custom furniture, kitchens, and baths by fineartistmade

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Nuts and Bolts

July 28, 2010

There is a warmth and authenticity in custom handmade cabinets you just can’t get from the store-bought variety. Once the painting was done, it was time to start building. We could do the job in our shop, but establishing a workspace onsite has its advantages; one being a more fluid design process, another, the economy of convenience. Even when planning is done and things are beginning to take shape, there’s room for a better idea.

First a level line is established the old fashioned way - with a water level.  The room drops 1 ½ inches from one end to the other - and the walls lean. All this presents its challenges and calls for more ‘creative carpentry’. For further accuracy, plans are transferred directly to the wall - writing out the various measurements for reference. With only one chance to get it right - having the actual appliances and sink on site is essential. We don’t rely on diagrams or schematics, but measure (at least twice) off the actual articles.

Cabinets are simply boxes - accurately cut, square, plumb and strong. We start by laying a 2x4 base then build the lower cabinets using ¾ inch birch veneer plywood pre-finished with 2 coats of Minwax clear satin waterborne polycrylic. A large, double bowl, under mount, Kohler, porcelain, cast iron sink was chosen. This ‘behemoth’ left little room for structure. We devised a plywood ‘eye beam’ front that supported the metal mounting brackets to hold the sink in place. The ply was cut, dadoed, glued, clamped, and screwed. The boxes are then put into place - leveled, shimmed and attached to one another - just in time for the countertop templating.

Dovetailing with other trades can create its issues. We had to work some overtime and move things forward to accommodate the Corian fabricator’s busy schedule.  A temporary strip to mimic the face frame was tacked in place to ensure an accurate template. The ‘Templaters’ use strips of ¼ inch plywood that they hot glue in place - making notes right on the strips for the fabricators back in Bangor.

In our design process we continue to make alterations even as we see the form begin to emerge in 3-D. After some final tweaking of the various widths of the rails and styles it was time for the face frames. We’re using ¾ inch poplar (a hardwood) for its stability and toughness.  A pocket screw system with a little bit of glue fastens them together and helps to keep them strong, straight and square; insuring a good fit for doors and drawers.  All of the cabinet end panels are carefully scribed to the ‘out of plumb’ walls. We go through the same process for the ‘uppers’ - then all are primed and finished with 2 coats of ‘Ben-Moore’ satin impervo waterborne paint in classic white - just in time for the countertop installation.

We squeezed in the electrician that morning and the plumber the following day. After a rough fitting of the countertop, a little trimming was done with a router, straight edge and belt sander. A seam was joined using an electro-magnetic clamp and epoxy; then sanding, polishing, and silicone to hold it all in place. A color called ‘Earth’ had been picked to simulate the look of traditional slate with a less expensive price tag. A thinner profile (7/8 inch); simple, square, soft edges; doubling up the Corian around the under mount sink and a 5” backsplash, help to enhance that old stone look.

Once the countertops were in place and the plumbing done, we could get back to making more cabinets. An ample pantry was installed next to a cabinet for the refrigerator. Finally we can get on to doors and drawers and all those finishing touches.

(click photo to view larger image)

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