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Kitchen Cabinets #1: Gotta start somewhere...

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Blog entry by Charlie posted 828 days ago 2702 reads 0 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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My wife and I wanted to reconfigure the kitchen. A gut remodel to the studs. In March 2011 I got laid off from my job at the university. Finances changed, but the kitchen is needed so we’re improvising. We’ll be doing the bulk of the work ourselves, hopefully with help from friends and family at key times. We’re trying to do this as inexpensively as possibly without compromising on what we want to the greatest degree possible. One big rule is that everything going back INTO the kitchen has to be on site before we start tearing anything out.

When she looked into ordering cabinets, she got sticker shock. It’s not like she wants anything extravagant. She wants a “cottage kitchen”. (not to be confused with a “country kitchen”). Long story short, I got the job of building the cabinets. I knew my old table saw wasn’t up to this task so first thing I need was a new table saw. I got a Steel City 35990 granite top from a local supplier.

I am NOT a cabinet maker so I had a lot of learning to do. :) I opted to build the boxes with a separate toekick. Carcasses are 3/4” birch plywood. I count 11 plies. Backs are 1/2” birch plywood. Face frames are maple. These cabinets will be painted. It’s what she wants.

The Plan
south wall is what we’re calling “the pantry side”. It will have 6 feet of nearly floor to ceiling cabinets, 12 inches deep. For these I’m building 6 cabinets and stacking them to form the pantry. Making 4 36 inch cabinets, connecting them in pairs, side-by-side, stacking one pair on top of the other, and then another pair 36 inches wide but only 16 inches tall goes on top. To the left of these is yet another 36 inch cabinet that will have a countertop and be used as the “coffee bar” (only because that’s where the coffee pot is going). At the far right of the pantry wall is another kinda odd cabinet. The base will be standard depth base (24 inches), but a tiny bit taller as it will house a wall oven 8 inches above the floor. That base will have a countertop. Above it will be an open shelf “hutch”. The countertop will have the toaster oven and above that, the microwave. and above that a shelf for cookbooks.

In the middle we’ll have an island, 8 feet long and about 38 inches wide. On the side facing the pantry, the counterop will overhang (with corbels). On the other side of the island, starting from the left end, a 30 inch drawer base for dishes and silverware, etc., then a 15 inch drawer base, a 30 inch drawer base with the cooktop above, and then another 15 inch cabinet with a drawer and a large pullout.

The north wall will have a 36 inch drawer base, 36 inch farm sink, dishwasher, and refrigerator.

Ambitious. I’m not a cabinet maker.

I have the carcasses built for the pantry side except for that oddball oven cabinet. I just started making face frames for those this morning. Took me an hour and a half to get the first one fabricated and installed on the cabinet. I’m learning how SLOW I am. My shop is small and a lot of time is wasted rearranging things to get a cabinet in there on a flat table, with room to move around it and still be able to use the table saw.

Right now I want to get the pantry cabinets and coffee bar done so she can start painting them.

My plan right now is to get those done and then do the base cabinets (30 inch drawer base, 36 inch drawer base, the 2 15 inch bases), and a 30 inch box for under the cooktop. Once those are done, then I’ll work on that oven cabinet and finally the farm sink cabinet. Those 2 oddballs are going to involve some head scratching and learning on the fly.

I’m slow, I’m space-constrained, and did I mention I’m not a cabinet maker?

Oh and I’ll have to make 14 doors, 10 drawers, a pullout, and I’m trying to design a drawer for under the farm sink. It would be a shallow drawer to avoid the plumbing, but the plumbing is set to the rear of the sink so it might be doable.

Oh… and I have to have all the cabinets ready by the second week of July. I should probably get off the computer and get back to work.

First one to get a face frame is the coffee bar.



23 comments so far

View Douglas's profile

Douglas

301 posts in 1186 days


#1 posted 828 days ago

Charlie, you ARE ambitious, but you’ll do fine. I am just getting to the end of my 11 month kitchen cabinet project, the one that I thought would only take a few months. I have a month to go. I’m a newer woodworker, but somehow my first “real” project is the biggest one I’ll ever do. Talk about jumping into the deep end.

The biggest difficulty was the scale of the thing: it’s like building 9 or 11 pieces of furniture at once. I had 14 drawers, 31 doors, a lazy susan, a breakfast bar, not to mention the hardwood floor, window casing, etc etc. Trying to batch all that out, and find the space for it, was very difficult for me and my shared garage shop. (I dream of the day I can have a project that is a single dresser, or A table, so something on that scale.)

But despite it taking tons of time, and tons of effort, I am really pleased at the results. I’ll post it a a blog and project in about a month.

