Building Cabinets on a Mission Trip

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Forum topic by JOATMON posted 05-12-2014 01:21 PM 1101 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 1501 days

05-12-2014 01:21 PM

Topic tags/keywords: cabinets sheet goods circular saw router airplane jig question

Hi Everyone,
I am seeking some advice. I will be headed to Mexico in three weeks to build cabinets for a school and a church. Some will be in school classrooms, others will be in a church kitchen. I have two weeks down there and everything must be done on site with only tools that I bring. There is a 50lb limit on my bag for the plane. I am excited to be doing it and have made a few sets on my table saw that turned out nice. The wood will be down there but the tools are on me. I am thinking circular saw and router will be essentials (I will have access to power). I could make a jig for the circular saw once i am down there. With the limitations given, how would you do it?

10 replies so far

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2395 days

#1 posted 05-12-2014 01:58 PM

Like you said, the circular saw. Make the straight-edge guide out of some plywood down there and you can make straight, square cuts all day long. A couple clamps, and some home-made right-angle clamping blocks. You could probably find some sawhorse hardware and get the 2×4 stock to build the horses there.

I would bring a Kreg jig with an extra drill bit or two and some square drive bits just in case. I think without a lot of clamps or a table saw to cut dadoes and rabbets, pocket screws are going to be your fastest and easiest way to crank those out, and they’ll be solid. A router would do and would be nice to have, but that adds a good deal of weight. Also, if you get down there and the bit size doesn’t match your plywood thickness, you’ll waste a lot of time trying to trim things to fit. If you do go with the router, make your circular saw jig such that you can run the saw on one edge, and flip it around and run the router on the other.

Will they be providing fasteners? If not, you’ll probably need a good deal of screws, you could plan out ahead of time how many per cabinet, and how many cabinets you think you’ll make. Then double it.

I’d plan on cutting the parts of the cabinet out mass-production style, then assembling everything afterwards. Optimize your time by performing similar operations at once instead of switching back and forth.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View JOATMON's profile


3 posts in 1501 days

#2 posted 05-12-2014 02:16 PM

Good call on the Kreg Jig and dual purpose circular saw/router jig. Fasteners wont be provided but I’ll be sure to bring a substantial amount. Thanks for your feedback!

View NoThanks's profile


798 posts in 1554 days

#3 posted 05-12-2014 02:26 PM

I don’t know your monetary restrictions, but could you ship some of the stuff you need ahead of time? I imagine 50lbs is going to add up real quick.

-- Because I'm gone, that's why!

View Richard's profile


1916 posts in 2716 days

#4 posted 05-12-2014 07:02 PM

It would be a good idea to see if you can find out what type of lumber you are going to have available to you as well. If you have plywood sheet that’s good for doing cabinets but if they have 1X6 or 1X8 ’s that you have to glue up to make panels that can change the whole outlook on things. Also as mentioned that 50 Lb limit is going to go away real quick with tools being shipped , can you Fedex them.

View Makarov's profile


102 posts in 1831 days

#5 posted 05-12-2014 07:14 PM

I have never been to Mexico, what power do they have? Do you need an adapter?

-- "Complexity is easy; Simplicity is difficult." Georgy Shragin Designer of ppsh41 sub machine gun

View woodchuckerNJ's profile


1276 posts in 1659 days

#6 posted 05-12-2014 07:26 PM

What binghamton Ed said, I would also bring two 36” aluminum clamps. Light and will help you hold cases together while screwing and gluing.
Brad Nails and a hammer will also hold together while gluing. I have a nail starter that I use for the smaller nails when I am not shooting nails.. Great for getting the little guys driven w/o bending.

You can nail faster than the kreg .. but the kreg is reversible easily.

