I need lot of help please!!

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Forum topic by Alonso posted 02-20-2010 09:55 AM 2894 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Alonso's profile


949 posts in 3438 days

02-20-2010 09:55 AM

Hey folks,

Today I got a call from one of my HS buddies who works on Granite/Tile, he is asking me if I could build a vanity cabinet for one of his customers in Newport Beach CA, this is a rough sketch of what he needs

It should be symmetrical to the center line,

3 drawers on each side

2 doors

The middle area should be for shelves.

It should support 2 over the top sinks (mostly granite or similar)

My questions are:

What kind of wood should I use? The customer don’t want anything fancy or exotic, just something durable and good looking.

What’s the best finish I should use, having in mind this will be on a high humidity area

What type of joinery should I use?

Any special techniques to be aware of?

How much should I charge for a project of this size?

Pretty much this is the very first commitment project and the first at this scale, I haven’t build a cabinet before (even that I’m currently working on a dresser) so I have no idea the degree of difficulty that I will be dealing with, so anything that you can tell me about its highly appreciated.

I still need to confirm if I will take it or not, so if you think that this is too much for a novice let me know so that I can step out or jump in.


-- The things I make may be for others, but how I make them is for me.

14 replies so far

View pommy's profile


1697 posts in 3891 days

#1 posted 02-20-2010 10:08 AM

Hi Alonso
is this to be painted or natural finished

-- cut it saw it scrap it SKPE: ANDREW.CARTER69

View Alonso's profile


949 posts in 3438 days

#2 posted 02-20-2010 10:09 AM

I will think that she may want it natural finished…

-- The things I make may be for others, but how I make them is for me.

View pommy's profile


1697 posts in 3891 days

#3 posted 02-20-2010 10:26 AM

Well i would use popular then stain it what ever colour you like are the sides and back going to be on view?

-- cut it saw it scrap it SKPE: ANDREW.CARTER69

View Alonso's profile


949 posts in 3438 days

#4 posted 02-20-2010 10:31 AM

Not the back but I’m sure the sides will be visible

-- The things I make may be for others, but how I make them is for me.

View pommy's profile


1697 posts in 3891 days

#5 posted 02-20-2010 10:38 AM

well then popular is the way to go for me but no dout someone will have a better idea mate good luck with it look forward to seeing the finished piece


-- cut it saw it scrap it SKPE: ANDREW.CARTER69

View Rotceh's profile


231 posts in 3647 days

#6 posted 02-20-2010 11:12 AM

I think that you can use a waterproofing mdf, titebon waterproofing glue for the asembly, and laquer with some paint like wood.This material is cheap, and very useful for high humidity area.

-- Work is my road to knowledge,Curiosity is my fellow traveler. El trabajo es mi camino al conocimiento, la curiosidad es mi compañero de viaje. Héctor

View PurpLev's profile


8547 posts in 3848 days

#7 posted 02-20-2010 12:20 PM

can baltic birch plywood / maple plywood face edged with hardwood maple work? very durable and has a nice grain patterns. shelves can be dadoed and glued in.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Bothus's profile


441 posts in 3376 days

#8 posted 02-20-2010 07:03 PM

I have some questions but first I will say that we would use maple for this but most of our competitors use alder because is it easier to stain. If it were painted we would use poplar with MDF panels.

My questions are will this be face frame or frameless construction? And will it be inset or overlay doors and drawers? I don’t need to know the answer to these questions but you should find out what they are expecting. If they don’t know just suggest what ever you are more comfortable with.

You really should visit the job site to verify the room dimensions. If you make it 20” deep the sinks they pick may not fit if they use deck mounted faucets. If you make it 25” deep it may incroach on the doorway (I have no idea what the layout of the room is I’m just sayin’...).

Also find out the height they want. Our standard is to make vanities 36” finished height but we just a house in Rancho Santa Fe where they wanted all of them a 32” (that was the standard back in the day). And of course if they want to use vessel sinks you may have to go lower than that. We did a bath for couple in Ritz Cove that wanted her vanity at 38” and his at 42” (they were both very tall).

It is drawn as face frame but you may want to find out what they have in the rest of the house.

