If you’re thinking about building your own cabinets, the first question you need to answer is “what tools do I need?” In this post, we’re sharing the essential tools for cabinet making as well as a few nice-to-have jigs. These jigs make cabinet making more efficient and require less measuring from you.
You might be surprised at how few tools you need to build cabinets. In fact, you don’t even need a table saw! Let’s start with the bare essential tools you’ll need to make your own cabinets.
Essential Tools for Cabinet Making
In order to build cabinets, there are just a few tools that you’ll need to have. These five tools are also on our list for top tools for beginner woodworking and furniture making.
When building anything, cabinets included, you’ll need to start with a tape measure. If you’re newer to woodworking or need some extra guidance on getting accurate measurements, check out our post on how to use (and read) a measuring tape.
Not only will you use a tape measure to measure and mark your wood to cut, but it can also be used after assembly to ensure that your cabinet box is square.
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You will need a saw that is capable of cutting down large sheets of plywood. We highly recommend a circular saw. It’s inexpensive and can give you straight and accurate cuts when paired with a plywood cutting guide.
The reason we recommend a circular saw over a table saw is twofold. First, many entry-level table saws only allow you to cut pieces up to 20.5” wide, which is likely too small for many standard cabinet sizes. Second, I personally find it much easier to cut my sheet of plywood with a circular saw than trying to lug the heavy sheet around and through the table saw.
Plywood Cutting Guide
We have a full post dedicated to different plywood cutting guides. Since we have all of them, we find ourselves switching between the different guides often, but it’s not necessary to get them all.
In fact, if you just wanted to use a scrap piece of wood as your cutting guide, that would work too. The key is that you need something to guide your saw to keep it straight for the entire long cut.
If you could only pick one plywood cutting guide, I’d recommend getting the Accu-Cut XL. It essentially turns your circular saw into a track saw, giving you perfectly straight lines every time. The Accu-Cut also has a strip on it that helps reduce splintering when cutting.
The next tool you need is a drill. For basic cabinets, screws are the only joinery method used. A drill will be used to screw together two pieces and it’ll be used (with a Kreg Jig) to create pocket holes.
Pocket holes are an easy way to assemble cabinets. You’ll need a Kreg Jig to create said pocket holes. There are all sorts of different models ranging from $20 to over $150. Any of these models create the same pocket holes. The more expensive ones just help you to make more pocket holes more efficiently. Check out this post for help deciding which Kreg Jig model is right for you.
The final things you’ll need to build cabinets aren’t necessarily tools, but they are certainly essential. When building cabinets (or tackling any DIY project), safety equipment is a must. You will need ear protection, dust protection, and eye protection.
Even a few minutes of listening to power tools can cause lasting damage to your hearing. It’s important to always protect your ears to help prevent hearing loss later in life. We love these Worktunes headphones.
Not only do the gel pads make them super comfortable, but they are also Bluetooth compatible. I love listening to ebooks or podcasts when working for long periods of time!
Now that we have our ears protected, we need to protect our lungs. I am not a doctor, so I can’t give you specific advice on what types of masks are “good enough” to protect your lungs from sawdust. That said, I generally use these K-N95 masks.
I like these safety glasses because they are stylish, comfortable, and get the job done. They have shields on the sides to further protect yourself from something flying into your eyes.
They also claim to be anti-fog. I say “claim” because mine definitely still fog up from time-to-time. That said, they fog up less often than other safety glasses that I’ve tried.
That wraps up the absolute essentials for cabinet making. Everything else in this post is not required to create your own cabinets, but they might help make your life a little bit easier.
Jigs to Make Cabinet Making Easier
Again, none of the jigs that we’re about to mention are absolutely necessary for building cabinets. If you plan to build several cabinets or tackle more furniture projects with doors and drawers, these jigs will certainly come in handy.
Want to include adjustable shelving in your cabinets? The Kreg Shelf Pin Jig makes it easy. The guide helps keep your holes straight and perfectly spaced so that you don’t have to worry about your shelves wobbling.
If you want to add doors with concealed hinges to your cabinets, I cannot recommend the Concealed Hinge Jig enough. It comes with the specific drill bit you need to create the right sized holes for concealed hinges and takes the guesswork out of how deep to drill the hole for your hinge.
The jig also includes a spot for pilot holes for the hardware. Once you drill everything, you simply plop your hinge in the hole and screw it in place. No fumbling to try to get it straight.
Scared to drill into your cabinets or drawers? Nervous that your hardware will be crooked or worse…not fit on the holes you drilled? A hardware installation jig can help with that! I really like this one because it can handle all sorts of hardware sizes, even ones that are really long!
If you really want to minimize measuring, this cabinet door mounting jig can make installing cabinet doors even easier. Clamp the jig on the bottom of the cabinet and place your door on the jig. The jig helps hold the door at the right height as you mark where to drill the holes and secure the hinges.
Before this jig, I was constantly balancing doors on my legs to install them. This is so much easier!
If installing drawers intimidates you, a drawer slide jig may be able to help! We generally only use this jig on cabinets with face frames, otherwise we install our drawers using the method in this post.
That said, a drawer slide jig can make installing drawers faster and easier. It helps to keep things level for you and takes out the need for a bunch of math and measuring.
Other Tools for Cabinet Making
Though not necessary, there are a few other tools that might help you build cabinets with a little more ease, or give you a slightly more professional finish.
First up, an iron to apply iron-on edge banding. If you are building frameless cabinets, you’ll likely want to cover up the plywood edge for a more professional look. Edge banding is an easy way to do this, but it does require an iron to apply.
If you’re painting, you could forgo this step and apply spackle to give the plywood edge a smooth paint finish instead.
Edge banding can also come in handy for plywood shelves.
When building cabinets with drawers and doors, it’s really important to get accurate measurements for those doors and drawers. I love using a laser measuring tape to get these measurements.
Not only does it provide super accurate measurements, it’s also faster. You can quickly measure in 3-4 spots to ensure you have the right measurements.
Though I don’t personally use clamps when putting together cabinets, some people find them very helpful. These are 90-degree corner clamps to help keep things square or right angle clamps that help hold your boards in place while you screw in the remaining pocket holes.
If making shaker style doors, you will need clamps to hold the doors together as the glue dries. And if using any of the mentioned jigs, you’ll need a clamp or two to hold them in place. Our go-to brand is Irwin Quick-Grip.
Though you can cut everything on your circular saw, I find it faster to set up a stop and cut down all the stretchers for my cabinets on the miter saw. If you do not have a miter saw, do not let it hold you back from building cabinets! It’s a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have.
Kreg Quick Flip Drill Bit
If you are making any cabinets without pocket holes, the Kreg Quick-Flip Drill Bit can come in handy. You can pre-drill and create a countersunk hole with the provided bit and then easily flip the bit over to drive the screw in.
Tools for Cabinet Making Summary
There you have it! Now you know what tools you need for cabinet making. To recap, the essential tools for cabinet making are:
- Circular saw
- Circular saw cutting guide
- Kreg Jig
- Measuring Tape
If you want to invest in a few jigs to make cabinet building even easier, check out the following jigs:
A few more tools that are not necessary, but might come in handy as you build cabinets are:
- Iron for edge banding
- Laser Measurer
- Miter Saw
- Kreg Quick Flip Drill Bit
Though the idea of building cabinets tends to intimidate DIYers, cabinets are really just a box. They require just a few key tools to build and can be used as a foundation for so many other DIY furniture projects.