Must Have Tools for Cabinet & Furniture Making

In this post, I’ll show you the must have tools for cabinet making (and furniture building)–for skill levels of any kind.  This post is sponsored by Kreg Tool and contains affiliate links. See policies.

Must have tools for cabinet building graphic with text

It’s no secret I LOVE building cabinets.  I built my own kitchen cabinets a couple years ago and my sister’s kitchen cabinets last year.

Shara Woodshop Diaries in Sister's kitchen opening cabinet doors

But…let’s be clear.  Cabinets are not just the boxes you store your dishes in the kitchen.  Cabinets come in all shapes and sizes and are made for all rooms of the house. 

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Think about it…if we are defining a cabinet as “a storage box made of wood,” then cabinets can be vanities, dressers, consoles, end tables, bookshelves, and of course…the obvious kitchen cabinets.  And I REALLY REALLY love building all of those! Check out 100+ building projects here!

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So for this post, let’s think outside the box a little to encompass cabinets of all shapes and sizes.  Because these tools and guides are useful for building all kinds of cabinets…including many types of furniture cabinets.

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If you’ve seen my tutorial for building kitchen cabinets, you’ve seen me use all these tools in the process.  But in this post, I want to go into more detail and share why they are essential and what you can use them for.

Kreg Tool Jigs laid out on workbench--these are the tools needed to build cabinets

So, let’s get to it 😊

So what tools do you REALLY need to build cabinets?

To build simple furniture and simple cabinets, you don’t NEED any huge, fancy tools.  Nothing enormous, nothing expensive.  You can make good, solid cabinets and furniture with just a few key items.

RELATED: Check out the 5 Tools You Need to Get Started Woodworking here.

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In addition to these guides, I also use these power tools for cabinet making:

But why do you need these particular tools and what are they used for??

Tools for Cutting Wood

The first part of any cabinet (or furniture) build is typically cutting down the plywood.  Not all cabinets and furniture are made from plywood.  You can build your cabinets from solid wood as well.  But, plywood is a common choice for most cabinets and a large portion of my furniture builds—mostly because it saves time and has very minimal wood movement throughout the seasons to worry about.

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I’ve shared an entire, very detailed post over here on how I cut down my plywood sheets using the Kreg Rip Cut and the Kreg AccuCut. 

Shara using rip cut and circular saw to cut down full plywood sheet

The Kreg Rip Cut (shown above) is a cutting guide that you use with your circular saw to “rip” your plywood sheet (or board—it’s not ONLY for plywood) longways.  It cuts up to 24” wide strips.

Kreg Rip cut tool used to cut down plywood to build cabinets

The Kreg AccuCut is a gutting guide that acts kind of like a track saw.  It’s great for cutting wider than 24” strips and for cross cutting long pieces to the correct length.  You use it with your circular saw to cut straight lines across your plywood panel.  I also use it often to cut down large table tops as well.

Kreg AccuCut and circular saw used to cut down plywood panels

Don’t forget to check out this detailed post about cutting down plywood for more information.

Tools for Assembling Cabinets

Once the plywood is cut down, it’s time to join the boards together to create a box.  That’s where the pocket hole jig comes in.

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A pocket hole jig is a drilling guide that allows you to drill a hole on the ends of a board that you can drive a screw through to join it to another board.  Pocket holes can be used to join boards together in a panel OR perpendicular surfaces.  Here you see where I am using pocket holes to assemble the side panels of this dresser.

Assemble DIY Dresser side panel with wood glue and pocket hole screws

Once you use the jig to drill a pocket hole, you drive pocket hole screws through it to assemble the boards together.  The pocket hole screws have a washer head that allows it to stop at the end of the pocket hole, so it can pull the joining board tight for a nice joint. 

Kreg Pocket hole screws with washer head in drill bit

It is important to use these washer head screws with pocket holes for a strong, tight joint. You can purchase Kreg Pocket Hole screws from KregTool.com, Amazon, or Home Depot.

Kreg pocket hole srews driving into a pocket hole in cabinet carcass

I like to use pocket holes in cabinet and furniture building because it’s quick, simple, and doesn’t require fancy tools or patience waiting for glue to dry.  It creates a solid joint for sturdy projects.  In most cases, the pocket holes are covered so you can’t see them and when they aren’t, you can plug them using a 3/8” dowel or these pocket hole plugs.

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Related: See how I plugged the pocket holes on this one sheet plywood bookcase project.

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Pocket hole jigs come in many shapes and sizes, but I am currently using the Kreg 320 and the Kreg K5.

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The K5 is faster, and is used for small to medium sized boards and panels. 

