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AW Extra - Giant Shop Cabinet


Giant Shop Cabinet

Organize tons and tons of woodworking supplies with room to spare.

By Tim Johnson

If your workshop seems cluttered and your workbench is always covered with stuff, you need this cabinet. It packs 30 cubic ft.of storage, enough for all of those got-to-have supplies, from screws to paint cans. Everything is readily accessible, without reaching, because the big pantry-style doors open wide. We’ve packed a room-full of storage into a cabinet the size of a fridge—only 30-in. wide, 24-in. deep and 6-ft. tall. Best of all, this cabinet is easy to build.You and a buddy could whip together a couple of these beasts over a three-day weekend.


Tools and Materials

To build this cabinet, you’ll need a tablesaw with a 30-in.-capacity rip fence and an outfeed table, a dado set and a router with a 1/2-in. diameter straight bit. You’ll also need a drill/driver, a bunch of clamps, glue, lots of screws, a hinge bit, a hack saw and help from a friend to cut the big sheets of plywood.

All of the materials you need to build the cabinet, except for the rare-earth magnet door catches, are available at your local home center (see Sources and Shopping List, below). You can save money by substituting AB exterior grade plywood, but it’s considerably harder to work with. Besides, it’s just plain ugly. Standards and clips work great to mount the shelves in the outer doors, but you can also save a few bucks by mounting the ones inside the cabinet with wooden cleats or by drilling holes for shelf pins.


Getting Started

Measure the thickness of your sheet stock before you start cutting. It’s often up to 1/32-in. thinner than you’d expect.The Cutting List below shows which pieces will be affected if you’ve got skinny plywood. It’s best not to cut these pieces until you need them, so you can adjust the dimensions.

We’ve arranged the cabinet’s pieces on the plywood so you can cut them all to final size on your tablesaw, using only the rip fence.You should recruit a buddy to help you make the first cuts in each sheet (Fig.D “Buddy Cuts,”in red). If you’re a lone wolf, it’s safest to make these cuts with a circular saw and a straightedge.

The long pieces (cabinet sides, center divider, door fronts and frame sides) are arranged so you can cut them to exact length from the short end of the fulllength sheets (Photo 1). First, mark their exact length on the plywood.Then,make a second mark 1/8-in.beyond the first, to mark the width of the saw kerf. Set the fence to cut the distance from the waste end of the plywood to the second mark.

Initial crosscuts leave most of the cabinet’s long pieces cut to length. They also result in manageable-sized pieces that you can handle yourself. Crosscut the remaining long pieces (one door frame piece and the center divider) to length the same way, from full-length sections, after making an initial rip cut in the fourth sheet of plywood. Convince your buddy to stick around and help you make these cuts, too.


Build the Cabinet

Rabbet the top and back edges of the cabinet sides (Fig.A,Parts A1 and Photo 2).Then cut dadoes for the center divider (A2) and fixed shelves (A3, A5 and A7). Perfectly fitting dadoes are easy to cut with a router equipped with a 1/2-in. straight-cutting bit, a spacer and a Tsquare jig (Photo 3). Used on the second pass, the 1/4-in. spacer makes a 3/4-in.- wide dado. If your plywood is on the thin side of 3/4-in., your spacer will have to be thinner. Rout end-to-end dadoes for the full-depth bottom shelf,and stopped dadoes for the narrower middle shelves.

Every joint is glued and screwed. Assemble the cabinet, using clamping brackets (X2) to hold it square (Photo 4). Then, fit the center divider and secure it. Install the middle shelves. They’re offset so both sides can be fastened to the center divider.

Install the nail strip (A9), perf-board back (A10) and fill strip (A11). The top of the perf-board should be flush with the top of the cabinet. Finally, install the toe kick (A12) and glue on the door stops (A13).


The Outer Doors

Rabbet the edges of the door fronts (Fig. A,Parts B1).Fasten the frame sides (B2), and add the ends (B3). Next, dado the shelves (B4) to fit around the shelf standards (Photos 5 and 6).Add a shim to your dado set to allow a bit of side-to side clearance for the standards.You have to flip and re-clamp the pieces for each pass. After all four dadoes are cut, glue lips (B5),made from ripped-down 2x4 stock, on the shelf fronts. Then, use the shelves to install the standards in the doors. Be sure to push the standards to the bottom of the door frame before nailing so the shelves will sit level.

Clamp the doors to the cabinet so you can install the hinges (Photo 7). Prop the door in place on a simple stand.Then, clamp it to a cantilevered straightedge (use piece X1) and to the cabinet. The straightedge ensures the door will be flush with the top of the cabinet. Clamping the door and cabinet sides together removes any bow, so the door will swing freely,once it’s hinged. A perfboard spacer between the door and the cabinet side creates room for the hinge barrel.

