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How to Scribe a Cabinet

Posted by 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 ,, , , ,

6 Cabinet Building Challenges

Posted by on September 11th, 2014

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.

cabinet-building

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.

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

Get on Board with Our Cabinet Build

Posted by on July 7th, 2014

Happy Monday, folks.  We hope all of our American readers enjoyed their 4th of July weekend!  Lisa and I took the kids over to the USS New Jersey on Saturday afternoon.  It’s the closest Battleship to our home in South Jersey.  I’m a HUGE fan of the Iowa Class Battleships.

Gotta tell you… I was not disappointed.  Tremendous history there.  If you ever get the chance to go on one of the Iowa’s, I suggest you take it.  The USS Iowa is in LA, the USS New Jersey is in Camden,  the USS Missouri is in Pearl Harbor and the USS Wisconsin is in Norfolk.  I’ve been on the Wisconsin before, but if I recall correctly, the tour was limited.  The New Jersey tour is impressive, although the teak deck is in rough shape in some areas.

uss-new-jersey-guns

I’m leading today off with this Navy reference for a good reason.  If you haven’t yet subscribed to our free newsletter, now it the perfect time to GET ON BOARD!  See what I did there?

So we’ve finished most of the work on our coffered ceiling and later this week I’ll be prepping to build the built-in cabinets for our big home office remodel.  Part of the prep work will include setting up my basement workshop and I’m planning on filming a 30-40 minute long episode after it’s all done.  I will also be filming some quick five minute long videos going over each of the power tools I’ll be using for the cabinet build.  If you’ve never used a table saw or a router, this is right up your alley.  I’m also in need of a larger table saw station and a more permanent miter saw stand before I get started.

That’s why this is the PERFECT time to get on board with our free newsletter and follow along with the project as it unfolds.  Building cabinets is our bread and butter and if you’re interested in learning how to make your own, you’re going to enjoy this series.

Subscribe to our newsletter

What I’m going to cover:

1. The Table Saw
2. The Miter Saw
3. The Router
4. The Cordless Drill
5. The Kreg Jig
6. Cabinet Building Jigs
7. Design and Dimensioning
8. Face Frame
9. Cabinet Boxes
10. Assembly
11. Finishing
12. Installation

Sounds good?  Have any questions on the cabinet build process that you’d like answered?  Leave me a comment below and I’ll try to answer it.  Big fan of big ships?  Would love to hear what ships you’ve been on!

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Free Built-In Cabinet Plans

Posted by on January 10th, 2014

Well, we’ve had another busy week.  Fortunately for you, we’ve been busy working on our next set of free woodworking plans.

free-built-in-cabinet-plans

These plans took FOREVER! I kinda went a little overboard too.  They’re more like an ebook than plans.  Complete with a material and tool list, step by step instructions, etc.  It’s more than 30 pages long!  The plans were based on our built-in cabinet series we made last year.

So how do you get access to these free built-in plans?  You subscribe to our free newsletter, that’s how.  The signup form is just to the left of this post.  Within minutes of signing up, you’ll get an email with a link to our plans page.  Sound good?

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Custom Media Cabinet Part 11: Cabinet Installed

Posted by on November 18th, 2013

So I was going to make another video of the cabinet installation, since we were already at that point.  Then I realized, I’d be showing a 30 second long clip of me screwing the cabinet to the wall.  (I just secured the cabinet to the wall with a couple of 2″ drywall screws.  The screws went into the backstrap that runs along the back of the cabinet and into a stud in the wall.)  I don’t think you need to see that.

Let’s go ahead and skip that video and get right to the good stuff.. the pictures.

Here’s what our TV wall in the sitting room looked like just a couple of hours ago..

tv on wall

And here’s how it looked with the new cabinet installed…

diy cabinet 2

Much better…

Looks pretty close to that concept drawing we made a few weeks ago.

