My Biggest DIY Project Ever

Posted by John on April 21st, 2015

If you’ve been a regular reader for the past couple of years you know we’ve worked on some pretty sizable home improvement projects since our beginning in 2011.  We completely renovated our home office from the ground up this past fall.  We spent a few months and upgraded our dining room with raised panel wainscoting a couple of years ago.  There were garage projects and major furniture builds along the way too.  I even built my shed from scratch.  However, I’ve barely mentioned or blogged about my biggest home improvement project to date since I started blogging nearly four years ago. 

What was my biggest DIY project ever?  For me, it’s an easy question to answer: the kitchen in my first home.

When I bought my first home back in 2003 it needed a lot of work.  What was wrong with it?  Yes.   Plumbing, electrical, drywall, flooring, the windows, the ceiling, the door, the cabinets, the countertops… all of it was wrong.  

The house was built back at the turn of the previous century and the kitchen was an addition from the 50s or 60s.  I don’t think it was ever updated from it’s original construction.  Amazing it lasted as long as it did.  

I was so overwhelmed with all of the work I had to do to the house that I punted on the kitchen remodel until years later.  I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with the kitchen, so I didn’t do anything until 2007.  It took me four years to finally get around to gutting it and then building it back from scratch.  There are a lot of things I would’ve done differently with that house, but the kitchen isn’t one of them.  

From 2003 until 2007, I upgraded the rest of the home with new drywall, all new trim, a new furnace, new electrical and refinished the floors.  Most of the work I did myself.  Of course, I hired out some of the more critical items to move things along.  During those four years I was able to build up a level of home improvement competence that I didn’t have when I first bought the house.  I learned what work is best for me to do and which work I can outsource.  

The kitchen renovation started with a demolition party in the spring of 2007 and wasn’t finished until the homemade kitchen cabinets were painted after they were installed well over a year later.  The results of that years worth of work was worth the effort.  We eventually sold the home in two days and the remodeled kitchen was a big reason for that quick sale.  

Sometime in the next few weeks I’m going to be releasing my first product for purchase: a book on how to renovate your kitchen.  Instead of focusing on specific DIY techniques like a lot of our blog posts, I’m concentrating mainly on the planning and exectution of your next kitchen remodel.  For me, the planning was the hardest part of that kitchen remodel.  It took me a few years to get started and I couldn’t do a thing to the space until the planning was done.  If you plan your kitchen renovation well, you’re much more likely to have a successful project.  

The book will focus on the steps you need to take before you start the project and will help guide you through making all of the big decisions that you are bound to run into along the way.  I want to prepare you as best I can for those challenges.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be taking some time to to talk about kitchen renovations prior to the book launch.  If you have any questions about your upcoming kitchen project, now is the perfect time to ask.  

I’m also hoping to get my next set of woodworking plans completed soon.  The table saw station plans are taking slightly longer than I’d like.  

Have a great week!

Posted in DIY Projects,Kitchen. Tagged in ,, ,

What I’ve Been Up to

Posted by John on March 16th, 2015

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last blog post and although I haven’t been doing any home improvement work, I’ve been super busy with a different kind of project that I think you’ll appreciate.  Last spring, I started work on my first book!

Over the past few weeks I’ve been lucky enough to find some free time to really wrap that work up and I’m happy to report that I’m just about finished.  I’m expecting to make the book widely available for purchase before May.

Here’s a look at the new cover.



Here’s the details…

The book is a guide on remodeling kitchens and it’s aimed at the handy and the not so handy alike.  If you’ve been a regular reader for the past couple of years you know that I try to explain the detailed process of home improvement whenever possible.  I try to put myself in the shoes of someone who is just starting out.  I’ve tried to take that approach with this book and layout the kitchen renovation process from start to finish.   It reads more like a conversation with me about your kitchen project and that was my intention.

