Sunday, December 14, 2008

Seven Drawers For Seven Slots

The holiday season and icy weather are both to blame for the severe downturn in cabinet making over the past few weeks. I was able to fix the sticky problem with the first 4 drawers I made. They now glide effortlessly. I also made the last 3 drawers for the butler’s pantry side.

The additional 3 drawers on the butler’s pantry are located just behind the lower section inset on the dining room side. This is where the tile panel is located. I thought about doing a cabinet there, but you can never have enough drawers. Am I right? They were fairly simple to make. The one thing I would do over if I had the chance was not make them so deep. I figured that making 3 deep drawers was easier than, say, 4 shallow drawers. The problem with this is that I had to come up with some nice pieces of salvage 1X9 redwood to make the drawers. This is easier said than done at this point in the game.

I also called about marble. I went with a different stone fabricator than when I did the kitchen. If you recall, in the kitchen, I just had the fabricator cut me a rough slab and then I cut the sink hole and finished the edges. It was a lot of work, but it saved a lot of money.

This time, money is less of an issue and so I thought I would have it done. Well, after I got the estimate I’m now rethinking that. The marble slab for the kitchen island is about the same square footage as the slab needed for the dining room. I paid $350 for the rough slab for the kitchen and picked it up myself. The first estimate for the dining room was $1,700.00 and some change! Half of that is milling, finishing, transport, installation, etc.

I specifically said I don’t want the laminate edge and they charged me for that. The laminate edge is where they glue a strip under the front edge to hide the sub-counter. I told them I didn’t want the so there estimate was $250 too high. That brought it down to a little under $1,500.00. It is not that I can’t afford it, so much as I down want to. Even if I got just the rough cut slab from these guys their price for square footage is still about twice what I paid from the other guys and it is the same type and thickness of stone. Maybe marble prices have skyrocketed over the last 3 years. I don’t know.

I’m going to get an estimate from the other guys next week. We’ll see what there estimate comes in at. This first place I contacted said they wouldn’t be able to do the work until the end of January. That is longer than I thought, but what are you going to do. I still have 18 doors to make, so it is not like I will be waiting on them.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Four Drawers

The first one took about 3 hours, but after that I was able to make each of the others in less than an hour. I had only made one other drawer before this and that was only due to a mistake. When I made the corner cabinet in the bathroom it was supposed to be a single door for the whole thing. Well, I made the door 6-inches too short (gun to head) and so I ended adding a drawer to the top to make up the room. The logic at the time was that adding a drawer was less work than making a new door. The verdict is still out on that, but regardless, it was a good experience.

These drawers presented a unique challenge for me – well, I guess at this point, almost any drawer presents a unique challenge considering I had only made the one prior to this week. Anyway, the main challenge with these was that they are pass-through drawers. They can be opened on either side of the cabinet. If I were making a standard drawer on a 24-inch deep cabinet, the drawer could be 20-inches deep or 22-inces deep. It really wouldn’t matter how deep it was so long as it would close. With these, they needed to be pretty darn near close to the exact depth of the cabinet or they would always look odd from one side.

The target depth was 22-inches. I had already made the draw fronts for the front side so I needed to make the draw fronts for the back side. Then by measuring the thickness of both, minus the rabbit at the end that would accept the draw sides, that would give me the length of the sides.

Well, I panicked. That is one of the reasons it took 3 hours to make the first one. No, those aren’t the drawers I made. Those are the 1920s drawers that came out of the old rental kitchen. I dismantled them to make the new drawers. This is the other reason it took so long to make the first drawer. I want things to look authentic, so using 7/8th inch thick redwood drawer sides and bottoms from the 1920s did help in that, but it added a lot of time.

The other panic induced decision was to make them a hair longer than they needed to be. One of the things I’ve been worried about all along was that the cabinets will seem too 2 dimensional. These are supposed to be High Victorian dining room cabinets. A lot of times these would incorporate columns and mirrors and bump-outs and what ever other trick the cabinet maker could come up with. Also, when you think of Victorian trimwork there are always parts in relief of other parts to accentuate shadow lines. For instance, the head blocks and plinth blocks always sit a quarter inch proud of the casing. It gives the trim that added dimension to catch the light and throw a shadow.

So with all of that in mind, and the blinding fear that I would make them too small, I made the first one a quarter-inch too long so the dining room side would sit a little proud of the rest of the cabinet. I did it and then I did the other three exactly like that, and now, surprise of all surprises, I’m doubting that decision. I don’t think at this point I will be taking them all apart to trim a quarter-inch off the sides, so once again I will either need to live with this or sell the house.

I’m leaning towards selling the house, but since that won’t be tonight, here are a few shots. First the long shot and then a left and right close-up.

