Introduction: Easy Workshop Cabinets

These are three small storage cabinets I built for my garage workshop.

The cabinet cases are made from 3/4" plywood and the doors are made from some old road signs that I had.

Don't be fooled by the funky cabinet doors, though; the heart of this project are the simple cabinet cases, which are very easy to build. The doors themselves can be made from just about anything you want.

If you are in need of some simple workshop cabinets, perhaps this guide will give you some ideas. Thanks for taking a look!

Step 1: Design and Cut List

I had been reorganizing and changing the layout of my entire workshop, and in the process I wanted to add some cabinets to hold all of my small supplies like bottles of glue, boxes of screws, and so on.

My goal was to come up with some low-profile cabinets that didn't stick out too far into my open space, but that were big enough to hold a lot of stuff while making efficient use of purchased materials.

After some thought, I settled on cabinet cases that are approximately 32 inches wide, 24 inches tall, and 10 inches deep, with one middle shelf. The three cabinets required one full sheet of plywood, plus a little more that I was able to pull from my scrap pile.

See photo and diagram for cut layout.

I made all of the long cuts on my table saw, and the cross cuts with a sled on my table saw. With some careful marking and cutting this could be done with a circular saw.

Step 2: Assemble the Cases

I built these in a fairly quick and dirty fashion using 1 1/4" pneumatic brads to tack all the pieces together, and then 1 1/4" drywall screws fastened into pre-drilled and countersunk holes to hold everything together more securely.

See photo notes for assembly details.

Step 3: Route Edges and Sand

I used a small trim router with an 1/8" roundover bit to route all edges of the cases.

I then sanded the edges lightly by hand with 220 grit sandpaper.

Step 4: Paint Cases

The cabinet cases were then painted inside and out with flat black paint.

Step 5: Road Sign Doors

The doors for a cabinet like this can be made from almost anything . . . wood, plywood, MDF, pallet slats, you name it.

I happened to have some old aluminum street signs left over from my thieving days as a delinquent, troubled youth, so I used these.

Just kidding . . . I got them from a small-town road department by simply asking for any old or damaged signs. There was a pile out in a back lot that was never going to go anywhere, so they let me take as many as I wanted. I've been using them for projects like this ever since.

I spent a little while sorting through my old signs to figure out a layout I thought would look nice and balanced.

The signs were then cut to the needed sizes using a circular saw with a standard wood framing blade, and a straight edge guide. I wore full safety goggles and a dust mask. A grinding bit was then used in my dremel to knock down all the sharp edges of the door pieces.

Step 6: Attach Doors and Hardware

The metal doors were attached to the cabinet cases with decorative strap hinges. This kind of hinge was the only kind I found that would allow me to bolt the thin metal doors to them as needed, but I love the finished look.

Handles were then added, as well as magnetic catches. The catch plates were epoxied in place (photo 4).

Step 7: Hang Cabinets

To hang the cabinets on the wall, I first screwed a straight board to the wall in perfectly level position where I wanted the cabinet bottoms to be.

Each cabinet was then propped into place and fastened with screws through pre-drilled holes into the wall studs. Then the bottom board was removed.

Step 8: That's It!

Fill the cabinets full of stuff and you're done!

Comments

author
askjerry made it!(author)2015-07-21

"I happened to have some old aluminum street signs left over from my
thieving days as a delinquent, troubled youth, so I used these.
"

Ha! You got me there for a sec!

Excellent job... makes me wish I had some... looks teriffic!

author
seamster made it!(author)2015-07-21

Glad I tricked at least one person! People generally are wary of projects that include old road signs, so I figured I'd play off of that just a little.

Thank you for the nice compliments!

author
uncle+frogy made it!(author)2015-07-21

nice use of space and use of material.

just a comment on storage and space

your stuff = 120% of your space and it is especially true with shop storage space

uncle frogy

author
seamster made it!(author)2015-07-21

That equation sounds about right in my experience! :)

author
BeachsideHank made it!(author)2015-07-20

Be pleased with yourself, the shop came out terrific.

author
seamster made it!(author)2015-07-20

Thank you sir, I appreciate the compliment!

I've got a handful of other posts on the way, covering some of the other new additions. The main attraction is that outfeed island worktable, which is the heart of the shop . . . coming soon to an instructable near you. :)

author
KyleTheCreator made it!(author)2015-08-01

Nice shop cabinets! Great way to repurpose signs!

author
r1ch999999 made it!(author)2015-07-28

You should consider french cleats to hang the cabinets. I've seen some nice modular systems where they have one cleat on the wall and the cabinets are allowed to be moved if desired.

author
jvandeyacht made it!(author)2015-07-22

Love love love I just built some horrible cabinets from plywood pieces pallet wood and they were ok then I came across your instructable and the rest of them came out awesome and easy functional solid and sturdy the only difference my doors I did rail and style doors but the center panel was sheets of canvas drop cloth, cut the canvas and staple it on and there were my doors I like your signs wonderful instructable thank you

author
seamster made it!(author)2015-07-22

Awesome! Your doors sound terrific, I love the idea of using canvas like that. Got any photos of them? I'd love to see how they look!