Before you get too excited, it’s not going to be available at Barnes and Nobles or any other store.  I’ve decided to self-publish it and make it available as en ebook.  I’m going to be setting up a separate website for it and I’ll let everyone know when it’s available.  I’m not going to publish it on Amazon either, although I may make it available in the Kindle format.

I plan on giving away several copies in advance to some email subscribers and then launch with an initial discount for a few days.  So if you’re interested in this book, make sure you sign up for the newsletter if you want the discount code when it’s released.

Later this spring I plan on putting together a second book as a companion to this one so stay tuned for that one as well.

It’s been really challenging writing a book with three young children, one of which is a newborn.  Finding time to write a 300 word blog post is one thing.  Finding time to work on a 30,000 word ebook is quite another.

Here’s what else is going on…

I’ve started a Facebook Group where you can post, comment, ask questions and share photos of your projects.  It’s exactly like our Forum Page, but it’s open to everyone.  You just need to click the Join button and as soon as I approve you, you’re good to go.  It’s a bit more user friendly than our Forums Page so I thought I’d give it a try.  If you have any home improvement projects you’re currently working on, I’d love to read about it over on the Group Pages!

Thanks and have a great week!

Posted in Blogging. Tagged in ,, ,

Sliding Kitchen Cabinet Drawer Plans

Posted by John on June 16th, 2014

Happy Monday folks.

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Today I have just uploaded our latest set of free woodworking plans.  The plans are for the sliding kitchen cabinet drawers.

The plans are free to our newsletter subscribers.

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

The plans feature a calculator that lets you enter two simple measurements to generate custom dimensions for each cabinet in your kitchen.

Enjoy!

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

My Favorite Cleaning Products

Posted by Lisa on October 18th, 2012

Hey guys!  I hope you all had a great week so far.  It’s almost Friday, so I thought I would share some of my favorite cleaning items!

Cleaning for the most part is a chore for John and I – I do like organizing so that counts as cleaning, right? I have tried keeping up with a daily cleaning list but after a first few days I get so proud that I cleaned for three days straight that I reward myself with some days off… haha!  Two places that are always clean are my kitchen and bathrooms.  Most of the cleaning products help me with those daily chores.

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My favorite cleaning product by far is Dr. Bronners.  There is about 29,763 uses for this cleaner.  I love it for making my own counter top spray, foaming hand soap, and to remove stains from fabrics.  It’s extremely safe – you can even brush your teeth with it! – and that’s why I love using it, especially around the little one.  Dr. Bronner’s also comes in different scents.  I currently have the scent-free (labeled as Baby Mild), Tea Tree (good for disinfecting), and peppermint.  Seriously, you can make anything with this stuff – laundry detergent, shampoo, soaps, sprays, and disinfectants.

Another product I like is anything from the Method line, which is sold in a variety of stores, but I buy mine at Target.  I really like their Grapefruit counter top spray.  I usually make my own, but when the Method grapefruit is on sale, I usually pick up a bottle or two.  The smell is a great grapefruit scent and I love everything citrus, especially in the kitchen!  If you have granite counter tops, Method has a great daily granite cleaner as well.  It makes our faux granite/laminate super shiny and smells great too!

Nature’s Miracle is the product I use when there are stains from either animals or humans on the carpet.  If you have pets, you know they sometimes have accidents and they’re just too cute to be mad at.  Nature’s miracle helps kill the odor and removes the stains of whatever you pet has left on the carpet.

Dusting and polishing is super easy with Murphy’s Oil Soap wipes.  I like the wipes since they let me dust and polish in one step, which makes this dreaded chore done a lot quicker. When I have the time, I also use the original Murphy’s Oil Soap mixed with water to clean my cabinets – I love the way they look after they’ve been washed.