We would probably charge $2,800 for a vanity like that in maple, face frame, overlay and with solid maple dovetail drawer boxes with under-mount soft close drawer slides and concealed Blum soft close hinges. Plus $700 for finishing. That price would include design, shop drawings, manufacture, delivery and installation.

You might want to find out what sinks they are planning to use. The sketch looks like you may want to make them a little further apart so they have more elbow room. The NKBA guidelines recommend a minimum 36” center to center for a two sink vanity but I think that is a tight.

I guess what I am saying is challenge everything. Don’t just build what they ask for, make sure it will really work for them and they will be happy with it for years to come.

Good luck and be sure to keep us posted on your progress.


-- Jerry Boshear, Professional Kitchen Designer, amature woodworker.

View CaptainSkully's profile


1602 posts in 3758 days

#9 posted 02-20-2010 07:04 PM

That’s a pretty ambitious project. I’d probably lose my butt on something like that, but it’s a nice design and would certainly ramp up your skills. Also, if there’s a time crunch, that might be an additional stressor to the actual build.

I would go for something a little nicer than poplar if you’re going to stain it. What other wood is used in the client’s home, if any? I build mostly with quarter sawn white oak, but I can easily see this out of walnut, cherry or maple depending whether they want to go light or dark. IMHO, this is not a project to go cheap. It’s going to be a lot of work, and you want it to be a showpiece.

I would start by searching New Yankee Workshop, Fine Woodworking, Wood Magazine, etc. for similar projects. Are they using pocket screws to hold the carcass together? Is it a face frame project? Are the drawers inset flush, or do they overlap the face? These are all design decisions that will eventually dictate the building process. There will be a lot of hardware involved with the drawer slides and door hinges. Also, do they want Krenov-style wood handles, or store-bought metal pulls? Do they want self-closing or soft-closing drawer slides?

I can see using a lot of cabinet grade plywood and trimming the finished edges with solid wood. Maybe a frame and panel style on the sides. Gizmodyne has a great blog about the built-ins he made for his bungalow. He bought a Domino, which most of us can’t afford, but the process is still the same.

I know I probably didn’t help much, but if you post anything else you know about the design or the criteria, I’ll give it a shot. I would make sure you had a good grasp on the client’s expectations so you don’t build something beautiful that’s not what they envisioned.

Have fun with it, and keep us posted.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3987 days

#10 posted 02-21-2010 06:50 AM

Pretty ambitious project for a novice who has not built any cabinets.

That said.

Carcass of 3/4” cabinet grade ply. Dado in the bottom to the sides. Dado in the uprights to the base.

Base will be dadoed into the sides 3 1/2”(bottom of dado) from the floor. this allows a 3” toe kick (standard) and a 1 1/4” face frame on the bottom. That will put the bottom floor even with the top edge of the face frame bottom rail and allow a regular 2×4 pine substructure to support the uprights and provide a face for the toe kick face plate to be attached to.

Back of 1/2” ply minimum (suggest 3/4”) dadoed into sides at least 1/2” in from back. More if variation in wall straightness is more than 1/2”. Do not run back all the way to the floor. Allow a little for floor variation against the wall.This will allow the sides to be scribed to the wall contour for a flush fit. Some prefer an open back to allow easier access for installing plumbing. Ask your friend on this. If back is open, you will need an additional vertical stretcher on the top.

1×4 “Hardwood stretchers running across the top inset into the uprights for attaching top at front and back. Make sure the back one is inset in front of the back panel to allow for wall variation.. Corner blocks can be used to secure stretcher to sides.

Face frame and drawers same as a dresser.

Shelves should be adjustable,

Standard depth of top is 24”. Vanity will need to be recessed under the top at least to where the door fronts are flush with the top front edge. 23” is a good standard depth overall. Don’t forget to also subtract 3/4” for face frame when building the carcass.)

Box base frame under the cabinet base can be regular SPF 2×4. It should have cross braces under each upright, and just fit inside the sides (which go to the floor), The front is 3 3/4” in from the front of the face frame. (this allows for a 3/4” x 3 1/2” x length panel for inside the toe kick, which is installed after the cabinet is in place, leveled, and secured. This means your carcass sides will have a 3’ high x 2 1/4” deep notch in the sides at the bottom. the 3/4” panel is offset by the 3/4” face frame, but you don’t want the end of the toe kick face plate to show. You can veneer along the edge of the ply on that surface, or miter in for the toe kick plate. (just a little detail that is often overlooked in natural grain construction.)

