Best practice for base cabinet backs?

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Forum topic by toddbeaulieu posted 02-11-2012 03:54 PM 1110 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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814 posts in 3003 days

02-11-2012 03:54 PM

Topic tags/keywords: cabinet

Hi all!

I seem to be almost done with the deisgn of my miter saw station base cabinet. I finally managed to get everything laid out in equal measurements so the drawers will all be the same width and be spaced equally. Phew.

Ok, so the last remaining issue I think is on the rear. I assume I’ll rabbet the sides.

Option 1: One solid piece of ply that fits into the side rabbets and has dados to accept the vertical and horizontal dividers.

Option 2: Shortcut. One or more horizontal strips to save time and money.

These cabinets will most have drawers so I’ll never see the backs. In some sections, I would be able to see the back.

Obvsiously, it would be far stronger to have full backs. I plan to build each section seperately.

7 replies so far

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3067 days

#1 posted 02-11-2012 04:14 PM

As you say, the backs of base cabs are seldom seen – if ever. I use option B and make the horizontal pieces ~3” wide. I always put one at the top, and usually put another at the bottom.

By the time you attach them to the wall and each other, they’re rock solid.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3576 days

#2 posted 02-11-2012 04:22 PM

I use #1 plus #2 and one at the bottom also.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View toddbeaulieu's profile


814 posts in 3003 days

#3 posted 02-13-2012 08:19 PM

Thanks guys. I spent a good chunk of time this past weekend working on the bases. I’m getting better at this. I only made a half dozen critical mistakes instead of a full baker’s dozen.

What do I do when HOURS AND HOURS of sketchup work is rendered meangless because I cut all my shelves to the inside dimension instead including what extends into the dados? OOPS! ;)

I ended up using strips. I’d rather do solid backs but frankly I have so much going on that I just decided “enough is enough” ... pick my battles kinda thing.

Trying to decide what to do for the top now. Plywood and MDF? Two layers of ply? Not sure … looking for previous work here to see what people are doing. I want it solid and I have a 4’ span on one base that I wouldn’t want to try with just one piece.

View MrRon's profile


4769 posts in 3242 days

#4 posted 02-19-2012 09:16 PM

Sorry, but a solid piece of plywood fully covering the back is the best way to go. Reason: it will prevent the cabinet from racking. I would redo it if I were you. As for the top, I would use 2 sheets of 1/2” MDF with a torsion box core, total thickness, 2” or 2 sheets of 3/4” plywood. It may sound like overkill, but I believe in making things that will last a long time.

View toddbeaulieu's profile


814 posts in 3003 days

#5 posted 02-20-2012 02:13 AM

Well, I’m not going to take anything apart at this point, so it is what it is. When I get around to building the drawers I’ll discover what “it” is!

I haven’t yet made a torsion box. I’m guessing that you’d need to joint and rip 1x strips for that? Or, would you use ply strips? And would you need a perfectly flat assy area? or would the strips serve to ensure that it’s flat?

I might try something like that for the elevated track because I decided to go with maple, which of course I can’t guarantee is true, or won’t rack. So I figured I could make an inner framing from ply.

View JohnMeeley's profile


255 posts in 2332 days

#6 posted 02-20-2012 02:30 PM

No matter what you decide for a top, support is an element you don’t want to skimp on. Simple pocket holes for horizontal nailers ought to support it just fine. MDF is flat, but will conform to it’s environment if not fully supported. I thin torsion box construction would be ideal if you have the patience. The wood whisperer, Marc Spagnola has great info on building one. Labor intensive but a rock when complete.

-- "The greatest pleasure in life is doing what others say you cannot do."-Walter Bagehot

View toddbeaulieu's profile


814 posts in 3003 days

#7 posted 02-20-2012 02:49 PM

I’ll definitely try a torsion box at some point, like for an assy table.

For the miter station, I leveled 3/4 underlayment cabinets. I then installed a 2×4 framework (flat side) and leveled that. It seems quite solid.

Next up. More underlayment, evenly screwed.

I’m designing the elevated fence now. I’d really like to use some maple and cherry, looking for joinery practice. I know these materials aren’t as stable as manmade stuff, but I think it would work just fine.

Since the cab is deep, my idea is to use the area behind track for storage (cubbies, wall cabs, etc.). I got some 1/4” maple ply for the top surface in front of the track, and under the saw, which I mounted on studs that elevate it just a tiny bit and give the ability to set the height and level it.

I picked up some drawer slides. Going to mount the mortiser so that it can be slid a few inches front to back and make use of the track/fence. Thinking of a threaded rod to control that movement.

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