How to Build Cabinets With 2x4s
Cabinets built from 2-by-4s are sturdier than other cabinets, but they're heavier, too. This cabinet is freestanding and has shelves inside for lots of storage room. For a wall-mounted cabinet, shorten the height of the cabinet. The plywood outer surface could be replaced with paneling or other material if desired. This cabinet can be painted, stained or given some other treatment. You'll need a helper for this project, and a large flat surface to work.
Measure and cut
Cut four, 2-by-4 boards to 59 inches using the saw of your choice. A compound miter saw is the easiest and quickest to use, if you have one. Otherwise, use a table saw or a circular saw will work. These will be the upright supports on the inside of the cabinet, part of the cabinet's frame.
Cut five, 2-by-4s to 19 1/2 inches with the same saw. These will join the uprights, running horizontally along the front and back of the cabinet, at the top and bottom, and across the middle back of the cabinet.
Continue with the same saw, and cut 6 pieces that are 8 1/2 inches long. These will run horizontally from the back to the front of the cabinet, joining the back part of the frame to the front part of the frame.
Measure and mark the plywood. Out of the first sheet, you need one piece that is 24 by 60 inches, and two that are 12 by 24 inches. Out of the second sheet, you need two pieces that measure 12 by 60 inches. Out of the remainder of both sheets, measure and mark shelves that measure 11 1/2 by 19 1/2 inches.
Cut the plywood with a circular saw or a table saw. Sand the pieces. Wipe sawdust away with a cloth.
Measure and cut the 1-by-2 boards with a compound miter saw or table saw. For each shelf, you will need to cut two cleats that are 11 1/2 inches long and one that is 19 1/2 inches long. You will also need one for the front edge at the top and at the bottom of the cabinet, so cut two more that are 19 1/2 inches long. Sand these boards and wipe clean of sawdust.
Assemble the cabinet
Attach one of the 60-inch 2-by-4s to one of the 19 1/2 inch 2-by-4s with 3-inch wood screws. Attach another 60-inch long piece to the other side of the 19 1/2-inch piece, to create a U shape. Attach another 19 1/2-inch piece to the bottom to make a rectangle for the back part of the frame. Make another rectangle with the 60-inch long 2-by-4s, and the 19 1/2 inch long 1-by-2s, using 2-inch long wood screws. This is the front part of the frame.
Join the two rectangles with 2-by-4-inch pieces that are 8 1/2 inches long, using 3-inch long wood screws, and taking care not to drive screws into other screws that you've already placed. Move just to the side of where a screw already is. Place one on the top right corner, the bottom right corner, and in the middle of the right side. Place one on the top left corner, the bottom left corner and in the middle on the left side. Stand the frame upright.
Attach the crosspieces at the top and bottom of the front edge of the cabinet with 3-inch long wood screws. Drive the screws from the outside of the cabinet through the 2-by-4-inch boards into the crosspieces. Hold the crosspiece firmly so it doesn't twist while driving the first screw. Each additional piece will make the cabinet more stable.
Screw the 24 by 60-inch piece of plywood to the back of the cabinet frame with 2-inch wood screws. Place screws about every 6 inches. Attach the 12 by 60-inch sides to the frame. Add the top and bottom pieces that are 12-by-24-inches. Screw cleats inside cabinet with 1-inch long wood screws and attach them to the back and sides of the cabinet where you want to have shelves. Insert plywood shelves and screw down to cleats if desired.
Paint or stain all pieces if desired. Follow manufacturer's instructions and allow to dry completely. Check the cabinet doors that you cut from the plywood sheets before, to be sure that the edges are smooth enough to butt up against each other when the doors are closed. Re-sand if necessary, and wipe clean. Attach hinges to these cabinet doors first, then to the cabinet frame. Have a helper hold the doors while you attach them. Attach cabinet handles to the doors. Depending on the handle type, you may have to drill a hole through the doors first. If so, use a pencil to mark the location where the screws need to be, and hold the handle up to the door to be sure it is right before you drill the holes. A misplaced hole can be fixed, but it's better to avoid the mistake in the first place.
- 33 Furntiture Projects, Fine Woodworking (Taunton, 2010)
- Building Furniture, Fine Woodworking (Taunton, 2007)
- Space and Storage, Time Life Books, 1976
- New Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual, Reader's Digest, 1991
- The right length wood screw makes the job easier. Hold the screw up to the board(s) to make sure the screw isn't going to protrude from the piece before you start to drive the screw. This will help you find the right length screw every time.
- The dimensions on this cabinet can be changed as needed, but keep in mind that cabinets made out of 2-by-4s are very sturdy, heavy cabinets, and should be free-standing or base cabinets, and not wall-mounted upper cabinets.
- Wear protective eyewear.
- Measure twice, cut once.
Jennifer Harshman has been a writer since 1990, writing, ghostwriting and editing both offline and online content. Her online articles focus on at-home projects. She writes in several fields, including health, business and do-it-yourself. Harshman has a Bachelor of Arts in education from Greenville College.
- wood grain image by Lucid_Exposure from Fotolia.com