IKEA – I CAN!

If you’re a typical consumer (like me) the last thing you want to do first when you get a new toy, entertainment device or car is read the owner’s manual.  It’s more the American way to just dive into the enjoyment of the new diversion, learning as we go, and maybe unintentionally breaking something in the process.  Reading the instructions is always a last resort.

If you’ve ever purchased an IKEA furniture product, you know that “reading the instructions” is not even an option:  Basically, there’s nothing to read.  Although putting together an IKEA cabinet, for example, is pretty straightforward, the task is next to impossible without the so-called assembly instructions.  And the instructions contain no words.  In typical European (IKEA is made in Sweden) style, the instructions take the form of pictograms.  I have installed kitchen accessories in the past made in Germany or Austria that were the same format:  numbers and line drawings but no words.  (In one case a dimension for locating a drilled hole was specified to the half millimeter!  This kind of precision is laudable, but, good grief!)  What have they got against some explanatory text?  Americans are not big readers, but their attention span, analytical skills and patience are also in short supply…

Recently I assembled some IKEA furniture for a client.  As I went through the thinking process to decipher and figure out the meaning of the various pictures and symbols in the instructions, it occurred to me that some explanation – in the form of words – was necessary to more easily grasp what IKEA was trying to “say” with its picture puzzle.

Allow me to digress by saying (read:  “writing”), there ARE words in the assembly instructions.  109, to be exact.  That is, 109 English words which are translated over four whole pages into 33 – count ’em – 33 different languages!  Doing the rough math, this adds up to about 33 x 109 or 3,597 words comprising three small paragraphs which can be summarized as “Important!  Buy the right screws!  If you think the cabinet is too heavy, add legs!  If you are uncertain about the ability of the wall to support the weight, add more screws!”  You’d think IKEA could assume most of the world understands English and devote a little more space to words actually telling us something we didn’t know, like how to put the damn cabinet together!

I have to admit, the drawings of the humans (you and me) are cute.  They smile when things go right, like when your friend shows up to lend a hand, and frown in multiple expressions when things go south, like when you break something by hitting it on the floor.  There’s a depiction of a confused consumer looking at the instructions with a baffled look on the face and a “?” in a thought bubble.  Beside that is a drawing of a happy-faced goober holding a telephone with a direct line to “IKEA.”  But no phone number appears anywhere in the assembly instructions.

By chance I assembled the three pieces of furniture on carpet; the pictogram advises this to avoid damaging the “wood” parts as they are not real wood and can be dinged up if banged around on the hard floor.  Lay out a rug or at least some cardboard to soften the blow and protect the floor.

I started the operation by, believe it or not, “reading” the assembly instructions to familiarize myself with IKEA-ese.  Then I unpacked all the parts and fasteners.  I grouped all the identical parts together for organization and to make sure I had the amount of each noted in the instructions.  Better to find out at the start that you’re missing a screw, than an hour into it and wonder if you accidentally kicked it under the refrigerator…

The drawings are adequate but study them carefully as they are relatively small in size and so it might be easy to miss a detail, like a hole the size of a fly speck, or this period.  There are multiple holes typically, so lay out the pieces according to the drawing and note which holes are being referenced in the current step.  The picture has a helpful rotating arrow to show you which way to turn the screw (rolling eyes emoticon…)

A slot head and a Philips head screwdriver are listed (read:  “pictured”) as tools to use for assembly.  Only one operation has a picture warning “do not use a screw gun.”  I used a screw gun with a Philips driver for every operation.  In a future article I’ll discuss using the clutch on a typical screw gun to ensure you don’t overdrive the screw and strip the threads in the hole or worse.  If you are familiar with this feature, go for it.  Otherwise, get out the Ben-Gay and Ace bandage(s) for your wrist(s) to treat the carpal tunnel syndrome resulting from turning all those screws in by hand.