My favorite two items to clean the floors in our home are the Haan and my Dirt Devils (yes that is plural, I will explain).  I use the Haan floor steamer and sweeper on the hardwood floors and tiles.  I love using the Haan because it sanitizes the floors without any harsh chemicals.  Also, you reuse the cleaning pads and they can be washed in the washing machine.  In the kitchen I use the super lightweight Dirt Devil to clean under the cabinets and under the table every couple of days to pick up crumbs.  I also use it on our area rug in the living room.  On the stairs, I use a small handheld Dirt Devil to vacuum the carpets.  Upstairs, I use the traditional Dirt Devil vacuum for the bedrooms and closets.

So that’s it – just a few of my favorite cleaning products that help me get cleaning done quicker.  I do want to mention that I am not being compensated for any of these products, they’re really just my favorites!

Have any cleaning products you love and want to share!?

Posted in Kitchen. Tagged in ,, , , ,

Quick Kitchen Cabinet Repair

Posted by John on August 24th, 2012

So things have slowed down a little bit around here since we knocked dragged out our dining room wainscoting and gussied up our front door.  It’s going to pick up again soon though.  Plus, in the fall I’ll be taking another grad school course.  Before we know it, we’ll be busy like crazy.  We do have a couple more projects that we already finished and we’ll probably post about those next week.  Since it’s Friday, I thought it would be a good opportunity for a quick post on a kitchen cabinet repair we did a few days ago.  You’d think owning a new home would negate the need for annoying repairs.  Nope.  Apparently the cabinet door on our lazy susan decided it had enough and busted out from the hinge.

Crap.

Double crap.

It looks bad, but in reality, this is an easy fix.  Now, if you think you can just re-screw in the old screws and it will hold you’d be wrong.  You need to step it up.

The door is 3/4″ thick.  The screws that were in there are 1/2″ long.  That means I can use a longer screw.

Here’s the screw that popped out next to the screw I’m going to use.  The screw on the left is the 1/2″ fastener.  The screw on the right is 3/4″ long.  I also decided to go with a beefier screw.  The 1/2″ screw is a size 6.  The 3/4″ screw is a size 8 (they only come in even sizes).  So, I’m using a longer and a wider fastener to make the repair.  There are a ton of “that’s what she said” jokes here, so I’m being careful with my word choice.  :)

The larger screw went into the old holes like butter and seem to be holding very well.

That wasn’t too bad.  Fastest. repair. ever.

Nice.

Is there anything broken in your place that you need to fix?  Have a great weekend!!

 

Posted in Carpentry,Kitchen,Repairs. Tagged in ,, , ,

Chalkboard Labels

Posted by Lisa on July 23rd, 2012

Hope everyone had a great weekend! We sure did – we did some home projects, spent some much needed family time together, and enjoyed the not-too-hot weather!

I wanted to share a tiny project I did.  While my mom and I were shopping for back to school sales at Staples, she stumbled across these amazing chalkboard labels from Martha Stewart!Chalkboard-Labels

 

Don’t they look amazing? We just couldn’t resist. Martha Stewart has an awesome line of office supplies at Staples.  If you haven’t checked them out I suggest you do – that is if you like to organize and label everything.  Her stuff looks great.

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I love these canisters hanging out on the counter… but I love my clutter-less counters more, so back to the pantry the canisters went.

So, do you like? How was your weekend??

Posted in Crafts,Home Decor,Kitchen. Tagged in ,, , , ,

Cabinet Pullout Drawers: Done

Posted by John on May 9th, 2012

For a while there, I didn’t think I’d ever be writing this post.  Thankfully, this day has arrived and our kitchen cabinet pullout drawers have been successfully installed.  If you recall, I built these drawers over a series of five posts (here, here, here, here aaaaannd here).  In actuality, I think I spent maybe five hours altogether cutting, assembling and finishing them.  I must have spent six weeks trying to get the right hardware for them!!  Yikes is right.  One of my goals for this project is to post some plans with variations for various joint configurations… maybe add a calculator so you can enter your cabinet dimensions and it will spit out dimensions for a sliding drawer.  If you thought the joints looked daunting there are easy joint versions that I’ve got some ideas for.  We’ll see!

