How to Build Rustic Kitchen Cabinets from Scratch

Rustic wood cabinets can transform your kitchen space into a cozy haven with their handcrafted charm and warm tones. They have the ability to add that timeless appeal to the heart of your house. However, kitchen renovation can be a costly project unless you plan to do it yourself.

If you’re familiar with such projects and have the right tools, crafting your own kitchen cabinets is possible. All you need to do is gather your tools, put your carpenter’s hat on, and learn how to build rustic kitchen cabinets.

In this article, we walk you step by step to make your special DIY project come to life. So, keep reading!

Step #1: Planning and Preparation

Hand Holding Construction Tools, How To Build Rustic Kitchen Cabinets

Firstly, you need to start with a solid plan, especially since it’s a bit of a large-scale project. So, make sure to take accurate measurements and prepare all the needed tools beforehand.

Moreover, record the precise dimensions of the area where you’re going to install the cabinets. That’s because any irregularities in the walls, floor, or ceiling can affect the final alignment of the cabinets.

Additionally, consider factors such as the number of cabinets, their placement, and any unique features you want to incorporate.

Measuring: Standard Kitchen Sizes

In general, there are a few standard sizes to keep in mind while building kitchen cabinets. For example, base cabinets are usually 36 inches tall, including the countertop, which is the standard height for kitchen appliances.

As for the depth, it should be around 24 inches for base cabinets and 12 inches for upper cabinets. That said, there’s no standard height for upper cabinets, but they’re commonly about 30 inches tall.

Materials and Tools Needed

Whether you’re a novice woodworker or have some expertise, it’s never useless to have proper cabinet-making equipment. So, here’s a list of the most essential tools and materials that will help you during your project.

  • The right type of wood (for cabinets’ frames, doors, drawers, etc.)
  • Clamps
  • Table saw
  • Suitable types of saw blades (preferably high quality)
  • Drilling jig
  • Sander
  • Router
  • Scriber
  • Electric drill and drill bits
  • Stapler or nail gun
  • Mortice chisels
  • Measuring tape
  • Screwdrivers and wood screws
  • Hinges
  • Door slides or runners
  • Cabinet handles or knobs (preferably bronze or iron handles to increase the rustic beauty)
  • Hammer
  • Level
  • Safety gear (goggles, gloves, and dust mask)
  • Wood glue
  • Blue tape
  • Paint brushes

Safety Considerations

Whatever project you’re working on, safety comes first. So, before you start any woodworking activity, make sure to take the following precautions:

  • Put on suitable safety gear to protect yourself from potential dangers.
  • Make sure to work in a well-ventilated space with adequate lighting.
  • Familiarize yourself with all the tools and how to use them before you start (follow manufacturer guidelines for safe operation).
  • Keep your hands and clothes away from any moving parts when using power tools (this also applies to long hair).
  • Avoid making adjustments or changing blades while the tool is still connected to the power source.

Step #2: Choosing the Right Wood

Basically, natural wood is only used for visible parts of the cabinet, such as doors, drawers, and cabinet face frames. Other than that, it’s all plywood. That’s because such a material is durable and able to stand the test of time.

So, when it comes to the visible parts, selecting the right type of wood is crucial to achieving the rustic vibe you’re aiming for. Not only does your choice of wood affect the appearance of the kitchen cabinets, but it also influences their durability.

As for the texture, rustic cabinetry rarely has glossy wood finishes. Instead, they’re usually matte and rugged to give the feeling of authenticity.

Construction Worker Installing Kitchen Cabinets

Here are five of our top wood suggestions for building rustic-style kitchen cabinets.

1. Pine

Pine wood is a popular choice of wood with its gorgeous grain patterns, light color scheme, and visible knots that embody rustic appeal. On top of that, it’s an affordable option to consider.

However, the knotty pine isn’t a sturdy type of wood. Although it’s easy to work with due to its softness, it can easily scratch and dent. Therefore, it may require extra care.

2. Reclaimed Wood

To achieve maximum authenticity and depth of character, reclaimed wood might be your savior. It often has a history-rich appeal, with each dent and nail hole telling a story.

Additionally, similar types of wood aren’t available nowadays. That’s because reclaimed timber comes from much older trees with remarkable patinas that are almost impossible to achieve now.

3. Hickory

The visual impact of rustic hickory kitchen cabinets is astonishing and captivating. The natural color variations mixed with the bold grain patterns create a remarkable mixture.

