Kitchen Cabinet Remodel

My wife and I love our house, but there are definitely some things we love more than others. One thing in particular was the kitchen cabinets. The doors had a cheap, flimsy feel to them, they made a racket opening and closing them. The drawers are cheaply made and get stuck as the wood slides on bloated wood rails. It was in need of an upgrade.

I’ve been wanting to redo the cabinets for quite some time, but I knew I had to get better at woodworking before I would be able to do the doors myself. For the style that we wanted, I also needed a reliable set of rail and stile router bits and panel cutters. To use those, I’d need a reliable router table. Thankfully, I finished my router table in May (see it here).

The process of putting together the cabinet doors was a long one. It took weeks to ensure all the measurements were exact and figure out how I was going to lay out the design. Even more time to glue each piece up, shape them, then painting, then the arduous task of fitting each piece in place.

Design

First, I made the measurements of the existing cabinets and drawers as best I could. The new doors would be overhang doors (rather than the half-overlay ones), so they didn’t have to be quite as precise. I laid out all the measurements into SketchUp and labeled each piece to help me map the progress.

I then calculated from the measurements the appropriate dimensions of each insert panel, rail, and stile for the cabinet doors along with the drawer fronts.

Shaping

I ordered some beautiful poplar wood from a local hardwood dealer. I was quite excited, as I had never worked with poplar. From my first test cuts with the wood, I found its tight grain structure to be much more satisfying to work and shape than the heavy grain of red oak.

I cut out each rail and stile using my fancy router table. The poplar wood cut quite smooth and I ended up with a nice, neat stack for each door, labelled appropriately.

Next, I moved to the panels. I had to glue up a bunch of segments to make the panel sizes I required. This took some time, as each panel needed most of my clamps, so I was only able to do one or two panels a day and let the glue dry overnight.

I then cut the panels with my very wide panel-cutting router bit. I love the stepped sides of the panels.

The panels needed quite a bit of sanding and smoothing, but I decided I’d do that after I glued them up. The next process of gluing up the full doors also took quite some time. Like with the panels themselves, I could only do one or two each day.

Painting

The painting process was a lot more work than I anticipated. I had a bought a HVLP sprayer earlier in the year and was excited to use it. It did speed up the painting time itself, and ensured a more even coat. However, I had to use about three coats, with plenty of sanding in between to ensure a perfect smooth final texture.

It helped to dilute the paint with about 20% water. This allowed it to spray better. Especially since this was a high-enamel cabinet paint. This of course, means I needed more coats, three seemed to do the trick. I sanded lightly with 220 grit sandpaper between each coat.

Given the size of my shop and limited outdoor space, the painting process took a couple weeks to get both sides of each piece. I then let the pieces sit and cure for at least a week to ensure that there was no tackiness left on the surfaces.

Fitting

I thought that once I attached the hardware I was done. Mission accomplished. It turns out that fitting the pieces so they look nice and square on the frames is quite a process. I spent quite a few days just trying to get them to sit right, making micro-adjustments. In many cases, I had to add strips of wood to the side of the frames to avoid in glaring gaps. Two of the doors required shaving off a 1/16th of an inch from each side so that they’d fit nicely together. After all this, I have a new appreciation for cabinet work, and why it can cost thousands to have it professionally done.

My wife then painted the frames after I sanded them down. This was a bit stressful, as it felt like we had just moved in. We let the paint cure for at least a week, so our kitchen items were scattered all over.

I then added the hardware to the doors and voila! The kitchen cabinets were completed.

Before and After

Desk Adjustment

I spend a lot of time at my computer, both for work and recreation. For the past few years, I have used an IKEA table as a desk. I like it because it has a clean look and allows plenty of air-flow underneath (without bulky drawers). The downside was that the desk is way too high for proper ergonomic comforts, especially when sitting at it for many hours each day.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed some pretty bad back pain and shoulder/neck tightness. I started doing more yoga and stretching to address the issues, but it didn’t really target the cause of the problems. Eventually, I realized my sitting situation in my home office was just wrong. My chair was too low to my desk, and a number of other angles (elbows and legs) were too acute for comfort.