As you proceed through construction, frequently examine your work and make sure everything is fitting together evenly and equally.  These are precision-made parts; everything should line up and be square.  If something doesn’t fit or work properly, you probably used one piece where another is supposed to go, or put it on backwards, or upside down or both.  Take a break if you get frustrated, except if you live in Colorado, Washington or Amsterdam, then wait until you’re finished to “take a break.”

The plastic inserts that accept the bolts holding the drawer fronts on should be tapped in flush with the surface of the drawer front.  The picture shows using a hammer and board to transfer the hammer blows; the idea is to not mushroom the plastic before it seats in the hole.  A plastic hammer works well for this and you don’t need the board.

You’re probably getting good at this by now, so I’ll leave you with the drawer adjustments to figure out on your own.  There are only six of them depicted in three drawings.

Go figure.

PS  If you have any left over parts, just kick them under the refrigerator…

 

Turning Wasted Space Into…

Can you find where the old trash compactor use to live?

Can you find where the old trash compactor used to live?

The gap left behind after the Sub-Zero refer bit the dust.

The gap left behind after the old Sub-Zero refrigerator bit the dust.

My solution to fill the void in Judy and Dale's kitchen.

My solution to fill the void in Judy and Dale’s kitchen.

Did you guess right?  Third space from the right is now a functional cabinet with two roll-out shelves!

Did you guess right? The old compactor space  is now a functional cabinet with two roll-out shelves!  (see above)

 

A Panel Discussion

Here’s the way I look at it:  Working with panels instead of boards is just another good excuse to acquire some new tools.  Besides, if you want to build anything of any size, panels are the only way to get the job done with a minimum of labor and maximum satisfaction.

A panel is simply a large sheet of wood made from several thin sheets of veneer glued together and cut to a standard size, usually 4 feet by 8 feet.  Call it plywood, because that’s what I’m talkin’ about, Willis.  It’s been around for over 5 millenniums, first used in Mesopotamia during a shortage of quality wood; the Ancients bonded quality wood to lesser-quality wood to make a product that looked good and filled the need.  In the 19th century, the son of the guy who invented dynamite developed the rotary lathe used to produce modern plywood, but the product hasn’t changed much over time.  Today, many grades and decorative “faces” are available to meet any woodworking need.

Panels are available in thicknesses from approximately 1/8th inch to one inch and thicker.  I say “approximately” because in recent years panels like other lumber have been shrinking in size due to manufacturers’ efforts to save a buck on raw material while providing a product meeting the needs of the market.  You must be diligent at specifying, or at least checking the thickness dimension of the lumber you buy today, as there is apparently no compulsion to standardize thickness, and you see different dimensions in similar products.

For example:  “Three-quarter inch” plywood at one time was, universally, 3/4 inch thick.  Not so any more.  Now thicknesses for “three-quarter inch” plywood might measure 11/16, 23/32 or 3/4 inch.  On really lower quality material, the thickness might vary over these dimensions within the same sheet.  The problem here is quality control and sloppy manufacturing techniques.

Regardless if you buy quality product or imported crap, measure the thickness to know what dimension you are working with.  One example of where this is important is routing channels to fit fixed shelves in a cabinet:  if you assume the panel is 3/4 inch thick and rout a 3/4 inch wide groove to accept the shelf thickness, and the actual thickness is something less, the fit will be sloppy.  Of course, this is the voice of experience speaking to you…

I have found a lack of consistency for similar products stocked at my local lumber yard over time because they buy from different mills and countries.  I have learned to measure thickness twice and cut once (hopefully), whereas once upon a time this could be trusted as a given.  Not so any more.

Along the same line, cheaply made panels have voids in the interior (core) plies, and sometimes lack adhesive in spots causing “blisters.”  Here are a couple of photos depicting extremes of quality in plywood:

The picture on the right is not too far off some of the stuff I have purchased in my effort to obtain stock for cabinet carcasses.  I usually am able to pull bowed pieces into flat sides and bottoms using screws and clamps, but I have returned pieces which should never have been on the retail shelf.  I completely changed horses in midstream on my latest cabinet project having found an unlikely source (Lowe’s) for a better quality maple plywood to replace my old birch standby which has increased in price and declined in quality significantly.  I had mercy on my lumber yard by keeping a birch panel which developed an S-curve within a week of purchase, because I knew they couldn’t/wouldn’t be able to resell it.  Their response?  “Thank you.”

