Finished my shop base cabinets

Hello all! I finally finished the base cabinets for my basement shop, fourteen in total. This is my first time ever making normal cabinets, and it definitely strained my shop space at times.

These are made:

All around, it’s a budget solution to getting decent cabinets, but pretty labor intensive (I doubt I’d hand finish if I made cabinets again). Also, Lowe’s plywood is terrible for voids and the veneers are paper thin. I definitely sanded through a few places! :grimacing:

Basic Design and Assembly

I built the cabinets without toe kicks, so I could get the toe kick level first, since my shop floor is pretty uneven. (I found a 1" difference across the one set of cabinets!) This also allowed me to deal with the weird situation to cover over the fireplace hearth without ripping it out. I turned it into an electronics workstation, which works perfectly as a standing desk or with my tall IKEA chair. My feet rest naturally on the space inside the desk when sitting in the chair.

(That center section I just made by hand to fill in the space between the outer cabinets.)

Cabinet Boxes

Overall, the experience of making cabinets with the Inventables software and my CNC was a mix. The cabinet boxes (excluding the corner cabinet) were honestly pretty easy. There were some issues—especially trying to secure the outside cabinets with pocket-hole screws—but in general they went together smoothly and everything was (as expected) very accurate.

My one complaint about the boxes is the automatic layout just isn’t great. It’s often fairly wasteful, and in general requires tiling on full sheets. I found with a little careful manipulation, I could manually layout the pieces and configure the tiling to prevent panels from crossing tiles and needing any careful alignment. I was also able to fit stretchers in more places, since they don’t really need to worry about grain orientation.

Cabinet Box Modifications

I also made one big change to the boxes, which is added stretchers between drawers and doors. This only matters since I am just making cheap cabinets, and I didn’t like that there was nothing for the doors to land on. This was a fairly easy addition (though tedious by hand), and I hope they add it to the software. It made installing the drawers slightly more difficult, but not hard by any means.

Corner Cabinet

The corner cabinet was missing the back corner. I’m not sure if it’s expected that we’ll make our own corner or what, but I cut a strip of plywood and added some miters to make sure stuff doesn’t fall through.

I also am not sure how the top stretchers are supposed to work, but the current design wasn’t very strong, especially with two counters meeting over it. For my setup, I just added an additional layer to brace the connection, but if I was designing these, I’d find some way to make them using a half-lap and have both stretchers run all the way across.

I also discovered (too late) that the shelf doesn’t fit once the counter is installed. This required me cutting the shelf in half and adding bracing to attach it together. If I could, I’d also go back and add an additional set of shelf pin holes in the middle of both back pieces, since the shelf is so wide.

Drawers & Shelves

I have a couple writeups on the drawers already, so I won’t go into them there, but the modified drawer design I came up with worked well and was easier to assemble.

I also added a 3/4" strip to the front of all the shelves for strength. I did this using scraps, so the grain orientation is all over the place. Whoops. :sweat_smile:

Custom Handles

For the handles, I wanted something to be special, so I came up with these integrated walnut handles. I definitely had moments where I questioned my sanity, but they turned out better than I expected. The handles are mostly carved out using the CNC using a straight bit and a round (box?) bit for the inside curve, with the final two outside radiuses cut on a router table.

Once I got the handles completed, I added strips of walnut to fill in the sides, doing my best to match the grain and color (I got about 90% of them good enough). Aligning all of this was easier than I expected because I used this great, inexpensive drawer clamp.

Other Touches

I have two shorter cabinets in the back, to make room for my miter saw and drill press. The miter saw only needed about 3.5" of depth, but I cut out a 6" drawer for both, so I added my logo using a laser engraver. The lowered sections use plywood tops (instead of the IKEA ones) for strength and to screw down to, so I added a walnut edge band onto each.


Before I had either nothing (around the fireplace) or a bunch of flimsy metal shelves. Adding these cabinets was a big job, but has already made the experience of being in my shop much more pleasant.

I’m still working on filling and organizing them. I have a lot of junk in my shop that has never had a home, and a lot that has or had a home, but was mostly just “because it landed there”.

