How to Scribe IKEA Cabinets


March 20, 2014 by Sarah

Let me tell you how to scribe IKEA cabinets to the walls to actually make them look like legit cabinets and not just big ass boxes attached to the walls…

how to scribe ikea cabinets

I have been avoiding this little mini-project for some time now, but a fire was lit under my ass (*threats from husband*) so I finally got it done. 🙂

Of course, we started off with just a few lonely cabinets approximately 3 inch away from the walls to account for the doors to open fully without smacking into the wall (IKEA recommends at least 2 inches).

ikea cabinets

Once the cabinets were in place I started working on the light rail molding.  This is a small molding that I attached to the bottom of the cabinets to hide the undercabinet lighting.

Update:  We got the undercabinet lighting, including the transformers and dimmers at Home Depot. Check it out here.

undercabinet LED light rail

I picked a 1 3/4 wide poplar molding for this so it would hide the transformer and dimmer.

led undercabinet lighting transformer

Side bar: Poplar is the best wood for painted moldings. It does not have a strong grain, it has very few knots and it takes the paint exceptionally well–which is why I also ordered the cabinet doors in poplar.

I made “L” brackets essentially and screwed through the trim underneath the cabinet so the fasteners would be unseen. I have seen people use actual metal L brackets for this, but I decided on this route since the LED lighting strip would attach directly to the trim.

light rail

I used a pre-primed for this and it will get a coat or 2 of paint later on.

For the sides of the cabinets I used filler strips that I made out of stock unprimed poplar.

trimmed cabinets

Side bar: Menards just started carrying nominal primed poplar boards in the past couple weeks, but I for some reason didn’t buy them out of habit and I wish I would have, uuuggghhhh damnit, priming is just the worst.

The walls were uneven (surprise, surprise) so I have to scribe the wood to the wall so it would fit perfectly. Normally, in the past I would have just cut it a bit small, filled in the gap with caulk, and called it macaroni; however, I was channeling my inner Norm Abram and decided to actually do this properly.

I started out my holding the piece of wood up to the wall and cabinet making sure that it was completely plumb with the cabinet–the amount of cabinet frame showing at the top and bottom (along side the trim) should be the same.

how to scribe trim

Then I reached up to the top of the cabinet, measured and set a compass to the width of the overlap of the trim on the cabinet, about .5 inch in this case.

Then without moving the board I drew a line down the board while making sure to keep the pointy side of the compass against the wall. This will transfer all the irregularities from the wall to the board for a nice snug fit.

scribing trim

After the line was drawn, I used my mini circular saw to cut the board following the line. You could use a table saw too but I don’t have one here (rookie).

cutting scribed trim

Make sure to cut up close to the line but not on it and definitely don’t cut it off or trust me you will be pissed.

I then used a small hand planer I had lying around to fine-tune the cut right up to the line perfectly.

hand planer

You could save some time and use a belt sander, but I didn’t want all the dust and it really didn’t take that much longer.

scribed cabinet trim

BOOM!  The fit is amazing. Only the tiniest bit of caulk will be needed to seal that edge.

I attached freshly cut boards to the cabinets with some trim nails and a few screws.

scribed cabinet

Around the top of the cabinets I used some 1×4 poplar boards to fill in the space up to the ceiling and give the crown molding and side panels something to attach to.



I didn’t worry about making sure the boards reached to the ceiling since it would be covered with the crown, but you could use the same scribing method if you needed here too. Here is me testing out the crown molding to see how it feels.



Crown molding install post will be coming soon along with my latest kitchen plan tweaks–an expensive one costing almost $400.  You may have seen my crude drawing that I uploaded to FB untitled “Doodles” …it is supposed to be a fridge with cabinets.


I bought more cabinets for around the refridgerator. I couldn’t help myself after seeing this photo which I unfortunately cannot find the source of…

fridge cabinet

..and just for fun…


This horridness is the back entry/mudroom area in its current state after having removed the old wallpaper. Woof.

and another just for fun photo of the new light fixtures at hanging level with the new scribed trim in the background…

craftsman kitchen center light

I am completely in love with these fixtures. BEST PURCHASE EVER.

I have SO much more to write about 🙂

16 thoughts on “How to Scribe IKEA Cabinets

  1. Lory says:

    Admire your attention to detail and determination to get everything just right!

  2. Sarah says:

    Thanks lor y 🙂

  3. Dan says:

    Where did you get the under cabinet lighting?

  4. I’ve been looking at that same LED strip. Do you like it? How bright does it feel?

    • Sarah says:

      I love it. I actually like it better than the xenon puck lights we had at the old house. They cost a lot more though. I actually think they are too bright when on full boar which is why we opted for the dimmers. We already have an overhead 4 bulb fixture plus a pendant over the sink and its a small room.

  5. I give you guys so much credit for doing the remodel yourselves. It isn’t for the faint of heart (like me!). What you’ve done so far looks awesome!

    • Sarah says:

      Thanks Carrie! I just checked out your latest post–at the pace your contractors are moving I think your kitchen might be done before ours. Sometimes it is definitely worth bringing in the big guns. Good luck on your project.

  6. tjhess1 says:

    How tall are your ceilings? I like the idea of stacked boxes, but our ceilings are only 8′.


  7. Hedi says:


    You should consider using a thermal tape (usually comes with high quality LED tape rolls) to increase the life span and overall performance of your LEDs. LEDs shed heat only through conduction and if they can’t (like in your current installation) they will go bad 3 times as fast.

    Nice job on the scribing!

    • Sarah says:

      Thanks for your advice. So far we have found that we do not use our undercabinet lighting very often so I don’t really have a big concern about decreasing their lifespan. I would venture out to say we only use them about 1-2 hrs (sometimes less) per week. If we were using them more often I think I would be more concerned.

      Scribing is one of those tedious things that I always seem to dread and put off as long as possible, but once it is done it is so satisfying to see. I will have my work cut out for me on our upstairs renovation. There are 5 new closets that will need shelving and 2 will need quite a bit of scribe work. Wish me luck.

  8. Tara says:

    How did you attach the top poplar board to the cabinets? Was it with the trim nails? Did you screw up from the bottom into the poplar on the front of the cabinets? Thanks for the inspiration?

Comment or I'll hate you forever.

Sarah&Adrian @ StPaulHaus

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