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Store Your Stuff in Style

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In this project, craftsman and maker Jimmy DiResta explains the steps it takes to build an attractive metal cabinet that will help put things in their place. 

DiResta created his cabinet using primarily cold rolled steel and glass. Different makers have different tastes, so feel free to modify this plan to a cabinet that best fits your needs, whether it’s for a home office, family room, garage, workshop or other application. 

No matter what design or materials are chosen, following the general steps and techniques described here will put any home hobbyist on the right path to building a cabinet that is aesthetically pleasing, functional and that will last for generations.

Download the Project Guide
1

Build the door frames

The frame for the cabinet door will be built from 1½” by 3/8” cold rolled steel. Cut the stiles and rails for the doors and the cabinet’s outer frame. Using a grinder, bevel the short ends of each piece of steel to prepare the steel for welding. Using a piece of plywood as a jig to ensure squareness and consistency from door to door, tack all of the stiles and rails together, maintaining a 1/16” gap between each piece to ensure good penetration. Once all of the door frames are tacked, finish weld each frame from both sides, grind the welds flat and sand them smooth.

2

Add support for the glass

From 1/4”-by-1/4” square rod, create an inset frame for the glass on each door. Using a method similar to Step One, use the glass itself as the “jig” for your inset frame, to ensure a proper fit. Space your welds to avoid heat distortion. For this project, wire glass, sometimes known as fire glass, was chosen for its industrial look. Choose a material that’s best for the eventual look you’re going for.

3

Assemble the face frame

The face frame that the doors will sit in is constructed of the same 1½” by 3/8” material as the cabinet doors. In this design, there are two pairs of doors, with a vertical stile between each pair of doors. Use spacers to help maintain an even gap between the doors and frame. With the doors in place, tack the frame pieces together, then remove the doors and complete your welds. Grind the welds flush and sand them smooth.

4

Marry the doors to the frame 

This project uses bullet-style hinges, which can be purchased online. Space the hinges at even intervals on each door where it meets its corresponding frame element. Tack each hinge in place on both sides, creating a single unit for the entire front of the cabinet.

5

Build the carcass

Measure and cut all of your pieces for the remaining three sides that make up the carcass of the cabinet. Working upside down, and using the face frame as a guide, tack the pieces of the top, sides and finally the bottom of the cabinet to the face frame. Add cross members to the top and bottom, to which panels of either plywood or steel will be secured later.

6

Add the steel panels

Measure and cut panels of 12-gauge steel to fit the inside of the top and sides of the cabinet. Spread out several tack welds on each panel. This will help avoid distortion and buckling, which could ruin the aesthetics of the project.

7

Attachment points

Weld lengths of 1/2” angle iron to the inside back of the cabinet and drill holes along their length. These will serve as attachment points for the plywood back of the cabinet. In the front of the cabinet, weld short lengths of 1/4” square rod behind the center of each door pair to act as stops for the doors and an attachment point for the magnetic closure that will be added later. Drill holes in the lower cross members and frame to secure the plywood bottom.

8

Final touches

At this point, it’s a good time to add a finish to the piece. After a thorough cleaning, a blackening agent was applied to the steel, which was then neutralized with water. To seal, spray on a coat or two of clear lacquer. Using CA glue, attach high strength magnets to the stops between each door pair. Add a painted plywood back and bottom, securing with screws. Finally, secure the glass into the door frames using clear silicone adhesive or similar glue.