Cutting panels to size for cabinets, chests, drawer boxes, etc. should be done accurately so the finished piece is square and well-built.  To do this requires careful measuring, marking, and use of a straightedge to guide the saw.

Alternatively, you could build your own panel saw from available plans for a few hundred dollars.  You typically see panel saws at cabinet shops and lumber yards where they will cut down a panel you purchased for a nominal fee.  The saw carriage and frame take up hardly any space, so if you use panels a lot, it might be a good time-saving investment.  Like any tool, you need to check it for accuracy, mainly squareness, from time to time to ensure cuts are plumb and parallel to the factory edges.

The kind of straightedge you use to guide your circular saw across the panel can be a shop-fabricated jig or a specialty tool.  I have used each and prefer the tool over the jig.  The jig is useful, but requires extra clamps, whereas the tool is self-contained.  Of course, the jig is made of scrap wood, so the cost is nil.

  To build the jig, cut two pieces of half-inch stock to the approximate widths depicted in the drawing, and lengths to match your application:  97 inches to rip full panels or shorter if you only rip 48-inch widths or less.  In any event, the bottom piece should be wider than the main (wider) shoe on the saw to be used with the jig.  Once the two pieces are glued together, run the saw along the edge created by the top piece to trim the jig to width.  (Place the wider part of the shoe on the jig when trimming for full support of the saw on the jig.)

The jig has a couple of minor drawbacks:  If you make it out of particle board, it will start to fall apart with repeated use. Secondly, you cannot use the full depth of cut of your saw because the half-inch stock the saw travels on raises the saw (reduces maximum depth of cut) by that half-inch.  Again, it was free…

                 The clamping straightedge saw guide is one of the cooler tools to add to your tool box; unfortunately it won’t fit in your toolbox, so you have to hang it on the wall…  It is also relatively indestructible, but it is possible to break the plastic part(s), or lose the roll pin if you try hard enough.  The guide itself is made of lightweight aluminum (aluminium to our readers in the U.K. and Canada.)  The sliding clamps are plastic and can break; the roll pin holds the clamp handle in place and can migrate out of its holes with use (just tap it home if it moves.)  With a little care, these issues are no problem.

The technique for cutting a panel accurately involves a few skills in which you are already gaining proficiency:  measuring, marking and measuring.  Yes, but this is a little different from simply measuring twice and cutting once.

First, turn the panel “good” side down.  Circular saws cut “up,” so this will give a clean cut on the good side; unless the blade is dull, the top cut should be clean, too.  Measure the distance between the outside edge of the saw shoe that will ride against the straightedge, and the inside of the saw blade.  Strive to be as close as possible, as this measurement will ultimately affect how accurate your final cut dimension will be.  So, measure to the blade overhang, also known as the side clearance, the outermost point of the kerf.  On many saws, this is a round number (thank you engineers.)  On my little Porter Cable Saw Boss it’s 4 inches precisely.

I can’t say enough about my little (6″) Saw Boss.  It’s made in the good old U. S. of A. for one thing (at least mine is…)  I bought it used at a pawn shop years ago, accidentally tumbled it down a 50 foot embankment (bent the shoe), and used it continuously over a period of 10 years in my business.  It has never missed a beat.  New they are not cheap, but worth the lifetime of service they give.  (Remember the ancient maxim about tools:  You gets what you pays for.

The six-inch saw is ideal for cutting panels:  It is relatively light-weight, albeit with a hefty feel, lots of power to cut through 3/4 inch plywood like a hot knife through margarine, and with a left-side view of the action for us right-handed wood butchers.  The best saw blade for cutting panels has a large number of teeth for a smooth, tear-out free cut.

