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New Video: How to Install Chair Rail Molding

Posted by John on May 16th, 2015

In this video and post, you’ll learn
– How to install chair rail molding
– How to install molding on a stairway
– How to add end caps to your trim work
– How to use two basic tools to figure out what angle to cut your trim pieces to

chair-rail-molding-featured

Happy weekend everybody!

This past week I was able to get some more house work done in the form of chair rail molding.  This is the second time we’ve added chair rail to our place.  The first time was back a few years ago.  You can read about that experience here (photos were pre-DSLR).  This time around it went MUCH quicker.  Funny how a little bit of experience will do that.

This time around, I snapped a chalk line in the areas where the chair rail was to be installed.  I also used my patented* no-tape-measure approach to trim installation, which was more fully explained in my baseboard installation video.

Anyway, why don’t you watch the video and let me know if you have any questions…

(If you don’t see the video, please click here to be redirected to YouTube)

The key takeaways from this video are:
– Use construction adhesive and a chalk line to align your trim
– Use a finish nailer for trim that is thicker than 1/2″ or so. Keep in mind that the nail needs to go through a 1/2″ thick piece of drywall plus the trim. Most brad nailers only shoot nails up to 1-1/4″ long.
– Use a t-bevel and your miter saw to figure out what angle your molding should be cut to.
– If you want an end cap or a “return”, just cut the end of the trim to a 45 degree angle. Then using a piece of scrap trim, cut a 45 degree angle on the opposite side you intend to install it and then just lop it off with a straight cut.

I hope this video helps you with your chair rail installation or any similar type of work.

Any questions??

 

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Trim. Tagged in ,, , , ,

How to Install Baseboard Molding

Posted by John on April 29th, 2015

In this video, you’ll learn:
– How to remove baseboard molding
– How to install new baseboard molding
– How to work without a tape measure

Well, we finally started our latest home improvement project.  As we mentioned a few weeks ago, we’re working towards adding some character in our vestibule with taller baseboard molding, additional chair rail trim and shadow boxes.

How to Install Baseboard Molding 2

The first item on this to do list is the baseboard molding.  Rather than write a few hundred words on how to rip out short molding and install taller trim, it’s easier and more educational to simply film it and narrate the work.

Here’s a super quick video on how to install baseboard molding.  By the way, super quick for me is around 5 minutes!

(If you don’t see the video, you can click this link to be redirected to YouTube)

I hope you find this video helpful.  Adding taller trim can give your home a more high end look since shorter trim is very common.  The visual effect of the taller baseboards gives the wall a more defined contrast with the wall.

Again, I’d like to emphasize that you don’t always need to work with a tape measure.  Sometimes you do, no doubt.  However, I find that if I’m able to employ the process I used in this video, I make less mistakes. When I first started out installing molding years ago, I used a tape measure.  I can’t tell you how many cuts I messed up.  When you use a tape measure, you’re adding potential pitfalls.  You measure the wall then you measure the molding.  If you make tiny mistakes on each of those steps you can make a noticeable mistake at the miter saw and cut the board too short or too long.

You can see another example of where I was able to avoid using a tape measure when I installed quarter round molding in our family room a couple years ago.

In our next video, I’ll show you how I use a t-bevel to make trim installation on angled walls easier.

Are you in need of new trim in your home?  What molding work are you considering? 

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Trim,Videos. Tagged in ,, , ,

Video: How to Build a Medicine Cabinet

Posted by John on February 26th, 2015

In this post, you’ll learn:
– How to build a medicine cabinet

How to Build a Medicine Cabinet

Well I wanted to show you this medicine cabinet completely finished and painted, but I think it may be a little while longer before it gets warm enough to spray paint it.  Maybe I’ll just brush paint it with a few coats instead.  We’ll see.  In any case, I was able to capture the build process for an instructional video.

Here are the tools and resources I used to build this cabinet.

1.  The mirror and glass shelf were from One Day Glass.
2.  The door hinges.
3.  The door latch.
4.  The router bit is a pattern plunge bit.
5.  The shelf pins.

Any questions?