50 inch side view

Here’s a front view…

diy cabinet

And that front view concept drawing…

50 inch finished

So that’s it for this tutorial series.  The only thing we have left to do is wrap the bottom of the cabinet in some baseboard trim to tie it into the wall and do a bit of caulking and touch up paint.  If you’re interested in learning how to apply molding to cabinets*, you can check out the tutorial we did when we built the bigger unit.  It’s the exact same process.

Next time you see this cabinet, it will be completely finished… and the walls may be painted too.  We’ll see.

*Lisa actually really liked the look of the cabinet without the baseboard molding and was reluctant to add it.  Then she saw the baseboard molding on the cabinet and thinks it looks even better.

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

Custom Media Cabinet Part 9: DIY Cabinet Doors

Posted by on November 7th, 2013

So our Custom Media Cabinet is nearly complete.  I’m hoping to get it painted and then assembled this weekend.  Instead of putting it together and then painting it, I’m going to try painting most of it first and then gluing it up.  It was a major PIA to paint our built-in once it was finished.  Especially the interior of the cabinet.  Hoping to avoid that aggravation.  Anyway, in today’s post, I’m going to show you how to DIY cabinet doors.

diy cabinet doors

Back when we made our built-in, I threw together a video on YouTube showing our readers how to build inset shaker style cabinet doors.  That video was up on YouTube for a couple months and got over 12,000 views!  I took it down to make some changes and re-uploaded it a few weeks ago.  There’s really no sense in making another video on shaker style inset cabinet doors, obviously, so I’m just going to re-share the original video.

Shaker style doors are fairly straight forward to make.  Making them inset instead of overlay just screams custom and in the video I show you how I go about getting that result.

Oh, and head’s up… Sherwin Williams is having a 40% off sale this weekend, so you can be sure we’ll be heading over there.

If you don’t see the video, click here for the link to the YouTube page.

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Custom Media Cabinet Part 6: Face Frame Construction

Posted by on October 15th, 2013

During my three day weekend, I managed to finally get some woodworking done.  I built the face frame for our custom media cabinet.  As promised, I whipped up a tutorial video.  Let me know if you have any questions.  You’ll see it’s not all that difficult to cut the pieces to their finished length and width and then assemble them using pocket screws.  Hope it helps!

 

Up next we’ll be cutting out our box components and adding our grooves and dados.  Fun times.

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Custom Media Cabinet Part 5: How to Buy Lumber

Posted by on October 13th, 2013

Happy Columbus Day!  Or as my Italian wife refers to it… “Better than St. Patrick’s Day.”  We hope you all had a great weekend.  We made some solid progress on our media cabinet.  The face frame is built and I’ll be starting on the cabinet boxes shortly.  I filmed almost all of the face frame construction and I plan on doing the same for the rest of the build.  Hope you like videos, because you’re going to be seeing a lot of them soon.

On Friday, we left off with some cut sheets that I used to draw up a shopping list.  Today, we’re going to discuss actually buying the material.

Our shopping list consisted of one 4×8 sheet of 3/4″ thick paint-grade plywood and a couple boards of paint grade hardwood.  Let’s start with the plywood.

What to avoid: Framing, roofing or flooring plywood.

framing plywood

Why not?  Well, these types of plywood are designed for their particular application.  For a paint-grade project, we want something that has a smooth finish on both sides that’s also knot free.  Most of these construction quality plywood sheets are going to have a significant amount of defects that won’t leave you with a quality finish.  The tempting thing about these lower grade plywood options is their price.  They may be up to half the cost of the plywood I normally use.

What to look for:   A quality furniture grade plywood, like this Birch plywood.  It’s finish grade on both sides, it’s strong and it’s designed for cabinet builds.

birch hardwood plywood

Now here’s the bad news: the price.

birch hardwood plywood price

The good news is I only need one sheet.  That’s a lot of money for some plywood.  Here’s the deal though, in total, this cabinet will probably cost under $125 and I’m hoping it lasts a long, long time.  So, spending $50 on some plywood isn’t that terrible if you put it in perspective.

