How to make a cupboard

Sometimes it's impossible to find just the right flatpack unit to fill a certain space. Here's how to make a cupboard from board material such as MDF. You only need a few basic tools for this simple storage solution and the end result looks great.

How to make a cupboard

How to make a cupboard with simple tools

You will need:

  • MDF boards
  • Electric drill
  • Wood bits, countersink and screwdriver bits
  • Tri-square
  • Hand saw or circular saw
  • Straight timber battens
  • Clamps
  • PVA wood glue
  • Dowel jig and dowels or chipboard screws
  • Recessed hinges
  • Handle
  • Magnetic catch
  • Primer and paint
  • Goggles
  • Dust mask

Time to complete job: 4 hours.
Approximate budget: A full sheet of MDF costs around £15.

First steps
You can use any board material to make a basic cupboard. DIY stores sell melamine-faced chipboard, MDF or plywood in various sizes up to full-sized 4x8ft (120x240cm) boards. Choose at least 18mm (0.7in) thick material so that it will be rigid and can support heavy loads. MDF is an ideal material as it has a very smooth surface that can be painted.

Decide on the dimensions of your cupboard. If it has to fit in an alcove or recess, make sure you take into account any obstacles such as power sockets or skirting boards.

Safety tip: Always wear goggles and a dust mask when cutting MDF boards with a circular saw.

You might also like to check out our guide, How to make multipurpose storage and Making built in wardrobes Part 1 and Part 2.

  • Step 1: Measuring & cutting

    Step 1: Measuring & cutting

    Mark out the sides, top, bottom, back and door of the cupboard onto your MDF board, with a tri-square, tape measure and straight edge.

    Use either a handsaw, circular or jigsaw to cut the components of the cupboard from the MDF. A circular saw will give a smoother finish as long as you guide the saw properly.

    To do this, clamp a batten securely and parallel to the cut you need to make, so that the saw blade will cut just on your marked line. Use this batten to guide your saw along.

    Tip: If your local timber or DIY store has a timber cutting facility, take along the exact sizes of each piece and ask them to cut it for you. The first few cuts are free.

  • Step 2: Assembling

    Step 2: Assembling

    If you're making a cupboard that won't be on show - in the garage or a utility room for example - you could simply use screws to hold the sections together. Countersink the holes and smear PVA wood glue along the joint for extra strength.

    It is best to drill screw holes onto the face of one section, then mark these holes onto the edge of the next, and then drill pilot holes into the edge. You can then screw and glue the two pieces together.

    But if you want to make a cupboard without visible screw holes, use a dowelling jig and dowels instead.

    So build up your carcass with whichever method you choose. When you've fixed the sides, top and bottom together, you can fix the back on. Check the four sides you've fixed have perfectly square corners, then screw and glue the back on and leave the case to dry.

  • Step 3: Fitting the cupboard door

    Step 3: Fitting the cupboard door

    To fit a cupboard door to the unit, measure the overall dimensions of the front and cut out a piece of board to fit.

    Tip: You can buy easy-to-fit recess hinges to screw onto the back of the door and edge of the cabinet. The top hinge should be the same distance from the top edge as the lower hinge is from the bottom edge.

    Drill pilot holes with a small bit and screw the hinges to the back of the door. Hold the door against the cabinet and mark through the hinge holes ready for fixing.

    Add a cabinet handle and magnetic catch to keep the door closed. Prime and paint the cupboard for a professional finish.