I’ve hung cabinets a lot of different ways. With a ledger board screwed to the wall; ganging cabinets together and installing them as a unit; one at a time with a helper; one at a time solo. I never found a system that I really liked. Until I met Greg Soper and his super wicked awesome cabinet jacks.
Greg has been building and installing custom cabinets in North Yarmouth, Maine for going on 25 years. About ten years ago, after a particularly challenging installation, he made this set of cabinet jacks with a couple of bar clamps and some cabinet scraps. Well, okay, there’s a little more to it than that, but it is a fairly simple, inexpensive design.
Each jack is comprised of:
- 3/4″ pipe—15 1/2 inches, threaded one end
- Pipe clamps
- 3/4″ plywood—22 1/2″ x 5 1/2″, 4″ x 10″
- 1/2″ plywood—(2 pcs) 7 3/4″ x 10″
- 1 1/8″ hardwood—(2 pcs) 3 1/4″ x 10″
- 1/2″ hardwood cleats—(2 pcs) 3/4″ x 18 1/2″
- 3/4″ pipe flange
- 1/4″ steel—3/4″ x 9 7/8″
- 1/2″ UHMW-PE—-3/4″ x 9 7/8″
- 2 1/4″ latch
- Drywall screws
|The UHMW-PE is friction-fit into the dado and can be adjusted using set screws. This ensures a snug channel in which the pipe clamp sits.|
|After the set screws are adjusted, the UHMW-PE is snapped into place.|
|The bar clamp is then inserted into the jack.|
|And we’re ready for some lifting!|
This may start a firestorm of debate, but Greg finds it easiest to set his base cabinets before his uppers. He then places his jacks on the level bases, lifts his upper cabinets onto the jacks, and raises them into position.
One of the driving forces in Greg’s design was the weight of his large, custom boxes. He hated lifting those behemoths up and down as he scribed them to fit perfectly. So, he sought to eliminate the need to take each cabinet down to the ground in order to plane it to fit wall variations. He figured that if he made the jacks sturdy enough, he could do the alterations with the cabinet in place. Lift it once, scribe it, plane it, and screw it to the wall. Then it’s on to the next beast.
Greg designs all of his cabinets with a 1/4″ scribe to accommodate wall undulations. In order to make this fitting easier, he rabbets the back edge of his panels so that he only has 1/4″ of material to remove at the scribe locations. After plumbing and leveling the cabinet on the jacks, he pivots it away from the wall just enough so that he can use his backsaw to cut away the bulk of the material. He then uses a low-angle block plane to finish the scribe.
Greg designed his jacks for use with his unwieldy custom cabinets, but also uses them to install stock cabinetry. They work great and eliminate the need for a helper on many installs. So, whether you are a custom cabinet maker installing hundred pound boxes, or a trim carpenter hanging a bunch of 24/30s, I think you will find these jacks a great addition to your arsenal.
(Video: Blackfly Media. Photography by Trudy and Ben O’Connell.)
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Ben O’Connell landed in carpentry when, at the age of 24, he realized he’d better hurry up and learn a useful trade. After four years of production trim work in upstate NY, he headed for Portland, Maine, where he knew he wanted to be. He soon bought a fixer-upper, found the woman of his dreams, and started his own business. Sounds like a perfect story, but then the bubble burst, and carpentry became less awesome and more stressful.
After some soul searching, Ben decided to call it a day and move on to the next interesting career. Ben and his wife, Ana, recently opened a catering business featuring Ana’s recipes from Spain and the Basque country. As a final project in his carpentry education, Ben built a food cart, which he operates on the streets of Portland.
When he isn’t schmoozing on the streets, Ben enjoys carpentry, golf, and hangin’ with the band.