Regardless of the quarter-inch I’m greatly relieved that this task is behind me and I generally like the way they look. It is going to kill me to mount hardware in those burl drawer fronts. The only problem with them now is that they don’t operate all that well. Because they must open from both sides, the draw guides need to be dead-perfect, straight-on. Mine aren’t. These are not modern guides but redwood ones I made. My hope now is that I didn’t use glue when I installed them three weeks ago. If they are just put in with brads, I should be able to pop them out and reposition them, or even make new ones. We’ll see.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

New Wallpaper!

I just found this yesterday and had to get it up immediately.

You can click here to see a full size view of this. If you’ve got it, flaunt it, right?

Oh, and in case you haven’t figured it out by now, this is my new computer screen wallpaper. While I will miss Rita Hayworth, who wouldn't want a little marble cottage by the sea?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Trim Tint

A friend of mine who seems very knowledgeable at times told me that 2 parts Red Mahogany stain and 1 part Walnut stain would be a good mix for tinting the light colored redwood to match the darker stuff. Well, it was more like 10 to 1, but since I started with the 2:1 mix I now have a lifetime supply of tinting stain. Even after adding a lot more Red Mahogany I ended up thinning it even more with 1:1 ratio of BLO and turpentine. I really, really have a lot.

In the end though, it worked out. Here is the before shot. You can see how the left and right casings are much lighter than the other wood. As I said the other day, the wood is really nice tight grained old-growth wood. It is just very light for some reason. The header casing on the door at the right is cut from the same piece of wood and so has the same problem.

Here it is after tinting. I did the door header first and was concerned it was too dark. That is the mix prior to adding the BLO and turpentine. Then I diluted it even more and did the other two. In this picture they still a look a little light, but in real life it is a pretty good match. I may go over it once more though.

Staining the wood is not like doing a traditional stain job. Normally, I would use a brush to apply liberal amounts of stain and then let it sit for 5 minutes before wiping it off. Here, I just wanted to darken the color a little bit. I worked with a folded up paper towel that was dipped in the stain and then rung out well. I then rubbed the paper towel on the wood. There was usually no excess on the wood at all. Any amount that was on there was quickly wiped off. The stain was applied so lightly that I never once had to change paper towels.

Today I was able to get most of the trim installed on the butler’s pantry side. There is not a lot to it, really. I also needed to build a false wall behind the center panel on the upper section. On the butler’s pantry side that will be shelving and I wanted to hide the backs of the burl panels for protection as much as for aesthetics. So the wall is built and three shelves installed.

I can’t do any more on the butler’s pantry side until the center section is trimmed out on the dining rooms side. I need to build a little door jamb for the pass through door before the rest of the trim can be done on the butler’s pantry side. Before I can do the center section trim on the dining room side, I need to get the counter in. That means Monday I need to call about marble or the whole project could grind to a halt while I wait for some stone guy to return my call.

I can move forward with the drawers though, so that will be the next project: 7 Drawers.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It Is Risen

This is a second coming of sorts, I suppose. It is the resurrection of the cabinet. Even so, I’ll stop there before I offend anyone. I’m talking about the dining room cabinets, of course. They have taken full shape and the trim is on. It went smoothly except for a few issues.

First, some before shots for perspective…

This is June of 2005 from inside the kitchen. That is the fireplace in the dining room through the gaping hole. This large opening was originally a door which was widened in the 20s to accommodate a Murphy Bed.

Again from the kitchen side, here is the wall rebuilt.

And just to finish that series, here is the finished kitchen side.

Now at long last I have finally finished the dining room side. Only the far right-hand pair of panels on the dado are original in this shot. The other 6 panels, along with the rails and stiles are reproduction. The dado goes all the way around the room like this. Everything else in the room is original to 1895.

Here is the other gaping hole as of August of 2008.

And here it is today

One of the issues is painfully obvious in the last photo. The two pieces of vertical casing are way too light. The header casing on the smaller door is cut from the same wood and has the same problem. I’m not exactly sure why they are so light in color. They are definitely not second growth wood. In fact, the growth rings are so tight on them they are difficult to count. They are really very beautiful pieces of wood, they are just very pale.

I’m must fix this problem, but it will need to wait. All of the trim was oiled moments before this photo was taken. I’m going to let it try and then tint some BLO & turpentine with red mahogany stain and see if I can even it out. I have a few scraps I can test with.

The other issue is on the right side of the lower cabinet the trim does not fit tightly near the top. It has the same problem on the left side, only not as pronounced. I’m not sure how I can fix this at this point. That cabinet is nailed in there so tightly that if an 8.0 hit right now the only thing I could be sure was left standing was that cabinet and the two walls on either side. I’m going to need to come up with something to make it less noticeable.

All said though, I’m relieved with the way it is coming out. Next up is the upper face-frame on the butler’s pantry side.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Upper Two In

I think this is one of the few times in the history of this blog that I am actually on schedule! Last weekend I said I wanted to get the second upper cabinet installed by Thursday and I actually did it. It’s a Petch House Miracle!

