Cabinet shelf width?

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Forum topic by Eugene Dickson posted 07-21-2013 01:51 AM 1182 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Eugene Dickson

22 posts in 1822 days

07-21-2013 01:51 AM

I am building red oak cabinets for the garage and I don’t know how wide to make the shelves. The cabinets are built and the shelves are adjustable. How much narrower should they be than the inside of the cabinet?

-- Eugene Dickson

6 replies so far

View Rudolph's profile


4 posts in 1799 days

#1 posted 07-21-2013 02:05 AM

Long answer: It depends on the shelf adjusters. With some pin styles you can get by with 1/16” smaller, others 1/8”. Some handle being off by as much as an inch (1/2” per side), though that looks shoddy.

Longer answer: Depends on the cabinet and the thickness of the shelves. If there’s a faceframe you have to tilt the shelf to put it in, so you need enough space to tilt the shelf back without hanging up on the sides. If it’s frame-less it can be 1/32” or less because you can slide it straight in. All this, plus the previous answer.

Easy answer: Make one the inside width of the cabinet minus the saw blade kerf and try it. Trim to fit, make others to match.

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Eugene Dickson

22 posts in 1822 days

#2 posted 07-21-2013 07:16 AM

The pins are 1/4” with a flat paddle to support the shelf. There is a face frame and the shelves are 3/4” red oak ply with a solid strip of oak edge glued to the front. Thanks for the help. This is my first time making cabinets and I feel like a complete newbie.

-- Eugene Dickson

View NiteWalker's profile


2737 posts in 2600 days

#3 posted 07-21-2013 03:18 PM

When I built my shop cabinets I made the shelves about 1/32” shorter, but I used straight pins.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2874 days

#4 posted 07-21-2013 05:09 PM

Wanna go geometric?

Given a face frame situation, the diagonal measurement of the face of the shelf must be equal to or less than the span.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3671 days

#5 posted 07-21-2013 05:20 PM

Assuming the shelves are 3/4” ply, if they are full-width, the
corners will impeded installation. Going a little bit narrower
will allow them to squeeze in, but how much is not
that easy to guess because the cabinet is probably not
the same width at every point. The sides may bulge out
at the sides a little for example.

Probably the easiest way to check is to make a stick
and trim off a little until it fits at every position in the
cabinet. Then cut one shelf and see if the fit is
not too loose.

Of course all the shelves can be cut a little loose,
down by 1/8” or whatever, but what’s the fun
in doing it that way?

View birdsandboards's profile


7 posts in 1790 days

#6 posted 07-26-2013 02:08 PM

I think Loren has the best idea about using a sort of story stick. That way you can sneak up on the length and keep your selves as wide as possible for strength and stability.

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