With my sheet in hand, I took it over to the panel saw and had the lumber associate cut it into four sections so I could fit it in my car.

panel saw

For the hardwood boards, I like poplar.  Poplar is fairly inexpensive and it’s perfect for paint.  Maple would also be a great choice.  Unless you are planning on staining a project like this, I’d avoid oak or cherry.  And yes, you could use pine, especially a high quality pine, but it’s a softwood so expect it to show wear and tear over time.  The hardwoods like poplar tend to hold up better.

So that’s my 2 cents on buying paint grade lumber from your local big hardware store.  You may also want to look for some local non-chain lumber yards as well.  Sometimes they have a better variety of plywoods and most will special order some if you’re looking for it.

In our next post, we’ll have a video on building the face frame.

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

Custom Media Cabinet Part 2: Face Frames

Posted by on October 6th, 2013

Hope everyone had an enjoyable and restful weekend!  Last week we started the design work on our custom media cabinet by constraining our overall dimensions and making a rough drawing of how it should look.  Today, we’re going to pickup where we left off and do some detailed design work starting with the face frames.

Even though this is a custom piece, it has the same basic bones as your typical run of the mill kitchen cabinet.  It consists of a plywood box, a hardwood face frame, a countertop and of course, some doors.

cabinet-components

If you’re not familiar with what a face frame is, go take a look at your kitchen cabinets.  Most American kitchen cabinets have face frames.  It’s a 3/4″ thick frame of wood that gets attached to the plywood box portion of the cabinet.  Here’s a side view of the media cabinet we’re designing that shows that the frame and the box.  A lot of European cabinets are “frameless” and skip the face frame altogether.  Ikea kitchen cabinets are frameless.  Some of this may sound familiar if you followed our built-in posts closely.

side view of cabinet

The face frame does a few things for us: it provides a frame to attach the doors to, it serves as a divider between each section and it provides some added strength to our media cabinet.  It also gives the cabinet a more traditional look.

So let’s take a closer look at our face frame.

face-frame-dimensions

In our last post we mentioned that the overall height of the cabinet it 27″ and the width is 50″.  From the image above, you can tell that those dimensions INCLUDE the countertop.  That’s important because I think the countertop will look great if it overhangs the rest of the cabinet by a good inch on the front and both sides.  The countertop will also be 3/4″ thick.

So let’s subtract out the 3/4″ countertop thickness and the 1″ overhang on both sides and see where that leaves us.

face-frame-dimensions-2

Now we know the overall dimensions of the face frame.  Not too hard, right?

We’re almost ready to dimension each of the face frame pieces, but before we can do that we need to make a couple decisions.  We need to pick the width of each board that’s going into the frame.  In order to do that, we need to know where each board ends and the next one begins.  To help make this step easier, I color and letter coded the face frame drawing.  Each color and letter is a different board.  The same color and letter boards are the same dimensions exactly.

color-coded-face-frame

When I designed my built-in cabinet, I made most of the face frame out of 1.5″ wide boards (also known as 1″ x 2’s” or “one by’s”).  A “one by two” is a 3/4″ thick board that’s 1.5″ wide.  Why they don’t call it a 3/4″ by 1.5″ is beyond me.

Let’s take each board and dimension it.

The “A” boards

The”A” boards will be 1.5″ wide as we mentioned.  The length is 27″ minus the thickness of the countertop: 26 1/4″.

The “B” boards

The bottom “B” board will have part of its width covered by a baseboard trim.  I’d like 1/2″ to be hidden behind that baseboard molding and above the baseboard I’d like to have 1.5″ to be visible.  So that’s a 2″ wide board.  The length is 48″ minus the width of the two “A” boards, leaving 45″.  The top “B” board won’t be hidden at all, but I’m going to make it 2″ wide anyway.  I think the top board will look better if it’s a little wider than the rest.

