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7 Cabinet Making Tools Every Workshop Needs

Looking for the essential cabinet making tools for your next project? In this article I’ll share the tools I’ve used to build countless kitchens and furniture pieces. And, along the way, show you a few woodworking tips as well.

Cabinet making doesn’t need to be difficult.

In fact, most basic cabinets can be built with just a handful of tools and the proper know-how.

Over my time woodworking I’ve been fortunate enough to build cabinets in a small professional workshop (from logs to final installation) and learn the basics and advanced concepts.

So, in this article I’ll share the tips and tools I’ve collected to help you decide what cabinet making tools are right for your project.

Cabinet Making Tools - The Basics

Getting started, I like to look at cabinetmaking in three phases:

  1. Rough cuts and glue-up
  2. Milling and assembly
  3. Finishing

And, by thinking of your tools in these categories, it allows for a nice separation of the major types of cabinet making tools. Which we’ll use in this article to help distinguish when and where you’ll use the tools.

Since sorting through brands, safety features, and accessories can be confusing we’ll include a few recommendations on where to start looking. Be sure to bookmark this page for future reference.

Cabinet Making Tools: Essential Saws

Invest in the Best TAble Saw You can Afford

SawStop 10-Inch Professional Cabinet Saw, 3-HP,...
194 Reviews
SawStop 10-Inch Professional Cabinet Saw, 3-HP,…
  • 30-INCH PREMIUM FENCE ASSEMBLY: This aluminum fence assembly provides smooth operation and precise measurement.

Last update on 2021-12-05 at 13:04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Used for:  Cutting plywood, ripping hardwoods, cutting grooves in drawers and many other cabinetmaking tasks.

When I look at a woodworking shop the one tool to build your list of tools around is the table saw.  

Here’s why I consider it the center of any cabinet making project:

  • Cutting plywood to width and length
  • Ripping hardwood for face frames, panels, doors, drawers, shelving, and more…
  • Creating door rail and stiles (as an alternative to a router table) with dado blades
  • Building straight dovetails in drawers

Without a table saw your options are limited.

But, beware of this tool. With over 10 amputations a day on this tool it is a tool to be careful with.

Which is why my recommendation for any serious woodworker is a SawStop table saw.

A Sliding Miter Saw Is a Must Have Cabinet Making Tool

DEWALT Sliding Compound Miter Saw, 12-Inch...
13,216 Reviews
DEWALT Sliding Compound Miter Saw, 12-Inch…
  • Stainless steel miter detent plate of the 12-inch miter saw blade comes with 10 positive stops
  • The mitre saw has a precise miter system and machined base fence support
  • Precise miter system and machined base fence support Cam-lock miter handle with detent override delivers quick and accurate miter angles for DEWALT miter saw

Last update on 2021-12-04 at 23:02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Used for:  Cutting hardwood and softwood to length, complex angle cuts, narrow plywood cuts, molding, trimming doors.

If you have been around awhile you might be wondering where the old, reliable radial arm saw is on this list of cabinet maker tools.  Well, it’s gone.  

Of the top three most dangerous tools in the woodworking shop the radial arm saw was one of the worst.  Due to the way the blade approached the wood it encouraged an aggressive “bite” . And this bite could (and did) amputate many fingers and hands.  

What’s replaced the radial arm saw? 

Well, a wide variety of miter saws with similar cutting capacity, more features, and enhanced portability. And, I have built many kitchens with both a miter saw and a radial arm saw and hands down prefer a sliding miter saw.  

Further, by building the miter saw into your bench you can build a custom fence and stop system. 

Panel Saw for Cutting Cabinet Plywood

Makita SP6000J1 6-1/2' Plunge Circular Saw Kit,...
1,214 Reviews
Makita SP6000J1 6-1/2″ Plunge Circular Saw Kit,…
  • 12 AMP motor with variable speed control dial (2,000 – 5,200 RPM) for optimum performance in a variety of materials
  • Large cutting capacity (2-3/16″ at 90° and 1-9/16″ at 45°). Power Type- Corded
  • Bevel capability (-1 to 48°) with positive stops at 22.5° and 45°

Last update on 2021-12-05 at 08:07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Makita Track Saw let’s you safely cut large sheets of plywood with lifting on the table saw.

Used for:  Cutting plywood sheets for cabinet boxes and shelving.

A track saw lets you cut plywood sheets to size with ease.  And every kitchen project uses plywood. I’ve found I usually use from 10-12 for a smaller kitchen and up to 25+ for a sprawling kitchen and bathroom build.  

Have you tried to crosscut plywood on a table saw?  I have and 99.9% of the time it works fine.  But, that 0.1% when the blade catches the plywood I’ve paid the price with a slap to the midsection.  This is where the panel saw comes in: it allows you to safely trim plywood to length.  I still use my table saw for width but that’s my preference.

What about small shops?  I recommend looking at a combination unit that fits to the plywood and uses your circular saw.

Cabinet Making Tools: Sanders

Orbital Sander For General Sanding

DEWALT 20V MAX Orbital Sander, Tool Only (DCW210B)
6,413 Reviews
DEWALT 20V MAX Orbital Sander, Tool Only (DCW210B)
  • Orbital sander with brushless motor provides runtime and efficiency to get the job done
  • Variable-speed control of the hand sander from 8,000 to 12,000 OPM to match the speed to the application.
  • Low-profile height of the power sander allows user to get close to work surface for precise sanding.

Last update on 2021-12-04 at 20:04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Editor's Note: If I could only pick one sander to own it would be the orbital sander. With flexibility from 40-grit up to 200-grit and higher it can do all the sanding tasks in cabinet making.