Which brings us to the subject of:  Which side should you set up your straightedge on, left or right?   Or, another way to phrase this query:  Keeper or waste side of the panel?

Below is a depiction of the saw and guide set up on the waste (scrap) side of the panel.

See any potential issues with this set-up?  This is perfectly acceptable as a way to orient the equipment vis-a-vis the cut line.  (When I spell-checked “vis-a-vis,” the suggested revisions were:    bis-a-vis, via-a-vis, vi-a-vis, vs-a-vis, and is-a-vis.  What the h-e-double hockey sticks was that programmer smoking?)  However, what might happen if you, oh say, sneeze or violently fart while making your cut?  Where is your saw likely to migrate?  That’s correct!  Into “the Workpiece!”  Scratch one perfectly good $180-per-sheet aromatic cedar panel.  This stuff doesn’t grow on trees you know!  (oh, wait..what?)

Avoid this mini-disaster by setting up your saw and guide on the keeper side of the cut.  Then, if a dog  should bite you in the shop, you won’t ruin the good piece when you react by leaping onto the work table.

So…Remember the measurement from the edge of the saw shoe to the blade kerf?  Pull your tape measure from the corner of the keeper piece to the exact dimension you want the piece cut.  Now, subtract that measurement; in my case, it’s always 4 inches on the nose.  Make a narrow pencil mark at the edge of the panel and perpendicular to the edge.  Duplicate this mark on the opposite edge.  These two marks are your reference marks to align the clamping straightedge.  Practice aligning the straightedge at precisely the same spot on the reference marks, showing the same amount of pencil mark on each one.  To ensure the straightedge, and, hence, the cut will be perpendicular to the edge, measure back from the “wrong” side of the straightedge to the corner where you started.  Measure the other side, too.  These dimensions should be equal.  If not, double-check your work.  Practice will refine this technique, but following this routine will help avoid costly mistakes, like cutting a trapezoid instead of a rectangle.  (Can I get a witness?)

The shop-built jig is simply aligned with reference marks located at the dimension you want to cut, because the edge of the jig is where the blade cuts.  With the jig, it’s important to clamp the jig on the keeper side–not the waste side–to avoid cutting the piece too short by the width of the kerf.

The saw on the left  is getting a real workout.  Cutting the full depth of the blade is bound to put a strain on the motor, and will shorten its life if done consistently.  Careful attention to measuring and marking will ensure you can duplicate panel sizes (e.g., for cabinet walls) without stacking panels.  A way to preserve blade sharpness is to set the blade depth to exceed the thickness of the panel by one full tooth (about 1/8 inch) and no deeper.  This will present the maximum number of teeth in the cut while cutting.  Like a router, if it’s possible to push the saw against the guide rather than pull it toward you (like she’s doing), do it.  It’s easier to control and less work.

Support the panel on pieces of lumber to avoid binding the saw blade as the cut pieces separate.  Finally, leave the saw in place as it winds down to avoid binding the blade and/or marring the cut edge.

The edge of the panel shows the exposed plies, so something needs to be done to dress this up.  This is where edge banding comes in handy.

Edge banding can be purchased by the foot for smaller projects, or in rolls of 50 and 300 feet.  It comes glued for application with pressure or heat, or without glue.  I have not had the best luck with a variety of trimmers to remove the excess tape (edge banding is usually supplied in widths larger than standard plywood thicknesses.)  My tried-and-true method, although slow, is to use a razor knife to cut the tape against a metal putty knife as a backer.  The trimmers have a tendency to tear out the wood grain along the trimmed edge.  You also have to pay attention to the direction of the grain and push or pull the trimmer with the grain.  So, double edge trimmers are innately troublesome (to me, at least.)

