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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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.
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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.
Great job, Ben! Thanks for a contributing a cool story and a awesome wicked video! And my thanks to Greg, too! :)
Thanks, Gary! It was a lot of fun.
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…
i like these jacks Ben! Thanks! But Greg’s not old… :)
I like those… but don’t you hang the upper first?
and ditto to Dave P’s comment… Greg’s not that old.
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.
Hey Ben & Greg , Love it , makin’ em tomorrow. What band?
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.
Look on the Net for Cigar Box Guitars an you will learn how to make your own Bass.
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!
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!
I have the short and long sets of 3rd Hand. They are ok for what they do but adjusting down is a challange. These look like they would be more stable as well. I’m planning to make a set this weekend and take them out on the next job. THANKS for sharing.
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.)
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!
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!
SUPAH WICKIT AWESOME(PISSAH)!!!! If you were from New England. I have been looking for cabinet jacks that would actually work. Thanks–Mike
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!
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.
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!!
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)
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.
It’s in a the article. At the end. Before the Bio.
That’s a Wicked Awesome video!
Nice job Ben simple and elegant!
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″?
Check out pictures 8 and 9 in the article. The UHMW-PE is the plastic. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultra-high-molecular-weight_polyethylene
I loved this video! I think this could be the beginning of a series of greg’s how-to videos.
Just watched the video… didn’t see it the first time though. I agree, it’s a great addition to the article!
It’s always sad to lose a fellow craftsman.
Good luck with everything mate.
Ok, THAT’S wicked awesome! Thanks for an excellent article. The video made it totally clear.
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?
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!
Are there a set of plans to build my own set?
How do I go about getting the plan to build the cabinet jack
Please send plans to build cabinet jack!!
Sorry, no plans available, but if you look at the pictures and compare with the material list, you should be able to figure out the assembly. Good luck!
Greg, amazing idea!
Do you build the Jacks for purchase or consider doing so?
Where does one find these type of Bar Clamps ( pass through style), all I find are the blind end style.
Do a Google search for “deep reach pipe clamps.” The clamps used in this article are Pony #56, but several other manufactures make them.
Be great if their links on their site actually worked! Search don’t work, search by brands didn’t work… Frustrating. Every site I found these Pony clamps on are out! I have the jacks built but missing this piece of the jack, otherwise it’s a nice project and tool.
It’s too bad that Pony closed up shop. You can probably find some used clamps online, but maybe more cost effective to use a similar clamp like these from Irwin:
I did some digging and it appears that Pony Tools has gone out of business!! That would explain why all of the vendors seem to be out of stock.
The Bessey version looks to be identical and should work just fine. Here is the link again:
Hey I enjoyed seeing the video and wondering if the jacks are sold anywhere or plans to build.
1. You specify 3/4 x 4 x 10 but this does not appear to match anything in your photo. Where is this piece used
2. You specify steel and UHMW-PE at 9 7/8′. However the hardwood is specified at 9 7/8. I assume that based on the photo the hardboard is a horz piece between the 1/2 inch plywood, meaning the vertical dim on the 1/2 is 7 3/4 inch.
Why then would the vertical pcs of the steel and UHMW be 9 7/8″?