want to build shop cabinets...

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Forum topic by westside posted 02-18-2010 05:10 PM 7518 views 3 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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77 posts in 3321 days

02-18-2010 05:10 PM

I want to build some shop cabinets for my workshop, I hate those metal shelf’s! I am looking at building some floor cabinets with a bunch of larger and smaller drawers. The question I have is, having never used plywood for building any type of cabinets, are there any good plans on how to build them out of plywood? What type of plywood would you recommend? They don’t have to be anything fancy, just functional.

Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks, Rich

15 replies so far

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

6308 posts in 3400 days

#1 posted 02-18-2010 05:41 PM

Greetings Rich: To answer your question on cabinet plans… nearly every woodworking magazine has plans to build shop cabinets of all kinds….Woodsmith, ShopNotes, Wood, all of them. There are even books written about building shop cabinets. Practically everyone on this site with a shop builds cabinets out of 3/4” Baltic birch for the carcuss, and 1/2” B.B, or Poplar for the drawers. Every cabinet in my shop I built like this…everything from free-standing to wall hung to router tables, etc. Google up “how to build shop cabinets”.
It should help you a lot. I can send you some pixs of my shop if that will help. All the folks on here will help, if you just ask…... talk to the cabinet makers… they’ll chime in to help…...also look under on the projects and blog pages to see more…......later.

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....!!

View westside's profile


77 posts in 3321 days

#2 posted 02-18-2010 06:50 PM

Thanks Rick, I will take your advice and keep searching. I was just worried having never used plywood for cabinets, how it would come out.

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Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4028 days

#3 posted 02-18-2010 07:49 PM

Rich, plywood is pretty easy to work with and it is more stable than hardwood lumber so it is the best choice for building shop cabinetry carcasses. I do not particularily like the plywood that is available at the box stores but it is functional and will work for shop cabinetry if you want to use it. Birch plywood is fairly inexpensive and will work just fine. It will not be fine furniture but it will suffice for cabinetry that is functional. But having already built some shop cabinets I definately would go with baltic birch as Rick suggested now and dress them up more than I did originally.

I am not sure what kind of cabinets you are planning but if you have anything like Norm’s miter bench and storage in mind let me know. I have a set of plans that I purchased years ago and will be glad to give them to you. If you want to get a look at the bench it is pictured in the last shot of my workshop.

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

View Brad_Nailor's profile


2539 posts in 4163 days

#4 posted 02-18-2010 08:31 PM

Ricks got the right idea..everything out of Baltic! Except that it is so much more expensive than regular cabinet grade ply. I have been using Home Depot shop birch for my shop cabinets/fixtures. Sure it’s nowhere near the quality of Baltic, but at 49 bucks a sheet you cant go wrong….and the stuff they sell is American made with low formaldehyde and no dead rats or leftover battery acid like the Chinese ply..(i swear I think they just look around at whats on the ground and just put it in). I did find some slight voids in the core layers, and the veneer is so thin you can sand through it real easy…but for shop cabs it works.
I do use “1/2 and “1/4 Baltic Birch for my draws though. Typically draws need the extra strength especially in a shop environment. If you want to make them in a hurry, go with a euro style face frames and full overlay slab doors…..if you want something nicer, but more expensive then do some face frames out of hard wood. I try not to go too crazy when it comes to shop fixtures….I want them to be nice and functional..but I like to save my money and time doing fancy stuff for projects…not shop fixtures!


View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 4099 days

#5 posted 02-18-2010 08:36 PM

I built mine out of poplar plywood, industrial, universal white face….....inexpensive, strong…..goodenough.

nothing against baltic birch but I do think its expensive overkill.