Whether you are building a dog house or your dream kitchen, the ideal product for efficient and attractive woodworking projects has been around for over 5000 years.   What other wood-related thing can you say that about, except maybe the termite…

Reclaiming Vintage Wood – An Epic Tale

Explaining how he created the lengthy and intricate story that became The Lord of the Rings epic, J. R. R. Tolkien wrote, “The tale grew in the telling.”  Sometimes remodeling projects are like that.  Typical reasons to add time and cost to a project include uncovering rot in the walls, opening a floor and discovering a hidden portal to the fourth dimension, and finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow with which to fund a bigger project.  Well, at least the first one is typical.

But, sometimes, things just work out that way for the better, like, serendipitously…

Such is the case with a recent (2013) remodel of the kitchen in the home of Terri A. and Les S., located in the forested foothills of Mt. Baker, Washington, home to bald eagles, spawning salmon, white-tailed deer and Lucy, the sweetest guard dog on the planet.

Terri had for many years wanted to upgrade her kitchen, which was functional but lacking a certain something – like cabinet doors and drawer spaces.  The room had all of three – count ’em – three drawers with faces among seven built-in base cabinets and one wall cabinet.  Roll out baskets were installed in several of the boxes, which added the storage capacity of drawers without the finished look of drawer faces.  The design was basic and adequate, but far from efficient and elegant.

You know a picture is worth a thousand words, so take a look at the Pre-Remodeling Layout:

Left Side Cabinets

Open Cabinets Left of the Sink

To the left of the sink a perpendicular run of three cabinets included a corner cabinet; it was a chore to access stuff in the “blind” end which had no shelf.

Baskets on drawer slides helped improve some access, but the interiors of the cabinets were wider than the fixed-width baskets, resulting in wasted space.

Additionally, the built-in boxes shared a common side wall between any two, and the illusion of a thicker wall was created by using a wider stile (the vertical trim piece, or “face frame”) at the front of each wall, wasting more interior cabinet room in an already small space.

The sink cabinet was about 22 inches wide which accommodated a relatively small drop-in style sink.

Sink Area

Sink Area with Peak-A-Boo Door

The door below the sink was an afterthought as was the wall cabinet over the range on the opposite side of the room.  Hence, they didn’t match anything.  As you can see, most of the aesthetic design went into the interior of the cabinets where knotty fir plywood was used for the cabinet side walls.  Terri loves the look of the original wood which is also in the walls and throughout the house.  So, duplicating the hue and character of the old wood was an important design feature in her vision of the new look for her kitchen space.

Three Unhappy Drawer Faces Right of the Sink

Three Lonely Drawer Faces Right of the Sink

“Knotty fir” is  a descriptive name rather than a species; in fact, according to The Real Wood Bible, coast Douglas fir, which this wood almost certainly is, is not even a true fir (Abies genus)!  Another name for the tree is Oregon pine, and its grows ubiquitously on the west coast of the United States and Canada from British Columbia to California.

We can roughly date this original installation to perhaps the late 1940s, when plywood became a consumer product after its widespread use for the war effort during WWII, to the early 1970s.  Knotty fir, although beautiful, was considered a cheaper grade of wood:  the more desirable Doug-fir grade had few, if any, tight knots and was used for furniture and paneling.  Today, knotty fir is rarely found; my local lumber yard stopped carrying ACX fir plywood 15 years ago.  Regardless, this grade has one good (“A”) side and the other side is not-so-good (“C”.)  Further, the “A” side has the knots cut out and patched with oval-shaped pieces of veneer, so the best use was to paint it, not look at it.

What is available today is expensive CVG (clear vertical grain) fir plywood, which is useful for staining or clear coating for appearance but has no knots to add character.  When it comes to dimensional knotty fir lumber (which is solid wood), generally all that can be found are “shorts” useful for small projects.  These solid boards are usually a few inches wide and maybe five feet long.  To create doors of any width, several of these narrow boards need to be edge-joined to create a wider panel.  This is not always attractive because the doors end up looking like fence boards side-by-side.  Also, book matching, joining pieces of the same board to create a mirror image grain pattern, doesn’t work very well as a visual feature because the book-matched boards aren’t wide enough.

