Squaring Cabinets and Panels

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Forum topic by SnowyRiver posted 10-22-2009 10:13 PM 7125 views 2 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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51457 posts in 3477 days

10-22-2009 10:13 PM

OK, here is an elementary question.

When I build a cabinet, or panel, I always struggle with getting it perfectly square. Even though the mitered corners are good, it can still be slightly off when I measure diagonally across both sides of the piece.

I was just wondering how everyone squares the cabinet up. I always seem to have trouble pulling or clamping it into square once its glued so its square when the glue dries.

I was wondering how everyone does this or if there is a jig out there that can be adjusted for different size pieces much like a picture frame jig that would hold it square while the glue dries.

Hope this makes sense.


-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

13 replies so far

View Cato's profile


701 posts in 3309 days

#1 posted 10-22-2009 10:30 PM

Wayne, a method that worked for me when I was making a bookcase and gluing up the panels with biscuits was a reference mark. I bought those Bessey clamps that sit on those little blocks for when you are gluing and I dry fit everything and when I got my diagonals matching I just used my square and drew a pencil mark at the joints. Then when I assembled with glue and had to move quickly all I had to do was tweak the clamp handles slightly until the reference marks lined up and I was square. This worked on the panels as well as the doors for the lower cabinets. The panels were butt joints and the cab doors were mitered joints, and it worked for both. I drew the reference line in the center of each joint.

Not sure if that is a fine woodworking method, but it saved me from stressing while I was in the glue up stage.

All was square when the glue dried, so I was happy.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3819 days

#2 posted 10-22-2009 10:34 PM

Wayne, your post makes a lot of sense. When I had my Craftsman saw I had to fight every cut and was surprised when the cabinet did come out close to square. One thing that I do is to measure the diagonals right after I finish clamping up the carcass. If it is not square then I put a clamp across the longer side and tighten it until the diagonals are equal. Once glue cures it should be fine and attaching the face frame will keep it square.

Another thing that I have thought about doing is using a clamping square to hold the sides at 90 degrees but have not gotten around to making a set of these yet.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Thuan's profile


203 posts in 3815 days

#3 posted 10-22-2009 11:55 PM

I use the Bessey Angle clamp on the carcass works until the glue dries. Then the back panel and a little persuasion gets it square. The front side of the cabinet gets persuaded with the face frame that I made square with the help of the Angle clamps. I also leave a 1/4 reveal on the face frame to mask any thing that may be a little off. Of course things are easier when the pieces being glued are cut true and squared first.

-- Thuan

View gerrym526's profile


274 posts in 3805 days

#4 posted 10-23-2009 12:02 AM

I used to have a similar problem getting everything square on glue up. Often the reason for that was that matching parts (eg. 2 sides, top and bottom) were different sizes-ie. slightly off in width or length.
Try this next time you cut your cabinet carcase parts-lay matching parts on top of each other and see if the corners and sides square up.
You’d be amazed at how a 1/16” inch difference will be magnified when the parts get glued up.
Hope this helps.

-- Gerry

View Andrew's profile


709 posts in 3195 days

#5 posted 10-23-2009 03:27 AM

Hey Snowy, your question makes lots of sense, so does scotts reply, my old table saw just wasn’t accurate enough. Also llegnths need to be exact. I use stops so they are all the same. I bought the cheap miter clamps at menards, these give me a good start when glueing up but the corners will still put apart. When I clamp parralell sides. Then I check diagonals and clamp the long until both diags are even. The mitre clamps are really just to make the glue up a little more 1 person with 2 hands freindly.

-- Even a broken clock is right twice a day, unless, it moves at half speed like ....-As the Saw Turns

View jerryw's profile


158 posts in 3913 days

#6 posted 10-23-2009 04:29 AM

i use corner blocks held in place by strong spring clamps. to make the corner blocks- cut several peices of hard wood scrap into perfect squares. like 3×3 or 4×4. then cut them diagnally to make 2 triangles. one corner will be square. cut steps on the 45 degree corners so you can clamp them in place.
you can buy clamp blocks but i aways seem to have small scrap peices to make more. i probally have 50 or 60 that i use allthe time. one more thing slightly camfer the 90 degree corner so it don’t get glued fast to your project.

-- jerryw-wva.

View Rabbet's profile


35 posts in 3138 days

#7 posted 10-23-2009 04:50 AM

Woodcraft sells 3D clamps to square up face frames or carcases. Clamping pressure or clamps that are not square to the work could warp the work piece out of square. When I build a panel I make it a bit larger than my opening maybe 1/16” all around then plane it down to fit my opening just in case it’s not quite square.

View Cato's profile


701 posts in 3309 days

#8 posted 10-23-2009 01:22 PM

Good question Wayne. I have just learned several new methods, for acheiving square, a basic requirement for woodworking, but not always easily achieved!!

View hootr's profile


183 posts in 3343 days

#9 posted 10-23-2009 02:05 PM

check out LJ parkerdude’s clamping jig

-- Ron, Missouri

View Tennwood's profile


112 posts in 3178 days

#10 posted 10-23-2009 03:07 PM

A great question Wayne and am glad you posted it. I have scatched my head on this problem also. As with Cato, I have learned some great methods.

-- Jim, SE Tennessee, "Don't spare the kindling Dear, we have plenty"

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3574 days

#11 posted 10-23-2009 03:14 PM

I do the same thing Jerryw does

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3477 days

#12 posted 10-23-2009 10:33 PM

Thanks for all the suggestions gang. I will certainly give them a try. I always use stop blocks when cutting the pieces so they are the same lenght etc. But sometimes its just hard to hold the piece square until the glue sets.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View Dusty56's profile


11819 posts in 3685 days

#13 posted 10-24-2009 09:14 AM

A great question , Snowy ….. I never thought of asking it yet but when I get around to rebuilding my kitchen cabinets , I’ve already got the answer thanks to you and the commenters : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

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