Small Cabinet #1: Prototype with questions - always questions!

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Blog entry by Betsy posted 04-04-2008 03:00 AM 1590 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Small Cabinet series Part 2: Back to it on the cabinet. »

Finally spending longer stretches in the shop. I have a friend who asked for a small cabinet to fit into a particular spot in her house.

Designing things is not my forte. One look here and you’ll agree – probably anyway. This is a pine prototype that I wanted to make to give me a better idea of what the final project would look like. I built it mostly to get an idea on proportions. A drawing simply doesn’t do me much good. So anyway here it is. The final piece will be made out of cherry and will, of course, have nicer hardware – places that show nails will be screwed from the back so as to not be exposed. The doors will be raised panels.

So here are my questions. I think the feet are to narrow. Is there a particular formula to decide how big feet should be in proportion to the body? I’m thinking now that it might be the golden ratio. But will look for your thoughts.

Also, hinges. My oh my, hinges are a real bogger. I had the doors set just right and the drawer front was aligned appropriately. When I actually put in the hinges as I tightened them down they pushed the doors inward. This led to a smaller gap between the doors and then my drawer front did not line up.

ShaneS was here the other night to pick up the jointer (figuratively and literally – he loaded that thing by himself!) and he suggested that the hinges needed to be pushed down tight before you start screwing them down. There has to be an easier way to install hinges without having to have a wrestling match. Please tell me how you install these types of hinges.

Here are the photos of the cabinet. Please give me your thoughts and critiques.




I forgot to say that the material is mostly scrap so it’s not to pretty. When I get the final project done – I’ll tear this apart and use the wood for another prototype or jigs, etc.

Thanks for your help.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

10 comments so far

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3739 days

#1 posted 04-04-2008 03:28 AM

Hi Betsy

I do not know of any set rule for this type of leg. What ever looks proportinate to the cabinet and pleasing to the eye. I think the legs should be wider where it touches the floor, but thats me.

As far as this type of hinge you should put both hinges on the doors first, Push the door tight to the outside style and push down. Hold down and put one screw in each hinge. Do the same on the other door. If they are not even or there is too big of a gap you push on the out side corners till you get them where you want them. Hold in place and put other screws in. Do one door at a time. Hope this helps.

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View BroDave's profile


107 posts in 3779 days

#2 posted 04-04-2008 03:33 AM

It’s a good prototype Betsy.

I would make the feet about 1 1/4’ wider and maybe a teardrop in the center? Maybe you could check the “final look” by using poster paper or cardboard template before you finalize your design.

Anyway, those type hinges are the worst pain in the rear to deal with for me. I just set the hinges on the frame first and then attach the doors. Of course they will sag anyway but they line up nicely while the piece is flat on it’s back.

-- .

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3861 days

#3 posted 04-04-2008 03:44 AM

Thanks guys.

Tom – I had step one right. I put the hinges on the doors first. Still sounds like a wrestling match.

Do you think the more expensive hinges are less prone to this “sliding?”

Dave – I like the idea of a tear drop. Will have to try that.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View motthunter's profile


2141 posts in 3764 days

#4 posted 04-04-2008 05:14 AM

let gravity help with the hinges. lay the cabinet on its back when you install the hinges. Putting hinges on with an upright cabinet usually requires a helping clamp or a friend.

You are on the right track. Your final work should be great.

-- making sawdust....

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3953 days

#5 posted 04-04-2008 08:36 AM

The feet are a design choice. Those do look small. You need to worry about them breaking if they
get caught up in carpet when it’s moved.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 3840 days

#6 posted 04-04-2008 10:38 AM

I agree, the feet need to be a little wider. That is what prototyping is for, though, so don’t be discouraged.

View Mark Mazzo's profile

Mark Mazzo

352 posts in 3878 days

#7 posted 04-04-2008 03:44 PM


This is why prototyping is a valuable experience! However, don’t feel that you need to commit good materials (or even wood for that matter) to creating one. Cardboard will often suffice to give you a feel for dimensions and the look of a piece.

Here are my basic thoughts:

- First, the golden ratio is a good starting point but it is just that. It is not a hard and fast rule but rather a guideline and you can certainly deviate from it. Things built based on the golden ratio are usually pleasing to the eye but, other ratios can also look good. I wrote about this in a previous post on my blog.

- You need to start with an certain dimensions that are critical and then work from there. For instance, if the height of this cabinet is critical, then start there and see if a width of 1.61 times the height (golden ratio) will work. You can also use multiples if that works.

- Smaller elements within the design can also be based on the golden ratio. Like the space occupied by the feet in your cabinet, etc.

- To my eye, your cabinet looks to be a bit wide and the drawer is a bit too big in the vertical dimension. The doors also look a bit tall in comparison with the other dimensions. Also, I would try to keep reveals between components and edges, etc. somewhat consistent if possible.

- Based on your original design, I overlaid some rectangles based on the golden ratio to show what some elements would look like in those proportions. Of course, I did not change the overall cabinet dimension so it still looks to be a bit wide for its height. However, if that size is needed for function, then it could work if the other components sized based on the golden ratio. The feet don’t have to be rectangular, but the overall (positive and negative) space that they occupy could be based on a golden rectangle.

- Above all else, build what looks good to your eye!

The quick picture of this is shown below. Hope this helps a bit.


-- Mark, Webster New York, Visit my website at

View SteveV's profile


78 posts in 4064 days

#8 posted 04-04-2008 07:57 PM

Ahhh … if you are looking for a design ratio or maybe a “Golden Ratio” take a look at this link.

This ratio of approximately 1.6. I’ve read about this in a few design books. So in your situation, may the width of your feet should 1.6 X height of the base piece.

I’ve never used this my self but maybe it will help.


View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3861 days

#9 posted 04-05-2008 04:31 AM

OK – I’m definitely on board that the feet are two small. I’ll add a few inches on each side.

Mark – Wow – thanks for taking so much time to respond to my issue.

I’ve never done the cardboard trick successfully – The wood that I’ve used for this prototype has seen many other uses – and will see more. So I don’t feel wasteful using it. Very little of it will ever see the trash bin. This prototype I’ve taken the opportunity to use some of my hand tools for practice. I could not have done that with cardboard.

The width are height are set due to the space that the cabinet is intended for.

The picture helps me see what you are talking about. I am sitting here looking at the actual cabinet and now I see what looks funny besides the feet. It does feel crunched a bit. I’ll try downsizing the drawer front a bit to make things a bit better.

Will keep you all posted on my progress. I’m going to go back to the lumber yard next week to try to pick up the cherry. The last two trips I did not like what I saw – so hopefully I’ll get the lumber next week and start to work.

Thanks for all your help.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Rick's profile


19 posts in 3701 days

#10 posted 11-19-2008 06:39 AM

I like it. But the drawer is too wide – maybe break it up somehow or make 2 drawers. Why not use flush hinges from the inside. Find some nice pulls…Great post about the golden rule – thx.

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