How To Make A Tall Shop Cabinet

As my workshop continues to evolve and grow, I constantly experience the need for more storage. I believe everything in the shop needs a home, and I prefer that home to be out of sight! Because of that, cabinets are needed and in this build I am making a tall shop cabinet to hold all my safety gear. You can easily modify it to hold tools or anything else for that matter. Keep reading and I’ll show you how I did it!

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Materials & Supplies*Tools*
(1) 3/4″ maple (use solid wood of choice)Undersized Ply Router Bits
1/4″ pre-finished maple plywoodTable saw ripping blade
wood glueParallel clamps
euro style cup hingesCenter punch
Oil/Wax finish (sub poly/lacquer for a more durable finish)35mm forstner bit
Lacquer Finish (more durable)Cordless Drill
(1) 4×8 Sheet 1/2″ Pre-finished maple plyTape measure
(1) 4×8 Sheet 3/4″ pre-finished maple plyDouble Square

*I use affiliate links, please see details on my disclaimer.


Cutting Sheet Goods

The start of every cabinet project is breaking down sheet goods. Make sure you have a work surface able to hold your plywood sheets at a comfortable cutting height. However, you can use the ground only if its the only choice.

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Use a sheet of pink foam house insulation under your plywood. This protects the face of the plywood and also gives your saw blade a safe place to go when you cut through your plywood sheet. You can get this insulation at any building supply or big box home store.

Using my track saw I cut three 12.5″ strips of equal length from the plywood. Two strips for the sides of the shop cabinet and one strip that will be cut into the horizontal cabinet parts.

Then, I ran my strips through the table saw to cut them to final width of 12″ while also cutting off the rough factory edge of the plywood.

Next, I crosscut one of my strips to get the top and bottom cabinet panels as well as one shelf for the inside of the shop cabinet. You can vary this width depending on how wide you want your cabinet to be, but all three parts should be the same width.

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When cross-cutting panels, use a sled if possible. It’s the safest way to may cross cuts at the table saw. I have a tutorial and video as well as downloadable plans for making this sled pictured here if you want one of your own. Just CLICK HERE.

One final step is to cut 1/2″ off of the part that will be the shelf of the cabinet. This accounts for the back panel of the cabinet. So the shelf will end up being 11 1/2″ deep.

Cutting the Joinery for the Tall Shop Cabinet

To cut the rabbets and dados for my cabinet, I’m using this set of undersized plywood router bits. These bits are made to match the standard widths of plywood which are almost always thinner than the stated thickness, so you get tight fitting dados with one pass! If you want to pick up this set for yourself, CLICK HERE.

Its always a good idea to make a test cut using the same material that your cabinet is made from. This will accurately test the fit of the joint before you try it on your actual cabinet parts.

Excuse the blurriness, but I think you can see the fit is perfect for this dado!

Now that I know I’m good on the fit, I begin by making a rabbet in the top of each of my cabinet sides. The height of the bit is set to 1/2″ and I’m using the full with of the bit. The bit is positioned so that it is right up against my fence without touching it. These rabbets will allow me to set the top on the cabinet flush with the sides so no plywood ends show.

I then re-positioned my fence to cut the dados that will be for the shelf. You can decide where the placement of your shelf is. I think I made mine 18″ from the top of the cabinet. This dado is also 1/2″ deep just like the rabbets on the top. Cut this dado in both side pieces.

Finally I re-position the fence one more time to cut the dado for the bottom shelf.

Next I switched out the 3/4″ bit for the 1/2″ bit in my new undersized router bit set. This bit will be used to cut the rabbets along the back of the cabinet sides to accommodate the back panel.

Just like when I cut the top rabbet, I put the bit just against the fence without touching it and ran a 1/2″ deep rabbet down the back side of each shop cabinet side. And that’s it! All the joinery for this cabinet is cut. Next.

Assembling the Shop Cabinet

Now that all the parts are cut, a dry assembly is in order.

I crammed all my parts together to make sure everything fit snugly and to make sure there were no surprises (like cutting the joinery on the wrong side of one of the cabinet sides. That has never happened to me….but, you know….. I’ve heard it happens LOL

Due to variation in the thickness of different parts of the plywood, some of your joints will be tighter than others. If you run into that, just introduce it to the clamps! All parts submit to the clamps!

Once it was all assembled, I began to check all over for square. And where I was out of square, I fiddled with it until it was all 90s.

I then countersunk holes in the sides to fasten the bottom and the shelf to the sides.

Next I drove in screws. I didn’t use glue in this build for two reasons. First, this is a shop cabinet, not like a kitchen or laundry area cabinet. So I don’t mind the screws showing. Secondly, I was impatient and didn’t want to wait for glue to dry.

