How to pull an existing cabinet into square?

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Forum topic by dbhost posted 01-27-2014 07:36 PM 1439 views 0 times favorited 31 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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5590 posts in 2649 days

01-27-2014 07:36 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Okay dumb question. I had built a shop cabinet 2 years ago that was square when I built it, but due to some drawer problems I am noticing the cabinet now is anything BUT square. Construction is glued and screwed rabbet and dado construction with a back panel effectively about 2/3 of the way back set into a dado and screwed into place…

Is there any trick to bringing this thing back into square and keep it from going out of square again..

The back part of this cabinet is an empty area just to run dust collection ducting, so I can do whatever I need to back there…

-- My workshop blog can be found at

31 replies so far

View Jorg Zimmermann's profile

Jorg Zimmermann

24 posts in 1023 days

#1 posted 01-27-2014 07:53 PM

What about unscrewing the backpanel, put it back into square and re-tighten the screws.?


-- Jorg

View DrDirt's profile (online now)


4133 posts in 3159 days

#2 posted 01-27-2014 07:57 PM

If you can get a pipe clamp to pull across the diagonal and get it square again, then glue in plywood triangles to be “corner blocks” that will lock the corner at 90 degrees, and take off the clamp.

-- 'Political correctness is fascism pretending to be manners' ~George Carlin

View DocSavage45's profile


7645 posts in 2260 days

#3 posted 01-27-2014 08:04 PM

You said it was square to begin with. I’m guessing if it wasn’t wracked by any forces that humidity and dryness have cause readjustment? Maybe you are more precise now than before?

Two good Ideas here. Taking all the drawers and backing off will make pulling it back into square easier. Is it that noticeable?

If it is a moisture issue you can add moisture to both sides before re alignment.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View dbhost's profile


5590 posts in 2649 days

#4 posted 01-27-2014 08:21 PM

Hmmmm. Pipe clamps. Hadna thunka that…

Yeah, I can take the screws on the mid panel loose. But the panel is set in a dado and glued as well. Hopefully with slow careful pressure it will go…

The same square that verified it when built checked it last night. It is nasty out of square, and I suspect humidity has a LOT to do with it. I also suspect corner blocks would go a long way to keeping it square… Good idea!

-- My workshop blog can be found at

View GOOD LUCK TO ALL's profile


418 posts in 1145 days

#5 posted 01-27-2014 09:17 PM

I think you need to determine what part/end of the cabinet moved in order to correct it properly.
If you had it square and now it’s not, part of the cabinet shifted somehow. Maybe it came off the wall a little on 1 side? Was it shimmed off the floor and maybe dropped a little? Just saying I would try to find what moved and put it back. fixing one wrong by changing a right might just compound your problem, but then, I could be reading to much into it.

View Don W's profile

Don W

17870 posts in 1985 days

#6 posted 01-27-2014 09:22 PM

I’d go with pipe clamps or ratchet straps, maybe both. I do agree with the statements about determining what moved and why. You’ll want to square it then fix it to stay.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View dbhost's profile


5590 posts in 2649 days

#7 posted 01-27-2014 09:24 PM

The cabinet is not wall mounted, but free standing on the floor, shimmed / blocked to level. If what is supporting it moved, my foundation moved. Which considering drought, then wet, I wouldn’t be shocked…

-- My workshop blog can be found at

View Don W's profile

Don W

17870 posts in 1985 days

#8 posted 01-27-2014 09:54 PM

So is it out of level or out of square? If the floor moved, the cabinet would be out of level, but still square.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View Loren's profile


8156 posts in 3065 days

#9 posted 01-27-2014 09:55 PM

Maybe install eye bolts at the wide corners inside. Wrap a wire
around several times, then twist the wire like you twist a rubber
band in a wind up plane.

View GOOD LUCK TO ALL's profile


418 posts in 1145 days

#10 posted 01-27-2014 11:34 PM

crap information in…crap information out! :)
Saying still goes, you need to fix whatever moved, or it will only be a temporary fix until it moves some more again.

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2267 days

#11 posted 01-28-2014 03:32 AM

Glue joints will have to be broken in order to restore it to square. All of the ratchet straps and pipe clamps in your county and glue blocks the size of a shoebox will just build in more stress.



