Introduction: Making Garage Storage Cabinets (I)

We are trying to attack the garage organization task for the next few weeks, and my job is to make some wall cabinets with doors - slowly make the mess not looking so obvious and get more organized.

First part of the garage make over is to create (4) full size cabinets for one side of wall. The goal is to build cabinets in a simple way to serve the function, and meanwhile spend a little more effort on the doors so that they look good. It will not be the typical way to build cabinet with dado and rabbets, but only glue, nails and screws - in reality, the expectation should be "we are not build pianos".

Step 1: Design Highlight

Each cabinet will be 32.5"(W) x 96"(H) x 15"(D).

The cabinet are designed to be hang on the wall, that will provide some space under for easy cleaning, as well as keeping the storage away from concrete floor moisture.

They will have four doors, except the one at left end - it will have an upper sliding door because the garage door rail is in the way of door opening. The cabinet carcass all have (3) fixed shelves, and the number of the adjustable shelves will be optional. The whole project will be using 1/2" plywood, with exception of the 5/8" strips for mounting, the reasons for using thinner material is that they are easier to install with lighter weight by one person, and they should be as strong as using 3/4" material if they are designed and installed correctly.

The reason for the cabinet to be 32.5" wide is because the length of all the shelves would be at 31.5" (32.5" - 2x1/2"), and thus we could use the available 8' plywood length with trimming one edge and two cross cuts to yield a maximum usage of material.

The depth of the cabinets is designed as 15", thus the available 48" wide plywood will yield (3) panels, and the left over will be used as shelf reinforcement, this will also achieve the maximum material usage, leaving almost zero waste of the plywood except the trim off pieces and saw dust.

The cabinets are going to be mounted side by side. With this configuration, the joints will just be simple glue, brad nails and counter sink screws. Panels will be painted, so the screws on side of the panels will either be filled with drywall compound and painted over, or covered by the other cabinet.

They will be mounted to the wall with "French Cleat", and secured on the bottom side as well.

Step 2: Material for Cabinet Carcass and Shelves

(5) sheets of 1/2" plywood will be used for the cabinet carcass and shelves. This is a great opportunity to set up the latest plywood cutting table for the plywood milling process.

First, it's a good idea to cut about 3/16" (5mm) off the factory edge of the plywood to get rid of possible imperfection from shipping and handling the plywood before start actual ripping.

Second, rip all the plywood into 15" strips staring from the fresh cut edge. (see my other Instructables for ripping jig details). Fastcap sells a handy edge sanding block to take the sharp edge and burrs off a little after cutting, so that the boards are easier to handle. (second picture shows the edge sanding device).

Third, cross cut (4) of 8' strips into 31.5" sections for shelves, again, cut off about 1/4" at the edge before the cross cut. This method is the simplest way (maybe not the best way) to create boxes - cabinet construction.

In the middle of the day, one of my plastic sawhorse decided to give up, and that will give me another reason to create another set of folding sawhorses later on.

Step 3: Cabinets Construction

After a quick sanding with 100 grid to all the plywood, they are ready for the lay out.

The process of making cabinet carcass is similar to the cabinet in the walk-in closet.

First lay out the notches on the back of the cabinets for French Cleat mounting. The plywood strips using for the cleats will be 4" wide both upper and lower part, so the notch is going to be 8 1/2" wide to give them a little room for installation. Circular saw with a guide or a hand saw can be used to cut the two ends of the notch, and finished with jig saw.

The good face of the plywood should be used as the interior side of the cabinet box. Adjustable shelf holes can be created by using an 8' long peg board strip as guide and a pin hole center drill bit, it's a slower process, but it's precise and fairly effective. Just make sure the guide aligns to the same end of each side (bottom to bottom or top to top) so that the shelf will end up level. Skip this step if decided to go with fixed shelves only.

It's good idea to paint the side panels before the shelf pin holes are drilled, as the paint will fill some of the holes that the shelf pins won't go in correctly. Then is the fun part, screw all the parts together.

