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How to Install Cabinet Hardware

Carpenter Nathan Gilbert on a house call as he helps a homeowner with a basic problem. The two work together to install hardware on builder-grade cabinets for a major upgrade.

Nathan Gilbert helps a homeowner with upgrading their kitchen cabinet hardware. While the cabinets themselves are nice, the homeowner dislikes the lack of hardware. Nathan shows the homeowner several jig options before explaining how they’ll tackle the job. With a drill and a few jigs in hand, the two set to work installing hardware and giving those kitchen cabinets a serious facelift.

Builder-grade cabinets are a great option for folks looking to install affordable cabinets without long lead times. However, they often come without hardware and look quite basic. Carpenter Nathan Gilbert shows a homeowner how to upgrade his basic cabinets by installing hardware with a few basic tools and techniques.

Build a Custom Hardware Jig

When it comes to door hardware, it makes sense to build a custom jig. Here’s a quick guide:

  1. Set the miter saw to 45 degrees and lock it in place. Do not do this with the saw’s bevel function.
  2. Place the 1x2 stock on its edge on the saw and cut a piece approximately 8 inches long. This piece should have one mitered end and one flat end when finished. The stock will also have a mitered end.
  3. Swing the saw’s miter angle back to 90 degrees and lock it in place. With the mitered end of the stock approximately 2 inches past the saw blade, cut off the mitered end of the stock.
  4. Glue the two mitered surfaces together and clamp or nail them with a brad nailer. They should form an L.
  5. Measure from the inside of the L to the end of the longer side and cut a piece of stock to this length.
  6. Place this piece in the L, making sure that it’s on its side (the thinner edge of the board). Glue and fasten this piece in place to create the jig.

How to Install Cabinet Hardware

  1. Cabinet hardware must be consistently spaced and even, so it’s best to use a jig rather than measuring and marking every time. Use the custom jig described above for the doors, and use a purchased jig for the drawer fronts.
  2. Find the point where the rail (the horizontal door member) and stile (the vertical member) meet, and transfer a line across the stile at this point. Next, measure the width of the stile, divide it in half, and place a mark on the cabinet at this point. Intersect the two marks to find the lowest hole for the cabinet hardware.
  3. Measure the distance between the mounting holes on the back of the cabinet hardware. Carefully measure this distance up from the bottom hole’s mark and make an additional mark. Mark half the width of the stile at this point and intersect these two marks.
  4. Using a drill and an appropriately sized drill bit, drill straight, right-angle holes through the stile at these marks. Be sure not to place a hand behind where you’re drilling. Check to ensure that the hardware fits. Next, place the custom jig behind the cabinet door and press it against the corner. Place the drill bit through the existing holes and lightly score the jig. Remove the jig and drill through these holes to create the hole spacing.
  5. Open each of the cabinet doors and place the jig onto their corners. Use the drill and drill bit to score the cabinet doors, remove the jig, and drill completely through the doors. Be sure not to place a hand behind where you’re drilling. Flip the jig as needed for left and right doors, or doors with handles at the top or bottom.
  6. Attach the cabinet pulls by feeding the screws through the back of the cabinet door, lining up the pulls, and tightening the screws.
  7. For drawers, measure the screw holes on the hardware and set the adjustable guides to that distance. Next, measure and mark each drawer front at its exact middle. Place the jig over the drawer front and align the sight hole with this mark.
  8. Place the drill bit inside the jig and lightly score the front of the drawer front at each screw location. Remove the jig, and drill through the drawer front and the drawer box behind it.
  9. Use the longer screws that came with the drawer pulls. Place them through the back of the drawer back until they stick out from the front of the drawer front. Align the drawer pull and tighten the screws.

Resources

For both the cabinet doors and drawers, Nathan installed the Brightened Opulence Matte Black Drawer Pulls in two sizes, which are manufactured by Liberty Hardware. The hardware came with mounting screws, though Nathan opted to use longer screws on the drawer faces because they were thicker than the cabinet doors.

Nathan highly recommends using a jig to keep the hardware lined up consistently for any cabinet hardware installation. He mentioned the Cabinet Hardware Jig ORIGINAL, which is manufactured by True Position Tools. For the actual install project, he used a combination of a KHI-PULL Cabinet Hardware Jig, which is made by Kreg Tools, and a DIY jig that Nathan made out of scrap, 1-by plywood, wood glue, and finish nails, which are materials that can all be found at home centers.

To drill the holes in the cabinet doors and drawers, Nathan used a Festool Cordless Drill CSX, and to tighten the hardware screws, he used a 20V MAX Lithium Ion 3/8” Right Angle Drill Driver manufactured by DeWalt.


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