The Quickest and Most Consistent Way to Install Cabinet Hardware

Last Updated:  July 2, 2021

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So, you spend all of that time building or refinishing a set of cabinets and now you’re faced with 7000 handles that have to be put on…each one measured and placed, evenly. Have no fear, I’m going to show you both how to manually install a handle and then make a ridiculously simple jig based on that installation that will let you fly through the rest of the handles.

Manual Handle Install

We start by installing our handle straight and even in the position we want it. This will act as a template for the jig, as well. Carefully measure the distance between the threaded ends of the handle. This is the distance between the holes you will drill.

I like to put masking tape across the face of the drawer (so I don’t mark all over the drawer, itself). Find and mark the center of the drawer front, both, along the width and the length.

Now, measure out from that centerline, both left and right, half the distance you just measured on the handle, and make a mark. The center of your handle goes right on the centerline of the drawer face (assuming you’re mounting the handle dead-center).

Measure down from the top of the drawer at each mark and make another mark creating a crosshair. You should now have a mark for both the width and length locations crossing each other at the exact point the hole should be drilled.

If you aren’t using a brad point drill bit (a bit with a point on the end), then use an awl to start each hole. Regular twist bits have a flatter end, tend to “skate” around before digging in, and can be inaccurate.

Drill each hole without using too much pressure. Let the bit do the work and prevent tear out on the backside.

Many times the bolts that come with the handle will have sections. These are meant to be cut at a given section depending on the length you need and avoid tearing up the threads. Otherwise, they should come with two different sizes of bolts.

Making the Drawer Jig

This jig can be made from nearly any scrap wood you can find. I’ve used all different thicknesses and types. In the video above, I used some scrap 3/4” plywood I had laying around.

We’ll make the drawer jig first. The front piece should be wide enough and long enough to hang from the top of the drawer and spread across the area where the handle will be installed on the longest drawer you have.

Cut a 1 1/2” strip and glue it to the top to act as a “shoe” that will register on the top of the drawer front. The parts are glued and nailed in place. Make sure the edge of the shoe is flush with the edge of the face so that the jig will have enough depth to register on the drawer and still hang down.

Measure and mark the center of the jig. This mark will line up with a mark you make on the center of each drawer. Once those marks are lined up, you know the jig is in position.

Put the jig in place on the drawer you previously drilled holes in and secure it. You can clamp it in place or just hold it firmly, but make sure it doesn’t move around. Drill through the holes from the back into the jig.

This technique will allow you to use the jig for multiple different sizes. I marked over each set of holes with a different colored marker to differentiate between them and avoid getting confused.

Now, you’re ready to use the jig on the remaining drawers. Simply measure the center of the drawer and make a light mark on top of the drawer front, put the jig in place, and carefully drill the holes.

Making the Door Jig

The door jig is made in much the same way, but with different measurements. Follow the same process as above to manually install the first handle.

The door jig will have the same 1 1/2” shoe that registers on the edge of the door, but it also has a shoe that registers on the bottom. This allows the door jig to quickly hook onto the corner of the door and leave no doubt about its correct position. I made the face of the jig 2 1/4” wide to cover the width of the face frame and all of the pieces are flush on the outer face. I assembled the door jig together with glue and brad nails.

I made two door jigs, one for right swinging and one for left swinging. You don’t have to do it this way since one jig can simply be flipped around and drilled from the backside on the opposite swinging door. I was having trouble with tear out on the drawers, so I made both since they’re so easy. I ended up not having trouble with tear out on the solid wood doors, so one jig would work just fine. I drilled holes for two different sizes of door handle into the door jig, as well.

The jig works the same way for lower doors as it does for the upper. Turn it upside down and hook it on the top corner of the lower door.

This is one of those extremely quick and straight-forward jigs that can save you hours of time. Reading about how to do this can be confusing, so watch the video for a more illustrative tutorial.


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