In addition, hickory wood is sturdy, making it resilient against wear and tear. Thus, you can expect your beautiful kitchen with hickory rustic cabinets to remain the same for years to come.

4. Cedar

Cedarwood has distinctive reddish hues that darken over time. Such colors give it a rich appearance to make your rustic kitchen pop. Furthermore, the wood’s swirls and knots give elegance to your cabinets.

What’s more, the unmistakable cedar scent adds a fantastic sensory experience to entering the kitchen.

Step #3: How to Build Rustic Kitchen Cabinets

Now that you have all your tools and materials gathered, it’s time to get to work. During this phase, you’ll see your vision come to life. So, make sure to follow directions carefully for best results.

Building the Cabinet Frame

The cabinet frame is the structural skeleton of the kitchen cabinet to which you attach the drawers, doors, and shelves. Once you assemble the entire cabinet, the frames mostly become hidden from view.

Here’s how to build it.

  1. Begin by cutting the plywood panels for the sides, top, bottom, stretchers, and back of the cabinet (use a table saw to ensure clean cuts).
  2. Make a groove one inch from the end of each vertical plank board to slide in the back of the cabinet.
  3. Assemble the frame using joinery techniques, such as butt joints.
  4. Apply wood glue to the joints for added strength and reinforce them with staples.
  5. Slide the back into the grooves you made earlier.
  6. Fit the stretchers in position and secure them with the stapler.
  7. Drill two holes on each side of the stretchers and drive screws in for extra security.
  8. Repeat the process for the cabinet sides as well.
  9. Cut and install an additional stretcher if you plan to include a drawer for additional storage.
  10. Cut four-inch tall pieces of plywood to create the cabinet’s toe kick (the two side pieces should be about 4.5 inches shorter than the cabinet’s depth).
  11. Drill pocket screws along the edge of each piece.
  12. Staple and screw the four pieces together to make a box.
  13. Secure the toe kick to the base of the cabinet through the pocket screws.
  14. Cut and attach shelf supports within the cabinet frame.
  15. Insert and secure the shelves at your desired height.
  16. Attach a face frame to the front of the cabinet using a pocket hole joinery method (optional).
Kitchen Cabinet Installation During Remodel

Creating Doors and Drawers

The following steps may vary according to the rustic kitchen design you choose, whether it’s barnyard-style, simple plank-style, etc.

Check out the steps for creating kitchen cabinet doors and drawers.

  1. Measure and cut wood panel doors, stiles, and rails to the desired dimensions.
  2. Route the edges of the stiles and rails for a unique look.
  3. Cut the stiles and rails at 45° angles.
  4. Fit them over each door panel, and make sure no extra trimming is required.
  5. Hold the rails and stiles in place using clamps and staple them.
  6. Construct the drawer boxes just like you did with the cabinet frame.
  7. Create the drawer fronts the same way as the cabinet doors.

Installing Hardware

man drilling hole in kitchen cabinet door for handle hardware

Now, it’s time to install the hinges, drawer slides, handles, and knobs. Here are the steps.


  1. Mark the drill pilot holes using the cabinet jig.
  2. Drill holes for the screws.
  3. Screw in the handles.


  1. Flip over the cabinet door to mark the place where you want your hinges to go (preferably three inches from each end).
  2. Place the hinge in its place and use a pencil to trace around it.
  3. Use a router to carve out the shape of the hinge to the desired depth.
  4. Drill and screw the hinges in place.

Drawer Slides

  1. Separate the two parts of the drawer slides.
  2. Attach the smaller part to the drawer box.
  3. Take precise measurements to attach the other part to the inside of the cabinet.
  4. Slide the drawer in place.

Step #4: Adding the Finishing Touches

For the finishing touches, sand all the surfaces of your rustic cabinet. This way, you ensure having a smooth, splinter-free finish. Moreover, you can apply wood stain to enhance the natural appearance.

In addition, for a more weathered or rustic appearance, consider performing some distressing techniques to give that timeworn appeal. You can also apply a top coat to protect the cabinets against daily wear and tear.

Once finished, attach the doors and drawers into place and enjoy your new finished cabinets with the rustic theme.


Crafting your own kitchen cabinets gives you a chance to sharpen your creativity and craftsmanship. Thus, learning how to build rustic kitchen cabinets is the perfect opportunity to do so.

From initial planning and wood selection to the construction process, every step contributes to the creation of your dream rustic cabinets.

All in all, make sure to take safety precautions and test out all the tools before use to ensure a danger-free experience.

Skip to content