When you’ve got the door positioned, cut the piano hinges to length and install them, using sheet metal screws (Photo 8).Center the hinge between the edges of the cabinet and door,with the barrel facing you, and predrill holes for the screws with a self-centering hinge bit.


The Inner Doors

Rabbet the door frame sides (Fig. C, Parts C1 and D1) for the ends (C2, D2). Then cut dadoes in them for the perfboard panels (C3, D3). Like plywood, perf-board is often thinner than its stated thickness. If yours is less than 1/4-in. thick, you’ll have to use a regular blade in your tablesaw instead of your dado set. Make two passes, adjusting the fence between cuts.

Once glued in the dadoes, these perfboard panels make the doors strong and rigid. Hold the frames square when you glue and screw the doors together.

Mounting the inner doors is similar to mounting the outer doors, but the hinges are fastened to the plywood faces instead of the edges.

To prop the inner doors at the right height, just stack two pieces of 3/4-in. plywood (door shelves work great) on top of the little stand used for mounting the outer doors.Tape an 11/16-in.-wide perf-board spacer to the front edge of the center divider. Position the door against the front of the cabinet,opened 180 degrees and resting on top of the raised-up stand. In this position, the door you’re mounting will cover the opening on the opposite side of the cabinet and its hinge side will be flush with the hinge side of the center divider. They’ll be separated by the spacer.

Hold the door against the spacer and cabinet with a clamp at the top. Center the barrel of the hinge (with the barrel facing you, just like on the outer doors) in the space between the door and cabinet and install one screw on each side, in alternating holes. Then install a couple screws at the bottom of the hinge, using knee pressure to hold the door against the cabinet.With the hinge secured top and bottom, finish installing the hinge screws.


Finishing Touches

Notching the cabinet’s adjustable shelves (Fig. C, Parts A6 and A8) makes it easy to mount the shelf standards in the cabinet. You can also add shelves made from 2x4 and 2x6 stock to the perf-board doors (Fig.C, Detail 1). Fasten lips (B5, C5,D6 and D7) to all door-mounted shelves.

Mount the door handles, rare-earth-magnet catches (two per door) and the latch. Move the cabinet into position, level it and anchor it securely to the wall. Then get organized.


(Note: Source information may have changed since the original publication date.)

Lee Valley Tools Ltd.,, 800-871-8158, Rare-Earth Magnet Catch Sets (4 required), 1/2-in. dia. Magnet, #99K31.03, $.82 each; 5/8-in. dia. Magnet Cup, #99K32.53, $.59 each; 5/8-in. dia. Washer, #99K32.63, $.59 each.

Cutting List

Shopping List

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker December 2001, issue #91.

December 2001, issue #91

Purchase this back issue.

Click on any image to view a larger version

1. Cut the cabinet's long pieces from the short end of full-sized sheets.You’ll need a buddy to help maneuver the ungainly sheet and keep the big offcut under control.With careful measuring, the cut-off piece will be exactly the right length, ready to be ripped to width.

2. Rabbet the cabinet sides for the top and back, using an auxiliary fence (Part X1) and a featherboard. By housing the dado set, the fence allows you to match the width of the rabbet to the thickness of the plywood top.The featherboard acts as a blade guard and ensures a consistent depth of cut.

3. Rout perfect dadoes for the shelves with a 1/2-in. straight bit and a T-square-style jig made from scrap. Make the wide dado in two passes, the second with a spacer held between the jig’s fence and the base of the router.


4. Plywood clamping brackets keep the cabinet square and let you glue and screw it together, one side at a time, without big pipe clamps. We’ve included the eight brackets you need in the plywood cutting diagrams (Fig.D, Parts X2).

5. Gang the shelves together for dadoing. A backer board keeps the dado set from blowing out the backside of the last shelf. The auxiliary fence’s extra height keeps the stack steady.

6. Nailing the standards is a cinch because the dadoed shelves hold them in place for you. Needlenosed pliers are much better nail-holding devises than your fingers!

7. Clamp the doors in position before installing the hinges, using a shop-made stand, a perf-board spacer and a straightedge extending from the top of the cabinet. Make sure the edges of the door and cabinet are flush.

8. Mount the hinges with sheet metal screws. They have sharp threads that grip much better than the puny screws supplied with the hinges.Alternate the screws between the cabinet and the door so their heads won’t bind.

You won’t believe how much junk you can fit into this amazing cabinet.

Fig. A: Cabinet and Outer Doors

Fig. B: Bird's Eye View

Fig. C: Left and Right Inner Doors

Detail 1: Inner Door Shelves

Fig. D: Plywood Cutting Diagram

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