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.
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.
(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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
Once the screw is tight, I’ll score the shims with a box cutter and just snap them off.
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.
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.
Here’s a shot of the completed counters.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In today’s post you’ll learn:
- The best way to paint cabinets
- The approach I’m taking to paint my cabinets
Before I get started with today’s post, I want to remind you that we are running a survey to collect your feedback regarding our blog. I’m going to keep it open until the end of this week and then I’ll discuss the results in a follow up post. Overall, the feedback so far has been positive and supremely helpful. I’ve gotten a few comments that recommend I make some changes to the way we operate and I’ll address those suggestions as well. All the comments have been respectful and for that I’m grateful. I’m very happy to have you all as readers and I’d like to keep you engaged and reading, but I realize I have to continue earning that privilege. Changes are a’comin and I think you’ll be happy with the direction we’ll be taking. Before I implement any of those changes however, I need to finish our home office and prep another room (details to follow).
Here’s a link to the survey if you haven’t taken it yet: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/6JB56NM
Now let’s get back to home stuff…
Cabinet Painting 101
In the past week or so, I’ve made a lot of progress with our office cabinets. I’m in the middle of painting them and pretty soon I’ll be installing them, working on the countertops, drawers and room trim. I’m intentionally withholding a lot of details so as to make a comprehensive 30-40 minute long video where I demonstrate the entire build process. While waiting for that video may be a little annoying for you, I think you’ll have a better understanding of the entire process from start to finish. It’s either that or I give you a dozen posts on cabinet building, which I’ve already done with our TV stand and large built-in project. The general approach I’m taking to building these cabinets is similar to those two projects, so if you’re itching to read about cabinet building and you can’t wait for the video, check out those two series. I’m trying hard not to be repetitive.
In this post I want to go over the approach I take to painting cabinets. My process is always evolving and improving so every time I attempt a new cabinet build, I’m switching something up and this project is no different. But before I get into the specifics, here’s my philosophy on painting cabinets and furniture in general.
The Absolute Best Method. The best way to paint cabinets involves spraying two coats of primer followed by spraying two coats of a high quality acrylic paint or lacquer using an HVLP system. If you spray the paint, you won’t get brush marks. You should get an even, smooth finish. It’s how almost all professional furniture is finished. Multiple coats of lacquer will give you that candy coating like finish similar to something you’d see at Ikea. Your car is probably painted with some sort of two part lacquer paint. Acrylic paint is sort of like nail polish. It’s smelly, but gives you a smooth durable finish that will hold up really well over time. You should probably avoid using a latex based paint or primer since they are not designed for furniture, they’re designed for your plaster or drywall.
The Better Method. If you aren’t equipped to spray on four coats of paint or primer, then an alternative method you could attempt is maybe spraying on just the primer or just the finish coats. If you don’t have a professional spray system like an HVLP gun, you can use spray cans. You can spray paint the primer using spray cans and then brush on an acrylic finish paint. Lacquer isn’t typically applied with a brush, so you should probably just skip that stuff. Avoid brushing on all four coats of primer and paint. If your goal is to avoid brush marks, then brush on as few as possible.
Keep in mind that I’m just talking about the paint here, not the prep work on the in-between work. Also, I’m working with unfinished or bare wood, not wood or cabinets that have already been painted or poly’d.
So now that we’ve talked about the possible approaches, let me tell you how I’m finishing my cabinets.
Here’s a shot of the cabinets after the primer.
1. Prep work. After the cabinets were built, I filled in any small brad nail holes with white wood filler. I then sanded each cabinet with a 120 grit sandpaper using my random orbital sander. I avoided rounding over any corners or edges with the sander. I want all of my edges to be fairly crisp at this point. Once every piece had been sanded at 120 grit, I switched to 220 and repeated the same process. Afterwards I used a compressed air nozzle to blow off any sawdust. Some people absolutely avoid using compressed air to do this, but I think it works fine.
2. Staging. Since I’m going to be spraying on the primer, I moved all of the cabinets, doors and shelves into the garage. I used plastic painters tarp and covered the entire floor with plastic. I also draped plastic over our shoe rack and our daughters strollers and toys.
3. Corners. I used a block of wood with some 220 grit sand paper and knocked down all of the corners on every piece. I apply very little force as I run the sandpaper block across all the edges. Again, not looking to round over the edges, just slightly dull them. A corner that gets knocked down will hold the paint better than a sharp edge.
4. More air. I use my compressed air hose that I have piped into my garage and blow off any additional dust that may have built up from moving the cabinets up and rounding over the edges.
5. Raising the grain. Since I’ll be using a waterborne primer, I’ll need to raise the grain. When wood grain absorbs water after it’s been sanded, the wood grains will rise and cause the finish to feel rough. So to make the process easier, you intentionally raise them by getting them wet and then you sand them back down by hand. After they’ve been knocked back down, they won’t rise again. Sounds crazy, but that’s just how it is. To raise the grain, I fill up my HVLP gun with warm water and blast all the cabinets with a light coating of water mist. After an hour of drying time, I lightly sand the cabinets with some 220 grit sandpaper by hand and then blew off any dust with the compressed air.