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects. Tagged in ,,

Let’s Build a Medicine Cabinet Part 1

Posted by John on January 28th, 2015

In this post you’ll learn:

– The first steps to build a medicine cabinet

For a few years now I’ve been itching to build a medicine cabinet.  I’m not really sure why.  I guess I never liked the idea of paying a couple hundred bucks for a small painted box.  They’re pretty simple after all.  I had thought about building one for my first house, but I never got around to it.  So when I noticed my sister and her husband were making some upgrades around their house I offered to build them one, especially since they had already ripped their old one out.  They have a 1950’s bathroom with most of the original features and it’s in pretty good condition.  When I was over for the holidays they were using the space where the old medicine cabinet had been.

medicine cabinet hole

For this project, I pitched a few different designs to them.  They settled on a variation of a Restoration Hardware cabinet, more specifically, the Cartwright model.  We’re going to keep the overall scale and hardware, but skip the crown molding.  It’ll be a little more plain, but should blend in better with the existing decor.

cartwright medicine cabinet

(via Restoration Hardware)

This is how this project is going to work.  In this post we’re going to discuss the design, dimensioning, material and some of the other critical elements.  Then in our next medicine cabinet post, we’ll show a video on how to actually build the cabinet.  I would like to keep this series down to two or three posts at most.  If you’d like to read a more in-depth cabinet building series, you can check out our work on the TV stand we did a while ago.

Allright?  Ready to get started?  Let’s build a medicine cabinet!

Let’s start with the existing space.  There’s obviously a hole in the wall.  The medicine cabinet we’re going to build will recess into that hole.  A recessed cabinet will be a big space saver and they won’t need to patch the walls.  All I need to get started dimensioning the cabinet now are the dimensions of the hole in the wall.  I marked up the photo of the room and emailed it to my sister for her to take some measurements.

Here’s what I emailed her:

opening

I asked her to provide me a dimension for each one of those letters.  For the opening width and height, which are letters A and B, I asked her to take measurements at three locations: the left, right and middle (or top, middle and bottom).  I want the smallest of those three dimensions.  If I asked her for just the width and it turns out that the hole is slightly wider at the top than the bottom, then I could end up building the cabinet too large.  I want to make sure it will fit so we’ll build to the smallest width and the smallest height.

Since the wall is plaster and has some left over markings from the previous cabinet, I’d like the new cabinet to hide those markings.  So by asking for dimensions E and F, I can figure out how big the frame needs to be to cover that stuff.  The measurement at point D is the distance to the top of the wall tile.  I want to make sure the cabinet doesn’t touch it.

My sister took all those measurements and emailed them back to me.

At this point, I can start figuring out what the design will look like, how it will be built and how big each piece should be.  If you’re comfortable drawing this out on paper, you could use that approach.  Personally, I’m a big fan of SketchUp, so I prefer to draw my cabinets in that program.  While it’s fairly easy to use, it also has the added advantage of allowing me to show you nice rendered images of the design.

I started the drawing by sketching out a plain wall with a hole in it.  Then I gave the wall some thickness.  With that part out of the way, I drew a basic four sided box, which will be the insides of the medicine cabinet.

medicine-cabinet-box

You can see I left some space around all four sides of the box; about a 1/4″.  The depth of the box is also 1/4″ shorter than the depth of the hole.  Too small is probably OK.  Too big is going to be a problem.  You can see from the illustration that the box bottom and top will be assembled together using grooves in the box sides.  I didn’t draw a back piece, but you can just figure out its dimensions from these four pieces.  SketchUp has a tape measure tool, so after I had all four pieces drawn I could measure the dimensions of each one and write them down.

After the box parts were drawn and dimensioned, I turned my attention to the face frame.  The face frame will be attached to the box and will cover the open area around the box and also part of the wall.  Here’s what that frame looks like attached to the box.

medicine-cabinet-frame

The frame consists of a top and bottom rail board and two stile (aka side) boards.  The face frame will be assembled using pocket screws and it’ll be probably be attached to the box using pocket screws as well.  Pretty straight forward construction.

Now onto the door.  The door will be inset into the frame of the door, just like in the Restoration Hardware design.  Inset screams custom and it’s pretty much the only doors I like to build!!  They’re also pretty easy to make.  I’m going to draw the doors with a 1/8″ gap all the way around, just for the sake of the image, but in reality, I’ll make them the same size as the opening and then gently trim them down to their final size.

For the sake of clarity, I’ve dressed up the SketchUp drawing with a tile lip and some pink walls to match the photo.  I didn’t draw any hardware or a beveled mirror, although I’m sure you could do that if you wanted to.

medicine-cabinet-2

With the door drawn, I’ll write down the dimensions.  I’ll need to order a mirror and glass shelves as well, but I’ll get more into that in the next video post.  It’s also important to think about what sort of hinges or latch hardware will be required and to order it all in advance.  The box material will be birch plywood and the frame and door will be made from poplar.  While there are a lot of material options to choose from, I happen to have a lot of poplar and birch plywood laying around my shop.  Should be able to build most of it with scrap wood!

