Shop cabinets

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Forum topic by robc posted 04-29-2010 04:12 PM 3607 views 3 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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22 posts in 3010 days

04-29-2010 04:12 PM

Topic tags/keywords: resource tip question design

I am starting work on cabinets/storage for my shop. Is there a standard height for cabinets? I have read they are 30.5 inches tall with a 4 inch toe kick. These will be on my back wall with some cabinets above and maybe a peg board in between. I am basically using my shop to practice for making some for our kitchen. I am guessing the toe kick isn’t part of the cabinet but a base I would have to build. As you can tell I have never done this before. I am going to use Google Sketchup for the design. Any help would be appreciated.

11 replies so far

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3040 days

#1 posted 04-29-2010 04:24 PM

I think you are right on the height.

Normally, cabinets have sides and a back that go to the floor. The toe kick is a board that is attached to the front of the open space. There is no separate base.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

5807 posts in 3160 days

#2 posted 04-29-2010 04:31 PM

Greetings robc: It really depends on how high you want to make your shop cabinets. 30.5” sounds a little short for me, but it also depends on how tall you are as to the comfort level. When it comes to shop cabinets, I don’t think there is a “standard” size”.... you make them to siut yourself. But…. kitchen cabinets are different….. standard height for them is about 36” from floor to top. And on the toekick…. no, you don’t build a seperate base. The toekick is notched out on the side panels at the bottom (I make mine about 3”x 4”), and a strecher is added across the front to fill in the gap, and your bottom shelf is put in right above the toekick, usually…. that’s standard…... Before jumping in to do your kitchen cabinets, practice, practice, practice. You’ll learn from your shop cabinets, just like we all have done…....

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

View Michael Murphy's profile

Michael Murphy

453 posts in 2971 days

#3 posted 04-29-2010 05:22 PM

There was a discussion about this a few weeks back. Frame or Frameless, Modular or integral cabinets. I always preferred to build cabinets as boxes that sat on a separate platform (toe kick) that you could level out and attach to the floor and then set the cabinets on top and screw them to the wall or down to the toe platform. Modular cabinets take a bit more material because of two sides for each box rather than a shared partition in between two openings.

Kitchen base cabinets are typically 24” deep (not including doors) and 36” from finished floor to countertop, then 18” from countertop to the bottom of the 12” deep uppers.

-- Michael Murphy, Woodland, CA.

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 2949 days

#4 posted 04-29-2010 05:57 PM

Being 5’2” myself I would find 30 1/2” to low myself, unless the purpose is to set bench top tools on for use then this would work. Otherwise you will discover it to be hard on the back bending down to work on the counter top. Another thing to consider is what will you be storing in these cabinets. If your storing bench top tools in them be sure the cabinets will accommodate the size of tool you plan to store in them. Another thing to consider and will cost more but very beneficial is full extension drawer guides for the shelves or trays to pull out all the way to get at what you want. As stated notch out for the toe kick and have fun.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View Fireguy's profile


132 posts in 3201 days

#5 posted 04-29-2010 06:24 PM

I think he is looking at 36” finished height. 30.5 (box) + 4” (toe kick) + 1.5” (top) = 36”

There are a lot of different ways to build a cabinet and a box on a 4” (toe kick) platform is one way to go. You can also build the box and put it on cabinet legs that are adjustable for leveling and the toe kick screw to them.

I think you will get 100 different ways to build a cabinet, it just depends on how you want to do it and the tools you have.

-- Alex

View Knothead62's profile


2584 posts in 2927 days

#6 posted 04-29-2010 07:53 PM

Finihsed height of base cabinets are 36” from the floor to the surfact of the top. They are 24” deep from front to back. Wall cabinets, in case you are wondering, are 12” deep and the bottom of the cabinet is 54” from the floor. As stated, you can adjust for your own height and personal preference. Toekick is to keep you from bumping your toes on the cabinet front base.
Worked for a cabinet shop, selling custom and factory built cabinets.

View Ger21's profile


1074 posts in 3097 days

#7 posted 04-30-2010 01:16 AM

If you build them with a separate base (30.5”), you can get 6 sides from a sheet of wood. If you build them with the bases attached (34.5”), you get 4 side per sheet.

-- Gerry,

View CampD's profile


1653 posts in 3452 days

#8 posted 04-30-2010 01:31 AM

One of the standards of designing working cabinets is to stand up straight, arms bent 90 degree’s at the elbow, measure to the floor from your hand, thats your custom height. Building your own shop cab’s and your going to be using them to work off of, you will want to be comfortable, less fatigue. BOCA code for standard kitchen cabinets is 36” finished hight from the floor and 18” Minimum clearence to the bottom of the wall cabinets. These Codes do not apply to work benches or shop cabinets.

-- Doug...

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3753 days

#9 posted 04-30-2010 04:41 AM

The standard is 35” high (top of 3/4” counter/bench surface after leveling is close to 36”) and 23 ” deep (24” top), Fine for the bottom, but you mentioned top cabinets.

Most top cabinets are 12” deep standard. Some are 16”. For a shop, you will find that an 18” deep inside depth is much more usable. Most tool cases (routers, drills, etc) have at least one 18” dimension. By adding the extra 2”, it will cost more in lumber, but will be much more adaptive to any storage you want them for. Mine are 32” wide, 18” deep and 46” tall (inside dimensions) and are IMHO the optimum size for a shop. I have an added exterior depth because I have them hung French Cleat style so that I can move them as needed when a new tool comes in that is too tall to fit under them.

If you hang them this way, use 3/4” ply for the backs/sides to support the added weight you have in them. I estimate I have about 300 lbs in each of the five I have in my shop.


-- Go

View cbMerlin's profile


100 posts in 3386 days

#10 posted 04-30-2010 01:44 PM

I suppose standard sizes are appropriate for kitchen cabinets. But the greatest part of building your own custom cabinets is to end up with what you want not what some standard says you need. When I built my kitchen cabinets, I made a number of changes to the “standard”. My kitchen sink was not centered below the window and it always bugged me. The uppers on either side of the window where mounted with different distances between them and the window, off by about a inch, bugged me. The depth of the uppers was not deep enough to house my wifes large serving platters without standing on edge, bugged me. The uppers on either side of the microwave and the bases on either side of the range where different widths, one side was only 12” wide, pretty worthless and it bugged me. So when I built the new ones, I exterminated the bugs! My sink base is something like 38 1/2” wide, not exactly “standard”, but it’s now centered under the window.

For the shop, the same thing holds true, make them they way that works best for you. My assembly table is the same height as my table saw, I can roll my saw up to the table to make ripping sheet goods easier. I will admit that this may be an issue if/when I get a new TS. The shelving & cabinets through out my shop pretty much follow the same lodgic, the size I want them.

I used to worry about the result and how someone else might percieve it. It’s my house and my shop and it’s the way I want it. When I build something for someone else, it’s the way they want it, hence “custom”.

However, keep in mind that it seems that “standard” sizes tend to use materials more effectively and that brings up a whole new thought!

Which came first, Standard sizes of cabinets, shelving, ect. or standard sized material to build them with?

-- Sawdust looks better in the garage than cars, explain that to your wife!

View robc's profile


22 posts in 3010 days

#11 posted 04-30-2010 11:16 PM

Thank you everyone for the tips. I will just go try it…see what happens.

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