Drilling pocket hole with Kreg K5 into plywood piece to build cabinet

But for larger, hard to maneuver, or really long boards, I like to use my 320.  I can lay my large panels or boards on the workbench and clamp the 320 on the end to drill the pocket holes.

Drilling pocket hole using Kreg 320 pocket hole jig--drilling holes into plywood panel for cabinet making

Both of these jigs allow you to adjust easily for your wood thickness.  The 320 comes with this handy gauge that tells you the settings you need to use.

Gauge to measure plywood thickness to drill pocket holes

Simply adjust your jigs’ drilling depth and the collar on your drilling bit to match your wood thickness. Then clamp your piece, drill your hole, and drive your screws.

Adjust depth collar on pocket hole drill bit

It’s also important to use the correct sized screws in your pocket holes so that you have a strong joint, but don’t end up with a screw sticking out of your material.  So here is a handy chart that tells you the screw sizes you need for working with common materials.

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My friend, Anika from Anika’s DIY Life also has a great tutorial for how to use a pocket hole jig here.

Tools for Installing Cabinet Doors

The Kreg Concealed Hinge Jig is probably my most used shop jig after the pocket hole jig.  I use it all the time when adding doors to projects.  I used to use butt hinges on all my cabinets and furniture or semi concealed hinges.  And I was never a fan of seeing the hinge AND there was no room for adjustments if my door wasn’t quite square.

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So I switched to concealed hinges on all my furniture and cabinets and it’s been a HUGE upgrade—both in ease of installation and quality of my finished products.  If you’re building cabinets or furniture, this jig is a must have.

Placing hinge into hole drilled for concealed hinge on cabinet door

Concealed hinges have a “cup” that is supposed to be recessed into the door.  This jig allows you to drill out the hole for the hinge in the correct location quickly and easily.  Simply clamp it, drill it, and install the hinge.

Drilling concealed hinge cup hole into cabinet door--concealed hinge jig tools for cabinet making
Installing concealed hinge into cabinet door

RELATED:  Check out this post for how to install and adjust concealed hinges on cabinet doors.

ALSO RELATED: Check out this post for how to build simple shaker style doors, and this post for more decorative cabinet doors.

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A note about jig adjustments: Check your hinge instructions for how deep the holes should be drilled and how far from the edge the holes should be.  The drilling bit has a collar to allow for adjusting the drilling depth. 

Attaching drill bit into guide plate of concealed hinge jig

And there are two knobs at the bottom of the jig with the numbers 3 through 6 written on them.  You can use a screwdriver to adjust these knobs.  This is the distance from the edge of the hole to the edge of the door in millimeters.  The smaller the number, the closer the hole is to the edge.  Usually your hinge instructions will specify what this needs to be set on, but as a general rule of thumb, I usually leave mine on 5mm.

Adjust hinge jig distance from door edge--handy tools for cabinet making

Also, I just recently learned that this drilling guide detaches from the plate.  Turn counterclockwise to remove, and turn clockwise to lock in place 😊

Tools to Add Cabinet Shelving

Adjustable shelves in cabinets and furniture is a really nice touch and feels kind of like an upgrade.  I’m pretty indecisive, so I like options to adjust the shelves as things change, I rearrange, etc. 

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The EASIEST way to install adjustable shelves (or, I would argue ANY shelves for that matter) is by using shelf pins.  Shelf pins come in many shapes and sizes, but I like this style best.

Installing shelf pins in shelf pin holes in cabinet carcass

Basically, you just place the pin in a hole drilled into the cabinet sides and set your shelf on top of the pins.  If you want to raise the shelf, move the pins up a hole or two. 

Installing shelves into cabinet on shelf pins

BUT, first, you have to drill the holes.  The Kreg Shelf Pin Jig allows you to drill equally spaced holes for this without any set up or measuring.  You literally just hold or clamp the jig, and drill into the slots.

Drilling shelf pin holes into cabinet carcass on bookshelf

I like to set mine flat on the cabinet bottom, drill into the top hole, then I use the included pin inserted into the bottom hole of the jig and into the hole I just drilled in the cabinet to hold my place while I work my way up the cabinet.  This makes it SUPER easy to ensure my holes are spaced evenly. 

Drilling top hole in shelf pin jig--tools for cabinet making
Using pin to drill shelf pin holes into cabinet box sides

Run these holes up both sides of the back and both sides of the front.  Insert the pins, install the shelves, and you’re done. 

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A few notes about using shelf pins: When installing shelves, cut them about ¼” shorter than the inside width of the cabinet to allow for some wiggle room to install them.  For example, if the inside of your cabinet is 16”, cut your shelves to about 15 ¾” long.