Make sure to use plenty of glue. In order to align the middle shelf during the assembly process, some kind of alignment feature such as biscuits, dowels or Festool dominos should be used, in this case biscuits will be used.

Apply glue on both side of the joint surface;

Use brad nailer to pin the two board together; (so the glue joint won't slip)

Use corner clamps or bar clamps to apply pressure to the joint;

Pre-drill and count sink the holes and screw them together.


Pre-drill the holes, otherwise, the plywood will split at the shelf side.

If the bar clamps are used, use a square to ensure the corner is at 90 degree before screw it together.

Step 4: Finishing

The French Cleats are made out of the 5/8" plywood.

Cut (4) of 4" wide plywood strips 32.5" long and 45 degree bevel angle at one side. Apply glue and screw them onto the notches at the back side of the cabinets.

Find some great helpers to paint the carcasses, and do everything you can to save the driveway not get painted, and remind them every other minutes to paint the cabinets, not their hands, hair, shoes, shirts, faces...

There will be only two side panels that are facing outside after the assemblies get installed onto the wall (the others sides will be screwed together at installation), so we will go a step further to paint these two, use drywall compound to smooth them out, then paint them again to ensure the nice looking.

Boy, they are tall and big! But they are light!

Finally, we are done. Great job girls!

Step 5: Shelves

The left over 1/2" plywood from this project are used to reinforce the existing shelves - double the thickness at the edges. The cut off strip from 4x8 sheet is about 2.5" wide, and 8' long, and that will yield (3) sections at 31.5". (8) of these pieces will be used for the middle shelves, as the tops do not need the reinforcement, and the bottom shelves will be reinforced differently, we will cover that during the installation.

After cut reinforcement pieces into length, put a nice coat of glue on them (I should of done this before the shelves got painted so the glue has more bite to the shelf surface), and use 18 GA 7/8" staples to secure them onto the shelves (in this case, 13 staples per reinforcement because we painted shelves first), both at front edge and back. And paint them afterward.

All the removable shelves are cut 1.5mm shorter (about 1/16") so that it's easier to move them up and down, and they will also be reinforced with one or two plywood strips. Painting them will be optional.

Step 6: Installation

Measure the height of the French Cleat on the cabinet from the bottom shelf, add the distance of how much the cabinets should be off the floor, that's the final height of the lower cleat strip on the wall. Use level to mark and mount the strip on the wall at the wall stud, with two of 2 1/2" cabinet mounting screws at each location. Make sure to pre-drill the holes on the strip. And hang the cabinets.

Use clamps to tight two of the cabinets side panels together, and screw them together with 1" screws at different points along the panels, make sure to have them square by checking the panel with level and measurement of the assembly diagonally. This step is very important because it will have a big impact on the door fitting.

Last step is to support and secure the wall of cabinets with two 2" wide plywood strips at the lower side. One directly under the cabinets screwed onto the wall, and the other brace the front of the bottom shelves. Since the cabinet will have enclosed doors, the bottom brace will be attached from the shelving side with counter sink screws. After checking the cabinets plumb to the level line and square to each other, drive s few screws through the bottom shelves to the lower supporting plywood strip to lock everything together.

If the goal is to have some open shielving cabinets, the job is consider to be completed at this point. And of couse, we are going to next level - install doors!

Step 7: Making Doors

All doors are going to be 48" tall and 16 1/8" wide, that will leave about 3/16" gap between each door all around, which leaves a nice reveal, meanwhile, the hinges can also adjust to close the gap completely as the preference.

Prime the plywood for doors before cut them so that it would be much easier to paint later on when the doors get build. I use MDO plywood for the doors, because MDO is tough and very smooth, and easy to paint. A regular AC plywood will also work.

Break down each of (4) sheets of 3/8" 4x8 plywood into four 48" x 24" sheets (16 total), and rip a 48" x 16 1/8" door out of each sheet (do it all at once while the table saw sets up), and then adjust table saw fence to 3 3/4" and cut two more strips out of each remaining material, this will somewhat max out the usage of the full sheet (will have some strips left maybe for drawers later?), it could yield more if rip the full 8' long plywood, but I would rather deal with the smaller piece when using table saw, it feels safer.

