Let's Make...A Cabinet Hardware Jig!

Monday, November 2, 2015

And cry.  And cry.  And cry tears of jo.....

...sorrow!  (But ok joy later, yes.)

Dammit!  I just soooo wanna be a good carpenter!  Arrggg!  I must've used up my building-things juju on the corn hole game.  Sigh.  Alas.

If you're a halfway decent carpenter, this jig, yeah, bingo, done and done in one shot, ten minutes, easy peasy.

On a Saturday several weeks ago I started messin' around, attempting to create a jig without doing any research thinking aw man I'm smart, I can figure this out.  And it coulda woulda been all right but a few days later as I was sitting at work thinking about it, I realized it would have worked for left hinged doors only, and loosey-goosey to handle.  I'd have to make another one for right hinged doors, only heightening the possibility of errors.

Jig version 1.0, pre-research.  I used leftover L trim from the sliding door.
Nuh uh, no way, I thought...cut down the screw-up chances as much as possible ya crazy loon.

So I researched!  Like smart people do!  Yay brain usage!

Several good ideas out there on the webs, all of which are super simple to construct.  So long as you get everything cut square, assembled straight, holes properly placed and drilled correctly.

Sigh.  Make a note a' one a' those.

So ok, I almost went with this idea but ended up going for this idea as again, trying to minimize errors as much as possible.  No offense to Ron Hazleton and his lovely wife whom I'm sure are fabulous people but I couldn't watch the entire video.  Had to skip around.  Sorry.  No offense.


All right, so the premise is essentially to make a sandwich, see, the cabinet door as filling.

I dug up pieces of 1x6 I had laying around from can't remember what now.  Sweet, perfect!

Sandwich ingredients.
Went back upstairs to the kitchen.  Measure.  Cabinet doors are 3/4" thick, noted.  Hold up swanky new cabinet pull,* align it, measure resultant placement.  Measure all other pertinent cabinet elements.  

Measure measure measure.  Measure more than twice, cut once (or not too many times).  Made a lil' sketchy on some paper.  Wrote everything down.

Aw no, now math.  Dreaded math.  Yay, C-Calc on my phone!  (Android link, and iPhone link)

At this point you're probably musing, hey Becky, ya know they make those plastic jigs you can just buy, right?*  Yup I do.  Our issues:  rounded face, atypical pull location, 1 1/2" centers for the screws.  Hence?  Custom jig.

All righty.

I figured I'd provide an itty bitty smidge wiggle room for the sandwich filling gap so I don't ding up or scratch my swell paint job so I trim wee lengths of 1x6 to 13/16".  These are the blocking pieces that keep the sandwich open and are the cabinet door corner stops.

Nice, okey doke, rolling on I schmear some Gorilla Glue* on there, clamp, pilot drill some holes, screw the stops onto one half.  Repeat to finish the sandwich.

Yay, jig 2.0!
Next up?  Lay out and drill the master holes.  Holy panic.

My 1x coulda been a bit longer, yes.  
Accurate accurate accurate, I'm so trying to be.  I do not want to screw up this cabinet hardware install.  At all.  I get only one chance.  Screw up once and it's all screwed up.  No pressure.  Ahem, yeah, none at all.  (Aaaack!!)

I do the math, add everything up, do the math again, quadruple check the math.  Ok.  Measure it out on the sandwich block.  Check the math and measurements two or three more times.  Yes, I'm freaking out.  Can you tell?

Deep breaths as I load up the screw gun with a 3/16" drill bit.

Careful.  Careful.

First hole is a stunning success!  Couldn't believe it!  I get all excited, giddy...distracted...too casual...overconfident...sloppy...

Um, loooooser.
Crap.  Craptastic.  Loads o' crap.  Crap crap crap.  Dammit.

I made it allllll the way to the end error-free only to mess up on the very.last.hole.  I felt a bit like Chris Farley at :33 or 2:00.  I may have shed a tear, not sure.  Kicked myself, gave up, walked away.

Next day I find some 1x4 in the garage.  Repeat process.  Fifteen minutes later, everything is assembled.  I have a new sandwich.  No joke, like fifteen minutes.