I also am planning to add a small set of upper cabinets above the miter saw, I have them all planned out and ready to cut, I just want to get some things organized before I start another big project.

I think the cabinet maker software is OK, but as a hobbyist, I wasn’t personally getting a lot of value out of it by the end. It provided more value to me as inspiration than as the tool for making cabinets: without it, I wouldn’t have started this project, but I ended up manually adjusting almost every aspect of the output. Some adjustments were minor (tweaks to the boxes), some were major (completely different drawer box design). I realize that my project was a unique experience, so not all of the issues I had would matter for a normal, paid cabinet project.

If you have any questions, ask away, I’m happy to answer them!


Hey Phil,

This is super inspiring. Thank you so much for the detailed write up, the photos, and the feedback. Our team is working hard to make improvements, and we are excited to share them with you in the coming weeks. I am glad that the software inspired you to start this project, and we will continue to work on the areas in which it fell short of your expectations.

I am really impressed with the walnut handles - the design and execution is amazing!




Hey Ben!

The software definitely was a key in getting me to make these. I think there’s a lot of potential, for sure, and it has a great foundation to work off.

I know the team is getting pulled in many directions, too, as everyone’s needs are different and varied. Hopefully you guys can keep knocking tasks off your board and getting it up to speed.

Thank you on the handles. I had a vision and spent way too many hours figuring out how to get it to work while wasting as little walnut as possible. They add a lot of personality, especially to the place you actually touch the cabinets most.

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They look fantastic!!

I am right now attempting to make a set of cabinets for my shop. I will not go into detail here, but my first attempt was a ‘FAIL’… we are working through that.

that said, you posting those photos and the write-up filled me with hope again (desperately needed after my disappointing first attempt - it was a sad weekend for me to say the least).

Like you I have a lot of tools around the shop that are in desperate need of a place called ‘away’. I plan to make a few wall cabinets and once I have the ‘flow’ worked out and am sure that I’m not just making more scrap wood, I intend to make an entire set to go under the X-Carve Pro (currently mostly wasted space). If I ever get these made, I’ll post them. But I have to get there first.

I too LOVE the handles that you came up with. NICELY DONE!

Thank you again for your post, I needed to see that more than you know.

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Agreed with the above sentiments. Nice work on making the cabinets, and I have also tried with using the classic cabinet maker (I do have access to the new stuff now, but too late lol), and understand about having to make adjustments.

Thank you for sharing your experience. It does help inspire me!

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So glad I could help! I’ve had my XCPro for about 2-1/2 years, and it has been a great learning experience. It does so much, and yet I often only use a small portion of it’s functionality.

I’ve been working on these cabinets as part of a major shop reno since last fall (which includes soffiting in the duct work, adding a drop ceiling, redoing the lighting, and more). I ordered the plywood in September. I got the first 3 cabinets fully built in November (to verify everything). I didn’t get started on the rest of the cabinets until January, and I’ve been working pretty steadily on them since then.

Toe kicks finally went in at the end of January, which is when I could finally start assembling the rest of the boxes. I got the counters installed, then used them as surfaces for finishing as I built and finished drawer boxes and shelves.

I didn’t get to making the handles until February 20th, and that took a bit of pushing myself to do it, since there was so much new to it. And I had some serious moments of doubt when the walnut didn’t match up (it turned out the router had burnished the edge and darkened it—a little sanding and it blended in much better).

As time goes on, I’m trying to force myself to use the CNC more often. As I get better with it, everything moves smoother and it quickly becomes a real force multiplier. For example, while the CNC was carving out panels, I could sit by and sand the previous batches. I had almost everything rough sanded by the time it finished the last batch.

My goal this year is to start making money off the things I make. I recently stepped away from a job in software, and I’m not anxious to return to the industry if I can figure it out.

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I should also mention, something that’s kept me inspired while working on these is that two of my favorite YouTubers have been remodeling their kitchens over the same time I’ve been working on these.

It’s helped me get a lot of ideas for how to layout the room, assemble the cabinets, build the toe kick, etc.

Both guys are making stuff waaay nicer than I do, and super way nicer than I want in a shop, but the videos are full of the small kinds of tricks that help me think about my own projects.

thank you, I’ll check them out.