How To Build a Custom Dog Kennel

Last Updated:  June 26, 2021

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If you’re going to have a dog kennel it might as well be a beautiful piece of furniture! I didn’t realize finely crafted dog kennels existed until I was shown a picture of a beautifully built kennel and asked if I could create something similar.

This build is a custom piece of fine furniture that is designed for two large dogs. It has two drawers on the outside and the two inside compartments are shelves for electronics with fold down doors.

Building the Face Frame

Start by milling the poplar parts for the face frame. These pieces end up being about 13/16” thick and 1 7/8” wide. The face of the wide poplar boards are flattened at the jointer before putting that face against the fence and jointing the edge. That edge is then placed against the table saw saw fence and the opposite edge ripped parallel.

I decided to cut all of the mortises with the router and I made this jig to keep them consistent. It also makes the job go much quicker. The jig consists of two poplar boards and some scraps to mark the starting and ending point of the router. All of them are glued to a piece of plywood acting as a platform.

Use a dado stack on the table saw and a sled to cut the tenons. Clamping a stop in place on the table saw sled makes the length of the tenons repeatable and consistent across all of the work pieces.

Test the mortis and tenons until you get a good friction fit. They need to be fairly easy to pull apart to allow for glue swelling but tight enough that the joint will stay together when you pick them up.

router jig for cutting mortises
cutting tenons on the table saw

Once all of the pieces are finished, dry fit the whole frame and use a shoulder plane to tune up any joints that fit too tightly.

Clamp each pair of work pieces that will take bars (top and bottom), measuring and drawing their lines at the same time to ensure alignment. Drill all of the holes for the round metal bars at the drill press with a 7/16” bit.

Now, it’s time to work on the metal bars. Use a chop saw to cut them to length and sand the ends at the disc sander to smooth them out.

Remove any oil or grease with mineral spirits to allow the stock to take paint. The bars get several coats of spray paint and clear coat.

drilling holes for the metal bars
cutting metal bars on the chop saw

To fit the side panels, cut a groove into every workpiece that doesn’t get bars, at the table saw. Sneak up on the width of the groove to get a good friction fit.

A piece of poplar, that will become a side panel, is resawn at the bandsaw. This will allow you to make the wood go further and get it to the desired thickness.

Both pieces are run through the planer to make the sides parallel. I milled these panels way too thin and they ended up curling, causing me problems at assembly. I would suggest making the panel about 1/3 the thickness of the frame.

The panels are fit into the grooves of each face frame piece. Because of the bad curling I had to fight with them, but I was ultimately able to get them to fit.

The front and side face frames will be joined with opposing rabbet joints and they are cut at the router. This was the best way to give the frames plenty of edge grain for glue surface. It ended up being very strong.

The back of the side frames gets a wider rabbet to fit the rear ship lap.

The bottom of the kennel will be one piece of plywood. I use the circular saw to cut the bottom to length.

Attaching the Face Frame to the Base

The 3 frames are dry fit and held together with clamps. Dry fitting seems like it takes a bit longer but it ends saving an enormous amount of time by minimizing mistakes.

After laminating the shelves, they were too wide for my planer so I flatten each side with a hand plane.

Then, TIME TO SAND! Thoroughly sand every piece with a random orbit sander, starting with 100 grit and using 220 grit on the second pass.

Take the time to glue up the 3 sides. The order of assembly was really tricky with this project. I had to balance the need to minimize the parts being glued up at the same time with not boxing myself into a corner. I ended up gluing the major sections before gluing them to the base and each other.

The frames are glued and screwed to the bottom piece and to each other. I used about 35 clamps for this part and still needed more.

Use the miter saw to cut each side of the feet at a 20 degree angle.

The feet get glued and screwed to the base in an evenly spread out formation.

assembling the face frame to the base
attaching the feet to the base

After cutting shiplap joints in each back piece, I fit them into the rabbet joints and the back side of the side pieces. They are glued and I shoot brad nails to keep them in place.

At the table saw, tilt the blade and cut 45 degree miters on the trim pieces.

The trim gets attached with glue and a brad nailer.

assembling the shiplap back pieces
attaching the base trim

Painting the Base

Use a spray gun to paint primer on the kennel.

After the first coat of primer thoroughly sand the whole kennel with 220 grit sandpaper on the random orbit sander.

Spray 2 coats of a milk paint. Milk paint is not the greatest liquid to spray with an HVLP. I had to really fiddle with the settings to get a setup that would work. It was slow, but I eventually laid down a nice, even coat.

Building Drawers and Shelves

The main body assembly is finished up by installing the shelf dividers and drawer cleats with pocket screws.

Use the table saw to cut a rabbet joint into each end of the drawer pieces. Rabbets are a great joint that is easy to cut with the right tools.

Cut a slot about 1/2 inch from the bottom of each drawer piece and slide a 1/4” piece of plywood for the bottom. The drawers are assembled with glue and screws.

The drawers are mounted to the drawer slides using this drawer slide Kreg jig.

Trim the drawer face sides with a hand plane, as needed. I like a 1/16” gap all around the drawer front.

To get an even gap all around the drawer face I use playing cards. My preferred method, when I have the room, is to clamp the drawer fronts in place once I have the right spacing and size and then drive two screws in the correct alignment for the eventual drawer handle.

Use this hinge jig to drill the holes for the hinges in the back of the 2 middle drawer faces. This jig makes installing these cup hinges almost foolproof.

The hinges are installed and adjusted.

Use a chisel to cut the mortises in the doors. I don’t have a leg vise, and it was difficult to mount the door in my bench vise. I was able to get it sturdy enough to work on and the chiseling went along without issue.

Holding the doors up to the base, mark the location of the mortises with a marking knife.

attaching the drawers and drawer slides
using playing cards to position and attach the drawer fronts

Building the Top

The top is cut to length with the circular saw and a track saw attachment.

Use enough clamps and braces to keep the top even and flat during glue up. Use hardwood cauls covered in tape to aid in putting even pressure across a wide surface.

Use the random orbit sander to sand the top thoroughly with 100 grit followed by 220 grit using slow, even passes.

Trim the sides on the table saw to even them up.

The edges of the top are rounded over with a trim router.

Spray the base with 3 coats of water based polyurethane. Water borne poly is another liquid that isn’t great to spray with an HVLP. But, it can be done with the right setup.

The top gets 3 coats of oil based polyurethane which is much easier to spray.

Using a forstner bit, cut a shallow hole for the figure 8 fasteners. These fasteners need to have room to swivel back and forth. Attach the top by drilling the screws underneath through the fasteners.

clamping up the top
spraying finish on the top

Usually, larger projects – and this one is HUGE – are less complicated than smaller, intricate builds. But, a combination of making it up as I went along and all the parts that went into this thing – made this a months-long build.

I’m happy with the way it turned out and the client is too. I don’t think I would ever build another, but it’s one of those projects that taught me a lot about solving problems.

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