So, how to realize Terri’s dream of a “new” kitchen carrying over the same rustic beauty of the original design was the first challenge.  Terri wanted to initially add new cabinet doors and drawer fronts and retrofit four of the boxes with real drawers; she also decided to replace the temporary cabinet over the range, add a narrow cabinet with a counter top next to the range, add a tall pantry with multiple roll-out shelves, and a few other upgrades to give the kitchen greater functionality and a finished look.

Even for this limited amount of fabrication, choosing to use CVG fir plywood exclusively would have been costly at $160 per 4′ X 8′ panel, and would have been out-of-character with the surrounding walls and trim – which have those wonderful knots!  And we’ve discussed the issues with using fir shorts.  CVG fir dimensional lumber is also expensive and a bit monotonous from a visual perspective – the wood is beautiful but the grain pattern is straight as a string.

After doing all this research and thinking about how to make this kitchen look like it came with the house, I asked my local lumber guys if they had any ideas how or where to obtain a quantity of old-school knotty fir lumber.  I really didn’t want to find an old building, bid on the demolition, demolish it, extract the usable timbers and beams, resaw them into lumber, etc.  There must be someone somewhere who makes this their business who can save me 90 percent of the work of reclaiming this type of wood.  As it turns out, there is, and it’s a local business who specializes in just this area.

Jeffrey E. operates from his home shop.  He regularly participates in auctions and bids for de-constructed building lumber specializing in fir.  His business focuses on reclaiming fir lumber for use in new and remodeled houses, cabinets and furniture.  A pleasant surprise was that he makes a living at this which reflects a good demand for this material, and an ethos among his customers to reuse and recycle perfectly good wood products for new projects.  Jeffrey has a technique for planing the old raw wood he uses which retains a portion of the patina from the years-long aging process the wood has undergone.  The result is an attractive patterning on the finished product which adds a unique feature to the decor.

The boards I purchased were all about 12 feet long by at least 6 inches wide; they had been surface-planed to 5/4 (five-quarter), which is about 1 and  1/16″ thick.  The edges of each board were original to the beam each had been sliced from, so they were not perfectly straight for running through a table saw.  To solve this problem, I fixed a straightedge (a long, perfectly straight board) to each one to act as a guide for the table saw fence.  This technique results in one straight edge cut on each board, which can then be used to rip a straight edge on the opposite side, or rip narrower boards for use.

After painstakingly ripping a straight edge, I fed each thick board through my surface planer for multiple passes.  This finally reduced the thickness of each board to a standard 3/4 inches plus a fraction for sanding.

The planer removes a fraction of an inch with each pass.  Once you get one side nicely flat and smooth, turn  the board over and remove wood from the other side,  When both sides are looking good, stop and examine the board for features you want to display, like knots, nail holes, particularly striking grain patterns, and colors.  Choose a side to be the “outside” of doors, drawer fronts, panels, etc., and concentrate on removing the remaining thickness from the other side.  This will preserve the look you selected.

To minimize potential problems, planer blades, router bits, saw blades, chisels and all cutting implements should be maintained razor-sharp.  Quoting from Nick Gibbs in The Real Wood Bible, “In the workshop…Douglas fir is a satisfying lumber to work, with spectacular grain patterns emerging on plain-sawn surfaces, but it has its drawbacks.  Cutters have to be sharp and there is a risk of splintering.”  Splintering is a problem that can lead to other problems, like getting a splinter (or 12) in your hand.  Splinters hurt like the Dickens because the fingers and hands are the site of the highest concentration of nerve endings in the human body.  Besides, Doug fir splinters are usually tiny, sharp and deeply imbedded.  Now, besides having to repair the splintered wood, you have to endure the misery of painful splinters reminding you of their presence every time you bump them.  So, keep your tools sharp and bone up on minor surgery.