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chrisperez made it!(author)2015-07-21

We need a how to make faux street signs....to put on yhese great cabinets

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Creativeman made it!(author)2015-07-21

Thanks for the shout out seamster! I was going to post a comment with my information then read your comment. Shown is a directional sign I did after posting my instructable. I had envisioned this exact usage at some point,but don't really need new doors. These could be painted on 1/2 t0 3/4 in. plywood depending on one's needs. Great instructable, BTW!

001signsnew2 (2).JPG
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chrisperez made it!(author)2015-07-21

Yes man those are some cool signs

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daniel.stillmunks made it!(author)2015-07-21

Man I wish I could do carpentry like YOU do. It's definitely a GIFT from God. Great job. Do YOU wanna build me a speaker box or two?

author
yrralguthrie made it!(author)2015-07-21

Most states have laws against private individuals using traffic signs old or not. Most local road departments no longer will give away their old signs. They are afraid someone will complain and then they almost have to be disciplined even if no one in the department wants to. Using an old sign is very likely not going to cause any problems, but it is still against the law. If I was in a local road department I wouldn't give one away, but I might use one!

author
seamster made it!(author)2015-07-21

These signs have been "decommissioned" and the possession and use of such is perfectly legal, so long as they were obtained legally--which these were.

What is illegal, is to take down or post signs if you are not legally authorized to do so.

Anyone can purchase brand new road signs if they wanted, but they cannot legally post them on public roadways. For example, Zoro Tools has a great selection of cool road signs that any lay person could purchase, if they so desired.

author
jeanniel1 made it!(author)2015-07-21

Signs as fronts aside, I love how simple you made the cabinet frames. I agree about the router for gluing in the joints, but otherwise, the idea is very clean. What was the reasoning for keeping the cabinets separated a few inches from each other? Letting the doors open more?

author
seamster made it!(author)2015-07-21

The reason for keeping the cabinets separate had to do with the style of hinge I used, which stuck out a bit and prevented the sides of the cabinets from being flush. It worked out okay though, as I think having them just a little apart helps aesthetically :)

author
Phil_S made it!(author)2015-07-21

Some nice Volkswagen badges for door pulls would be the finishing touch a la Beasty Boys. Only joking. Here in the UK, the "travelling" folk get to the signs first including the 8 foot by 12 foot motorway signs - that's after all the cabelling has disappeared as well. You have a classier selection of signs than we do. I worked for a utility company where disappearing metal became such a problem that everything was replaced with plastic equivalents.

All the best

author
dave367 made it!(author)2015-07-21

Very cool! I have 3 suggestions: If you make the cases 9" deep rather than 10, you can get all the shelves and wide pieces from a single sheet of ply, only needing to scrap together the narrowest bits--which can be anything from lumber to plywood to pallet scraps. Second, for garage cabinets, 3/4 plywood is a bit dear ($39/sheet at Home Depot). 3/4" OSB is $16/sheet. Put the remaining $23 back in your pocket. :-) Last, if you have a router, it'd be a useful reinforcement to route shallow grooves (~1/4") to take the shelves, making the whole thing more rigid and longer-lasting. Ditto half a pint of Elmers glue, even for rough cabinets, gluing will double its life. Think it through and you might be able to avoid some of the framing if you route grooves. If using OSB, be sure to pre-drill for the screws.

author
seamster made it!(author)2015-07-21

Thank you for your suggestions.

Another alternative that might even be better than OSB is 3/4" subfloor particle board. Most commercial cabinets are made from particle board anyway. You just have to work with the characteristics of it, or it can be extremely frustrating :)

Good comment, thank you!

author
bricobart made it!(author)2015-07-21

Me saw them, me wanted them! Maybe you weren't a smooth criminal in the past, but I'll be one in the future...

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MacCupcake made it!(author)2015-07-21

I love the quirkiness of the old signage cabinet fronts! How did you come to have this available? I need to add a few more cabinets in my garage and have been watching for a good deal on some. But this makes me think I could build them myself! Great 'ible!!

author
seamster made it!(author)2015-07-21

Thank you!

I got the old signs from a road department in a town where I used to live.

author
MacCupcake made it!(author)2015-07-21

Just read how you came to own those signs!! What a great thing to have access to!

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MarkM26 made it!(author)2015-07-21

Really smart!

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Gary+Gnu made it!(author)2015-07-21

Very impressive.

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bcrocker1 made it!(author)2015-07-21

I will strive to someday have a workshop as awesome as yours

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DIYgiveaways made it!(author)2015-07-20

Nicely done! Awesome cabinets.

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kiran13xtreme+ made it!(author)2015-07-20

liking the cool looking doors. Great idea for recycling road sings as doors :)

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CrLz made it!(author)2015-07-20

Awesome build and look!

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mtairymd made it!(author)2015-07-20

That is very cool...well done

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Susitna made it!(author)2015-07-20

Another great project.

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tomatoskins made it!(author)2015-07-20

I love how the signs give it a one of a kind touch! I'm sure that anything would be proud to be stored in there!

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Bio: I got an old sewing machine when I was just a kid, and I've been hooked on making stuff ever since. My name is ... More »
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