I'm planning on building storage cabinets in my garage and was wondering what I should use as my material. I'm considering 3/4 MDF for the carcass and 1/2 MDF for the shelves. Also I can't afford a tablesaw at this time so I'm going to use my skillsaw and router as my main tools. Your advice and thoughts are welcome.
Prepare to use a lot of patience! Cutting panel parts without a table saw will be very time consuming. If you want square cabinets you'll need square parts. I would strongly suggest barrowing a friends saw or buying your panels already cut to width (ie. base cabinets 24"). That way, at least the amount of cutting is reduced & you have an edge to square off of. Do you have any other tools? Screw/drill driver? Biscuit joiner? Sander? Miter Saw? Anything? I like to use white melamine on 3/4" particle board for case parts (I'm a cabinetmaker, so I've made 1000's of cabinets--not that I know it all :D) and a seperate plywood toe-kick. It's cheap, the cabinet interiors are bright to look into when you open the doors (cabinet interiors tend to be heavily shadowed), it's durable, easy to clean, & best of all you don't have to "finish" it. Then I cover the exterior with whatever I want (ie. mdf, birch, oak, maple, alder, cherry, etc...). Of your typical cabinet case choices (plywood, particle board, mdf) mdf will swell the most with moisture. Plywood the least (that's why I use it for the toe-kick). Your garage will have more moisture than your house. I think that pb makes a better panel because it's more stable than plywood (although, it is heavier, making it a little bit harder to work with). Plywood has voids and tends to be a bit warped (unless you buy the really good stuff with more ply's to it). Of the 3, pb melamine costs the least (around Portland, OR anyway). I have a pretty easy method for building cabinets, it's a bit long winded for a forum, if you're interested just e-mail me. My address should be at the top of this post. This is my $.02 worth. Good luck. :D
PS-I would also strongly suggest using 3/4" material everywhere (except for the backs). The 1/2" material tends to sag with a lot of weight (garage stuff is usually pretty heavy--tools, paint cans, camping stuff). Although, you can run a cleat across the back of the cabinet for extra shelf support. Also, it's better to have the thickness to run screws into the edges of case parts.
In agreeance with Kelly's advice except for the particle board. I think where moisture could be a problem DMF\particle board should be avoided. It sucks up moisture to readily. If you like the idea of malamine (good idea) at the very least put a hardwood strip on the bottom perimeter of your base cabinets. I'd also seal the floor. If your going to do upper cabinets I used peg board as my panels for the doors. I also used piano hinges for strength. This has worked great for me. Think I'd also incorporate an adjustable shelf system, at least in a few cabinets. drawers are not out of the question either. I personaly was fortunate to come by MUCH 1" plywood free for the taking so I used this of course. Another suggestion is to use a cheap replaceable covering for the benchtop like fiberboard. don't rule out building a router table into your bench.
If you plan all this out carefully, you may be able to present a cut list at the lumber yard and for a nominal fee at least get the big stuff taken home precut.
Is the pegboard for the doors for storage or for moisture to resist warping? I've built an upper cabinet out of No. 2 pine and am ready to cut the panels for the doors. I've already made the rails and stiles. The plan I've been using calls for pegboard, but I was going to use 1/4" plywood because I feel it looks better. Since this is a shop cabinet in my garage I would like to have it be built so it won't warp. I also plan on putting on 2-3 coats of clear oil based poly.
By the way, I agree all the way with needed a table saw to do cabinets. It is very frustrating to do it with a circular saw. No matter how straight your straight edge and how accurate you line it up the cut will be slightly out of square. I could have used a sliding compound miter saw for my shop cabinet, but the next one will be made out of plywood and I will use a table saw or get it cut at the lumber yard.
Wish I had a way to post a picture. The peg board is used as pegboard is inteneded. I hang a number of the most common tools and items reached for. I had one door start to warp on me so i put a simple turnbuckle strap on the back. It warped because I had a number of hammers,mallots, chisels and just alot of weighton it. I still have all this hanging and the door remains flat. And I only used a 1.75" stile & rail for max panel area.
You can but pegboard with a woodgrain pattern or paint it.
Thanks for the reply. I understand what you mean about using the peg board as peg board. I was going to make my own hangers for the doors out of scraps from the cabinet. I think I will go with the wooden pegboard. I'll still get the look and I'll be able to use the peg board hangers instead of making my own for all the tools. I can't wait till I have it done. I have tools everywhere right now. This cabinet was definitely build out of necessity.