That’s it for this post. Hopefully you have a solid understanding of how I sized the cabinet and where we’re going from here.

Thanks and stay tuned.

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments and please share this post if you enjoyed it.

Posted in Carpentry,Design,DIY Projects. Tagged in ,, , , ,

Media Center Plans Now Available

Posted by John on December 2nd, 2014

tv stand plans

Well it’s been a while, but our latest set of woodworking are now available.  If you are a newsletter subscriber, you can download this tutorial from our plans page.

Get the FREE plans for this project
Join our newsletter and be part of a community of DIYers and Home Improvement enthusiasts.

The media center plans includes:

– A complete shopping list
– Cut sheets for all the plywood components
– Cut list for all the hardwood parts
– Illustrated instructions

The plans are based on our Custom Media Cabinet series.

Enjoy!

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects. Tagged in ,, , ,

Cabinet Door Hinges and Drawer Slides

Posted by John on November 9th, 2014

In this post, you’ll learn all about

– Cabinet door hinges

– Cabinet drawer slides

– What you need to consider when selecting this type of hardware

After nearly a year of part time work, our home office remodel is finally finished.  Stop back on Wednesday and you’ll get a close up of our newly remodeled space.  In the meantime, today’s post is about cabinet hinges and drawer slides.  During our recent series on cabinet building a received a few emails asking about the hardware I’ve selected so I thought I’d put together a helpful reference post to help you select the best hinges and drawer slides for your next project.

The easiest way to explain all of this is in a video.  Can I talk about hinges, drawer slides and drawer boxes for 20 minutes?  What do you think?

(If you can’t see the video, click on this link to be taken directly to YouTube)

Let’s recap the most important aspects of the video.

Hinges

To select a hinge for your project, you first need to know what type of cabinet and cabinet door you have.  Cabinets are either frameless (European) like Ikea cabinets or have face frames, which is typical for most American made cabinets.  Next you’ll need to determine if the door is full overlay, partial overlay or inset.  My kitchen cabinet doors are full overlay, but our office cabinet doors are inset.  Generally, most kitchen cabinet doors on the market today are full overlay.  Inset doors are more labor intensive and therefore are higher in cost and tend to be associated with custom and higher end cabinets.  Partial overlay doors were more common in the 50’s and 60’s, but you can still occasionally catch them on some other pieces.

Once you know the cabinet type and the door type, you just need to determine if you want the hinges to be hidden or decorative.

I prefer Blum hinges since they are high quality.  There is a planning tool on Blum’s website that will help you plan the doors and the hardware.  I used the tool for the Clip Top Hinges with face frame.

Here’s a link to the Blum inset hinges I used on the office cabinets (affiliate).  You’ll also need a forstner drill bit for the cup holes.

Drawer Slides

For our home office project, I used Blum Tandem drawer slides.  They install with some rear brackets and side mounting blocks.  They are a little more expensive than the basic European or epoxy slides, but they work great.  Blum also has a Tandem drawer planning tool on the same page as the hinge tool.  The big difference between drawer slides is usually the length.  You can use the planning tool to get a recommendation on the slide hardware as well as the drawer box dimensions.

I hope this video helps give you a better understanding of cabinet door hinges and drawer slides.

Let me know if you have any questions!

 

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Videos. Tagged in ,, , ,

New Video: Making Built-In Cabinets

Posted by John on October 20th, 2014

In today’s post, you’ll learn:

– How to make built-in cabinets

– How to make a beaded face frame

– What the build process for a cabinet looks like

built-in-cabinets

After spending the better part of a week and a half painting our home office, I’m finally down to the last couple of detail jobs.  Although the office isn’t officially finished quite yet, it’s done enough to take our video camera in there and film some shots of the new furniture.  I also managed to film all of the important aspects of the cabinet build, so you get to see both the (mostly) finished project and the how-to’s that go along with it.

Here’s the video:

If you don’t see the video window, you can click this link to be redirected to YouTube.

Just to be clear, this isn’t a “reveal” post.  Once the room is totally finished with all the bells and whistles, we’ll share a ton of photos with you.

There’s a lot to talk about after building these cabinets, but I realize the video is pretty long (~19 minutes), so I’d rather circle back with you in a follow-up post to discuss more lessons learned.  For now, just check out the video.  If you make it to the end, you can catch my wife and I goofing off.