In order to fix my problem, I bought a new desk chair, one that went up higher. However, that wasn’t good enough. My arms will still reaching up to use the keyboard and mouse. I needed to lower my keyboard and mouse to a more comfortable level. Unfortunately, my desk didn’t have such an adjustment and I’ve never liked the slide-out keyboard trays that can attach to the bottom of desk/tables. I always felt too far from the desk.

So, naturally, I found a woodworking solution to my problem and hacked my IKEA desk. I cut a keyboard-tray sized chunk out of the desk with the intention of lowering it. However, I found that the desk was composed of very thin layers of MDF on the top and bottom, some particle board near the edges, and the rest is a torsion box of cardboard.

I had to add thin panels of wood to hide the cardboard and protect it. Thankfully, my new bandsaw gave me perfect strips of poplar to fill in the edges. Then I built an adjustable tray using the cut-out piece. Two sliding pieces of plywood worked perfect, with some screws set in a slot with wing-nuts for adjustability. I glued on the end of the adjustable sides and, voila! a keyboard tray for my desk. I’m not sure if I’ll paint the edges or not.

After hooking my computer back up, I was ready for work and play, without the back aches and pain.

Spice Cabinet

This project has been a long time coming. I made the carcass for the cabinet back in April.

Everything came together nicely, but I was waiting on a new router table and router bits in order to make the fancy doors. So the carcass sat around my shop for over a month. When the router bits finally came, I cut the frame and panel of the doors in solid red oak.

They were a perfect fit. They looked wonderful. Unfortunately, I had to then wait for the hardware to arrive. So the cabinets sat again in my shop for a few weeks. Finally the soft-close hinges and the ceramic door pulls had arrived.

I used my new HVLP sprayer to paint the carcass and the doors. I then waited the required week before applying a protective outer layer of water-based polyurethane.

I attached the hinges and the doors looked great… unfortunately, I ran into a little snag. The hinges I had gotten are for framed cabinets (as part of the upcoming kitchen overhaul), therefore they didn’t sit quite right. If I had been paying better attention, I would have set the cup of the hinges a little deeper in the frame. Oh well…

It wasn’t anything a quick run down the tablesaw couldn’t fix. And Voila! doors that closed. I had to add another sanding and paint job to the new edges.

The cabinet looks great in the kitchen!

Closet Organizer and Sanding Station

Closet Organizer

Like many people, the bottom of my closet had slowly became a catch-all storage for various things I wasn’t ready to deal with at that moment. Over time, it had become a pile of junk. I decided to make a new closet organizer with shelves and bins.

The carcass was quite simple, made of some nice Baltic birch plywood. I added a toe-kick on the bottom to keep dust from working its way up into the cubbies. The back was 1/4″ cheap plywood sanded down and the top was another Baltic birch single bench top slab. I finished the piece with a couple coats of danish oil.

It was a very simple project, but quite necessary. It forced me to organize my closet and remove the clutter. Now each morning is brightened by the appealing lines of Baltic birch.

Sanding Station

Another small project was making quite a number of drawers for my sanding station. I added some red-oak trim that matches the simple handles. Now I finally have easy access to all my sanding equipment. The whole cart moves on casters out to the driveway, where all the excessive dust from the belt sander can blow out into the wind.

Desk Caddy & Garden Bench

Desk Caddy

One small side project was a small desk caddy for my office. It is a simple, three-drawer unit that sits on my desk and provides ample storage for notes, chocolate bars, and other nick-knacks that have been accumulating on my desk. Additionally, it has a nice top tray for storing my pocket items (wallet, phone, etc) when I’m home.

I ended up painting it to match the decor of the room.

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Garden Bench

I had a bunch of scrap pieces left over from the fence project. Mostly treated woods and cedar boards. The kind of pieces perfect for building an outdoor garden bench.

I threw together a basic frame using the scrap 4×4 posts using double-sided pocket-hole joinery. It is quite a sturdy beast.

Before I added anymore wood, and weight, I moved the bench where it was going to go on our patio. I then put some leftover OSB over the backside and layed out the cedar boards for the table top.

I painted the OSB white, still unsure what I was going to use for the back of the panel. I then remembered I had some old ship-lap panels we had found in our garage when we moved in. I cut those down and added them as a backsplash. I then used a few scraps of pallet wood to lay out the bottom shelves.

