[Note: This entry was actually written in Oct 2013. I changed the posting date to keep my blog entries in chronological order]

By George Taniwaki

The east wall of the new kitchen has space for three cabinets. On the left will be a dish cabinet. A photo of the completed project is shown in Figure 1. (The two cabinets on the right will be a set of pantries. Their construction will be covered in a Nov 2012 blog post.)

This dish cabinet is fairly easy to build. It has a simple plywood carcase with no legs and no face frame. It has adjustable shelves. The doors are attached using high-quality yet inexpensive full overlay hinges available from IKEA. An exploded oblique view drawing of the dish cabinet is shown in Figure 2. The dimensions for my cabinet were selected to fit the wall it is on and the two cabinets it will be next to. It would be easy to alter the dimensions for your needs.

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Figure 1. Front view of the dish cabinet

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Figure 2. Exploded view of the dish cabinet

Cut out the carcase and doors

The top, bottom, sides, and doors  of the dish cabinet are made from 18mm (3/4” nominal) thick sheet of  sande plywood. Lay out the cut lines using a pencil and cut the plywood parts to size (Fig 2) using a table saw or circular saw with a shooting board.

Use a router with 1/2” straight cutting bit to apply the grid pattern to the exterior surfaces (Fig 3).

Apply birch veneer tape to all four exposed edges of the doors and to the front edges of the top and bottom panels.

Stain and varnish both sides of the panels and doors (Fig 4).

For more information on selecting good quality plywood panels, cutting the grid pattern, applying the veneer tape, and applying finish, see an Oct 2012 blog post.

Use a router with a 3/4” straight cutting bit to cut a 1/4” deep rabbet along the top edge of the sides to accept the top panel. Use the same bit to cut a 1/4’ deep dado 4-3/4” from the bottom edge of the sides to accept the bottom panel and 2-1/4” from the front edge to accept the toe kick (Fig 5). Finally, use the same bit to cut a 1/4” deep dado  2-1/4” from the front edge of the bottom to accept the toe kick.

The back is made from 6mm (1/4” nominal) thick sheet of sande plywood. Lay out the cut lines using a pencil and cut the plywood parts to size using a table saw or circular saw with a shooting board. Stain and varnish the inside.

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Figures 3 to 5. Dish cabinet carcase pieces and doors cut out and grid pattern added; Pieces, stained and varnished; Dados on right side of cabinet for bottom and toe kick

Make the back molding

The front and the back edges of the cabinet sides are covered with molding. The molding is made from poplar, an inexpensive wood that is a reasonably close match to sande.

The back molding is 1/4” x 1-1/4” and as long as the height of the side (Fig 2). Stain and varnish it. Do not attach it to the cabinet for now.

Make the front molding

The front molding is 1-1/4” x 1-1/4” square and as long as the height of the side (Fig 2). It hides the end grain on the plywood of the cabinet side. It also gives the side more stiffness. To make each one, start with two pieces of 1” x 2” x 8’  (0.7” x 1.5” x 96” actual) stock. Glue them together and clamp. Cut to length. Run through a planer to achieve the final thickness and to remove any glue lines. Set up the table saw with a dado head cutter set to 18mm (0.71”) wide and cut a dado 1/4” deep along the center of one side of the molding.

The front molding is attached to the cabinet sides using #10 biscuits. Lay a side panel with the outside surface face down. Align the molding to the side and use a pencil to mark both pieces at 5 points about 13” apart starting 6-1/2” from the end. Using a biscuit jointer, set the depth to #10 and cut five slots at the marks on the front edge of the side panel.

To cut slots in the molding, add a 1/4” sheet of plywood underneath the biscuit jointer to raise the blade. Set the depth to #20 (to compensate for the 1/4” dado) and cut five slots (Fig 6). Insert five #10 biscuits and dry fit the joint. You may need to shave the biscuit to fit the slots in the molding.

Since the molding overlaps the side by 1/4”, it will need to have notches cut in it to allow the top and bottom panels to fit. Dry fit the molding to the sides and mark the locations of the top and bottom panels with a pencil. Cut the notches into the front molding with a detail saw (Fig 7) and clean out the waste with a sharp chisel (Fig 8).

After adjustments are complete, glue and clamp the front molding to the sides (Fig 9).

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Figures 6 to 9. Biscuit jointer resting on 1/4” shim cutting slot in front molding; Cutting a notch for cabinet bottom; Removing material for cabinet top; glue up sides with front molding

Add shelf pin holes to sides

Set up a shelf pin jig to drill holes centered at 28mm (1-1/8”) from the edge (Fig 10). Use a 5mm self-centering bit to drill the shelf pin holes on the inside back of the cabinet side. Repeat on the other cabinet side. Ensure the holes are aligned by drawing pencil lines between the two sides every foot (30 cm).

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Figure 10. Setting up the shelf pin jig

Assemble the carcase

Dry fit the carcase. Use a smoothing plane to ensure the sides align to the top and bottom (Fig 11). Drill screw holes in the cabinet sides and countersink. Make plugs to fill the holes from scrap poplar. Glue the top and bottom panels to the sides. Glue and slide in the toe kick. Check for square, add the screws, plugs, and clamp.

