Subscribe to RSS Feed
Subscribe to TIC

Super Wicked Awesome Cabinet Jacks

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.

(Note: Click any image to enlarge. Hit "back" button to return to article.)

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 jacks nest together for transport, with the clamps cradled and secured by their own weight.
Casement latches lock the two jacks together for transport and storage, one latch at each end.
Keep the jacks horizontal when transporting, as the bar clamps are only held in place by gravity.
To use the jacks, first remove the clamps from the cradles.
Then unlatch and separate the jacks.
The rail strips on the base of each jack help secure the jacks in a single package for transport.
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.

Greg is always finding new ways to use his jacks to save his back.

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.

With the jacks adjusted to approximately the right height, the cabinet is lifted into position.
The jacks are adjusted and the cabinet is shimmed away from the wall, so it sits level and plumb.
Greg anticipates the wonky walls of an old house, so he designs all his visible panels with room for scribing.
After marking his scribe line, Greg pulls the cabinet away from the wall and uses a backsaw to cut close to his line.
He then finishes with a low-angle block plane.
The cabinet now fits tight to the wall and is ready for final installation.

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.)

. . .

THISisSafety

Please don’t try anything you see in THISisCarpentry, or anywhere else for that matter, unless you’re completely certain that you can do it safely.

. . .

AUTHOR BIO

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.

Comments/Discussion

32 Responses to “Super Wicked Awesome Cabinet Jacks”

  1. Gary Katz

    Great job, Ben! Thanks for a contributing a cool story and a awesome wicked video! And my thanks to Greg, too! :)
    Gary

    Reply
    • Greg soper

      Thank you all for the feedback. I like solving problems and making my work more efficient. Sometimes I land on something right away, sometimes, like this one, it takes a few tries. Any more suggestions just write them on the back of a $50 bill…

      Reply
  2. dave parker

    i like these jacks Ben! Thanks! But Greg’s not old… :)

    Reply
  3. David Tuttle

    I like those… but don’t you hang the upper first?

    and ditto to Dave P’s comment… Greg’s not that old.

    Reply
    • Ben O'Connell

      I know Greg isn’t actually old . . . I just like giving him a hard time! He would ski me off the slopes any day!

      As far as setting the uppers first goes–yeah, I know that´s how a lot of folks do it, but this system works well for Greg. Timelines are often very tight by the time Greg shows up, so one of the benefits of setting the bases first is that the countertops can be templated.

      Glad you like the jacks. Simple, but very effective.

      –Ben

      Reply
    • Ben O'Connell

      No name yet for the band. Just good times with great friends on Friday nights in a dingy basement. I’m learning the electric bass.

      –Ben

      Reply
  4. Jesse Wright

    Yeah THOSE ARE AWESOME! Great video as well!
    I also like to set my bases first then rough top them so I have a place to set tools and even sometimes stand on them for installing uppers and running crown etc. These Jacks are great. I was going to buy those short cabinet size “3rd hand” from fast cap. But these look like they may be better!

    Thanks for the article. Great Job!

    Reply
    • Ben O'Connell

      Jesse,
      I bought one of the small Third Hand lifts a few years back and broke the lever handle the second time I used it. I was probably cranking on it a little too hard, but still . . . Some things just shouldn’t be made of plastic.

      That video was a lot of fun! My best buddy Jay is an award winning photo journalist and was kind enough to do this project for nothing. It’s good to have friends!

      –Ben

      Reply
  5. Mike Hawkins

    To each his own I guess. I hang a lot of cabinets and always found in much easier to hang the uppers first. I bought a Gil Lift cabinet jack years ago and it paid for itself in the first job. I too work alone much of the time. A gil lift isn’t that expensive, is made out of aluminum, comes apart and also includes a separate base for use to set on a countertop if you have to remove or install an upper after the lowers are in. It has wheels so you can use the base for moving large cabinets around. I haven’t seen anything better or easier. Just my .04(no inflation, just anticipating devaluation coming.)
    Mike Hawkins

    Reply
    • Ray Menard

      I applaud the ingenuity & craftsmanship of my fellow Mainah, but I’m in the uppers first camp. Like Mike Hawkins, I love the Gil Lift. You can gang a wall full of uppers (even include the corner cab) on the floor then without any help (truly, no help) easily, safely, & calmly lift the entire assembly into place. Need some scribing? Wheel it away from the wall, bring it to a comfortable work height and do as you need to do. After the cabs are in you can use the Gil Lift as a rolling tool station along side your ladder as you set shelves & adjust doors etc. Meanwhile the base cabs are safely out of the way and not being dinged up or filled with debris.

      I know there are some job sites where it’s push push on the schedule and c-top folks need weeks or months from template to delivery but fortunately for me, at least, that’s a factor that hasn’t been much of an issue. My clients & fellow builders have accepted the merits of the ease & safety of the uppers first theory & don’t begrudge allowing me the two or three or four days needed on the front end. I believe it saves money because it’s a more efficient process. And that my 4¢.

