Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Building the Nightstand Cabinets

This article contains instructions for the nightstand project.  A general overview of the cabinet trade is available here.

The set of nightstands which I built on the show should give you a good feel for the process of building a cabinet.  This is a very simple cabinetmaking project but I took my time and broke it into four videos because there were several fine points I wanted to mention.

I thought about building a standard kitchen or bathroom cabinet unit but I decided to do these instead for two reasons.  First, this was the only cabinet job that I happened to do while we were shooting the series.  Second, this sort of non-standard, one-off cabinet is actually a more common project for a working handyman.  Most of the time, it makes better financial sense for us to buy standard cabinets and install them than to make our own from scratch...unless we are doing a special cabinet to match existing built-ins.  Customers who are remodeling a kitchen or bathroom are more likely to hire a general contractor or full time cabinetmaker than a handyman.  That being said, the process and tools are the same for any kind of cabinet.  If you can build these nightstands you will have little trouble building an entire kitchen. 

One of the Finished Nightstands

Measured Drawings

The dimensions on the drawings are for the set of nightstands I built.  If you build this project, you will probably need to tweak the measurements to fit your own bedroom.

Carcass Pieces

Drawer Pieces

Final Details

High resolution .pdf drawings, suitable for plotting, are available at this link.

Step By Step

  1. Cut out the panel pieces using either a table saw or a circular saw with a straight edge.
  2. Cut the dados in the side pieces.   
  3. Cut a rabbet in the back of each side panel.  On non-finish sides, the rabbet should be as wide as the thickness of your back panel.  On finish sides it should be as wide as the back panel plus 1/4" for a scribe. 

  4. Assemble the bottom shelf into the dados of the side panels.  Use wood glue and small finish nails.  Be sure to square everything up before the glue dries.
  5. Measure the back of the cabinet and cut two nailers out of 1x stock.  Attach with glue and either pocket screws or finish nails.
  6. Measure the space under the bottom shelf and cut a toe piece.  Attach it with glue and finish nails.  
  7. Measure the front of the cabinet and cut a drawer front 1/8" shorter.  Set the draw front aside.
  8. Measure the back for a back panel.  Cut it out and set aside.
  9. Sand the front of the cabinet flush. 
  10. Use a router to put the round-over detail around the inside edge of cabinet and on the outside corners.  Be sure to mark which edges get the round-over so you don't rout the wrong edge.  Also, be sure to stop the inside round-over before it hits the drawer area.
  11. Install the cabinet-side half of the drawer guides. Make sure that they are square to the front face of the cabinet and lined up identically on both sides.
  12. Cut the round-overs on the tops.  
  13. Install the tops with glue and small finish nails.

  14. Cut out drawer box pieces from 1/2" stock.  If only 3/4" stock is available you will need to reduce its thickness either be using a stationary planer (preferred) or by resawing on a band saw or table saw.
  15. Plow a groove around in the fronts and sides of the drawer boxes to receive the bottom panel.
  16. Cut the dovetail joints in the drawer boxes using your preferred method.
  17. Glue and clamp the dovetail joints.  While the glue is still wet, insert the bottom panel and rack the drawers square.  Do not glue the panel.
  18. Nail in the back of the drawer box.  Glue is optional.
  19. When the glue dries, clamp the drawer box to the workbench and flush all of the joints using a belt sander (preferred) or low-angle hand plane.
  20. Install the other half of the drawer guides on the drawer boxes.
  21. Test fit the drawers.  Adjust hardware as needed.
  22. Cut the round-over detail on the bottom of the drawer front.

  23. Completely sand the cabinet, drawer front, and drawer box starting at 100 grit and working up to at least 220 grit.  
  24. Install the back panel in the cabinet using small panel nails or fine pneumatic staples.
  25. Prime the cabinet and drawer front using good quality oil or alcohol based primer.
  26. Lightly sand the cabinet and drawer fronts.  Carefully scrape out any drips or runs in the primer.  
  27. Attach the drawer fronts to the drawer boxes.  Apply masking tape to protect the drawer boxes.
  28. Paint the cabinet and drawer fronts with two coats of enamel to match the existing trim in the house.
  29. Install the knob on the drawer.
  30. Locate the studs in the wall where the cabinet will be installed.  Put a strip of masking tape along the all an inch or two higher than the cabinet and mark stud locations for easy reference while you work.
  31. Put the cabinet in place against the wall and level the top.  A few scraps of plastic laminate under the cabinet are often a good way to level it.  
  32. Set your scribe (carpenter's compass) the the maximum distance between the wall and the cabinet and mark the material to be removed.  Cut this off with a slow-moving orbital jigsaw, cleaning up with a block plane or sanding block as necessary. 
  33. Push the cabinet against the wall.  There should be no gap wider than the thickness of a piece of typing paper.
  34. Drill pilot holes and attach the cabinet to the wall with at least two heavy duty screws into the studs.  3" deck screws are fine for nightstands but use structural screws or 1/4" lag bolts for uppers or larger base cabinets. 
  35. Clean up the work site. 
  36. Touch up any scratched paint.
  37. Put in the drawers. 

1 comment:

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