  • two 36” aluminum clamps
  • small hand saw w/o a back.. Even the small crappy stanley with Japanese style hardened teeth. Very useful for finishing a stopped circ saw cut.
  • Or bring a sabre saw.
  • block plane
  • 3/8 or 1/2 chisel
  • 1 stone capable of putting an edge, it doesn’t have to be a mirror polish, just an edge. or double sided diamond to sharpen the chisel and block plane.
  • mallet (rubber , deadblow or wood ) which can persuade things into position, drive the chisel..
  • speed square or framing square
  • 2 quick grips (6 or 12”)
  • tape measure
  • 1 or 2 spring clamps for holding saw guide and quick holding of something
  • small drill and set of drill bits (7 or so 1/8 to 1/2 ) to predrill nail holes, pre-drill to hang cabinets.
  • counter sink
  • Vix Bit to quickly setup hinges unless using euro hinges, then you’ll need a 35mm bit. I would just go with regular hinges but the euro’s are easy to adjust but weigh a lot.
  • Norton 3x assortment you can make a sanding block there. No need for electric sander.. you can quickly sand with a good set. Maybe bring some cork to face the sanding block.

-- Jeff NJ

View Buckethead's profile


3194 posts in 1894 days

#7 posted 05-12-2014 07:43 PM

If money is not an issue, consider a track saw. Much faster setup than using a straight edge. Also bring some hand planes. A scraper could get you to a fine finish.

Woodchuck has thought trough a bunch already, but I think we’ve greatly exceeded 50 lbs.

Another consideration: take what you can afford to lose or leave. You might be moved to gift a saw or more to a budding woodworker while you’re there.

Also: take T Shirts, and shoes. A whole bag full of cheap stuff to gift. You won’t regret that.

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View CoachSchroeder's profile


97 posts in 1629 days

#8 posted 05-12-2014 07:52 PM

Interesting mental exercise.
I think you could get by with the following:
circular saw & little trim router.
kreg jig, drill, bits, screws & that clamp they make.
Could you utilize ratchet straps instead of aluminum bar clamps.
faceframe-less construction so euro hinges and the 35mm bit will be necessary.
Extension cord.

May want to research flight restrictions… lithium batteries might be problematic.

How do you plan to mount these?

-- -Sam, in Wisconsin

View JOATMON's profile


3 posts in 1501 days

#9 posted 05-12-2014 07:59 PM

Thanks for the feedback so far fellas! I’ll answer a few of the questions real quick…
@Iwud4u – I won’t be able to ship anything in advance but I may be able to use someone elses’ additional bag that has the frequent flyer miles.

@Richard – I am emailing the local contact down there today to find out if the home depot down there carries sheet goods. I went to the same area last year and all construction was with concrete. I saw some forms built from scrap wood but didn’t spot any ply.

@Makorov – power is 110v so no adaptor will be needed. I will likely run power tools through a heavy duty surge protector though.

@WoodchuckerNJ – thanks, that is very thorough and worth considering. It made me think that I’ll likely be having to fasten these to concrete block. My Ramset would put me over on weight but I have a corded Makita that I can use to drill the pocket screw and switch to “hammer” for fastening into concrete block.

@Buckethead – Good call on gifting some tools. I’ll certainly be willing to do that. It would be great to get a local youth started and set up to build cabinetry! The track saw is out of my range. I’ll be making due with a jig for my circular saw.

@Sam – I think that I am going to have to mount them with Tapcon concrete screws. I know that the school is made completely of concrete block. I am not sure about the kitchen in the church though. And you are correct, this is a great mental exercise!

View mtenterprises's profile


933 posts in 2718 days

#10 posted 05-13-2014 12:21 PM

I’ve been thinking about this for a while since I first read this posting formulating different ideas. First let me toss this out just for information sake, I have a friend who has a relative that does work all around the world he ships all his tools to the location using 4 wardrobe cases on wheels. He has never had a problem with loss thieft or customs. Some thoughts I had; If you were to gift some tools why couldn’t your sending organization take up a special collection so that you could purchase a contractor table saw at their prices down there and gift that. With a table saw you can build everything you need. Pluses of this, you have more room for what you NEED to take and some budding carpenter gets a good tool to start with. Building production line type work requires lots of clamps. This has worked for me in the past, rope turniquates and culls. Rope and scrap wood should be easily available saving MANY Pounds of weight which equals more room for those necessities. I have done production line cabinet doors this way and they work just like strap clamps only cheaper. As I think on this more I may comment more. Personally it sounds like a great trip and a great thin to do.

-- See pictures on Flickr - And visit my Facebook page -

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