Originally the plan was to build the uppers as one giant cabinet (4X8 feet) and then get a few friends over to muscle it in to place. In the end though, I decide to build it in sections because I can get each section in place by myself. Right now they are both just tacked in to place. Tomorrow I will get them level and flush with the lowers and nail them in to place. I think I can also get the center panel installed tomorrow, as well.

Then on Saturday I can put in the plinth blocks (behind the hammer), casing (to the left leaning against the wall), and head blocks (not in picture). This is a really big deal because immediately to the right of the cabinets is the wall leading in to the kitchen, which I rebuilt years ago. This wall was where a Murphy Bed was put in back in the 1920s when the house was turned in to apartments.

They removed the door and widened the opening leading from the dining room to the kitchen and installed the Murphy Bed. At the same time they removed some of the raised paneled dado and closed off a dumb waiter style door used to pass food from the hot stove to the sideboard.

All of this was rebuilt 3 or 4 years ago when I did the kitchen, but it was never trimmed out on the dining room side because these cabinets needed to be installed. So now – FINALLY – The wall has been rebuilt. The dado repaired. The doors reestablished. The plaster repaired. And NOW, after so many years, the cabinets are in place and I can trim out this wall.

It is like one giant 113 year old puzzle.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Milestone

I just noticed that The Petch House Blog went over the half million mark in page views today. I’ll be the first to admit that this is miniscule by internet standards, and probably even by House Blogging standards. Still, it’s something….

What’s the old joke…

“Hey Boss, I just found out our web site is the number one non-porn site on the internet! That makes us 10-billonth over all!”

Sunday, November 16, 2008

One Up-One Down

I got the right side upper cabinet made and installed. It is really just tacked in to place right now. Once I get the left side built and up there I’ll make sure everything is square, plumb, and level and then secure it in place.

In the photo, the center panel is just sitting there right now. Once the left side is in place I can trim it to fit and then nail it in. I’m still not overly thrilled with this panel. I think by itself it looks fine. I’m just not sure how it works with the cabinets. Regardless, it is going to be installed either way.

I have 2 of the panels glued up for the left side, and today I’ll glue up the other 2. After the glue sets they get trimmed to size, sanded, and oiled. Once that is done I can start assembling the left side. I’m hoping to have it assembled and installed by Thursday.

Once the left side is in I can permanently install the center panel. Then I’ll do the butler’s pantry face-frame and then trim out the dining room side with the casing, plinth blocks and head blocks.

Once all of that trim is in the width will be defined and I can start to look at counter tops. I will be doing white marble. The marble needs to go in before the middle shingle scrap section can be trimmed out. After that, it is just doors and drawers.

Right, just doors and drawers….

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Me Wanty

This is the style wallpaper I want for the parlors...

This is another Shorpy Shot. I'm going to go for an eclectic mix in my design choices. The fabric of the house will be period (lighting, wall coverings, woodwork) with everything else being an eclectic mix of contemporary and other decidedly historically inaccurate pieces. They will be mostly second-hand and span decades. The only prerequisite will be no synthetic materials.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

What To Do About Doors

I’ve been pretty much ignoring this issue for a number of reasons. I think the only time I have mentioned the doors is when I lamented the shear number that I need to make. I need 18 doors in all. It just seems like it is going to take forever.

For me, the two big challenges with door making are the mortise and tenon joints, and making the panels. Ok, aside from hinges and latches, that is pretty much the entire door. Oh, and did mention that I hate doing hinges as well? As for the latches, I’m fairly indifferent towards them.

The other issue with the doors is the material. Even though the butler’s pantry side will be painted, you will see the inside of those doors from the dining room side. Especially on the uppers, because the doors on the dining room side will be glass.

The face-frames on the dining room side are, of course, all made from the curly redwood. I don’t have anymore of that for the doors. Even if I got more, which I’m sure I could if I really wanted it, it would not look the same as the face-frames. With this in mind, I’m probably going to do plain redwood, of which, I have an abundant supply. I’m not sure if that will look odd, though, to have curly redwood face-frames and plain redwood doors.

Then there are the panels. Lots and lots of panels. Eighteen of them, to be exact. That is a lot of damn panels and a lot of wood. I will need a lot of nice wood too. I need a lot of 12 and 16 inch wide panels. I have found that I am not the best at gluing up panels. I can do it, but sometimes my seams show.

So I’m thinking obscure or stained glass for the butler’s pantry side uppers. The dining room side uppers will be clear glass with some subtle etched design around the edges. The idea is that one would display their assortment of fine china in the uppers to impress their guests. If I did a stained glass on the butler’s pantry side it would look very cool with the lights on in the butler’s pantry. The inside of the cabinets would be bathed in a colored light. Very Victorian and a nice alternative to having lights on the inside of the cabinet.