But enough of me; good work, keep us updated, and it will take many times longer than you think, but you’ll come out a much more experienced and skilled woodworker, and you’ll be proud of it the rest of your life.

-- Douglas in Chicago - http://dcwwoodworks.com

View Charlie's profile

Charlie

1008 posts in 912 days


#2 posted 828 days ago

dcwizard,
yeah it’s …. uh…. interesting to learn how long things take. I envy guys with large shops and your comment about dreaming of the day you only have one piece to make…. I get it. :)

Demo to the studs on 3 walls. We have demo down pretty good. My wife and I have done large demo projects before. Our kitchen at our other house came out in one day. The refrigerator here is going “around the corner” into the living room. Everything else goes out in the garage (attached). Cabinets out and floor taken down to subfloor (we have 3 different floors in the kitchen and front hallway, and there’s an extra layer of underlayment under one of them so multiple “levels”). Some of the old cabinets will end up in the shop or basement as they’re still in decent shape for that duty. Then the electrician. Then hang drywall. I told my wife we’re not starting the floor until the drywall sanding is done. She agrees. The wall behind the sink is going to be replaced with wide planks instead of drywall. Whitewashed. I’m buying a camp stove to hook up to an LP tank so we don’t have to order out every night. And I’ll have a toaster oven, microwave, and crockpot so we won’t be totally helpless in terms of cooking. Right now our planned start is right after the 4th of July. I’d like to have it back to being usable by the end of August. Doesn’t have to be totally complete, but hopefully at least usable. So…. 8 weeks.

Man that sounds like a long time on paper plates… hehehe.

View Douglas's profile

Douglas

301 posts in 1186 days


#3 posted 828 days ago

We did the camp stove on the deck for a few weeks, dishes in the bathroom sink, and microwave on the dining room table. Kept it down to about 4-5 weeks of that.

-- Douglas in Chicago - http://dcwwoodworks.com

View sb194's profile

sb194

175 posts in 1644 days


#4 posted 828 days ago

Best of luck Charlie. You know that you have never done this before, so you know it will take a while. You are a step ahead in this aspect. To many people think that it can happen asap, and that is when they make mistakes.

I will be watching you progress and am very interested in the final kitchen.

View Charlie's profile

Charlie

1008 posts in 912 days


#5 posted 828 days ago

I’ve done every aspect of a full kitchen remodel EXCEPT for actually building the cabinets. All of them were prior to the accident I was in about 11 years ago. The kind that gets you a helicopter ride. So I have some physical challenges. Making that 6 ft wide (and about 7 feet tall) cabinet out of easier-to-manage smaller pieces was one of the things I had to do to overcome some of the physical piece.

I’ve never done a whole kitchen full of cabinets. A real cabinet making shop has a lot of tools I don’t have to make this look easy. My cabinets won’t be something a real cabinet maker would build for a high end kitchen, but they’ll darn sure be better than the crap my wife was looking at in a big box place for 10 times the cost.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m doing this out of necessity. If I could afford to have them all made, I’d sure go that route. A good cabinet shop is worth the price you pay. And it would leave me time to focus on the things I already KNOW how to do. :)

It’s a wonderful learning experience though. Not just the woodworking part. I’m learning my physical limits (again) and finding ways around them and I’m getting reacquainted with some tools that I’ve been away from for far too long.

View Jimi_C's profile

Jimi_C

506 posts in 1861 days


#6 posted 828 days ago

One question, are you gluing the face frames to the cabinet box? If so, why not use the pocket hole jig to attach them? I would think that would speed things up considerably – no clamping required. I highly recommend the Kreg right-angle clamp for holding the face frame in place, it makes things much easier.

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

View Charlie's profile

Charlie

1008 posts in 912 days


#7 posted 828 days ago

Actually I’m gluing AND using pocket holes. Pocket holes as clamps since I don’t have enough clamps to do this with just clamps and glue.

View 489tad's profile

489tad

2278 posts in 1637 days


#8 posted 828 days ago

Charlie good luck. I’ll be waiting for the next entry.

-- Dan, Naperville IL, I.G.N.

View Charlie's profile

Charlie

1008 posts in 912 days


#9 posted 826 days ago

Coffee-bar with face frame. Still needs shelves and doors and a base to sit on.

