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Tips for Building Better Built-Ins

When creating a built-in project, such as a cabinet or bookcase, one of the biggest challenges is getting it to fit tightly against the surfaces that surround it. Ensuring a tight fit against floors, walls, and ceilings is an important part of achieving a professional look, because these surfaces often aren’t completely level, flat, or plumb. There are a few simple tricks, though, that make it easier to create tight-fitting built-ins without overcomplicating construction.

Start Out Undersize
Start Out Undersize The best tip for better built-ins is to build the main cabinet or case slightly undersize. That makes it easier to slip into a less-than-perfect space. The drawing at right shows how this can work. A base can be built separately and shimmed level. Face frames can hang over the case sides or be extended with filler strips, and the sides themselves can be built extra wide. This extra material fills in the space between the case and the walls, and can be trimmed (scribed) later to match the contours of the walls.

Support Your Workpiece Header
Level the Playing Field The first step is making sure that your built-in will sit level—even if the floor isn’t. Rather than trying to level a large and heavy built-in, start with a base unit that the built-in can rest upon. Check the base from side to side and front to back (the Kreg Multi-Mark™ works great for this), and use shims to get it level in both directions. Then secure the base unit to the wall. If gaps between the base and the floor will show, don’t worry—you can cover them later with a small molding, such as quarter-round.

Put Your Best Face Downward Header
Fill in the Gaps With the base unit installed and leveled, you can set your cabinet on top of it and then fill in the gaps. Oversize face frames—which are incredibly easy to build with your Kreg Jig®—are great for doing this. The extra material fills in the gaps between the sides of the undersize cabinet and the wall. If you’ve already built the frame and need more to fill the gap, you can extend the frame with a filler strip.

Making the Cut HDR
When you push your cabinet and face frame into place, you’ll probably find that your walls aren’t completely flat. If that’s the case, you’ll need to trim the frame to match. This is called scribing, and it’s surprisingly easy to do. First, set a compass to match the widest gap between your cabinet and the wall. Then, slide the compass along the contour of the wall, transferring this contour to the face frame. After scribing, use a jig saw to cut along the line. Then, push the cabinet back into place, and the edge of the frame should match the wall. This same technique works for scribing extra-wide cabinet sides, as well.

Scibe for a Perfect Fit

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From Kreg and Woodsmith Magazine
2014 August Home Publishing

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