How to Use a Scribing Tool

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Cabinetmakers use scribing tools when installing cabinets on rock walls, composite walls or walls that are not square. A scribing tool is similar to a small hand-held compass but instead of a sharp tip on one side like a compass, it has a blunt tip. Scribe tools are very simple. They transfer the shape of any wall to the side of the cabinet. After the cabinet is scribed, the installer then cuts the cabinet into the shape of the wall with a saw, using the scribed lines.

Things You'll Need

  • New cabinets
  • Circular saw
  • Place the cabinet in place where it is to be installed. Prop it up or have an assistant hold it in place if it is an upper cabinet.

  • Place a level on the cabinet. Level it by inserting small shims behind the cabinet where you need them to bring the cabinet into level.

  • Open the scribing tool 1/4-inch from the blunt tip to the pencil. Start at the top of the cabinet where it touches the wall. Hold the scribing tool with your fingers by the center. Place the pencil side of the tool on the cabinet with the blunt side of the tool touching the wall.

  • Slide the scribing tool down the wall as it is touching the wall and the cabinet at the same time. You should be drawing a line vertically down the side of the cabinet, 1/4 inch from the back edge of the cabinet. If you are following rocks such as a fireplace or rock wall, let the blunt tip of the scribe tool follow the profile of the rocks as it transfers the design to the cabinet through the pencil.

  • Check the pencil line before removing the cabinet. If not clear and easy to see,

    rescribe it until it is easy to follow.

  • Lay the cabinet on its side and cut along the scribed line with a circular saw. If the cabinet doesn't fit. Scribe it again, taking off tiny amounts until it does.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can also open the scribe tool up if you have walls that are severely out-of-square, or rocks that protrude out farther. If your walls are almost square, close the scribe tool. Adjust accordingly depending on your walls.
  • Always wear safety glasses when working with cabinets.
  • Photo Credit David Sacks/Lifesize/Getty Images
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