-- " 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 Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3944 posts in 2582 days

#12 posted 01-28-2014 05:16 AM

Take it apart and rebuild it…..........I think that is what Lee is saying, and I agree. Gotta break the glue joints anyway, to do it right, pull it apart and build it like you were doing it the first time. You will find the root cause while you are at it.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View realcowtown_eric's profile


551 posts in 1354 days

#13 posted 01-28-2014 06:49 AM

Put the square in the back, and see if that’s still square.bbefore u go beaking glue joints. If it was square when constucted, and installed, chances are the squareness persistts at the back.

Check the squareness at the back to be sure, and then

Put the square in the front, and if it’s out of square, it’s a simple torsional issue, drive some shims under the low side, and square up the front.

OTOH, If yer on a slab floor, maybe it’s just working with the winter weather. The outside edge of my deck rises up about 3” over the winter. Desolate being on piers set well below the frost line. If it was square when it went in, if it’s out of sqare now, it ain’t likely due to cabinet boxes….


-- Real_cowtown_eric

View dbhost's profile


5590 posts in 2649 days

#14 posted 02-04-2014 02:17 PM


I went out last night, and scooted the cabinet out away from the wall about 1” (I need the clearance for when the freezer comes in, and took a look at things again… I actually appear to have 2 issues going on here.

#1. The cabinet racks in and out of square on the corners as it is moved over the uneven floor. This, as well as taking screws out and being able to easily pull the joint apart tells me the glue joints have completely failed. I am thinking the plywood effectively drank up the glue leaving the joint dry… Need to take it apart, and re-glue the entire assembly…

#2. The side panel on the left appears to bow out about 1/16” over its span top to bottom. Not a huge deal, but it can be over time. The cabinet was designed and built frameless, I am not re thinking that approach. Not an entire frame per se, but a simple cross bar just under the drawers to keep the side panel sucked in…

When I go to redo the cabinet, I am going to cut 1.5” off of the total height so that I can add 3/4” glue blocks to the bottom, and install levelers at all corner points, this way I should in theory end up with a completely square, and level miter saw station in the end.

At this point, I have it set, and shimmed square, although not completely level. It is good enough for now. I have to move on to other more pressing projects. I will either fix this one, or scrap it, and start over with a new bench keeping the basic design but adding some lessons learned modifications. I am leaning toward that complete rebuild if LOML will put up with it…

-- My workshop blog can be found at

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3944 posts in 2582 days

#15 posted 02-04-2014 06:16 PM

I have found over time that essentially all shop items that I build need to be on levelers or wheels. My old main 44 year old bench is not on levelers or wheels, but that is the only wood on concrete structure I have. All others are on some sort of levelers… a minimum, carriage bolts. The other exception, which doesn’t count since I didn’t build it, is the repurposed scroll saw stand that holds my drill press.

In the last few years I am taking an additional step. I am using torsion boxes liberally in most items. My multipurpose bench has the two end piers built as torsion boxes, but the base isn’t. If I were to build it now, I would make the base a torsion box as well…...all I would need to do is put plywood on the bottom, since the bracing is already there. But it is built so heavily, that it doesn’t need it. The torsion boxes actually allow your structure to be lighter.

The torsion boxes allow you to place solid corner pieces inside the torsion box to hold wheels or levelers. My cutoff cart is a scrap wood torsion box with wheels, with some modular compartments on top that can be picked up and carried to the work place. The outfeed table I am building as part of the dust control for my TS, will have a torsion box on the top and the bottom. At La Conner, I have a bench composed of two torsion boxes that are placed on pedestals. The pedestals do not incorporate torsion boxes because they have to nest for storage. But they are quite strong, and will have levelers as well. The stationary bench in La Conner is a cheap solid core door that was purchased for a quick and dirty work surface to help build the rest of the shop. It has a plywood top cover, and the door with its cover will become the top of a torsion box. Currently it sits on saw horses, but I will build pedestals that have a torsion box on the bottom, and the top will be kind of built into the top torsion box.

If you are going to beef up those cabinets, think about the height carefully. You might be better off with the whole thing higher, and the top and bottom could be built into shallow torsion boxes, the bottom incorporating solid corner pieces for wheels or levelers….....

If your shop stuff is designed to all the same height, make them all taller and stronger, and in the process make it easier on your back…........

You can use some scrap and cheap stuff to make the torsion boxes, just use a lot of glue and a nail gun…..

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

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