I’m not thinking any kind of designed stained glass in the traditional sense. Rather, large panes of colored glass in place of solid wood panels. Glass size could become an issue. Most glass makers, except Kokomo Glass, make glass in either 12 or 24 inch wide pieces. I’ve been trying to calculate the width I would need, but my brain has seized up. If I had to get it from Kokomo Glass again, then that means another trip The Bay Area.

Plenty to think about and plenty of time to think about it.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

And Now Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

So the politics has run its course, at least for the next 2 months or so. How about a little religion before we get back to the cabinets.

The Jehovah's Witnesses came by today. Two very pleasant, elderly woman stopped by and wanted to talk with me about The Bible. I thanked them politely and then informed them that I was a devout Atheist, so I wasn’t really interested. One woman’s eyes bugged out and she said, “Atheist!”. The other one looked at me and asked what does “devout” mean. I said, “You know, ‘devotion’. I’m devoted to my belief”. She then looked at me puzzled, placed her hand on her chest, and replied, “But I’m devout”, as if to imply if she was, then how could I be.

The other woman quickly changed the subject by commenting on how tall I was. I was covered in red sawdust and they asked if I was the one doing all of the work on the house. The conversation turned pleasant again, but by this time I was ready for it to be over. I inched the door shut while I smiled and thanked them for their compliments on the house. Across the street I could see a small group of men in crisp blue suits knocking on my neighbors door. The Jehovah's Witnesses come by a few times a year. Sometimes it irritates me. Sometimes it doesn’t.

The cabinets continue to rise, albeit at a very slow pace. I got the sub-counter on and the middle section attached. The sub-counter is made from small scraps of siding from the 2 story addition. I had a lot of pieces that were 3-feet long or less. I ran them through the planer to get them to a half inch and then nailed them on. Some of the boards had cupping issues that the planer won’t resolve. I had to do a little hand planning once they were on.

I also put on the butler’s pantry finish counter. It is only 5.5-inches deep, so I ripped a piece of the old casing that was put on during the 1920s when the original cabinets were removed. It is actually deeper than the original back counter from 1895. To maintain symmetry on the front side with the shingle scraps, the front counter top can only be so deep. I put on the back counter now because I needed to get the finished back of the middle section on. The counter goes under that. It is finished with a simple bull-nose and there will be a piece of cove molding under it to hide the sub-counter.

The back of the middle section is made up of these 3/8th-inch thick, tongue & groove boards that are about 6-inches wide. These I got from my neighbor. He had dozens of them in a garbage can in his backyard. The garbage can had filled with rain water and he figured they were ruined. They are all made from really nice old-growth redwood, so all I had to do was dry them out. They are stamped Simpson Lumber on one end. I think these were originally made to be used as the backs of medicine cabinets.

The main reason I need to get the back on is so I will know the finish depth of the middle section. This will determine the finish depth of the upper cabinets. The final number is 18.5-inches. That should do nicely. So the next step now is the upper carcasses, which is really just sides and tops since the back will be another face-frame on the butler’s pantry side.

This means gluing up panels. I need 4 sides, 2 tops, and 2 bottoms. I have enough clamps to do 2 at a time. Normally I would keep them in the clamps for 24 hours, but since it is raining now, I will probably do 48 hours. The dining room face-frames are finished but I still need to do the butler’s pantry side.

The real tricky part in all of this is going to come when it is time to install the uppers. They are going to be 48-inches tall and 8-feet wide. I need to get them up on top of the middle section. I’ve never asked for help with this sort of thing in the past, but this may be the time to ask. With any luck, that will come next weekend.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Remember Pete…

"With great power, comes great responsibility."

That’s what Uncle Ben told Peter Parker on the night he died. If I could, that is what I will tell Barack Obama tonight.

Having said that, "Its a beautiful day!"

Monday, November 03, 2008

A Revolutionary Vote

New York circa 1917. "Calm about it. At Fifty-sixth and Lexington Avenue, the women voters showed no ignorance or trepidation, but cast their ballots in a businesslike way that bespoke study of suffrage." Shorpy.Com

Tomorrow is a day for another revolutionary vote.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Less Is More

When this is all said and done I think these cabinets will less represent fine cabinet making and more represent folk art. It looks nice, but you if get up close you can tell I’m not a trained cabinet maker. Don’t get me wrong, its reasonably straight and level, and it should be very presentable, but its far from perfect.


Lower-Bottoms w/ Stiles

I have made more progress, though. I finished the upper-center section and I put in the bottoms on the lower cabinets. I also made the face-frames for the uppers (not shown), and I had just enough left over to add the center stiles on the lower cabinets. This means that each door will get its own cabinet latch on the lowers. On the uppers, each pair of doors will share a latch. This was always intended to be that way.

I am really cutting it close on this wood. The only thing left longer than 6-inches from the two big slabs of curly redwood are two end-cuts. The end cuts were the last pieces that were not full thickness. One side looks good and the other is sloped and slanted and varies in thickness from inch and a half down to 3/8ths of an inch.