The first piece of advice I can give you if you are thinking about building similar sliding drawers:  GET YOUR SLIDE HARDWARE FIRST.

So, long, boring story short… I wanted to get the exact same slide hardware that are in our cabinets.  I think it will look better if it weren’t a hodge podge of parts.  I called a local vendor that carries our cabinet maker’s product line and they gave me a quote of $50 per drawer.  No thanks.  I then proceeded to try to make it work by trying to use what I could from Lowes, Home Depot and every other online slide retailer I could find.  To hell with uniformity.  Bottom line: no dice.  Our cabinets have an interior depth of 23.”  I could only find one set of slides that fit and had to buy the bracket for that separately only to find out that it didn’t play nice with our drawers.  After losing a lot of hair I can’t afford to lose, I capitulated and called another vendor looking to grovel for a lower price.  Luckily, this other vendor was able to get them for around $14 a set.  Jackpot.

The best part of these slides is they install incredibly easy.  The backs of the slides have clips that snap into pre-drilled holes the cabinet maker already has in my cabinets!!  They must put them in there on every cabinet.

This hardware system makes this installation atypical compared to most slide hardware.  If I didn’t have this clip and I had a regular slide and rear bracket like this…

I’d have to install the front of the slide into the front of the cabinet first, level off the rest of the slide by taping a small level to the center of it and then tape my bracket to the back wall, mark the holes for the screw, pre-drill and then fasten the bracket with screws.  Got it?

All I had to do was worry about the front of the cabinets.  A few of the cabinets had long screws that joined one cabinet to the next right in the area where the drawer would be.  They were definitely getting in the way so I had to relocate them.

To relocate it, I just pre-drilled a small hole above the drawer hinge and then drove the screw into it. The holes for the front of the slides needed to be pre-drilled as well. Rule of thumb: If you need to screw into a hardwood (oak, maple, poplar, cherry, etc), you need to drill the hole first.

With the fronts attached, the drawer can slide right in.  Btw, I also attached the slide hardware to the drawers too.  Same deal, pre-drill, insert screw.

With both drawers in…

Glad that’s over. Sure beats rummaging through the bottom of a cabinet!

Overcoming any glitches on your end?

Posted in Carpentry,Kitchen. Tagged in ,,

Kitchen Cabinet Sliding Drawers Update

Posted by John on March 22nd, 2012

So here’s my kitchen cabinet sliding drawers update:

I think this project may become a saga.  If it takes me another five posts to finish this cabinet drawer situation I wouldn’t be surprised at this point!!  I’m trying not to get frustrated, but it happens.  What’s the snag?  Aren’t you basically done this?  Yes, well, essentially.  I wrapped up construction of the drawers in our last post.  All I’ve got left to do is install them.  This is actually the only part of this whole exercise that I’m a tad bit concerned about.  If something goes terribly wrong, then I may be out of about $100 worth of nice maple.

Last week, I inquired into the availability of our cabinet manufacturer’s drawer hardware from a local distributor.  In my opinion, if I could get a hold of those parts for a reasonable price, I’d be better off.  After all, I am going for a near duplication of my existing setup.  Using substitute hardware is probably acceptable, but it may give me some gray hairs!!  Well, I got a response I really didn’t expect.  Yes, the slides are available… for $50.  Oh, okay!  That’s not bad.  $50 for six drawers worth of hardware.  Excellent. Uh, no.  $50 per drawer!!  (pregnant pause followed by whaaaattt????) Needless to say, me and the saleswoman had a nice long laugh at that.  I can literally get something similar for under $8 at Lowes and Timberlake wants $50?  I think I’ll take the gray hairs.

So here’s my first attempt (foreshadowing) at installing these drawers.  I would love to blog and build mistake free, but then we wouldn’t learn anything, right?

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I brought up all six of my recently poly’d drawers and I picked one of the cabinets with the least amount of junk necessary but never used kitchen gear in it.  I took out all of the aforementioned stuff.  I then selected the right sized drawer from my pile and I got to adding the hardware.