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

6308 posts in 3400 days

#6 posted 02-18-2010 09:06 PM

Greetings roman: I have to say..I’ve never seen any Poplar plywood before. Didn’t know they evern made it. You sure can’t find any at the H.D., or Lowes, and I wouldn’t buy that crap they sell there….Chinese junk.
I’ve used Baltic birch for years. Compared to the other ply, it’s a little more expensive, but so much better. What I really like is Russian ply. It’s got about 9 layers compared to the others, and no voids. I use it a lot too, when I can find it. Where do you get the Poplar ply, anyway? I think here where I live in the sticks, it would have to be a special order….......

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....!!

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

6308 posts in 3400 days

#7 posted 02-18-2010 09:14 PM

Greetings Dave: Hey… it’s a good thing you didn’t say “wood outhouse”.... I”ve seen a few of those, and they aren’t holding up too good…..... just my assessment….. some of them need a good paint job….. lol.

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....!!

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 4099 days

#8 posted 02-19-2010 03:29 PM


Most small lumber yards will order it for you, you might have to pay up front.

Cabinet/millwork/trim shops might also order it for you provided you dont become thier worst nighmare like not showing up on time to pick it up, like bantering over a few bucks, like wanting a written estimate and detailed invoice….............they have to make a buck too.

Like I said said ealier, I have no beef against baltic birch (baltic meaning ints made in baltic countries like Russia, Finland, Norway and most often comes in odd sizes) but I find it is inconsistant in thickness and a variable of 1mm can wreak havoc when used in conjuction with technologically advanced hardware….............and it is expensive.

Good Luck with your shop cabinets and enjoy the journey.

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

6308 posts in 3400 days

#9 posted 02-19-2010 05:18 PM

Greetings roman:... Thanks for the input on the Poplar plywood. Very interesting. I’ll have to see what I can come up with if I ever need any. By the way….. I’m not the one building the shop cabinets…. westside posted the question….. he’s the one doing the building. All my cabinets are built in my shop already. Thanks.

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....!!

View westside's profile


77 posts in 3321 days

#10 posted 02-19-2010 05:37 PM

Tank you everyone for your great advice. i think I will take a trip next week to a lumber yard in my area and pick up some good plywood. this is a perfect chance for me to learn how to make cabinets, I do plan on building some this year for my kitchen. My wife tells me you can never have to much cabinet space. LOL!

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2496 posts in 3313 days

#11 posted 02-19-2010 07:12 PM

Rich, Beware of that Chinese crap. You can ID it by the very very thin veneer and jumbled plys. This stffj falls apart in storage. Be sure you get a good domestic or baltic. No one takes Chinese back. Don’t ask how I know, it’s to embarrising.

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 3497 days

#12 posted 02-19-2010 07:41 PM

I’m going to risk some LJ wrath by suggesting you look into a ply called “Arauco”. It’s from South America (Peru and Chile, I believe). It’s made from plantation-grown pine, which is called “Radiata” when it’s sold as solid lumber. It’s got pretty decent faces, lots of plies, face plies as thick as the interior ones, and it’s reasonably flat if you go through the stack and choose your sheets carefully. It’s also reasonably priced at the big box stores, at least the last time I checked.

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View bob101's profile


329 posts in 3656 days

#13 posted 02-19-2010 08:07 PM

I made mine from birch ply 3/4 ” and I like to use melamine sheet for the tops cause its slippery(outfeed tables,etc.) and easy to scrape of glue and the like.

-- rob, ont,canada

View Alexander's profile


194 posts in 3317 days

#14 posted 02-19-2010 08:13 PM


Here is another thought on shop cabinets. I found a lady who was converting her apartment house to a condo and got 3 kitchen unit of cabinets for free. I then made what I had work and improved as needed. I am now in the process of installing all slide out shelves on the lower units.

-- John at Sugarloft Mountain........Don't argue with an idiot; people watching may not be able to tell the difference.

View a1Jim's profile


117342 posts in 3783 days

#15 posted 02-19-2010 09:45 PM

If you want info on how to make cabinets get a copy of Jere Carys book on cabinets or my favourite
“building traditional cabinets by Jim Tolpin”

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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