Now I sorted through the milled lumber for the best looking faces to use for doors and drawer fronts.  All the top drawers are traditionally the same height (about 5 and 3/4 inches), so I picked a 6″ wide board with few flaws near the edges and long enough to make six top drawer faces of varying widths.  The consistency of grain pattern and color carries around the kitchen in an eye-pleasing effect.

I chose pieces by width to make wide and narrow doors as called for in the design.  Because the boards were 12 feet long, I had the advantage of the ability to book-match each door panel, making for a much more attractive look compared to random boards edge-joined together.  I also paid attention to the location and “quality” of knots and nail holes; these added the precise rustic character of the original installation we were looking to achieve.

Now I must digress to tell you about the serendipitous part (apart from finding a trove of beautiful vintage wood for the project almost literally in my backyard…)

Terri (remember Terri?) wanted to have a centerpiece in her upgraded kitchen.  She found and purchased a stylish and contemporary cast iron and porcelain “farm” sink, the kind with an apron the doubles as the front of the cabinet, like this:

When we measured for a drop-in installation in the existing cabinet, we realized this sink needed to be installed as a “tile-in” whereby the tile counter top is brought up to touch the perimeter of the sink, which is set flush with the counter top.  This is one of several ways to install different sink designs; another might be made to install under the counter top, known as an “undermount” sink.

Terri and Les didn’t bat an eye, as they had considered replacing the dated tile counter top, also.  Now the project “grew in the telling,” as the existing sink cabinet wasn’t wide enough.  They quickly decided to expand the project to a full remodel replacing not only the old counter top and the offending sink cabinet , but the original cabinets on either side and along the other wall.  What started with minor changes now became a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

The new cabinets have the following features:

  • Apron sink cabinet with two doors for access to storage
  • Two banks of three drawers each in two cabinets
  • Two roll-out shelves behind a single door that hinges out-of-the-way
  • A pull-out recycling center with two 20-gallon containers and a drawer
  • A large corner cabinet with a shelf and 170° hinged door
  • Two drawers above the two roll-out shelves
  • A 12-inch wide cabinet with drawer and adjustable partitions
  • A 9-inch cabinet with one fixed and one adjustable shelf
  • A large wall cabinet with a shelf above the range
  • A tall pantry with two doors and five roll-out shelves

The new cabinets were constructed using birch plywood for walls, bottoms, drawer boxes and structural parts.  The light color of the birch makes the cabinet interiors bright and easier to see into than the previous darker wood.  Euro-style construction maximizes interior space and allows for hidden hinges which were unique to each location; some hinges open 110°; others open past the plane of the side wall to allow full-width roll-out shelves to move without obstruction.  The cabinets have knotty fir rails and stiles which the doors and drawers close against to complete the rustic appearance.

We also added a 10-foot long shelf near the ceiling along the wall above the pantry and refrigerator for extra storage and knickknacks.  Further, the breaker panel, tastefully located in the kitchen wall, is now hidden behind a knotty fir door hinged for easy access.

Again, a picture is worth a thousand words:

Terri's New Kitchen

Terri’s New Kitchen

Above the Range

Above the Range

Beside the Range

Beside the Range

Tall Pantry

Tall Pantry

Tall Pantry Revealed

Tall Pantry Revealed

Les did a fine job installing the sink, which is a technical job requiring accurate and precise measuring and cutting.  ( I wonder if he read my article on the subject…)  He is also the tile guy for the new counter top.  The counter top will have wood edge to accent the large square glazed tiles.  Add a new faucet, rustic shelf brackets and distressed porcelain knobs on the cabinets and the kitchen space is totally reinvented while retaining the ambiance and “look” of the house.  The patina of the existing aged wood in the walls and shelving was almost perfectly matched by using an oil-based polyurethane which uniquely darkens to a rich golden color when it cures.

All in all, the project was a resounding success.  A vintage kitchen received a modern make-over, thanks to the availability of the perfect vintage wood product, a vintage carpenter, and the roll-with-the-punches attitude of two of the nicest people I have had the pleasure to work with.

¡Salud!