Make Your Own Wooden Cabinet Latches




Introduction: Make Your Own Wooden Cabinet Latches

Sometimes, when I'm immersed in a moment of "makin' stuff," I (unconsciously) reject the notion that I can purchase solutions to simple problems. My particular style of woodworking doesn't place a premium on efficiency or expedience. Sometimes, I'm happy to reinvent the wheel if it ends up teaching me something new!

Case in point: While building a cabinet for my basement work space, I discovered that I needed latches. Rather than taking a 30 minute trip (and spending $8) at the hardware store, I decided to spend 2 hours learning how to make latches from scratch.

Hopefully, you will find this "ible" useful, if you should ever find yourself in a similar (and mildly obsessive) situation.

Tools needed:
Table Saw
Band Saw (or a very thin hand saw)
Small Combination Square
1/2" Chisel
Graph Paper

Step 1: Graph Paper Rules! (Pun Intended)

Note: If you don't have a pad of 1/4" ruled graph paper in your work space, stop whatever you are doing and go get some! No single tool I have ever used has made it so simple to envision the dimensions of a project before having to make the first cut. Plus, for small projects like this, you can draw to scale!

Consult the drawings for the dimensions of the latches.

Each latch is made out of three pieces of wood.
- The bases of the latches are 3 1/2" x 1" x 1/2"
- The stock for the parts of the latch that the bolt runs through start out as 3 1/2" x 1" x 1/2"
- The latch bolts are 3 1/2" x 1" x 1/4"

Step 2: Selecting Material and Building the Basic Components

I needed a total of 4 latches, which meant I needed four bases of at least 3 1/2" of length. I also needed about 2" of rabbited stock for the bolt to pass through on each latch.

The material needed to be something durable. For a project this small, pine wouldn't be ideal. It just so happened that I had a perfectly sized block of cherry in my scrap pile... so I used it... but pretty much any kind of hardwood will probably work (better than pine).

Under my requirements, I knew I needed to make at least three (3) 1" wide X 1/2" thick strips. As long as those strips were at least 11" long, I was good to go (because I could cut them to length, later). Plus enough to make another attempt in the event I screwed up.

I cut stock into strips using my table saw, and then cut my four bases to length using a band saw.

While I was at the table saw, I made sure to give myself a piece that was 1" wide X 1/4" thick, which would later be used to make the latch bolts. This strip would later have to be ripped again, down to 1/2" wide X 1/4" thick strips. Note: I don't recommend ripping something this small with a table saw (for safety reasons). A band saw is the better option. Once I had strips of the desired dimensions, I again used the band saw to cut the bolts to length. In the end, each bolt was 3" long x 1/2" wide X 1/4" thick.

Once all of this is done, set the parts off to the side.

Step 3: Rabbiting the Stock

I don't have a dado stack for my table saw. (I need to get one.) The good news is, when you're working with stock this small, you don't really need one.

The objective here is to cut a groove that the bolt will slide through, freely. I know that the dimensions for my bolt are 1/2" x 1/4"... so the groove needed to be just a hair over 1/2" wide (on center), and a hair over 1/4" deep.

Now... lemme show you a lil' trick I learned in prison:

The way I set the cutting depth on my table saw is to use a combination square. Set the square for the desired cutting depth (in this case, just over 1/4") and use the bubble level to figure out when the blade has hit the appropriate height. Note: All this will do is get you in "the ball park." There will almost always be *some* fine tuning required. (See pictures for advice)

Set the fence so that the blade runs 1/4" inside the edge of the strip. (1/4" of material being left on each side of the groove leaves you with channel 1/2" wide.)

Use a piece of test wood to calibrate the cut. Once everything is set correctly, run your stock through on one side, and then the other (sets the edges of the groove). Then all you have to do is remove the wood in the middle.

Use a chisel to clean up any edges, and test fit with one of the bolt pieces you set off to the side. If it slides freely without rubbing on the sides of the groove, and doesn't rest above the edges of the groove, you're good to go.

Cut the gooved pieces to length. For each latch, you'll need one piece of grooved material that's 1 1/2" long, and another piece that's 1/2" long.

Step 4: Attach the Thumb Tabs to the Bolts

Go back to the excess bolt material you saved and use your band saw (or a hand saw) to cut some 1/2" long tabs.

Mark each bolt at 1 3/4", so you know where the tab is going to be attached.

Drill a small pilot hole (for the nail you will later use), and glue the tab onto the bolt.

Flip it over and drive the nail in from the back.

Step 5: The Glue Up!

Mark your bases, 1/2" in from the right side of the base. This is going to be where the edge of the 1 1/2" grooved piece will sit.

Apply a small.... SMALL... amount of glue. Then press and hold. Let it dry for a few minutes before moving on to the next phase.

Dry fit your bolt. Make sure it moves freely. Don't be in a hurry. Sometimes glue residue can cause the bolt to get stuck inside the channel. Trying to do this before it's fully dry can cause problems.

Repeat the process with the 1/2" pieces, but this time mount them flush with the left edge of the base.

The bolt is now trapped.

DO NOT OVER GLUE. You'll get the bolt stuck.

Step 6: Cut the Assembly

Mark the grooved material 1/2" from the edge. Then slide the bolt ALL THE WAY TO THE LEFT and cut on the line.

Step 7: Install on Your Cabinet

I marked each cabinet door, the glued the latches to the surface and screwed them in from the back (using a pilot hole).


Could I have purchased latches at the store? Yes.
Would they have been more functional? Maybe.
Am I happier knowing that I made these, myself? Absolutely.

Plus, now you have a cool instructible to tell you how to do the same!

Thanks for reading!

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    4 years ago

    The B/W photo is top class


    4 years ago

    One issue will be brushing up against the latches and snagging clothing, cords, etc, and possibly breaking the handle on the latch as well. Would it work if you replaced the handle with a hole in the sliding piece (for a finger to slide it)? That would lower the profile quite a bit.

    You might also be able to replicate the mechanism (but much thinner) if you built up the parts with thin plywood instead of using solid wood.

    Thanks to for the instructable!


    Reply 4 years ago

    This was my first thought when I saw this - plus depending on your height, any guy leaning against this would probably.....feel uncomfortable. What if you removed the back half of it (outlined red in the picture) and mounted it directly on the door. Then flip the tab to the top or bottom and I think that would be more usable. Still a pretty cool project to show you can do something like this!


    Reply 4 years ago

    I think you're probably right about the tabs being broken off the bolt, or catching on things. It's definitely a concern, but if you decide to build you can modify the plan to your heart's desire. A friend of mine recommended the possibility of having the tabs point downward. That seems like a pretty good idea, to me.

    As far as plywood is concerned: I might give that a shot. I've got some luan in the shop that might make for a good test. Thanks for the recommendation!


    4 years ago

    Good project and fine instructable, particularly for beginners.


    4 years ago

    Nice work! Quite off-beat approach. However, I would just use a swivel lock for similar situation.


    4 years ago

    Very nice! It's fun to see projects like this that showcase the creative/problem-solving mindset. I have the same approach to a lot of things I make.. it's more about the process and just teaching myself something new. Great work, thank you for sharing this!