Upper Cabinets

At last a requested and long promised post.  And I'll admit it's a little longer then usual.  I did my best to explain everything and tried to find as many of the process images as I could.  These cabinets were a first run of trial and error and are not perfect by any means, but I do believe can be made very nicely now with the method outlined below.  The best part is the magnetic fronts are totally removable.

Part 1: Assemble the Frame fronts.
Decide on your measurements, according to your kitchen scale and layout.  Then sketch out a possible design.

I attached several different pieces of trim and wood strips to a piece of Clear Sheet Styrene 0.015" (0.4mm) thick, using craft glue. Simply apply glue and create your design.
(As I explain later in detail, next time I would try wax paper instead of the styrene as a gluing surface for the beginning assembly and remove after painting).
This double door was 3x3 inches, each single cabinet "door" was 1.5".

 I decided to add mullions. I drew out my shape and placed it underneath the plastic, using it as a guide.

Part 2: Finishing Frame Fronts
I sealed with extra glue (both craft and crazy) on top to strengthen the connecting ends and finished with a coat of white paint using a small brush.
...there is one problem with this method... no matter how hard I tried, it got really really messy
It left behind extra glue and paint on the 'panes'.  

So, rather then spend hours cleaning them off, I pulled off the plastic backing so that I could replace it with new clean sheets.
(It only broke in a few spots, whew!)
 I also used this opportunity to spray paint the open frames and get an even finish (kind of wish I hadn't though, the paint got really thick).
And finally, I cut away any extra glue or paint before adding on the new sheet of plastic on the back with some craft glue at each corner.
***Note: next time I might try wax paper or tissue paper to glue together the frame pieces in Part 1.  Then peel it off and add the plastic only once at the end when the glue has dried and the frames are assembled in their design.***

Part 3: Upper Cabinet Base with Shelves
Below shows the cabinet made from 3/32 basswood with removable shelves. I placed the shelves on tiny pieces of wood, making them removable. (Ignore the hinges, they didn't work)
For my shelves I chose transparent plastic so that the light would shine from top to bottom.  I got the plastic as a sample from Home Depot, read more about that here.
Make sure your shelves line up with the front panels.

Part 4: Using Magnets to Attach the Front.  
I found magnets performed better then the hinges I found.  I used Tiny Craft Hobby Neodymium Rare Earth Super Magnets 1/8 x 1/16 in (3mm x 1.5mm).  First: notch out a space on the top and bottom big enough for two magnets.
 Attach one magnet to the cabinet base.
And one to the door.  Matching the placement, so that they line up.

Part 5: Lighting
  I choose to add small LED lights now.  One at the top inside, and one underneath to light the countertops below.  I also added trim to the bottom to hide the led.

Part 6: Finishing.
Now the fronts should be easy to take off and put back on. Allowing for easy changes.  The doors however will appear to have a gap around the edges, this is the thin piece of plastic attached the the wood trim on the fronts.

To fix this I added a second layer of 1/16 basswood around the top and two sides.  This was to hide any imperfections and to create a flush front.

The extra outer layer is higher then the original cabinet to accommodate the door front.
 The front is now flush.
It also gives space to add additional moulding to the top, if I choose.
Personally, I am debating whether to re-do a few of the front panels.  I really wish I had never spray painted them, it got too thick and I think it shows.  That said I am super proud of my first attempt!

A very long post indeed!  I hope this helps some of you design your own upper cabinets.  I had lots of trouble trying to research how to build and design opening ones. Next time I'll outline the bottom ones (much much easier :) )  Good night!


  1. Thank you for the post, it was great to see how you did the cabinets. I always wondered if the doors were hinged or glued in place. Great idea with the magnets =0) You did a fab job with it all...very effective.

  2. Yes, indeed it was a long post ;)......but it is a very good one and it was very interesting to read all things you have tried and done. I didn't suspect that the doors could open too, how fantastic, that it worked with the magnets!
    I have looked for a long time for these very tiny magnets, but I still haven't find them here in The Netherlands.
    Thank you for sharing this post, Kristine!
    Have a nice weekend.

    1. Hi Ilona, I'm glad you enjoyed it :) I just wanted to let you know that I tried a search on the Netherlands' Ebay.nl and I found a few sellers for "Earth Super Magnets". The ones I purchased were 3x1.5mm size. They are amazingly effective, and I don't think one brand will differ from another. I hope that helps, they have a lot of possibilities. Enjoy your weekend as well!

  3. Hi Kristine! Your cabinets are Super and how very clever to use the magnets to secure the glass front! Miniaturists are so amazing in how they come up with creative and effective solutions. As first attempts at cupboards these are soooo good and you have really made them special with your clever use of lighting! Also, I think that using the wax paper as you suggested is a good idea but paint will often stick to it too and it may not release as easily as the acetate did. Test drive an experimental item just so that you don't have any regrets. I love your work! :D


    1. Thank you Elizabeth! I'll remember your tip about the wax paper and test it out first! I'm very pleased with the way the magnets worked out too, it was hard to find small enough ones that would stay hidden behind. But so worth it! :)

  4. Your lit cabinets look really effective and the use of magnets is a great idea. I use wax paper all the time and find it good but too much paint will stick to it although it is easy to peel off and you can touch it up if necessary. I often find a couple of thinner coats on things is better than thicker coats. I think it is all about experimenting and working out methods that suit you.

  5. What size pieces of wood were used for the cabinet doors.Refering to the strips of wood. Did u purchase these or cut them yourself. Please help. These are my dream cabinets for my dollhouse. Thanks

  6. That's very clever to use magnets to attach them. I find hinges difficult. Thanks so much for this great post.


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