Once those parts were connected, I could slide the back into those rabbets I cut. Again, so plywood sides showing!

I countersunk and screwed the back panel into place.

I could then slip the top into the rabbets in the sided and screw them into the top. Perfect.

Finally I had to make a filler strip for along the bottom edge of the front of the cabinet.

I also just screwed this in from the sides.

And the carcass is completed! What a great looking cabinet already without the need for paint or stain!

Making Face Frame Parts

For this cabinet, I wanted a face frame. The first thing I do is to mill down my rough cut lumber (maple in this case). If you purchase lumber that is already S4S (surfaced on all 4 sides), then you wont be doing the milling steps and can skip to step X. If you are milling rough lumber, then the first step is to flatten one face of your stock at the jointer.

Then I put the flat face up against the fence and square up one edge.

I then took it to the jointer where I flattened the other face and made it coplanar to the face I flattened at the jointer. I continue to run the stock through the planer until I get to a thickness of 3/4″.

Next, I ripped all my frame parts at 1 1/4″ at the table saw.

And then back to the planer to mill them down to final thickness. This is an extra step I take because I like the clean finish I get right off my planer and there are no burn marks to sand due to the table saw.

I then cut all my frame parts to final length at the miter saw.

Assembling the Face Frame

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When assembling a face frame, first start with laying your frame parts on the cabinet exactly where you want them to be when the frame is attached. Then make a tick mark across each joint along with a letter assignment that indicates which parts join together and exactly where (see up close example below)

This layout ensures I don’t assemble my face frame the wrong way.

A great way to assemble face frames is with pocket hole joinery. Its really quick and easy and the pockets are hidden from view when the face frame is on the cabinet.

I then lined up all my frame parts per the marks I made on them and put them into clamps to hold everything perfectly in place while I drove the screws in.

Once the last screw was driven, I’m done and have a perfect face frame for my shop cabinet.

Attaching the Face Frame

To attach this face frame, I used a thick, quick drying glue. It doesn’t run and cause drips nearly as much as standard wood glue does which makes for a clean assembly.

I just positioned my face frame exactly where I wanted it on the cabinet. This is where pre-assembling your face frame makes it super easy to attach it to the cabinet.

I then added lots and lots of clamps to the frame and let it sit until the glue cured. This is another advantage of the glue I used. The frame was securely fastened in about 30 minutes.

Making the Cabinet Door

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I have a tutorial and video on how I make my cabinet doors from start to finish where I go into more detail about cutting the joinery and assembling the door parts? For this tutorial, I am only focusing on steps specific to this cabinet door but you can view the full tutorial below.


For this door, I’ve added a center rail to make a two-panel door. The only difference is that you have to put a groove on both sides of the center rail to capture both panels.

It takes a bit of patience to assemble the door. Things tend to want to move on you and you’re constantly putting them back in place. But once you slide the last vertical stile into place the door is ready for clamps! Remember you only need clamps at joints and you don’t need a ton of pressure on them, just enough to close up the joints fully. Otherwise you’ll potentially warp the door and it wont lay flat.

Double check everything is square. You can do this before or as you are putting the clamps on.

Finishing up the Door

I always like to break the edges of my doors with a block plane (you can use a router bit or sand paper if you don’t have a block plane)

I gave the door a quick sanding with 120 grit paper to get rid of any mill marks and to make sure the joints were all flushed up. Then I followed with 180 grit paper to make the door frame smooth to the touch. If you use pre-finished ply for the panels, take extra care with you sander not to scuff up the center panels.

I then applied an oil/wax finish and buffed it out with a rag. For a shop cabinet, I felt like this finish was good enough. If this were going to be in my pantry or kitchen, I would have used a more durable finish like polyurethane of lacquer.

Once the door is installed the shop cabinet is complete! I love the clean look of the pre-finished maple ply and the maple face frame and door.

Filling Up Your Shop Cabinet

Now all that’s left to do is to figure out what you want to store in it! For me, this cabinet is meant to hold my safety gear.

Next, I added some hooks in the top (this is where the half in back panel comes in handy).

I can use these to hold my hearing protection.

I then added some hooks in the bottom of the cabinet for my shop aprons.

Finally, I added a magnetic catch at the top and bottom of the door. This will keep everything closed and keep the dust out!

Its always nice when all your shop gear has a place of it’s own to be stored. Everything has a place and everything in it’s place!

I hope you enjoyed this build and once you build this cabinet you can always modify the dimensions and make even more shop cabinets!


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