These last two pieces will be used in the final assembly as almost veneer for the small inset area on either side of the upper-inset panel. I treat them like rare treasured objects which are the last of their kind. They've both been moved to a secured, undisclosed location in one of the garages. I could tell you where I put them, but then I’d have to kill you. We wouldn’t want that.

Tomorrow I’m going to put in the drawer guides and add in a bunch of glue blocks in the corners to strengthen the lower carcasses. I’m also going to glue and brad thick strips of wood behind the longer rails and stiles of the lower cabinets to strengthen them. The undulating grain pattern of the curly redwood means that you some times get grain that moves almost back to front instead of across. This makes for some very weak parts in the wood. The strips of wood attached to the back with glue and brads will add some much needed support.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Six Little Indians

As I was putting these together tonight it dawned on me that at some point I must have decided to not do a glass panel but I don’t really remember when that was. Its not that I think I made the decision at some point and now I’ve forgotten when that was. I don’t think it was ever a conscious decision to do the wood panel. So, because the decision was made subconsciously, my conscious mind has no recollection of it. The brain is a tricky little thing, isn't it?

Most of the process of building this cabinet is about how I can use the wood I have in the most efficient manner. So I had the last few pieces of the burl slab left over and I guess it just seemed like the natural thing to do. This is the same burl I used for the drawer fronts and for the single burl panel on the lower center section.

Having said that, I’m not sure this is the right way to go. The idea is that the panels, which have the same trim as the drawer fronts, will be surrounded by curly redwood rails and stiles – same as the drawer fronts. This upper panel will match in size the lower panel. Its not that I think it won’t look nice. My fear is that the design may come off as too simplistic. These are supposed to be High Victorian, after all. Simplistic was not in their vocabulary.

We’ll see.

The panels themselves are pretty spectacular. Hopefully that will make up for the simple geometric pattern of 6 horizontal panels. We’ll see.

Putting them together was a challenge because I didn’t bother to smooth out the bottoms. As I said, this is the very last of the burl slab and the bottoms are very rough and uneven because it looks like this was cut out with a chain saw. I mean that literally. When I was adding the molding on to the sides they tended to wobble around a lot.

To compound the problem, I didn’t do the best job at measuring the molding when I made it. I thought each piece would be enough to do either 2 long sides or 4 short sides. Well, when it came time to actually start cutting and assembling, each piece was, in reality, an inch too short to do either of those things. I thought I had several extra pieces, but as it turned out I had no extra pieces! It was a nail-biter. One bad cut and I would have run out. Of course, I could always make more, but it’s a bit of a process. It takes 2 different router bits and a pass on the table saw for each piece. I got lucky.

Tomorrow, hopefully, I can start putting together the panel. Then I will get some idea of how this will come out. I can always go back to glass.

Edit: After reading this post my subconscious mind just kicked me in the head. What I SHOULD have done was use this as the lower panel and made 6 small drawers and then had the tile panel on the upper section. Oh well, too late. There is no way in hell I'm going to dismantle the lower cabinets.

This will haunt me for the rest of my life, though. No question: I'm must sell this house the day I finish it.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bottoms Up

I have many fantasies but not all of them include the beautiful bag girl at the local market. Years ago I wrote about my fantasy in where Norm Abram from The New Yankee Workshop would come and help me build these cabinets. Well guess what? Just as with the bag girl, my fantasies about Norm have gone unfulfilled. I was forced to build the cabinets myself.

So its 10:00 AM Saturday morning and I’m about to start assembling the lower cabinets. I start to feel queasy at the thought of putting them together. The palms of my hands and feet get sweaty. Suddenly I drop to my knees in the middle of the dining room. Looking up at the ceiling, and with a single clenched fist reaching in to the air, I yell out, “Why have you forsaken me Norm Abram!!!!

I then composed myself as best I could and continued on with the assembly.

I can honestly say that everything I know about making cabinets, and carpentry in general, I’ve learned from watching The New Yankee Workshop. Even so, I don’t build cabinets the same way Norm does. In no way would I dream of suggesting that my way is better than his. In fact, I would say that Norm’s method of construction is better than mine. My way works for me, though, so that’s the way I do it.

As you can see, I have the bottom section mostly put together. I went with 3 drawers on the butler’s pantry side (Thank you Kathy). I also went with a traditional face-frame instead of beadboard. The middle part with the shingle scraps is just tacked in to place at this point. I needed to get that up there because it is important that I calculate the height of the uppers accurately. The trim work around the entire cabinet will be identical to the trim work around all of the windows and doors in the room. I need to make sure the tops of the cabinets will be high enough so the 1X6 casing will cover the gap. In order to get an accurate measurement I needed to have the middle section in place. It will come down shortly.