Primary Uses of an Orbital Sander

  • Removing belt or drum sander marks
  • Sanding edges and face of face frames and cabinet doors
  • Wood panels
  • Plywood
  • Drawers

Orbital Sander General Information

When you look at sanders for making cabinets there are five or six you could buy.

But, if you are trying to make cabinets with just one sander than an orbital sander is it.

Here’s why I like this sander so much:

  • Wide range of grits for rapid stock removal or finish sanding
  • Easy to hold
  • Doesn’t remove excessive stock at one time (unlike a belt sander)

Drum Sander

JET JWDS-2244, 22-Inch Drum Sander With Stand...
25 Reviews
JET JWDS-2244, 22-Inch Drum Sander With Stand…
  • SPEED REGULATION: Sandsmart control continuously monitors the load on the drum motor and automatically regulates the speed.
  • TOOL-LESS ADJUSTMENTS: Conveyor bed parallelism is easily adjusted by turning the dial on the outside of the bed.
  • PROTECTION FROM HEAT: Precision-machined and dynamically-balanced extruded aluminum drum is designed to dissipate heat.

Last update on 2021-12-05 at 09:23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

I wouldn't consider building cabinets without a drum sander. While I've used belt sanders in the past, the quality of the finished job with a drum sander is not even comparable.

Primary Uses

A drum sander can be used for just about any flat surface sanding job, including light-duty planing with low grit sandpaper.

  • Cabinet doors (panels and and assembled)
  • Drawer fronts
  • Face frames
  • Drawer sides

General Information

Back in the 1990’s I started sanding cabinets with a 4×24″ Porter Cable.  I was the new guy and learned fast how to handle this beast and make high quality cabinets.  But no matter how good you are with a hand-held belt sander you just can’t get the quality of a wide-belt or drum sander.  

What should you look for?  Face frames are one of the trickiest cabinetry items you will sand.  How’s that?  Well, the face frame for most 9′ ceiling upper cabinets are 42″ tall (and up to 54″).  This means you need a 42″ or wider clearance for upper cabinet frames.  Most sanders aren’t 42″ wide, but quite a few have a reversible 22″ drum that lets you sand these upper cabinets.  Look for a “22×44” drum sander that let’s you reverse these extra tall (or extra wide) frames.  

For sanding cabinet drawers, drawer fronts, and panels you shouldn’t have much issue.  My advice is avoid the 16″ models as quite a few cabinet doors are wider than 16″ and having to reverse them is labor intensive and often results in extra touch-up sanding.  Plus they are almost $1000 and for a few extra dollars you can gain 12″ of total width with a 22″ model.

Utility Cabinet Making Tools

Jointer for Edging Cabinet Panels and Hardwood

JET JJ-6HHDX 6' Long Bed Wood Jointer with Helical...
38 Reviews
JET JJ-6HHDX 6″ Long Bed Wood Jointer with Helical…
  • TWO-WAY TILTING FENCE: Positive stops at 45° and 90° to handle bevel operations.
  • FRONT-MOUNTED ADJUSTMENT HANDWHEELS: Make quick, easy, and accurate corrections.

Last update on 2021-12-04 at 20:13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Primary Uses

  • Edging hardwood boards
  • Edge surfacing panel boards prior to gluing

General Information

While not always required if your hardwood stock is S3S, for frequent cabinetry builds I recommend having one.

What are the options?

Well, I’ve used a glue-line rip blade on a table saw as a replacement when making final passes on wood panel sticks.

But, that can be much more time consuming and create more waste.

Plunge Router for Cabinet Doors

DEWALT Router, Plunge Base, Variable Speed, 3-HP...
211 Reviews
DEWALT Router, Plunge Base, Variable Speed, 3-HP…
  • Powerful, smooth-running 15 Amp motor generates 3 HP
  • Full wave electronic variable speeds between 8,000 and 22,000 RPM
  • Rack and pinion depth adjuster; Magnified scale; Micro-fine bit depth adjuster for faster, more accurate bit depth settings

Last update on 2021-12-04 at 20:04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Dewalt DW625 is a power house plunge router for making large raised panel doors. And it’s what I have underneath my personal router table.

Used for:  Making cabinet doors and creating custom trims.

One of the most challenging tasks in cabinetmaking is creating custom cabinet doors.  But, I find it one of the most rewarding as the cabinet doors are a substantial part of the visible final product.  If you are a professional making doors every day you will need a shaper.  However, a serious hobbyist can make top-end doors with a high quality fixed plunge router.

So how does a plunge router fit in?  And what is a plunge router?  A plunge router fits into a router table and allows you to create raised panel doors, run lengths of door rails and stiles, and make just about any kind of trim with a simple edge.  I’ve made hundreds of doors on a router table with a power feed system with great results.  But while I like the router, I greatly prefer the shaper for it’s versatility, power, and easier-to-adjust features.

Tip:  Buy a power feed.  It will dramatically improve the quality of your projects with consistent down pressure and steady feed rate.

Air Compressor for Powering Cabinet Making Tools

Industrial Air IL1682066.MN 20-Gallon Belt Driven...
79 Reviews
Industrial Air IL1682066.MN 20-Gallon Belt Driven…
  • 1. 6 HP, dual-Voltage, induction motor wired for standard 120-Volt outlet and convertible to 240-Volt applications
  • 135 max psi
  • Delivers 6. 2 CFM at 40 psi and 5. 3 CFM at 90 PSI

Last update on 2021-12-04 at 20:13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

An air compressor will provide the power for air tools and blowing off cabinets and tools.

Used for:  Brad nailers and blowing dust off cabinets.

A quality air compressor to run air nailers for cabinet construction and doing fine dust blowing prior to staining cabinets is required.  I’ve preferred a portable mid-range compressor as air nailers don’t take too much air and a 20 gallon take is usually more than enough to do bench and cabinet cleanups of leftover dust.

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