6. Primer. I used Benjamin Moore’s Fresh Start latex primer. I used it because it’s low-odor, low-VOC and is sprayable. As I mentioned, latex isn’t ideal and it came out just okay. It sprayed a bit chunky from the HVLP system I use, but ended up leveling out ok and seemed to get the job done. In the past, I’ve used a shellac based primer from Zinsser, specifically the BIN primer, which sprayed absolutely perfectly. Thought I’d try something different this time. I’ll probably go back to the BIN for my next project.
7. Sand. After the primer dried, I went back and sanded all the cabinets again using a 220 grit sandpaper by hand. Using a power tool for this may remove too much paint.
8. Finish Paint. For the finish coat, I’m using two coats of Sherwin Williams Pro Classic in Ultra White. It’s the same color as the rest of the trim in the office so it will match the baseboard and crown molding. I bought it in satin instead of semi-gloss though, since I don’t want the cabinets to be too shiny. The crown and baseboard molding WILL be semi-gloss, however. The Pro Classic is an acrylic enamel that it designed for cabinet and trim work. Since it’s an enamel, it will harden and will resist pulling off if I set a book or computer down on it for example (a characteristic referred to as “blocking”). Instead of spraying it, I’m brushing it on. This is also intentional. First off, it’s much easier then spraying. Secondly, it will have a more built-in look if it isn’t perfectly smooth. If this were a stand alone kitchen cabinet set, then I would probably try spraying all the coats. This high quality paint levels very well so you are much less likely to see brush marks. I believe it’s equivalent to Benjamin Moore’s Satin Impervo, which I used on my first house and also loved.
Here’s a sneak peak of a horizontal divider after the first coat. Can you see any brush marks? No? Me neither!
So that’s where I’m at with the cabinets. I’m hoping to wrap them up SOON! Second coat of finish paint is going on tomorrow.
Now I’d love to hear about your experience painting cabinets. Have any tips or experience you’d like to share?
If you’ve been following along with out blog lately, you know that we’re knee deep into our home office renovation. This project has taken us the better part of nine months and we’re finally a couple weeks away from putting it to bed. I’m in the middle of assembling our new built-in cabinets that we are making from scratch and while I definitely enjoy the process, I’m already looking forward to installing them and being finished with this part of the project.
In this post, I wanted to discuss cabinet building challenges. It’s not all gumdrops, folks.
It seems as though every time I take on a new project, all I tend to think about are the positive outcomes that lay before us. With this project for example, I’m looking forward to having a professional, custom looking home office that we can decorate and organize. I never really think too much about how many evenings I’ll be spending in the basement toiling away on my table saw and router. I always underestimate how many trips to Lowes or Home Depot I’ll have logged by the time we call the project complete. Consequently, I tend to write wrap-up or recap posts when I’m basking in the after glow of a completed project and I rarely write posts when I’m in the thick of it. In my mind, the net outcome always outweighs the time and monetary investment of doing it yourself.
I feel very empowered by being capable of taking raw lumber and plywood and building something substantial out of it. This is my ‘thing.’ I’m not good at sports, I don’t have any other real hobbies. This is IT. One of the main reasons I blog is to teach what I’ve learned so you can do these same things for you and yours. It’s nice to have a deep home improvement skill set. This constant-positive thinking however, can cause you to forget the bumps on the road. It can cause you to overload your plate with home improvement projects. It can get you in over your head and it can lead to you getting sick of it.
That’s what brings me around to the reason for this post. I’ve spend the better part of ten hours in the shop the last couple of days and I’m full of a different kind of insight. One that doesn’t point out all the net gains and the sunshine. This is the kind of insight that will remind you to stock up on bandaids. The kind that if I wait another day or two to write, I’ll probably forget. Building your own furniture, while rewarding in numerous ways is a mixed bag. It’s up to you to determine if it’s worth your effort. I’ve built well over a dozen cabinets for my first house and for our current home and I’ll probably build a couple dozen more. These aggravations won’t stop me, but they will entice me to improve my build process for the next go around so I don’t repeat them.
Here are 6 Cabinet Building Challenges that I’m Working Through Right Now
1. This work is dirty and dusty. I always seem to forget what a half an inch of sawdust looks like on the shop floor. It gets into EVERYTHING! #SawdustInAllThePlaces and it’s not nearly as funny as “David Tennant in places he shouldn’t be.” I don’t have a proper dust collection system right now, so I typically end up cleaning up the entire space once I’ve completely wrapped up. So it’s dirty? So what? It’s really not that big of a deal except for the fact that I need to shower after every time I work in the shop. Not a major pain, but a pain nonetheless.
2. Splinters. You can tell when I’m working on a new cabinet build by the number of bandaids on my fingers. Right now there are two. For some reason, my hands are magnets for splinters. I mostly get them from plywood. Word of advice: try not to let the plywood slide through your hands while you’re moving it. Doesn’t end well for your digits. When I built the cabinets for my first house, I had a splinter in my finger for weeks and didn’t know it.