There is still a lot of work to do on the lower cabinets. I need to install the bottoms, drawer guides, and shelves. Of course, I need to make the doors and drawers, but that will be the very last thing. What I would like to do is to add an additional a stile on either side to separate the cabinet doors. I don’t know if I have enough wood, though.

With a center stile each door would have its own cabinet latch. With out it, the latch would be on one door and the catch on the other. The door with the catch would have an additional hook mechanism on the inside. This is the way the cabinet in the laundry room was constructed.

So the plan now is to stop building the lowers and to start construction of the upper face frames and upper middle section. Once those are done, if I have enough wood left over, I will add the additional stiles to the lowers. I can then go back and finish the lower cabinets. As with the lowers, the first thing to do on the uppers is to make the center section. So that’s the next job.

Oh, and as it turned out, the center panel I made for the lowers was a quarter-inch too wide and needed to be trimmed. Another way of looking at this is to say that if I had made it a half-inch narrower I would have been screwed because it would have been too small to fill the space.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Some Assembly Required

That seemingly innocent title is actually filled with ominous portent. The realization that at some point I must put this thing together has come crashing down on me over the last few days.

But I’m not nervous. No, not the least. The cabinets will get assembled. One way or the other - crappy or otherwise - they will get put together. There’s no pressure. I don’t feel it at all.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Wait is Over

There must be a problem with the hit-counter for this blog. I can only imagine that most of you are checking in dozens of time a day looking for updates about what I’m going to do with the center sections of the dining room cabinets. For some reason the hit-counter doesn’t show any big increase in traffic, so it must be broken. I’ve shot off dozens of emails to the tech support staff and to try and get it fixed. For some reason their site has started rejecting my emails. Obviously there is a much larger problem over there than just my hit-counter.

These two center sections have occupied so much of my time lately, but I’m happy to report I now have a plan in place….for now….it could change. I’m sure this is a huge relief to everyone. Many of you will probably sleep better at night and your productivity will skyrocket. There’s no need to thank me. Its all a part of the process.

Kathy from New Jersey suggested drawers on the butler’s pantry side. I read her comment, slapped my forehead, and yelled out, “Of course! Drawers!”. You can never have enough drawers. Am I right? I figure I’ll do 3 or 4 drawers on the butler’s pantry side. It does mean making more drawers, but it also means making fewer doors. Considering I was looking at making 17 or 18 doors, it’s a good trade-off.

For the uppers I’ve decided to do open shelving for the center section. You’ll notice the beauty of this: Open shelving is infinitely less work that either drawers or doors. Also, I won’t do a glass panel on the front side. This means less cost, less work, and fewer long pieces of wood. All very important points.

Instead of a glass panel I’m going to do a series of inset panels of burl redwood with curly redwood rails and stiles. I have 4 more pieces of the same burl I used for the drawer fronts on the lower cabinets and I have a lot of short pieces of curly redwood. This plan both costs less money and uses up more wood. A winning combination.

So rest easy tonight everyone. The wait is finally over. You can all go back to your regular routines and hopefully the good people at will get the hit-counter fixed soon so once again it will reflect the real traffic to the site.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It’s Going To be Close

I’m measuring the wood on an almost hourly basis now. I’ve come up with an idea that involves an internet-cam and a helper monkey so I can get a status of the wood while I’m at work. Nothing firm yet. The idea is that with a mild electrical stimulus the monkey would hold a measuring tape up to the remaining wood and I could watch on the web cam. Even if I could find a monkey with those skills on such short notice, I’m not sure the people at PETA would approve.

I woke up at 5:00AM this morning and spent the next two hours laying in bed going over what to do with the center section on the upper cabinets. It all comes back to the wood supply. I cut up those two slabs of curly redwood and I’m bound and determined to use it as much as possible without buying more wood. Part of it is – as I’ve said time and time again – is that I Am One Cheap Bastard. I don’t want to buy more wood.

Beyond that, though, is the wood itself. The pieces I cut out of the slabs are unique in color and grain patterns. I was forced to do the center section of the lower cabinets with different wood and the variation in color is noticeable. Naturally, after seeing this, I began to think about the uppers.

The uppers will have an inset center section that mimics the lowers. Depending on the design of the uppers there may or may not be enough of the slab wood left to do everything I want. Hence the constant measuring and re-measuring.

The plans have changed so many times over the last 48 hours I sometimes forget exactly which plan I’m obsessing about. Some have glass panels. Some have burl panels. Other designs have shelves. And then today I came up with a herringbone pattern of curly redwood.

The glass panel design actually requires the least amount of wood but it requires the same lengths and dimensions of the other sections of the upper cabinets. This is the problem. If I go with shelves or smaller solid panels I can utilize smaller pieces of wood, of which, there are many. Each piece I cut for the face-frame of the lower cabinets yielded short pieces which will be waste if I don’t use them for something else.

The ideas are spinning….