Lay the carcase face down. Using a handheld router with a 3/8” rabbeting bit, cut a 1/4” deep rabbet around the inside of the rear of the cabinet (Fig 12). Use a sharp chisel to clean the corners (Fig 13). Drop in the 1/4” back to ensure it fits.

Remove the back and lay it with the exterior facing down. Using a 5/8” Forstner bit, drill two holes in the top corners of the back for the IKEA cabinet anchors (Fig 14). The anchors securely attach the cabinet to the wall and prevent the cabinet from tipping. Tipping accidents can result from a child hanging on the door or from an earthquake.

Drop in the back and attach to the rest of the carcase with 1/2” long T-50 staples. Use a hammer to drive the staples in flush (Fig 15).

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Figures 11 to 15. Using a smoothing plane to clean the corners before glue up; Routing a rabbet for the back after glue up; Using a chisel to clean the corners; Using a Forstner bit to cut holes for the anchors; Using a hammer to drive the staples

Make the doors and supports

As mentioned in the introduction, the doors are attached to the carcase using BLUMotion full overlay door hinges available from IKEA for $5 a pair. These hinges are much less expensive than BLUMotion inset hinges for $15 to $20 per pair. In case you are not familiar with these terms, a comparison of overlay and inset hinges is shown in Figure 16.

Going with full overlay instead of inset provides another savings. IKEA sells soft-close shock absorbers for overlay hinges at $5 per pair while soft-closers for inset hinges are $15 to $20 per pair.

Normally, overlay hinges are attached directly to a frameless cabinets. However, our cabinets have front molding that will prevent this. We will need to add a door support to each side panel. The front edge of each door support will attach to the front molding on the carcase, aligned with the carcase top and bottom panels. The rear edge of each support will attach to the side panel. Since the front molding stands proud of the side panel by 1/4”, a 1/4″ thick shim is needed on the rear edge (Fig 2).

To make the door supports, start with 3/4” sande plywood. Cut out two pieces, 3-1/2” wide and 1-1/2” shorter than the height of the doors (Fig 2).

To make the shims, start with 1” x 2” x 8’ nominal (0.7” x 1.5” x 96” actual) poplar and cut two strips 1/4” thick and the same length as the door supports.

Glue the shims to the supports and tack in place with brads (Fig 17).

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Figures 16 and 17. Comparison of hinge types (Image from Rockler); Gluing the shim to the door support;

Apply birch veneer tape to the front and back of the supports. Note the veneer is not wide enough to cover the entire back of the support. That is okay since the back of the support is not readily visible.

Lay the cabinet side, exterior side down. Align the door supports to the side and mark the location of the shelf pins at 1 foot intervals. Using the shelf pin jig and 5mm self-centering bit, drill shelf pin holes in the door support. Make sure the shelf pins for the left and right door support are aligned by comparing the pencil marks before drilling.

There will be three hinges on each door. One about 4” from the top, one 4” from the bottom, and one at the middle of the door. Mark the centerline of each hinge on the door support (Fig 18). Using an engineer square, mark the centerlines on the door (Fig 19). Using a hinge mortise jig and a power drill, cut out the hinge mortises (Fig 20). Insert the hinges into the mortises (Fig 21).

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Figures 18 to 21. Marking the hinge centerline on the door support; Marking the hinge centerline on the door; Using a hinge mortising jig to cut the hinge mortise; Installing the hinges

Make the shelves

Cut out five shelves from 3/4” sande plywood. The overall dimensions are 29-3/4” W x 12-5/8” D. To fit around the door supports there are two notches 1” W x 3-3/8” D cut into the front of both sides of each shelf (Fig 2).

Use a pencil and square to mark the notches. Cut out the notches on a table saw with a cross-cut sled (Fig 22). Apply birch veneer tape on the front edge of each shelf and on the notched sections. Stain and apply three coats of varnish (Fig 23).

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Figures 22 and 23. Cutting notches in the shelves; Staining and varnishing the shelves

Install the dish cabinet and finish up

Carry the dish cabinet to its final location. Mark the location of the anchors on the walls. Use IKEA cabinet anchors (Fig 24). If the location has a stud or blocking, attach using a lag screw. If it is hollow, use a molly bolt. Ensure the cabinet is plumb and square.

Dry fit the rear molding. Scribe and fit it if the wall is not straight. Attach the rear molding using wood glue and tack in place with brads.

Glue the doors supports to the cabinet, clamp them, and tack them in place with 16ga. finish nails. After the glue cures, remove the clamps, install the doors, and adjust them to be plumb, level, and square as described in the instructions that come with the hinges (Fig 25). Attach the soft closers (you will probably need 2 pair). Attach the door pull hardware (Fig 26).

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Figures 24 to 26. Anchoring the cabinet to the wall (note that I didn’t quite get them to line up to the shelf pin holes); Hanging the doors; Installing the door pulls

The total cost for the project including the plywood used on the prototype is about $250.

I spent about 100 hours designing and building this dish cabinet, though about half of that time was spent on testing my technique building the prototype. Now that I have the design down, I will be building more of these cabinets for other uses and for friends, and hope to get the time down to under 40 hours each.

For more ideas on home remodeling projects see the Home Remodeling Guide.

All drawings and photographs by George Taniwaki unless otherwise noted.