We call these the pantry cabinets. Assembled they’ll be 71 inches wide and 78 inches high. This photo is of the middle and top sections together. There’s another one behind these that you can’t see. Exactly the same as the middle section, it will be the bottom. These also need shelves and doors and a base.

and yes, 71 inches wide, not 72. And the coffee bar is is 35, not 36. One of the advantages of building my own is that I get to deviate from the modular sizes. I had to fit a certain number of things on this wall and…. you get the idea. One more cabinet for this wall. A base cabinet for a 30 inch wall oven. Oven to be 8 inches off the floor. That will make “counter height” a couple inches above “normal” but that’s ok for this. The counter will have a toaster oven and shelves above that will have a microwave and then a book shelf for cookbooks. Believe it or not, we can stack all that stuff and my 5’-2” wife can reach everything just fine. One criteria was that she should not be getting things DOWN out of the microwave. That scares me. The interior floor of the microwave has to be no higher than straight out from her armpit.
That oven cabinet and the one for the farm sink are going to wait until after I get the island cabinets (a 30 inch drawer base and a pair of 15 inch drawer bases) and the wife’s baking cabinet base (36 inch drawer base).

I’m wishin’ I was faster at this.

View Charlie's profile

Charlie

1008 posts in 912 days


#10 posted 824 days ago

Saturday, May 19 (Hoping the documentation of this endeavor survives…hehehe)

This is it for today. Three more carcasses. A 30 inch drawer base joined to a 15 inch drawer base. These will be framed together as a unit. Then another 15 inch drawer base. There will be a 30 inch space between them and the cooktop will reside over that space. I’m debating what I want under the cooktop.

A side benefit of this is that I’m getting better working with my tools. My accuracy has improved and going from one process to another is smoother than it was when I built the pantry cabinets. That long level in the picture is sitting on all 3 cabinets perfectly. These will be set on a separate toekick so I level the toekick and then set these on top.

Faceframe for these will be a hybrid. The insides of the frames have to be flush with the inside edges of the cabinets so I can use frameless drawer slides. Should be interesting.

View Dan Krager's profile

Dan Krager

1516 posts in 860 days


#11 posted 822 days ago

Nice going, Charlie. It only took me 25 years to complete one of our kitchen remodels. Separate toe kicks is a great idea and has been commonly done under custom case work because it allows for leveling much easier than if toe kick was integral.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Our advice is free and maybe worth as much, but you never know… :)_
Dan

-- Dan Krager, Olney IL http://www.kragerwoodworking.weebly.com

View MommaBott's profile

MommaBott

2 posts in 820 days


#12 posted 820 days ago

Thank you for the motivation! My husband and I recetntly remodeled a kitchen at our previous house. All cabinets were custom made. We even made them 38 inches deep instead of the standard 36 on the bases. That’s the best part about building your own.

Now, we’re moved, and looking to redo the kitchen again. My husband’s hours aren’t as forgiving as the last house, so we checked with custom builders. Sticker shock indeed! We will build them again, one piece at a time. Hopefully, I can have a useable kitchen in the next 3 years! :)

View Charlie's profile

Charlie

1008 posts in 912 days


#13 posted 820 days ago

MommaBott,
If you’re not pressed for time, you can do it in sections. I have a deadline. It’s not like it’s written in stone, but I’m trying to stick with a plan, ya know? :)

The wood is the inexpensive part. I’m using hard maple for the frames and 3/4” plywood (11-ply) for the boxes. However, I just started pricing the hardware. Talk about sticker shock! :)

View Dan Krager's profile

Dan Krager

1516 posts in 860 days


#14 posted 820 days ago

Hey Charlie,
Right here in our humble town in Olney IL there is a hardware place that is very unique. They do mostly Internet business now, but they have EVERYTHING at prices that will blow you away. I was looking for 10” full extension drawer hardware for our bathroom cabinet (see my portfolio on my web site) and was getting discouraged with $35-$40 EACH (pair). Dave Lawless has them for $10 (oh shoot, now it’s $6!) and the quality is not compromised enough for me to notice.
http://www.dlawlesshardware.com/cltoor10qufu.html is the link to the site were I found my drawer hardware.
He also sells the curved glass often found in china display cabinets. He has the ovens to make whatever you can afford.
Dan

-- Dan Krager, Olney IL http://www.kragerwoodworking.weebly.com

View MommaBott's profile

MommaBott

2 posts in 820 days


#15 posted 819 days ago

Thanks Charlie. That is the plan. Right now, we have a wall that has no cabinets. Our thought is to put our sink/dishwasher on that wall. which means moving the plumbing, electrical and building. Of course, it’s going to be the toughest cabinet to build, because I hae a 36” apron front sink to put in. From my studies, though, all we need to do is build a short box, to accomodate the height of the sink, and keep it flush or below level with the top. The ultimate goal is to have a concrete countertop.

I’m enjoying your tales so keep us updated on your progress!

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