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Also be aware that Kreg sells two sizes of shelf pin jigs—a 5mm and a ¼”.  These are the diameters of the pin holes.  Take note that 5mm is slightly smaller than ¼” and you need to know which you have so you know what size pins to order.  See below the difference between 5mm shelf pins and ¼” shelf pins. 

Close up comparison of 1/4" shelf pins vs 5mm shelf pins

If you try to use ¼” shelf pins in a 5mm hole, they won’t fit.  And if you try to use 5mm pins in a ¼” hole, it’ll be very loose and fall out.  So be sure to order the correct pin size to fit your jig.

Tools for Adding Drawers to Cabinets

I’ve got an entire post detailing how to measure for, build, and install drawers here.  You’ll notice that my preferred method for installing drawer slides in that post is to turn the piece on its side to install them.  This allows gravity to help hold things in place 😉

Installing drawer slides into dresser sides

But, when the piece cannot be easily flipped on its side (if it’s already installed on the wall, OR it’s too big to flip over), this drawer slide jig comes in really handy to hold your slides in place while you install them. 

Install drawer slides into cabinet using drawer slide jig--tools for cabinet making

You can use my drawer building guide post to help you determine where your slide should go.  Then, clamp these guides onto the cabinet at that location and install the slide.

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I may not use these often to install my slides, but I do really love them for helping me install my drawers.  Once the slides are in place, I can turn these around and clamp the opposite direction to hold my drawers still while I install them onto the slides. 

Installing drawer box into cabinet on top of drawer slide jigs clamped to cabinet carcass
Screw drawer slides into drawer slide box sitting on drawer slide jig

It’s like having an extra set of hands.

Tools for Installing Cabinet Hardware

And finally, if you are installing new hardware on cabinets, furniture, etc, this is a handy jig to use to keep things consistent.  It’s made for installing drawer pulls and allows you to set it up once, and simply clamp, and drill without having to measure over and over.

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The only downside to this jig is that it’s not made for really long pulls.  But, if you’re using pulls 5” center to center or smaller, this will save you a ton of time. To set it up, simply measure the distance of the screw holes on your pulls (measure center to center) and adjust the drilling holes on the front of the jig to match.  Note that one side is metric and one side is standard. 

Showing settings on cabinet hardware jig to match cabinet pulls

Then, adjust the bar across the back for the distance you want to install the pulls from the edge of the door/drawer.  For example, if your drawer is 6” tall and you want to install your drawer pulls centered vertically, you would adjust this guide to 3” (the measurements are listed up and down the sides here).  In this case, it’s set to 1 1/2″.

Adjust Kreg Cabinet Hardware Jig distance from edge on back side

Then, you just have to measure to find the center of the drawer horizontally, clamp in place, and drill the holes for the pull. It works the same for the doors, too. Simply adjust the distance you want the pulls to be from the door edge, clamp in place and drill.

Clamp cabinet hardware jig on cabinet door to drill holes for door pulls

If you’re just installing a few pulls, this may not save a ton of time, but it will give you consistent results (like, not crooked door pulls haha).  But if you are doing several, this jig is really helpful to save time and prevent crooked pull installations.

Finished cabinet with door and drawer hardware installed

Tools for Measuring and Marking

One of the most versatile tools for cabinet making is also one of the smallest. This simple Kreg Multimark tool is handy for lots of things like adjusting the blade depths on various tools.

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But when I’m building cabinets and marking for toe kicks or bottom shelf height locations, this is a great little tool to keep my marks consistent. You loosen the knob and adjust the measuring piece where you want it…in this case it’s 3 1/2″. And you can run this along the edge of a piece to make a smooth mark all the way across. This is helpful for lining up the bottom panel during assembly.

Kreg Multimark tool used to draw toe kicks on cabinet sides

You can remove the knob and place the metal piece on the opposite side to adjust for various angles, too. It’s a really handy measuring tool, but I use it often to make consistent and square marks on my pieces.

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So, that covers cutting, assembling, doors, drawers, shelves, and hardware. And that’s all the basics of cabinet and furniture building! See, it’s not as intimidating or as complicated as you might think. It’s pretty easy when you have the right tools for cabinet making.

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If you’re looking to put these tools to use, be sure to check out my kitchen cabinet building tutorial, and some of these furniture projects that use these tools as well:

And, if you’re just getting started, check out the tutorials on my Getting Started page to learn some basic concepts and check out my tool guides. Be sure to pin this post so you can save it for reference!

Must have tools for cabinet building pin image collage

And if you can’t wait to see what’s coming next, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter below. Until next time, friends, happy building 🙂

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