      Still, good on ya’ Greg. Those supports are nice work!

      Reply
      • Rick S

        I also install uppers first for many reasons. When the bases are not in my way I can reach to screw in the uppers without a ladder (7ft)or just a one-step stool (8ft). I can also stand under my uppers to clamp the face or eruo box and screw the sides together. Crown and scribing is faster without bases in the way.
        On many commericial jobs, there are attachment issues for the base cabinets, shot down or torque bolt down with inspections, so I attach my seperate bases and call for inpestion, While waiting I install my uppers, and have grown acustommed to doing them before the base cabinets.
        I have instructed delivery personel to spread my cabinets so I can install bases first. Once you used a french cleat you will never go back!

        Reply
  6. Mike M

    SUPAH WICKIT AWESOME(PISSAH)!!!! If you were from New England. I have been looking for cabinet jacks that would actually work. Thanks–Mike

    Reply
  7. Scott W

    I like the enginuity, but then I also like even greater simplicity. I, too, am a subscriber to the installing the base cabinets first and uppers second; if you do a good job with the base cabinets, the uppers are a snap!
    I make my base cabinets with a full top rather than stretchers, which allows me to make simple T-shaped supports to hold up the uppers. Just make them right to size for the space between the base and uppers (accounting for the countertop), and if you installed the base cabinets level, the uppers will be just right. I make the T’s large enough to be able to move the uppers around for scribing, and they are only screwed together to make removal easier. They can be made out of scrap particle board or plywood, and can be re-used if you have a common spacing, or put back in the scrap bin when done.
    As for uppers that are a different height (like above a vent hood or fridge), just set the adjacent uppers on the T’s, and clamp the oddball units to the standard height.
    It’s great to see people on this website looking for creative solutions and common sense approaches. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  8. Joe Stoddard

    Cabinet jack story was great – now let’s hear more about the food cart. I’ve been to Portland quite a few times- and those carts are where you find the best lunch and etc.

    Reply
  9. Don Kerkhan

    Nice work Greg. How about some more articles and videos showing your cabinet making techniques, design ideas, joining methods, layout tips, cabinet door making, shop layout, etc. I know you have a lot to share and I, for one, would like you to share more!!

    Reply
  10. Teeg Merchant

    Most excellent lifts. I’m currently using some cheese log brand jacks when needed- at least the end plates are removable for storage in the van. When it is practical, I like to build uppers with a french cleat system which also provides an ample rear edge to scribe. The downside is the 1″ or so loss of interior depth. In regards to lowers or uppers first-lowers for ever so many reasons as mentioned by others. If you are concerned about scuffing them up, buy a pack of painters drops and use with some scrap drywall as a counter (cut it a bit deeper than the case)
    TGM

    Reply
  11. Jim Hough

    Great Idea! I too have the 3rd hand jack and they broke the 2nd time that I used them. The pony jack system looks very solid. I will be building a set for myself.

    Thanks Greg

    Reply
  12. Greg Gibbons

    You speak of a video, please direct, as I can’t locate it.

    Reply
    • Gary Katz

      It’s in a the article. At the end. Before the Bio.
      Gary

      Reply
  13. Bill Steinke (Poppawoody)

    Two questions: Where are the •1/4″ steel—3/4″ x 9 7/8″, used?
    What is: •1/2″ UHMW-PE—-3/4″ x 9 7/8″?
    Poppawoody,

    Reply
  14. Lorraine Ruvich

    I loved this video! I think this could be the beginning of a series of greg’s how-to videos.

    Reply
    • Ben

      Just watched the video… didn’t see it the first time though. I agree, it’s a great addition to the article!

      Reply
  15. Kevin

    It’s always sad to lose a fellow craftsman.
    Good luck with everything mate.

    Reply
  16. tmd

    Ok, THAT’S wicked awesome! Thanks for an excellent article. The video made it totally clear.

    Reply
  17. DWB

    So I see the 1/4″ steel strip and it goes in the 3/4″ dado, but I don’t know why and the UHMW-PE goes on the other side but why and how is it installed? And this is where the pipe goes?

    Reply
  18. Chris

    I just wanted to thank you for posting this article. Traditionally I’ve been an uppers first sort of fellow, but due to scheduling, I don’t always get my way and I don’t always have a helper. I made these with some scraps. I skipped the steel and plastic. They frankly seemed to complicate matters. I have been using them on a current install. They are AWESOME! In fact I’m going to make a second set. Again, thanks!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Please note: Your first comment will be held for moderation/review by our staff before it appears. After you have one comment approved, all of your subsequent comments will appear immediately. Read our comment policy for more information.

Heads up! You are attempting to upload an invalid image. If saved, this image will not display with your comment.