I used some old scraps of wood from shelves that had previously been in my garage for the top shelves. The purpose of the two top shelves was to hold trays of seedlings, with a bar over them to allow a cloth to cover them and protect them as the seedling grow.

I sanded the whole monster down and it was ready for use.

Router Table Deluxe

Like I had mentioned in a previous post, one of the new workshop upgrades was a new router table. The primary purpose of the new table is to allow me to use a new set of Art Deco rail & stile router bits to replace all our kitchen cabinet doors and drawers. I knew I’d need a good router table to pull that off and make reliable good cabinets.

I created a basic carcasses using what few resources I had around the shop. Sheet-goods have been hard to come by during the COVID pandemic, so I was forced to use some left-over OSB. I just followed Steve Ramsey’s advise, and put “the crappy side against the wall”. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the process of making the top panel.

I used an Infinity Tools router table inset put into a melamine table-top. I cut grooves for the miter slot and built a very fancy fence that allows adjust the width of the opening and has a T-track for feather-boards.

I am using a new Triton TRA001 router for the table, which the insert plate was specifically made for.

I set up some hoses for dust collection with a two-way port on the back to connect to my shop-vac.

Around the carcass, I used strips of red-oak to give it a nice appearance. There are two drawers for my router bits. One on the bottom for 1/4″ bits, and the top for 1/2″ bits.

I then added cabinet doors, using the same rail and stile bits I want to use for my kitchen cabinets. It was a nice test run. However, the red-oak proved to be a bit dense for the bits. Thankfully, the Triton router could handle it at a slow speed.

I covered it with a couple coats of Danish oil to give it a nice shine and bring out the color of the red oak.

I then added some new heavy-duty casters to help it lock better in place when in use.

Moon Gate

For our new fence, my wife and I had been talking about making an arch over the gate. We then discovered the moon gate and thought it would look neat to make a full circle that is both the arc over top and a cut in arch in the gate itself, forming a complete circle.

Making the gate was quite straight forward. I mad a square base frame using pocket-hole joinery.

I then created a large compass on my workbench to create the desired arc and radius of the circle.

For the upper arch, I then took some leftover cedar planks from the fence and put them on the arc and drew a line.

I then took a number of these drawn arcs and cut them out on my new bandsaw. I then used bits of treated 2×4 to link the arcs together to form a sturdy arc structure.

I then put all the arcs together to form the upper half of the circle, and ensured it had the proper diameter.

I then used my new half-circle and laid it over planks on the gate frame to mark where I needed to cut the planks to ensure a perfect bottom circle.

I then used my jigsaw to cut out along the line to create the gate’s circle.

Putting the two pieces together, created a perfect circle and moon gate for the entrance to our yard.

Workshop Upgrades

My new bandsaw has arrived and I felt the need to add a few more improvements to my workshop. There are three things on my agenda:

  1. Table Saw Storage
  2. Drill Press Table
  3. Router Table

Table Saw Storage

The first project was to add some support extension and additional storage for my table saw and its accessories. I added a support block connected to the side of my custom table saw cabinet.

With an even platform to build upon I was then able to add a cabinet.

It took some effort to get the table to sit just under the table of the saw. A few well-placed shims set it to the right height. I had a piece of some nice Baltic birch plywood that made a nice smooth top.

I then measured the inner area and set up some runners for drawers.

I call this project finished. I have a nice support for the side of my table saw to assist with cutting wider panels, and plenty of storage for all my push-blocks/sticks and accessories.

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Drill Press Table

The next project was to add a good support for my drill press. I wanted a reliable fence and built-in supports, because trying to clamp anything to the table was always a pain. Unfortunately, I didn’t capture much of this process, but you can see the end result.

This drill press table has a nice adjustable fence on a T-track, and two hold-down clamps on the same T-track. There is also an inset and replaceable 1/2″ plywood I can drill into without worry. Unseen in the photos, there are tight holding blocks that help lock this table onto the metallic drill press table.

Workshop Rearranged

I started putting together ideas for my router table, but before that I decided to rearrange my shop. I wanted the bandsaw to be more accessible and found lots of operations had become harder to perform. So I moved all my furniture out of the shop and rearranged them.