Here are the router bits (affiliate links) I used in the video:

1.  The 1/8″ beading bit

2.  The 1-1/2″ notching bit

If you don’t have a router table, you can download our free router table plans and if you don’t have a router, you can check out my tool recommendation page for suggestions.

If you have any questions about anything you see in the video, or if you think I’ve totally botched it up, please fire away in the comments!

 

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Videos. Tagged in ,, , ,

How to Build Shaker Cabinet Doors with a Router

Posted by John on October 9th, 2014

In this post, you’ll learn

– How to build shaker cabinet doors with a router

– How to inset the doors into a face frame for a high end look

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you’ve probably seen me write about building shaker cabinet doors before.  I’ve built them for both my large built-in cabinet, the TV stand and they were the same style doors I built for our first home.  Last year, I filmed one of my first how-to videos on how to make them.  To date, that video has over 140,000 views and is by far my most popular.  In that video, which you can see here, I primarily used a table saw to cut the tongue and groove joints for the doors.   Even the center panel was machined using a table saw.

In this new version, I’m only using a router table for the tongue and groove joints and the center panel.  I thought it would be worth trying something new and see what works better.  I’ll probably put together a third video at some point to illustrate what combination of tools and techniques are easiest and provide the best results.

Since these doors are also inset into the face frame, I also used this opportunity to try a new technique for setting the inset gap.  In the first video, I just built the doors to the finished dimensions, which was a challenge.  In this new version, I built the doors a bit larger and shaved them down to the final size.  It ended up being much easier than I thought.

So here’s the video.  Let me know if you have any comments or questions!

Oh and by the way, if you don’t want the doors inset and instead you just want them to be full overlay, that’s much easier.  Just build the doors 1-1/2″ wider and longer than the door opening.  You also won’t need to trim them once you’re done.

If you can’t see the video window, you can click this link to take you right to YouTube.

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Videos. Tagged in ,, , , , , ,

Office Countertops

Posted by John on October 5th, 2014

In this post, you’ll learn:

– How to configure a cabinet for installation and counters

– How do get a deep, rich stain

Well, we’re down to the wire in our home office project.  Officially, all I have left to do is add some trim beneath the crown molding, install the baseboard trim and do some painting.  Keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be done everything by the end of next week.  Then it’s just setup and decorating.  So thrilled to wrapping this room up.

I’ve got a bunch of new videos coming your way soon.  Hopefully later this week I’ll be publishing my second video on Inset Cabinet Doors.  May actually put together a third door film at some point.  I’m going to release a video on building the built-in cabinets, so you get a more continuous perspective on the work.  I also owe you more videos on my workshop tools, including the miter saw and the jointer.  Thanks for your patience on those!

Now let’s talk about some features I added to my cabinets to both make them easier to install AND easier to top with counters.

Here’s a top view of the inside of the base cabinets.

top brace

Couple things worth pointing out.  There is a plywood brace on top that spans from one side of the box to the other.  It’s secured in place with a couple of pocket screws.  There’s also a second brace along the back.  That’s also a plywood piece that supports the drawer slides and gives me something to secure the cabinet to wall.

Let’s take a look at how I install the cabinet to the wall using the back brace.

First I use a studfinder and mark the walls.  Since my brace is set back into the cabinet by a 1/4″, I use a couple of shims and pre-drill my hole.  Then I drive a 2-1/2″ long drywall screw through both the shims and the brace until snug.  I make sure to use a finish washer for both a better look and it also prevents the screw from digging into the brace.

back brace

 

Once the screw is tight, I’ll score the shims with a box cutter and just snap them off.

scored shims

The uppers will install the same way, except their back braces are exposed and painted.

The brace that spans the top of the cabinet is for attaching the countertop.  I can just drive a couple screws from below and the counter will be snug.

Office Countertops

Now for the counters.  I used 3/4″ thick oak plywood and the edges are wrapped with oak hardwood to hide the plywood edge.  Since the walls aren’t perfectly square, I used a technique that granite installers often employ.  I took some cardboard strips (granite guys use luan, which is stiffer) and hot glued them to trace out the footprint of the tops.  I then dropped the cardboard outlines onto the plywood sheet and just cut along the lines.  After the plywood parts were cut out, I used a brad nailer and some wood glue to attach the oak strips to the plywood.