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The hardware I purchased is 22″ long and is a very basic Euro style drawer slide.  These run just under $8.  These parts can be a little confusing to sort out, so I like to compare them to what’s on my existing drawers.  Once I figured it out, I laid the hardware out on the counter so I knew what went where.  The center sections as depicted above get fastened to the drawer and the other two outer units get screwed into the cabinet.

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I think it’s easier to get the drawer hardware on first because it’s a little simpler than the cabinet hardware (more foreshadowing).  In my case, since I already have identical drawers, I can actually see if my drawers work on the old cabinet hardware.

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To attach the drawer hardware, I just mark the holes with a pen and then pre-drill them with a small sized drill bit.  Anytime you drill into a hardwood like maple, you’ll need to pre-drill to prevent the wood from cracking.  That’s the textbook reason.  The real reason is the wood is so darn hard that it’ll take you forever to get the hole started and you’ll end up swearing a lot.

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Whenever I’m working around kitchen cabinets, I prefer to use my small driver.  I bought this thing back in 2008 when I was adding the doors to our homemade kitchen cabinets.  My other drill is a regular 18 volt DeWalt, which has a lot of power, but can be heavy and hard to squeeze into some of the more narrow cabinets.  You can pick one of these up for a lot less than a full sized version.  They also make great gifts!!  This drill is perfect for this part of the project.

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Once I got the hardware onto my first drawer, I was able to give it a test run.  Worked beautifully!!  Success!!  All I have to do at this point is attach my cabinet hardware and I’ll be off running!!

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The cabinet hardware, in theory, mounts fairly simply.  The front edge gets screwed into the side of the cabinet frame and the back slips into a bracket that gets screwed into the back of the cabinet.  The bracket is sold separately and is around $4 for 2.  The trick to this is picking your spot and keeping the front level with the back.

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At least I think that’s the trick.  I wouldn’t know because my cabinet hardware was an inch too short!! I bought 22″ long slides.  Apparently, I need 23.”  Didn’t I measure?  Yep.  I also forgot what it was by the time I got around to buy them, so instead, I remeasured the cabinets they sold at Lowes.  Apparently, the cabinets at Lowes are an inch more shallow.  The hardware in the photo above is for the existing drawer.

So next time, hopefully tomorrow, I’ll have at least one whole cabinet done!!  Back to Lowes!!  Anyone else pulling their hair out?

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

Sliding Cabinet Drawers Part 5: Assembly

Posted by John on March 19th, 2012

I would love to have a post today that showed off my finished sliding cabinet drawers installed, but unfortunately, my local hardware stores didn’t have the right drawers slide hardware in stock at the moment.  I’m going to grab some early this week when I go into the city, so I’ll have a wrap up post for you later.  The good news is the drawers are DONE!  Before I show you the finished pieces though, I’ll show you what steps I took to get there since our last post (or you can just scroll to the bottom).

Last time we left off, we had finished all of the machining of our hardwood pieces and used dado blades to add some grooves for the bottom.  Now we’re ready to cut our bottom pieces.  To get the dimensions for the bottom sections, I did a mock assembly of each drawer and measured the opening.  I added about 3/8″ to the length and width so the bottom can slide into the groove.  I’m also trying to be mindful of the wood grain.  I want the grain to run front to back on the drawer.

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Once all the bottoms are cut, I get to the best part, assembling them!!  I’ll check them again first before adding glue by putting them together dry to see if they are okay.

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They were good! To assemble them, I’m using wood glue on the joints and then I’ll follow that up with a couple brad nails at each joint.  The brad nails I used for this are 3/4″ long.  I normally use 1 1/4″ long nails for most projects.  You can see the difference in the length below.  Anything longer than 3/4″ is probably overkill and it may pop out from the side.

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I shot the nails from the side pieces into the front and back, that way they stay relatively hidden.  The tracks will cover the bottom nail holes once they’re on.