The image below shows a close up of the bottom “B” board  and how it will be partly covered by my baseboard molding.  The dashed line represents the top of the baseboard molding, which is 3 1/4″ tall.

cabinet-bottom

The “C” boards

The “C” boards will be 1.5″ wide.  The length is determined from subtracting out both “B” boards and the 2 3/4″ bottom space from the overall 26 1/4″ length of the face frame leaving 19 1/2″.

Let’s recap our dimensions, all are 3/4″ thick:

A: 1.5″ wide x 26 1/4″ long

B: 2″ wide x 45″ long

C: 1.5″ wide x 19 1/2″ long

Now that we have the dimensions for all of our face frame components, we can move onto the next step, which will be to design and dimension our cabinet box.  We’ll save that for our next post.

What can you takeaway from this post?

Face frames sit on the front of most American cabinets.  You can design a face frame from the overall dimensions of a project and you can dimension each board if you select board widths.  This stuff isn’t rocket science, it’s basic math and some design choices.  It’s just a matter of knowing the process.

Any questions?

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

Custom Media Cabinet Part 1: Concept Design

Posted by on October 3rd, 2013

Very happy to be diving into another carpentry project.  If you’re new to our blog, last spring we made a built-in from scratch and installed it in our sitting room.  This time around we’re building a custom media cabinet to match.  Over the course of the next few weeks, we’re going to show our readers how to design and build this cabinet from the first step to the last.  I’m going to try and make this as instructive as possible.  If you want to build one yourself one day, this should help.

Here’s a sneak peak of what it will probably look like…

build a tv stand

In this post, we’re starting with the overall design of the piece.  As I mentioned, it should look a lot like our built-in already in the room.  Here’s what that looks like:

built-in front view

Here’s where the new cabinet is going: right beneath our wall mounted TV.

flat screen tv hiding power

Before I do anything, I like to start by constraining the overall dimensions of the piece.  So, I’ll try to nail down the height, width and length of the cabinet.  That’ll be a big help when I actually do some detailed design later on.

I’d like this new cabinet to stick out 18″ from the wall, which is the same depth of the other built-in.  I’m also going to use the same height as the TV stand in our family room, which is 27.”  So the only dimension we need now is the length.

To get a length we’re happy with, I’m going to draw the cabinet as a box in Google’s SketchUp, but you could just as easily draw it on paper, maybe mark the dimensions on the wall, or use some painters tape on the carpet.  The goal here is to get a feel of just how long we need the cabinet to be.

There are a few other requirements.  I’d like to be able to hide the electrical outlet if possible.  I’d like to have some open shelving for our PS3 and I’d like at least one or maybe two cabinet doors for storage.

Arbitrarily, I chose 40″ as a possible option and then 50″ since it will hide the outlet.  Here’s how a 40″ wide cabinet looks compared to a 50″ wide unit.

side-by-side

The unit on the left is the 40″ version and just by looking at it compared to a 32″ TV, I can see that we probably will be more limited in the number of doors and shelves we can fit in it.  The 50″ on the right will probably allow me to squeeze some shelves and a couple of doors, not to mention it will hide the wall outlet, while the 40″ won’t cover it.

So, let’s go with 50″ in width.  You starting to see how this works?  The dimensions are just based on whatever we need them to be.

I took some time in SketchUp to draw out what the finished cabinet will probably look like.  I didn’t include the baseboard molding, but that’ll be there too.  In the drawing I set the width of the shelf area to be just wide enough for our PS3 and maybe a DVD player.  16″ should cover it.

The width of the doors are just what’s left over from the 50″ width and the roughly 16″ opening.  We’ll get into the exact dimensions in our next post.

50 inch finished

That’s pretty much all there is to the first part of the design process.  We have our overall dimensions and I have a rough sketch of how I want the cabinet to look.  We know how it will look underneath the TV and it meets our requirements of matching the built-in, covering the electrical outlet and having some shelves and doors.

In our next post, we’ll dimension all the individual pieces one by one.  From there we’ll put together a shopping list and pick our materials.  

If you have any questions on anything you read here, please don’t hesitate to ask.  I’d like these posts to be interactive and a learning experience for those looking for it.

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