11 Must-have Cabinetmaking Tools

Get clean carcase cuts from a toothy blade

1. Ultimate Plywood & Melamine Blade 

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Thin kerf: LU79R, 714 ", $55; 10", $80; 12", $105
Standard kerf: LU80R, 10", $95; 12", $135
Freud Tools 
800-334-4107, freudtools.com

Few materials prove as finicky or frustrating to cut as splinter-prone hardwood plywood or melamine-coated particleboard. Rather than sand, patch, or hide tear-out, pick up a Freud Ultimate Plywood & Melamine Blade (thin and standard kerf models available). The 40° alternate-top-bevel (ATB) angle on the teeth—twice as steep as most crosscutting blades—shears the wood cleanly, leaving splinter-free cuts. And the high tooth count (96 teeth for 12"-diameter blades, 80 for 10", and 60 for 714 ") means each tooth takes a tiny bite.

Adjustable shelves in a jiffy

2. DrillRite Shelf-Pin Drilling Jig, #853, $32

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Peachtree Woodworking Supply, Inc.
888-512-9069, ptreeusa.com

A low-dough shelf-pin drilling jig gives you fast, no-measure accuracy for stable adjustable shelves. Use the DrillRite jig and its 14 " self-centering bit (5-mm version sold separately) to drill the first shelf-pin hole; then peg the jig in place through the indexing hole with a dowel or shelf pin and drill away. No muss. No fuss. No-brainer.

Scriber draws circles around compasses

3. AccuScribe Pro, $18

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FastCap
888-443-3748, fastcap.com

A compass dragged along the wall transfers (or “scribes”) wall irregularities onto the face frame, countertop, and backsplash, where they can be belt-sanded for a perfect fit. The AccuScribe Pro from FastCap graduates you from the second-grade compass, adding multiple articulation points that allow you to squeeze it into tighter spots. The flat base prevents rocking as you draw it along a surface. And a built-in sharpener means you’ll never have to search for a pointy pencil. All that and it can still draw circles and arcs.

Attack clamping tasks from three sides

4. 3-Way Face Clamp, #39062, $35

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Rockler Woodworking & Hardware
800-279-4441, rockler.com

Custom cabinet jobs often come with custom clamping conundrums. Where bar and pipe clamps can’t easily reach (such as a center face-frame stile), turn to Rockler’s 3-Way Face Clamp. This unconventional clamp grasps the carcase to gain leverage for securing the face frame to the cabinet. You won’t turn to this specialist often, but when you need it, there’s no substitute.

A clamp for flush and flat face frames

5. Cabinet Claw, #8510, $69 per pair

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Pony Tools
312-666-0640, adjustableclamp.com

In a perfect world, your dead-square cabinets slip into place like they’re greased, adjoining face frames aligning seamlessly. In our world, bulging walls, out-of-level floors, and moisture-induced wood movement make that a fantasy. The Cabinet Claw draws together the face frames of two cabinets while simultaneously aligning their faces flush, making it a simple matter to join the cabinets with screws.

High-speed hinge placements

6. Hinge Boring Jig, #SHB, $180

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Sommerfeld Tools for Wood
888-228-9268, sommerfeldtools.com

Hingemark, $23

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hingemark@sympatico.ca 
hingemark.com

Pro cabinetmakers love European-style cup hinges because they include enough post-install adjustment to make them ultra-forgiving. Sommerfeld’s Hinge Boring Jig makes the preinstall process just as easy. Three built-in boring bits connected to hexhead drivers on top of the jig precisely locate the 35mm cup hole and 8mm bushing holes. Turn the hex heads with your drill and a socket and press down to bore each hole to perfect depth.

For a lower-cost alternative, try the Hingemark, which simply and accurately marks the location of the hinge holes. Align the jig, tap the three spring-loaded punches to mark the hole centers, and then drill them on your drill press.

Self-centering bits eliminate hinge hassles

7. Vix Bits, set of three hex-drive bits, $32

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Tiny screws and hard wood make a bad recipe for precise hinge placement—errant grain can cause the bit to slip off course while drilling the screw holes. If you plan to install butt, barrel, or wrap hinges, pick up a self-centering bit for the sake of your hardware-mounting sanity. The chamfered, spring-loaded sheath on a self-centering bit (commonly called a Vix bit) eliminates hinge creep by locking in the precise center of the hinge’s screw hole, while the bit punches a perfectly sized pilot hole.

Thin-kerf dado set for undersized plywood

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8. Special-Width Dado King #DK02414, $221

Forrest Manufacturing Company, Inc.
800-733-7111, forrestblades.com

If you use 14 " plywood for drawer bottoms and case backs, you know those undersized sheets require two passes (and thus two setups) of a full-kerf blade to cut a rattle-free groove. The outer blades of Forrest’s Special-Width Dado King cut that work in half by stacking together for a perfect 316 "-wide groove. Add any combination of the six magnetic shims or the 116 " chipper for grooves ranging up to slightly wider than 14 ".

Drawer- and slide-mounting made easy

9. Magnetic Drawer Slide Mounting Tool, #NZ03, $30
10. Full Extension Drawer Mounting Brackets, #NZ03-B, $10
 
 

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Kreg Tool Company
800-447-8638, kregtool.com

When mounting drawer slides, one hand holds the slide, one hand holds the screw, and one hand holds the drill. Since we aren't a three-handed species, pick up Kreg’s Magnetic Drawer Slide Mounting Tool. Clamped or held against the face frame, the jig’s magnets secure and position metal slides, leaving your hands free to screw them in place. The companion product for mounting full-extension drawers provides a convenient resting place for the drawer box while you secure the drawer-side slide.

Proper pull placement begins with a jig

11. Drawer Pull Jig It Template, #35172, $20

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Rockler Woodworking & Hardware
800-279-4441, rockler.com

With your drawers and doors complete, don’t blow it now with poor pull placement. Rockler’s Drawer Pull Jig It adjustable drawer-pull template lines up on your center mark to precisely locate handle screw holes in six standard and centered spacings.

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