Ah, jig 3.0!
Ok, this time I try an idea I find on the handy dandy interwebs for the hole drilling.  I stuff the center with 1x hoping it'll act as a further guide.  Only issue is the little guides I made stop the process at the chuck, stop the bit from going all the way through.  Ugh.  So I end up with wanky holes again.

Here's what I tried, 90 degree angle guide thingies.  Almost tried a spool of thread but the holes were too large, plus couldn't get the bit all the way through.
Frustrated, last resort, I start shopping.  I could either get a portable drill press* or, if I'm going to go that far for something that may or may not work, why waste the money...may as well do this:

Wen drill press.*  
So I did.  Obviously.   I mean, I was out of wood anyway, cough, I had to go to the store regardless.  Ahem.

Besides, I sold a clock on Etsy the other day so I'm all well the clocks are going to sell like hot cakes now, the need to drill lots of holes suddenly feels pressing, and uh it's uh, totally justified, yep.  Hey, it was only eighty bucks.

Jig what is this, 687?  Version 4.0 I think.
Only issue was the throw is a mere 2" and I need to drill further than 2".  Head against wall.

After plenty of careful finagling, holes are drilled.  And they are as close enough as I, crappy carpenter, can get them.  Which I have to say, I shocked myself, was actually pretty damn close.  But definitely straight!

Next up?  Putting the jig into practice.

Yeah, totally not nervous at all, nooOOooo, not me.

Final check on alignment here...
Sliding into my big girl pants, I take a huge deep breath and went for it on a cabinet door.  All-in time.  And thank holy cats and dogs, it worked.

Yes, I was dizzy with relief.  Yes, I walked in circles around the kitchen talking to myself out loud, screw gun dangling in hand.  I mean, it's a little tiny itty bitty bit off but there was enough play that I could straighten and tighten.

What was off though?  Those cheap a** freakin' cabinet doors -- they won't align perfectly.  After all that drive for perfection....Mike came home from work, didn't even notice the hardware, then after I pointed them out he waltzes in and says, "babe, the handles don't line up exactly."


"It's the cabinet doors babe," I respond, exasperated.  I think he thought he was being cute and funny and endearing, which he was and always is, but heh...bad timing; he didn't really know what I just went through to get these handles on there.

A smirk passes over his sweet befreckled face.  He gave me a big hug and said they looked great, he love 'em, redeeming himself.

One on, thirteen to go!
I only had trouble with one door being oddly somewhat thicker than all the rest which resulted in paint removal but it's hidden for the most part.  Only I see it and know, horribly agitating!  Heh.

In the end, the hardware looks fantabulous, the handles lined up exactly where I wanted them, and they put to an end smudgy fingerprints all over the sleek black paint job.

I wanted the bottom of the pull to line up with the edge of the trim.  Not too shabby, eh?
Hey hey all done!  Woo hoo!  I'm a rock star!  Ha!
I think what I like best is that the pulls look like a painted highlight of sorts.  They doesn't scream "HARDWARE!!", it's subtle and non-distracting.  Yay!

Friendly tips?

1.  If you don't have a drill press nor the inkling to purchase one, you can try thinner sandwich material or try drilling the holes first then assembling.  Or extra long drill bits in conjunction with guides.  I didn't trust myself enough though.

2.  Make sure you use a nice super sharp, strong drill bit when drilling the cabinet doors for the easiest, fastest, cleanest holes.

3.  And be aware of blow-outs on the opposite side of where you're drilling.  Even with this tight sandwich I made, there were splintery pop outs so I found drilling from the inside out (our particular hardware hid a lot more in the front than screw heads could in the back) worked best for me.

4.  And pick one of your least used doors for your first attempt.  I used one of our most and uh, regret it due to a minor blow out on the inside.

Sooooo roundabout point being, bringing it all on home here folks:  for a few moments of your time and a few pennies outta your pocket, you too can have a DIY custom jig for your new cabinet hardware install.  Way cheaper (in relative terms here) than those single-use tools, one time use plastic jigs at the store.  And heh, way more fun!

Wait, is that a new gray hair?

*The cabinet hardware, jig, Gorilla Glue, portable drill press, and Wen drill press are all Amazon affiliate links.  Mwah, thanks!  Please see the "boring stuff" tab for more info.

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