For a finish, you would be best served with one which will breath moisture. If you use a full sealing one like poly, make sure you coat all surfaces, including bottoms, back insides, etc, or moisture will penetrate and peel the stuff on the front eventually. Shellac would probably be better in this scenario, but I defer to the finishing gurus here. There is a reason most vanities are painted with latex, which allows the moisture to breathe.

If most of this makes no sense, than perhaps you need to rethink doing this, or buy a book on cabinet making. I am not saying this is the only way, either. Just trying to give you some of the design problems you will encounter.

As for materials, oak ply is readily available and oak is also available for face framing. Easy to stain and get a good looking finish. Poplar is cheaper, but very difficult to stain and get a good even look to. Maple also has its problems with even staining. Bottom line, if the carpentry is exquisite, and the finish sucks, the customer will only see the finish.

Hope this helps. Can you do it? Sure, if you have built cabinets and a dresser. Can you do it within the time and price constraints? That only you can decide to try. There is no shame in knowing what you can’t do, or saying you won’t do, or being honest about what you and your tools give you the ability to do, especially when facing constraints beyond your control.

Best of luck to you whichever way you decide


-- Go

View Gotwood1962's profile


30 posts in 3219 days

#11 posted 02-21-2010 08:22 AM

Ditto on Gofor. I would dado and build precisely the same way.As far as wood species That would depend on color. I would stay away from poplar for staining, you wont get a uniform color. For a dark color alder or mahogany will fit the bill. Lighter or natural color I would pick maple,oak, cherry.I would stay away from mdf. Mainly because I hate the stuff, secondly its going to be near water. Depending on mat’l you choose the 2800.00 to 3000.00 range will afford you to make a few bucks. I would use a vinyl sealer with conversion varnish topcoat, which is what I use on most everything I build. The only drawback to that is experience and equipment. A good precat laquer will work fine.
Schedule to me would be the deciding factor. If you have the time, plan ahead, take your time, think things through, measure twice, cut once etc…you will do fine. Only you know your limitations.Gotta start somewhere. good luck whatever you decide.

-- Gotwood1962, If sawdust were valuable... I'd be a millionaire

View Moffett77's profile


32 posts in 3227 days

#12 posted 02-21-2010 08:36 AM

I agree with the above comments, stay away from poplar if you are staining, and keep away from MDF in the bathroom, MDF and mois ture are not a good combo even with a good finish. The conversion varnish is also what we use for anything near water, I like the M.L. Campbell Krystal but there are many others available. These products require experience and proper equipment to use so dont hesitate to ask as many questions as needed before you jump in, good luck!

-- Moffett, Sacramento CA

View bigike's profile


4055 posts in 3488 days

#13 posted 02-21-2010 08:46 AM

either birch ply or pre finnish ply or ply with a vaneer on it like cherry ply,maple ply,oak ply etc.

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop,

View rcs47's profile


196 posts in 3329 days

#14 posted 02-21-2010 08:59 AM

Bothus asked about inset or overlay doors. For your first project, stay away from inset door and drawer faces. Use a overlay or better yet, lipped door and drawer face. This will save you a lot of follow-up visits to correct spacing/fit problems after the customer has bumped and slammed the drawers and doors for a few months (or their kids have been using the drawers for a ladder). Since this will be your first job, and it will be the first step in building your reputation, you may find yourself back fixing the fit of inset doors and drawers years later. When I was working for my Dad, I remember going out to a job we had done 10 years before to replace 10 drawer slides that had been broken by their kids using the drawers as ladders (no charge).

Everyone has given you good direction on sealing the cabinet. But you need customer input on the cabinet. Are they looking for something dark (walnut or something stained dark), or light (maple, cherry, or something else)? What ever it is, stay away from cheap materials (read mdf), unless during your discussion you get the impression the budget will not allow you to use prefinished plywood for interior surfaces, etc.

Good luck!

-- Doug - As my Dad taught me, you're not a cabinet maker until you can hide your mistakes.

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