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Kitchen Rebuild

We built our house 22 years ago, and everything is a little tired now. So, directed by my wife, Lynndy (She Who Must Be Obeyed), I have set about updating the kitchen, which is 3 years older than the house, having been saved from the house we knocked down to build this one.

The original 25-year old kitchen ...

The layout is going to change only a little - mainly to accommodate a new and wider fridge-freezer ….. the old fridge-freezer was dying. It was 35 years old. We’d had it all our marriage. It needed to be replaced. The new fridge-freezer was wider and a touch taller than the old. The problem was that the alcove into which it was built had a cabinet above, and changing this cabinet meant changing the door … and it would not be possible to match the Tasmanian Oak to blend in with all the other cabinet doors and drawers. I think that Lynndy planned this all along.

So we needed new cabinet doors and drawer fronts … and then it became a new countertop in granite … and then a more modern range hood.

Lynndy wants modern and light. And so the cabinet design will be Shaker and in Hard Maple (from the USA).

Building the doors

I thought that I would post a few pictures here of the method I am using to build the doors - not because it is different or because it is striking (it is neither of these since the design is really simple) - but because someone else may find this useful. Anyway we all like looking at the tools of others, right? 

Those who know me recognise that this build is a departure from my usual handtool approach. I do use power tools, and have been around them for 30-40 years. I have a pretty full compliment in my shop at home, and they do get used. It's just that I prefer using handtools once the roughing out is done. This time, however, there was no way I could see myself building around 25 doors full of M&T joints with tenon saw and mortice chisel. We'd like the job done sooner rather than later. So I invested in a Festool DF500 Domino. 

Here are some of the hand power tools I am using ..

Incidentally, the ROS is a Festo ET2E, and the router is an Elu 177e ... which should tell you how long I have had them (yes, they are around 25 years old) ...

Not to forget ...

Other tools include a Veritas BUS for smoothing the frames (the sander was used on the panels with Mirka Abranet up to 400 grit) ...

The ends of boards needed to be perfectly square. This is the Veritas Shooting Plane on a Stanley #52 shooting board ...

I managed to get in a decent stock of rough sawn 1" and 2" thick x 10" wide Hard Maple boards ..

The boards were resawn on my Hammer 4400 and finished on a A3-31 to panels 1/4" thick or frames 3/4" thick ...

The panels are all bookmatched, and the joins pulled together with blue tape. No clamps required.

These are for the frames. I can build about 5 doors at a time.

The next step is to saw the pieces to length, and then Domino the frame together. This is a first for me (Domino virgin). How to hold the pieces? I've seen some of the fancy Festool benches and clamps. My system seems so much easier. 

Push the board against the dogs on my bench, and use a single, centred Veritas hold down to clamp them firmly ...

This makes it possible to Domino each end without resetting the board.

The parts are pushed together for a dry fit, clamped against dogs, and raised higher on MDF spacers (for the router bit to fit) ..

A 1/4" grooving bit is used to route out the 1/4" deep groove for the panel ...

This leaves an uncut corner ...

The choice is to use a smaller bearing, which will cut deeper in the corner. I tried this on one door, however I found that the process of swapping the bearings out could cause the setting to change slightly.

Consequently, I decided to chop out the corners with a mortice chisel. This proved to be faster than setting up the router and re-routing the corners ...

The inside edges arris of the frame were broken with a sander ...

Next-to-last, the panels could be cut to size and fitted to the frames. Allowance is made for expansion.

Finally, the outside arrises are chamfered with a block plane ...

Here is an example at this stage. New on the left, old on the right ..

Just dry fitting. No finish. That will be done later. Hinges and hardware still to be fitted. Lots to do. 

Hand finishing water-based poly

The decision was made to use Hard Maple for the kitchen doors and drawer fronts because the wood was light in colour and the figure was gentle. With very little experience in working with this wood (imported from the USA), I decided to use a USA-made finish, since this appeared to be recommended as the best way to retain its light colour. That's where I ran into the first hurdle.

General Finishes water-based poly received the top rating a few years ago in a Fine Woodwork magazine comparison, however it is best sprayed, and I do not have spray equipment. 

I looked into brushing on the finish. General Finishes recommend using a foam brush. However, all the reviews and videos I examined complained of brush marks and streaks in the finish, whether by the best brush or foam. This is partly due to water-based finishes drying rapidly. They set in minutes - sometimes seconds! - and there is no time for the finish to be self-levelling.

To date, my main finishes have been oils and shellac, which I have applied with a rag. I would have liked to have used shellac here, but it is just not durable enough in a kitchen, which will be wiped down frequently. Still, my experience is in wiping a finish, and so I tried this with the GF. It went on well, and it showed promise. The only fly in the ointment was the water-based finish raised the grain, and this would require that the finish was sanded again. 

I decided that I would use a dewaxed, white shellac as a sealer prior to wiping on the poly. My choice here is Ubeaut White Shellac, which is concentrated. It was diluted 50-50 with alcohol (methylated spirits).

For rags I used microfibre, and grey Scotch mesh smoothed the surface between coats.

This is a door pre-finish ...

Pulled apart. Every piece is carefully marked for mating and orientation ...

Each surface was given two coats of shellac (with the grain) ...

.. followed with a rub down (with the grain) ...

The shellac does colour the wood, but very slightly - far less than expected from its darkish amber. It dries quickly, and within minutes of each coat one can move onto the next.

Now it is the turn of the poly. It is white in the decanted bottle. but goes on clear.

The finish is a little sticky, and it is drying fast. I apply it as if it were polish and I was polishing the surface of the wood – it is almost a case of rubbing
off the finish rather than rubbing it on. You can do so in small circles, but you must finish (as it dries) by only rubbing along the grain. Using raking light, look for any streaks. Simply rub them out. 

Once dry, use the grey mesh to rub the surface with the grain. It not only removes any streaks, which it blends all together, but it seems to raise a shine.

It takes at least 2-3 layers before the shine becomes apparent. The poly slowly builds in thickness. Polishing it as done here only adds a thin coating on each occasion. Then suddenly it is there ..

I stop after 5 coats.

Now it is time to glue the frame together. The panel floats inside the frame ...

A note on the glues: I used Titebond lll for the bookmatched panel as it is water resistant. I used Titebond Liquid Hide Glue on the Domino mortice-and-tenon joints as this is reversible and unlikely to affect the finish.

How much colour change did the finishes add? Here is the completed panel along with a planed but otherwise unfinished board ...

Installing the doors

I have been reading a marvellous book by Nancy Miller, "Making Things Work". This is the story of her life as a cabinetmaker. I really recommend this to any aspiring amateur seeking to turn pro. I think I shall remain a happy weekend warrior.

One of the paragraphs that leapt off the page was this ..
"You might imagine that full-overlay doors and drawer faces make for the simplest-possible installation. They do - when these elements have enough space between them to make any inconsistencies in the margins unnoticeable...... each adjustment of one door or drawer in any of its three planes affected every other one nearby. Not only did the margins need to be consistent, parts in such close proximity must also be in plane. For example, if the right edge of one drawer protruded even just a little relatove to its neighbor, the neighbor, too, had to be adjusted ... ".

I think Nancy wrote this to mock me as I began installing doors and drawers this weekend. 

The challenge - getting the corner pantry double door to hang with good gaps ... aaahh! The family stayed well away ... 

All the other doors were, thankfully, much easier using Grass Euro hinges.

I cannot wait to get back to building furniture!

Regards from Perth


December 2016 – April 2017