Custom Closet Basics

Entry-level info on custom closets for a cabinetmaker who is unfamiliar with that kind of work. July 28, 2012

I good client wants me to do build a couple of custom closets in his new house. I expressed to him I'm not really best suited for the job and haven't done closets before (we do commercial work, and some residential cabinetry). Can anyone point me in the right direction to learn about some common hardware and methods as far as hanging and assembly goes? I'm looking for a good method of putting verticals on the wall every 30" without making boxes, leaving a single 3/4 partition between spaces instead of two 3/4 sides against each other like our cabinets. We don't have any edge boring equipment but do use eCabinets with our Thermwood.

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor E:
We don't do closets either, but we do some panel processing for a couple of local closet guys on our CNC machine. Closets aren't like cabinets since they're just a collection of panels that get assembled on the job. The guys we cut for use some type of cam-lock fastener like Titus or the Rafix system from Hafele. They consist of a pin that uses shelf holes and a cam-locking device that is pressed into a machined pocket. It's good that you have a CNC machine, because the location of the machining for the fittings is critical.

End panels can be drilled half-depth for shelves; drill shared partitions all the way through. You can use a "fixed shelf", utilizing the cam-lock fittings, to knit your 30" sections together. It can be a top and a bottom panel, for example. A hanging rail system is a pretty typical method for installing, since most closet systems don't sit on the floor. Once you get the machining steps down it's pretty easy.

From contributor U:
Forty percent of our business is custom closets. We do some completely in our shop and some we bring in from a supplier. If this is a one-time deal, I would seriously consider buying the components pre-cut and drilled, ready for the hardware. Our supplier does everything to my specs and even helps with designs and guiding me when he is aware of something I miss. For you to have a learning experience doing the design, the making of the units and at the install might make this unfeasible. It certainly would slow the entire process while you have to figure all these things out. If you order the units in and learn what you need to, and want to start making them in the future, the experience and knowledge gained will be invaluable. If you decide you do want to build these units, I will be glad to provide more assistance with any questions.

One thing to consider, a good supplier with the right equipment can process closet components and deliver them for less than we can buy the goods and provide the labor to do the drilling and edgebanding. You may find this to be true for you, especially on a first time order.