Soften all the edges to ensure that plywood won't break out during the assembly process, it also helps the painting process when the edges are not very sharp. Glue and nail the strip to the door from the back side with plenty of wood glue and 5/8" brad nail, making sure the edge and corners are flush, then use some clamps to apply necessary pressure for glue to set. Do this to all doors.

Batch cut the other two door rails to the length, use glue clamps and nail them from back side as pictured.

Making 16 doors is a big job, but it can only go so fast, pretty soon we are out of clamps... And now we understand the reason doors always cost more than the cabinets in store, there is a lot of work involved into the doors.

Step 8: Hanging Doors

The hinges come in at 10 packs and there is a mounting template printed on the paper in the box. I first thought was "well, that won't last 28 installation" so I made a hard board template using the paper one as a guide.

Cutting a same size 5mm hard board, and glued / nailed a piece of 1/2" plywood strip to the back of it to be the fence that simulate the cabinet edge / door edge.

Use a knife to score a center line on the hard board, glue the template onto the hard board, align the center lines on template to the CL on hard board, also align both edges of the cabinet / door to the fence, use awl to punch out all the holes, and the jig will look like the one in the picture. In order to see the center line marks on the cabinet and door, a 5/16" hole is drilled at the center line by the fence.

To mount the hinge to the cabinet, (6th picture) measure the preferred center line location of the hinge on the cabinet (mine is 3 7/8" and 43 7/8" from the top for the upper doors, and same dimention from the bottom for the lower doors), align the CL on the templete to the mark on the cabinet, and use awl to puch out two hole locations, and those are the screw locations.

To mount the hinge on the door, first mark up 4" and 44" from on end of the door, this will leave a 1/4" gap between upper and lower doors. Repeat the same procedure to mark screw location and hinge recessed hole, use 1 3/8" fostner bit to drill the recessed hole at 1/2" deep. This is the main reason adding a strip of plywood at the door front - adding more material for recessed holes, not just for the look :)

Try them on before paint the doors.

Step 9: Sliding Door

Take the particular cabinet down from the wall.

The drawer slides we are using are 24" full extension, 75 lb capability, and they are 1/2" thick. If they get mounted directly to cabinet front, the sliding doors will be 1/2" proud of all other doors. In order to accomordate that, additional machining should be done for this particular cabinet.

Refer the drawing for detailed dimension. Make all cut following the note on each picture.

The backer boards are 2" wide. Glue and nail one backer board to the top shelf from the top and side. Mount one slide to the backer board, and take out the piece for the drawer side of the slide and mount it onto the two doors from the back. The two doors should be placed back side up with a gap in between as they are hanged on the other cabinets.

Mount the other slide onto the back of the door along with the second piece of the backer board. Take the two door assembly to the cabinet, put them into the top slide, let it return to the closed position, and secure the bottom slide / back board onto the side of the cabinet. Make sure the two slides are parallel to each other.

Hang the cabinet back on the wall, and secure it with others.

Step 10: Completed

After paint all the doors (almost a full gallon of paint is used on this project), hang the doors back on, and add the door knobs to the preference - girls picked out the color of the knobs, which adds a very nice accent color to the blue-gray background.

A simple jig for install door knobs, so that we don't have to take the measurement on each door. Use a piece of off cut door rail, measure the location where the knob will be relative to the door corner (I would have two measurements from each edge the same in order to use this jig), drill pilot hole through. Align door corner to the jig, use the same drill bit to mark on the door, and drill the through hole for the knob.

Install the knobs and project is completed.

Most fun is coming from design something and seeing it from on the paper becomes a real piece of work. Now we have a wall of storage for sure will fill in quickly.

Next job will be the other two side of the wall of the garage, and they will be upper and lower cabinets with counter top.