yet do) and I’m always fiddling with something. But, it’s now warm enough to survive the many trips into and out of the garage and I’m about to start changing how our home looks.

I’ll measure twice and cut once. Thanks for checking in.


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