I think by Friday I will be ready to start assembling the lower cabinets and attach the middle counter section. After that it will be crunch time. Just as with the lowers, I need to design and build the center section first. A decision needs to be made by early next week.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday’s Plan

I’m in full obsession mode about the cabinets. Losing sleep. Lack of concentration during the day. Plans change almost by the minute. Lately what has been occupying a lot of the angst has been the center section. The real question is will it end up as dead space or usable space.

Really, its not the space that is important. Even if it ends up as dead space I’m still adding over 200 cubic feet of cabinet space to the dining room. The space behind the center section, with its tile panel, is less than 10 cubic feet. That is less than 5% of the over-all space.

Chaz thought of some clever ideas to make a hidden door to store potent potables or some other secret treasure. While there is a definite coolness factor to having a hidden door, there are some problems. First and foremost, I didn’t really design the center panel, with its tile and burl inlays, to be viewed from the back side. As good as it looks from the front, it looks that much worse from the back.

The other issue is that the walls of the lower cabinets are made from salvage redwood flooring from the kitchen. These panels that I glued up weeks ago have a definite A side and B side. It might not look that great inside the center area. There is also the level of work and craftsmanship that would go in to pulling that off. I’m not sure if I’m up to it.

What I can do though, is to make a fake wall inside to both hide and protect the backs of the tiles. This would allow me to make a door on the butler’s pantry side. That side I can paint and hide the B sides of the inside walls. That is the way I’m leaning now.

On the dining room side it would just be the panel. On the butler’s pantry side it would be a 12-inch wide cabinet. Not of much use, but better than dead space. I’m also seriously leaning towards beadboard faced doors on the butler’s pantry side. I’m considering all options after the reality of needing to make 17 mortise and tenon paneled doors set in over the weekend. This is what I did in the kitchen and it worked very well. It is traditional and it would really save a lot of work. I just hope I have enough beadboard still up in the attic to pull it off.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


That is the minimum number of mortise and tenon joints I’m going to need to make for the 16 cabinet doors I need to make. If I make doors for the dead-space created by the center panel that number goes to 68 joints. That’s a lot.

As it stands, if I continue with the plans as they are laid out, I will need make 16 mortise and tenon panel doors. That is a lot. It didn’t sink in until today as I was finishing up the front face-frames. So now I’m thinking that not only will I not be making a door for that area, but I may cover the whole butler’s pantry side of the lower cabinets with beadboard. I would use up more of the beadboard – which is good – and I wouldn’t need to make an 8-foot wide face-frame with 4 drawers and 4 doors!

I don’t know….we’ll see what happens.

On a positive note, the dining room face-frame fills the space! Whew! I was greatly relieved when I laid it out for the first time.

The light color wood on the center section still bugs me a bit. All of the wood for both the upper and lower face-frames comes from the two slabs I cut up - except for those two boards on the center section. The difference is noticeable. It is a much lighter wood. I think I may try to tint it a little darker to match the other wood. This is another one of the “we’ll see” things.

I've also been going back and forth on the lighting. After a few comments to an earlier post I was leaning away from the idea. Now though, I kind of want to use the cool light switch I found out in the garage. I may do under cabinet lighting. I actually found some lights at a local hardware store, but there is an issue. More on that later.

To Light or Not To Light

That is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous lighting prices and installation work, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them? To give up and not install lighting.

I’m not sure if that works, but you get the idea: Do I install lighting in the dinning room cabinets I’m building. There are 3 main issues.

First, what to light. Do I only light the exposed counter top area. Essentially under-cabinet lighting like in the kitchen, or do I also add lighting in the upper, glass front cabinets.

Second, how do I light it. I think the low-voltage puck lights you see in home improvement stores are out of the question. I don’t like the idea of a plug-in transformer. It must be hard-wired, and I haven’t seen that locally. The last time I tried to buy hard-wired under cabinet lighting it turned in a months long odyssey. At least I know where to get them now.

Third, how do I turn them off and on. I don’t want to add another switch on the wall because the room has wood paneling all the way around. This means there is a lot of extra framing in the walls. To get a new switch on the wall would mean dismantling some of the paneling. That is not something I want to do.

I thought about putting a switch on the paneled wall of the middle section of the cabinets, but as you can see in the picture below, it doesn’t quite work

I would need to cut the trim around the face-plate. I think it would look like an afterthought. I then remembered that I found an old switch out in one of the garages vacated by my tenant a few months back.

All of the knob and tube has been disconnected in these garages. The switch seems to be in very good condition. I will need to take it off and test it before I commit to using it with the cabinets. It has great potential, though.

And here is a first look at the face-frames with the curly redwood I milled. I hope to get them sanded and oiled today. They should look pretty spectacular when done.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Center For Panel Design

The center panel for the cabinets is done! I’m very happy with the way it came out, although the contrast in between the rails and stiles is a bit more than I would have liked. I needed wider wood for the stiles so I wasn’t able to use wood that I cut from the 2 big slabs of curly redwood.