Our home office also features a center desk section.  This is just a large piece of plywood with the same edge banding.  Since it’s not sitting on top of a cabinet, it’s actually lower than the built-in counters, it needs to be supported in a different manner.  In this case, I’ve attached a few strips of oak hardwood to the cabinets and the wall it butts up against.  In the front, to reduce flexing, I’ve screwed in a piece of angle iron that rests on the oak strips.  It’s also screwed into the plywood from below.

desk top brace

Here’s a shot of the completed counters.

stained desk top

It took me a few days to get that deep, rich color.  Here’s how I did it.

I used three different stain colors.  I started out with Varathane’s Black Cherry.  I applied it with a sponge applicator and let it set it overnight.  I never wiped it off at any point.  In fact, I never wiped off any of the stains.  Next up I applied a coat of Minwax’s Cherry stain.  After letting that set all day, I finished with a coat of Minwax Red Oak.  After around 12 hours of drying time, I sprayed on three coats of satin polyurethane using a regular spray can.  In between coats of poly, I sanded with 600 grit sandpaper.

I went with the three different stains method to get a more complex look.  I’ve never liked the results I get from applying one color and then wiping.  I also much prefer spraying on the poly as opposed to brushing or sponging it on since the sponge tends to drag the stain around with it.  If you spray the poly, it just layers on without causing much of a mess.  Although you do have to watch out for overspray.

So, that’s a sneak peek of our office counters.  If you’re interested in the latest photos, you can check them out on our Instagram account.

Any questions?

 

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Staining and Painting. Tagged in ,, ,

How to Scribe a Cabinet

Posted by John on September 25th, 2014

In today’s post you’ll learn:

– How to Scribe a Cabinet

In an ideal world, all walls and floors would be square and true (and all mortgages paid off).  Since that never seems to be the case, you need to know how to modify your cabinets or built-ins to account for uneven walls.  If you want a professional look to your work, this is a must read.  Luckily, this process is fairly simple and only requires a circular saw and one of those compasses you used in grade school art class.  Whoever thought you’d need one of those again?

Let’s start with reality.  Here’s one of our home office cabinets pushed tight into the corner.

cabinet gap

You can see it’s tight against the bottom of the cabinet, but open along the top.  No bueno.  Could you caulk that seam?  Sure you could.  I actually plan on caulking it.  However, you shouldn’t caulk anything wider than 1/4″ or it will look sloppy.  That opening at the top is around 5/16″ wide so it’s much too wide for caulk.

Here’s what we’ll do to fix it.

First, we’ll take a look at the top of the cabinet to see what kind of overhang I have on the face frame.

overhang

In this photo you can see that the face frame overhangs the side of the cabinet by about 1/4″.  If I was smart and better prepared, I would’ve designed in a larger overhang, say 3/8″, to allow for scribing as-is.  Alas, I only gave myself around 1/4″ (probably closer to 3/16″).

Since I don’t have enough “meat” overhanging the side, I’ll just add some more wood and make it work.

I start by measuring the gap between the edge of face frame and the wall.  It’s about 5/16″.  I then cut a strip of wood 5/16″ wide and I glue and nail it to the side of the cabinet.

cabinet scribe strip

Now I have plenty of overhang on that side of the cabinet.

Next, I shove the cabinet back in the corner.  The gap will be identical before I tacked on the wood strip, since the wall is still curving away from the cabinet.

Now I take my compass and I set the distance between the needle and the pencil to the same distance as the gap between the cabinet and the wall.

how to scribe a cabinet

Then I just run the compass down the curve of the wall with the pencil on the cabinet.  The compass will mark out a line on the cabinet that matches the curvature of the wall.

strip marked

 

The last part is easy.  Just take your circular saw and cut along the line.  You’ll be removing material from the strip so it will then match the wall.

After the cut has been made, the cabinet gets shoved back into the corner and we can see that the gap is pretty much gone.  Any open seam can be filled in with a much smaller amount of painter’s caulk.

scribe cabinet

 

To finish the project, I’ll just make sure I fill in any gap between the wood strip and the cabinet with wood putty and I’ll sand and paint it.

I’ll have to repeat this process for the top cabinet that sits above this lower unit.

If you can’t tell, I’m intentionally trying to keep the reveal of this project as hush hush as possible.  Thus, the lack of pictures of all the cabinets.

Now that you know how to scribe, do you think you’ll use this trick?

P. S. I also had to use this technique for my raised panel wainscoting.

 

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects. Tagged in ,, , , ,

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