Can she build it? Yes she can.
First and foremost, I am not a wood worker. I have never built anything from scratch, but I needed a cabinet! After hours of scouring the net, blogs, and tutorials for terrarium/cabinet stands, I thought “Yup, I can make this.” I could not believe the price of the pre-fabbed units that were essentially particle board and none of them we’re the dimensions we needed. My son has two leopard geckos and a brand new baby fattail African gecko. We wanted to house them in one spot in his room, and still leave room for walking around the unit.
Here is my son with his Leopard Gecko Belle. She is pretty tame compared to his other one Sassy, who is aptly named. She’s VERY sassy, and doesn’t like to be handled. The baby Gizmo is as chill as they come.
I needed to make an overall size of 18″ deep, by 36″ high, and 42″ long. The math is going to be worked the same no matter what size overall you want to make.
You need a top and bottom square, inside vertical and outside vertical for stability.
Bench Plans (printable) I needed 4 @42″, 4@ 17″, 4@ 36″ and 8@ 29″ so overall needed at least 612″ of lumber which works out to just over 6 pieces of 8′ long. **As an after thought we wanted to add doors, so I needed to add beams for center supports as well which are not included on the plans.
Supplies Needed for Cabinet
-2X4(8′ or 10′ length) – non-treated lumber. When doing the math for your overall size; remember a 2×4 is not actually 2″ by 4″. it is actually 1.5″ by 3.5″
-panel of 1/4″ thin plywood or hardboard. Again, sized for your cabinet plus your doors.
-paint and wood filler (for screw holes)
-door hardware, hinges, and L-brackets for bottom shelf.
-level, and either a T- square or square, and Pencil
-Mitre saw or skill saw
-Rubber mallet or hammer and spare wood block
**I purchased 7 pieces of 2X4X8 and had them cut them roughly to size at the lumber store so I could transport them in my car.
Step 1: Making the frame
First you will want to build your top and bottom rectangles. (remember – measure twice, cut once) Secure with two wood screws on each end.
So after you build your top and bottom, making sure they are true and square;
you will fasten the inside vertical beams. I chose the uglier lumber for these, as they will be covered up by your outside beams. Try to keep your measurements and cuts specific, this will help keep it level. Fasten top and bottom with screws.
Step 2: Outside frame
This step was one that some forums said was not necessary, others said do not skip it. I decided that I would rather have more stability than not enough and end up with crushed babies and smashed glass. I also like the look of it with outside beams.
You are going to want to triple measure this. It needs to be snug enough that you have to hammer these into place.
I decided instead of an open cabinet, that two doors were necessary, so I added an inside outside center beam at this step.
You want to keep your edges as smooth as possible. Since this was not going to be sitting in my living room, I did not sand edges smooth. I would recommend this step if this is going to be an addition in your living room or bedroom. My kid doesn’t care, so I didn’t worry about it.
Almost there! How easy is this?!
Step 3: Assemble the bottom
Now this is where you can get really finicky and fancy. I simply needed a bottom to hold rocks, crickets, worms, water, vitamins and extra foliage. If you plan on using your cabinet for books or heavier materials, I would recommend plywood for the bottom.
You want to level your L brackets along the back, side, and front. I added a center beam here as well, so I didn’t have any bowing and could nail the board into place.
I measured and notched out my board for the corners with my
table saw, and slipped it into place, nailing the center with finishing nails once in.
Step 4: Sides and Top
Measure the inside of the cabinet sides, and cut board to size with table saw. You want enough to be able to nail it in place.
I purchased a white panel board for the top, but ended up painting it anyways. Again, a little bit of overlap here is ok. I left just a smidge extra on all sides. Yes smidge is an actual measurement. Nail this in place as well.
Now you will want to fill all the screw and nail holes with wood filler. I purchased one close to the color of my un-painted wood.
Let that dry for a few hours (or what is says on the product you purchase).
Step 5: Finishing Cabinet
Cut doors to size. I wanted about a 1/4″ overlap. Now I will say that I am not 100% pleased with how the doors turned out. First I cut them with Panneling, but it was too thin and flimsy. So I went and got 1/4″ plywood and they work, but I still feel “Meh” about them. I am pondering how to improve them, and may just go purchase two prefabbed doors instead. But I’m on the fence about it.
Cover floor with plastic and paint away! I used Rustoleum painters touch aerosol. Cabinet needed three cans for two coats. I love this product. It went on SO easy! No weird lines, drips or unevenness. Happy customer here. Make sure you paint in a well ventilated area; I had the garage door open while spraying.
Let dry for recommended time. Doors and some edging needed small touch ups, but overall two coats was enough!
Now to assemble your hardware for your doors. Two small piano hinges on each door, a closer latch inside, and I used gorilla glue for the handles. It took a bit of fussing to get the closer latch in just the right space so the door actually caught it, but also wasn’t sticking out too far.
In its new home. I realized after that I didn’t line the handles up to be even! Rookie move, but still serviceable until I decide what to do with the doors in general. Overall I don’t think it’s too shabby for a first run solo building project! What do you guys think? Let me know if you decide to tackle this project for yourself!