3. All the parts. Cabinets have face frames, plywood boxes, braces, drawer fronts, drawers, doors, door hinges, door stops, drawer slides, counters, edging, knobs, pulls, etc. Simple stuff, but it ends up being a lot of parts to cut out and track. If you don’t buy them all up front then you end up purchasing them incrementally, which is what I usually do. I recommend you buy absolutely everything you need for each job before you get started, otherwise you end up just wasting time making those separate trips.
4. It’s still not cheap. When all is said and done I’ll have saved a fair amount of money over purchasing comparable cabinets and having them installed professionally. Can I find cabinets that look similar? Maybe. Can I find inexpensive cabinets? Sure. Can I find inexpensive, perfectly sized for my room, custom looking, beaded face frame and inset door cabinets for less than I’m paying in materials? No freaking way. If I were to hand over my cabinet specs over to a cabinet shop and ask them to build me the exact same thing I’m building now, I’d be paying over $2000 easy. Probably closer to $3k or $4k. That doesn’t mean by building these cabinets myself I’m not spending anything. I’ll probably end up spending close to $800 on lumber and plywood. That’s not zero. Plus, I always end up trying out new tools or investing in upgrades. For this build, I bought three new router bits. That’s just the material cost. There IS some value to spending time in the basement two or three nights a week. That’s time away from my family and time I could be doing other productive work or just relaxing. Plus, I already own almost all of the tools I need for the job, but if you don’t, those startup costs ain’t cheap. So you need to consider all the “costs” associated with every job you undertake.
5. It ALWAYS takes longer. Much, much longer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my wife that I’ve only got a couple more hours and I’ll be all done. You can imagine how well that goes after the 2nd or 3rd time. Getting an accurate feel for how long a cabinet will last takes experience and even then it’s hard to gauge when life gets in the way. Plan on it taking some time and then add another couple weeks.
6. Material Sourcing. This is my latest aggravation and I am swearing that this time I’ll learn from it. I’m am DONE with buying S4S lumber from Home Depot and Lowes (at least for big projects). I’m SO sick of standing there in the lumber aisle and picking out board after board that is warped, curved or cupped. From now on I’m buying rough cut hardwood from a lumber yard and planing and jointing it myself. Just a couple of days ago I was looking for some 1/2″ thick maple for the drawers. Couldn’t find it anywhere. I should’ve sourced all my lumber up front and then I wouldn’t be sitting pretty. Instead, I’m using some 1/2″ thick Birch plywood and I’ll use some edge veneer.
So those are some of the aggravations of building your own cabinets. It’s still TOTALLY worth it, people. Totally. Pretty soon I’ll be sitting in my new office with my feet up on the desk basking in the warm glow of custom cabinetry. My splinters will all be healed and I’ll be thinking about my next project… Yep. Couple more hours and I’ll be done.
Now I want to hear from you. What is the ABSOLUTE WORST part of your DIY life? It’s OK to complain once in a while.
In this post you’ll learn:
- How to use a thickness planer
– Why you should consider using one
– The difference between rough cut lumber and S4S
Back in 2005 when I was building my first set of kitchen cabinets, I made an impulsive purchase and bought a used thickness planer I found on Craigslist. I had heard from numerous carpenters in online forums that by purchasing rough stock instead of the ready-to-use wood from the big hardware store, I would save a lot of money. It ended up working out in my favor. When the cabinets were finally completed and installed, I estimated I probably spent around $2k-$3k for all of the lumber and hardware for the kitchen cabinets. That number may have been a few hundred dollars higher if I bought all of my lumber from Lowes or Home Depot.
The key to saving that money was the thickness planer. Without it, I would’ve had to purchase more expensive and often lower quality lumber.
Here’s a video I just put together where I explain the basics of using a thickness planer. If you’ve never used one or frankly, have never even heard of a thickness planer, then it’s worth a quick watch. It could potentially save you money on your next carpentry project.
An Introduction to the Thickness Planer
- Thickness planers can cut wood either on the face side or on an edge of a board
– S4S means Sanded Four Sides and is the finished wood available for purchase at most large home improvement stores
– Rough cut lumber is generally cheaper per board foot compared to S4S lumber
– S4S is more expensive and can also contain major imperfections like bows or curves
– Boards you plan on planing should initially be cut wider or thicker than the finished width or thickness desired
– Plan on running a board through the planer 3 or 4 times.
– You can adjust the amount of material being removed in each pass with an adjustment knob
– I use the DeWalt Model 734 (affiliate) and it’s on my Tool Recommendations page
Here’s a picture that illustrates the point further.
The board on the left has just been cut with a table saw and has a fair amount of imperfections including raised, uneven surfaces and saw marks. It would take a LOT of sanding or hand planing to clean that edge up OR a few passes through the thickness planer. The board on the right has just finished a few passes through the thickness planer and it looks clean and perfect.
Here’s the bottom line. If you are seriously getting into wood working and have some larger projects coming up or plan on working with reclaimed wood, then consider purchasing a thickness planer. If you are mainly into smaller projects and are just an occasional woodworker, then you’ll probably survive without one.
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