Three signs your cabinets are well built
July 19, 2018

By Lynn MacKinlay, lead professor, Cabinetmaking Techniques program

1. They feature quality hardware

Generic hardware – hinges, slides, etc. – does not stand up to the test of time. Look for quality brands like Hettich, Hafele and Blum.
Image showing a quality hinge by blum and another generic brand

2. They’re made of 3/4” material

I like my cabinets to be ¾” material. This is the standard for architectural millwork. I think it should be the standard for residential kitchens as well. Most residential kitchen cabinets are 5/8” or even ½” thick material. Residential kitchens get a great deal of wear and tear. There’s longevity in thicker materials.

I have no bias for or against solid wood vs. sheet goods – like melamine and MDF – as long as the cabinet cases are well built, with quality material. Manufactured materials function very well, and are lasting and stable.

An image of three thicknesses of material - 1/2" 5/8" and 3/4"

3. They aren’t held together by staples

There are many ways to approach assembling the boxes for kitchen cabinets: butt joints, rabbeting the sides, using a ¼’ back panel in a dado and stretchers…They can all be adequate, depending on the thickness of material and the fasteners used.

I’m not a proponent of using just staples for assembling cases. I subscribe to using #8 Robertson screws, which are more than two times the thickness of the material used. Screws have superior holding power to staples regardless of the joinery method.

A photo of a joint held together with a screw vs a joint held together with a staple

If you want to see solid, custom-made furniture made by the next generation of woodworkers, check out the sixth annual Student Cabinetmaking Exhibit at the Barrie Campus Gallery on Tuesday, Aug. 7 (from 7 to 9 p.m.) and Wednesday, Aug. 8 (from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.). Several pieces will be available for purchase. Metered parking is available.

There are still a few spots open in the Cabinetmaking Techniques program for this fall. Apply at If you have questions, contact

Portrait of Lynn MacKinlay in the woodworking shop at GeorgianLynn has 25 years’ experience in finish carpentry, film set construction and architectural millwork. She was the first woman in her trade to be certified Red Seal in Nova Scotia. She’s also a mentor to other women in trades through the Wood Manufacturing Council. She’s been a faculty member at Georgian for six years.