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I had some issues holding the drawers together during this process, so I used clamps.  It’s like an extra set of hands.  Once I got my nails in, I took off the clamps.  The nails basically hold the drawers together until the glue dries and the clamp just holds them until I get the nails in.

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After letting the glue set up over night, it was time to sand them.  I used a random orbital sander for this job.  I started with a 100 grit paper and then switched to a 220 grit to wrap it up.  I tried to round over most of the corners slightly to make it more comfortable to hold.  I didn’t sand the plywood at all.  I’m always afraid of tearing through the laminations.  It was also the perfect time to actually buy a new sander!!  My old one died after I accidentally sanded over an exposed nail.  Apparently, that’s not good for it!

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So after three coats of polyurethane.  They’re all done.  To show you how they look compared to the ones in the cabinet, I’ve done some side by side photos.  My drawer is on the right.  One thing I notice is the builder grade unit is actually mostly particle board except for the front board.  That particle board has a perfect laminate cover that makes the entire piece one even color.  My drawer is mostly hard maple and has a lot of natural color variation.  Because we’re using that hardwood, it should hold up better over time compared to the particle board.

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In this photo, you can see my joint compared to the builder joint.  Actually, my joint looks a little tighter!!  Woot woot!!  BUT, my poly job could use some improvement.  If I had to do this again, I might have sprayed the poly on, like I did in the bedside table post.

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Here’s a shot of the back…

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So, hopefully in a couple days, we’ll be putting these drawers in!!  Stick around and we’ll show you how we do that!  How was your weekend?  Wrap up any projects??

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

Sliding Drawers Part 4: Getting Groovy with Dado Blades

Posted by John on March 15th, 2012

Well this project sure feels like it’s dragging on a bit!!  It really shouldn’t take this long to finish, but between work trips, booked up weekends and normal parent-life activities it’s hanging around a little longer than I’d like.  But that’s okay!  I would like to stress that if you have a free weekend, you could easily knock this entire project out in a few hours.  I think in total I’ve invested nearly three hours worth of work with about another hour or so to go.

In my last post on sliding drawers, I machined the rabbits in the end of the side and front pieces.  I did those using my normal 10″ table saw blade.  This time around, I’ve switched to a dado blade set.  If you’re not familiar with dado blades, they’re nothing but multiple blades sold together than you put on the saw to make the cut wider.  I decent set from Freud will run you under $100.  Here’s my set..

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You just add or subtract blade sections to get the desired thickness you’re looking for.  They make cutting grooves really easy.  In order to cut grooves with a normal blade, you’d have to repeat the cut multiple times each time adjusting the piece.  For narrow grooves, it’s not a big deal, but for wider cuts it’s a pain.  The dado makes short work of it.

We need to add a thin groove all along each drawer section so the drawer bottom has something to slide into.  The drawer bottom will end up being a little larger than the opening so as to fit into that groove.  Since three sides of my drawer are 1/2″ thick, I’m going to put a groove half way into them and so I’ll set my blade height to 1/4.”  Here’s how the blades look on the saw.

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I’ve stacked two blades together also for a total thickness of 1/4,” which is about the same thickness as the plywood I purchased.  I’ll set my fence distance to correspond to how low the bottom piece sits in the drawer.  Then it’s just a matter of running each section through the saw.  The nice part about this step is it’s the same for all four sides.  The finished side sections appear below.

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See those grooves?  Now you know what a dado blade does!  You don’t use them to cut off or go all the way through a board.  You only use them for grooves or rabbits. Remember, not all table saws can use dado blades!

With the grooves made in all four sides, I can start seeing what the finished project will look like.  I’ll setup each drawer as if it were assembled and take measurements for the bottom section.

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Next post I’ll discuss cutting the bottoms, assembly and finishing!  Still working on getting some hardware from the OEM of my cabinets.  Hopefully they’ll have some good news for me!!  Any questions?

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

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