The biggest change here was swapping my tablesaw to the other side where I can easily make cuts and still be close to my assembly/workbench. The new bandsaw has been moved near the garage door. Since I don’t have good dust collection for it yet, it’s easy to let the dust fly out into the open air for now.

My dust collection system is now more mobile again and I can have it help clean up the shop again.

The electric cable will be replaced and duct-taped to the floor to avoid a serious safety issue.

The Circuitous Fence

My woodworking was quickly veering into house construction chores as I saw ways to take my new skills into improving our environment. We had long talked about how we would build-up our front yard, with garden beds filled with flowering bushes, like azaleas, roses, and peonies.

One important component to this dream, was adding a circuitous fence to the front yard. As much as I like the seemingly communal aspect of an open front yard that stretches from neighbor-to-neighbor’s lawn, in practice very few people seem to spend a lot of time in their front yards. However, I’ve noticed that people with fences tend to spend more time in that space. I also like how a fence defines a territory and serves as the boundary to a space perceptually. This makes the space seem compartmentalized and visually bound to a designed purpose. For all these reasons, we knew a fence would be in our future.

I put my woodworking skills to the test and designed a fence that met my criterion. More on that later.

Fence posts are cemented into the ground, roughly 7 feet apart.

Here I practiced the overall design to ensure my plan looked as good as in real life.

You can see from the above photo that my plan featured three rails. Two to brace the pickets and a third to ensure a smooth top rail. The kind of rail you can set a drink on top of. I really like the smooth line this creates. I find that traditional picket fences and their spiky tops only look well when camouflaged behind plenty of foliage. I think a smooth line will look great juxtaposed in front of the flowery bushes that will someday rise behind them.

The rest of the rails are installed.

The pickets were easy to install. I made a homemade jig that allowed me to ensure perfect 1 5/8″ spacing between picket boards. Due to the slight differences in post-to-post distances, I had to make a few strips and thickened some middle boards to ensure the spacing was kept consistent.

The pickets are up and the tops of the posts are cut smooth.

Cutting the tops of the posts to the same height was not the easiest. I had to use a circular saw on two sides to clear the thick wood. Then I used my Japanese pull saw to smooth the cut flat.

The beveled top blocks add an interesting feature.

I then took my post cut-offs and beveled them to add a decorative feature to each post top. The fence was finished. Now I need to consider a gate design.

Fin.

Workshop Update & Spice Cabinet Start

The wonderful world of woodworking continues during #lockdown2020. I’ve been quite busy taking care of projects around the shop and generally getting ready for some new equipment. I’ve added two new tools to my shop, taking advantage of some of the Spring-time sales.

The first is a drum/belt sander and should help me smooth out various pieces. The second, and much more exciting tool, is a professional band-saw. I am really excited about the prospect of making precise curved cuts to both express new creative ideas and to recreate classic pieces.

Workshop Update

With these new toys coming, I though I’d show my current shop layout beforehand.

The 11′ x 22′ space is better organized than when I started.
The new drum/belt sander has been moved to the cart, and the drill press finds a new home on the BMW workbench.
This table saw and outfeed table are a perfect combo for long cuts. Additionally, the outfeed table doubles for assembly and general surface area.
This miter station makes precise cross-cuts a breeze. The above lumber storage rack is easily accessible by my homemade stool.
This workbench is the pride and joy of my workshop. It is perfectly calibrated for my height, which makes it the ideal companion for planing wood and general assembly. The two homemade, sturdy hickory-wood vises are easy to use as well.
This storage area has all the tools I need, just a quick reach away. Holding my radio, you can see my quick screw organizer drawers. These handy little drawers are great for carrying around to where the screws are needed.
Moving the drill press was always a pain, and the stand I made would often get caught on my uneven concrete floor. With the drill press on the sturdy workbench, it’s a lot easier to use, and it never has to move.

Spice Cabinet

I’ve been working on my last project for Steve Ramsey’s Weekend Woodworker course. It’s been quite awhile, but I didn’t really like the original design. I eventually settled on a modified version of the plans that is going to serve as a spice cabinet above our stove.

There is still a lot of work yet to do on this piece. However, I am waiting for a couple new tools to arrive to properly finish the doors. I am excited to see where this project goes.