This is for the inset section on the lower cabinets of the big dining room cabinets I’m making. The tile panel at the bottom is the same height as the doors. I had a few pieces of burl left over from making the drawer fronts so I decided to added a small panel at the top that will mimic the drawers on either side.

As I mentioned a few weeks back I need to make the cabinets a few inches wider so they will fill the space. However, I’m limited by the width of the wood I’m using because all of the wood for the face frames came out of the two big slabs I cut up. By making the center panel wider, I can now play with the over all width by exposing more of the center panel when I go to assemble everything.

Originally I was looking at a 10-inch wide center panel. With 10-inches I would have come up 3 or 4-inches short in the over-all width. With the wider wood, and the molding around the tile and burl panel, the center section is now 16-inches wide. I now have plenty of room to play with.

To date I have the middle cabinet section built. The sides of the boxes are built. The drawer fronts are made. I’ve milled all of the wood for the face frames. I now have the center section of the lower face frames built. I now need to build the left and right face frames for the lowers, and make the bottoms of the boxes, and then I can start some assembly. If all goes well, I can do that next weekend.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Very Unofficial

Who will you vote for?
John McCain
Barack Obama
Ron Paul
Ralph Nader
Someone Else
I won't vote free polls

Sunday, October 12, 2008

More Math

I sort of went overboard yesterday with the number crunching. It helps me to think things out, so that was more for my benefit than yours. Today’s math question is much simpler. It is just one simple subtraction problem, only it took weeks for me to complete.

When you take this.... (Two slabs of curly redwood)

And subtract this... (Big pile of sawdust)

You get this (Milled boards)

A few of the long pieces broke as I ran them through the planer, so I ended up with 13, 5-footers and 5, 2.5-footers. The boards are 7/8ths-inch thick and 2.75-inches wide. Ideally, face fame material would be 3-inches wide, but I’m not going to complain. If the truth be told, I mostly use 2.75-inch material for face frames because in the past I always used old beadboard to build them. After you rip off the tongue and the groove from either side you are left with 2.75-inch boards. So these will seem right at home with all of the other cabinets I’ve built.

I’ve decided to do the center tile panel section first. I forgot that I had bought some 18-inch long 1X8 curly redwood off Ebay a few years back. It is just 2 boards. Also, last week I bought one 4-foot long piece of 1X6 curly redwood from the guy in Willow Creek.

I can use this stuff to make a panel that is extra wide. Once I get the face frames made for the two outside sections, I can trim the center panel to fit so that the cabinet will fill the space. Psychologically, this will make building the face frames much easier. I won’t need to be constantly worrying about coming out ¾ of an inch too narrow.

The next thing to worry about will be if this will be enough to make both the upper and lower face frames. I’m not sure that it will be, but its going to be close. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Rectangle Amoebas

I got the 4 drawer fronts assembled today. They came out pretty good and the size is good, but it would be better if they were an inch-wider. They ended up being 4.75X17 inches. Because I split the amoebae shaped burl slab I ended up with 2 pairs of book matched drawer fronts. Pretty cool.

As you may recall, I’m putting the tiled panel in an inset in the center. The tiles are 5.75-inches wide and the wood surrounding them will be about 2.5-inches on either side. I’ll loose a little in the tile width when they are set, so I’m looking at 10.5-inches of visible face for the panel section.

The over-all space for the cabinets is 99-inches wide. Subtract the 10.5 inches for the tile section and I’m left with 88.5-inches. Divide that by 2 and I get 2, 44.25-inch sections on either side of the tile panel. Two 17-inch wide drawers in one section makes 34-inches. Plus 2.75-inch stiles on either side, and one in the middle, makes another 8.25-inches. Thirty-four plus 8.25 makes 42.25-inches. That means I need to fill 2-inches for each section, or 4-inches over-all. That’s a lot.

Some of that will be taken up by gaps around the drawers. Four drawers with an eighth-inch gap on either side makes an inch. Also, the casing that will cover the gap between the wall and the cabinet needs to be in a fairly precise location because of the trim on the raised panel dado. There is about an inch on either side I can play with, but no more than that. Let’s say and inch and a half over-all – 3/4 of an inch on either side . An inch for the drawers, plus an inch and a half at the casing, make 2.5-inches. I still need to make up and inch and a half.

I think what I’ll do is make the 2 face frames for the section on either side of the tile panel and then re-evaluate the width. It would be nice if I could just make the outside stiles of the two face frames with 6-inch wide material and then trim the whole thing to fit once it is assembled. Because I’m using all of the curly redwood I milled out of the 2 big slabs I can’t do that. The widest pieces I’m going to end up with will be 3-inches, and most will be 2.75-inches.

Its going to be close.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

If I’d Known Then….

What I know now, I may not have purchased the big chunk of curly redwood. That thing was a bitch to work with and the yield was very low. It was charred on one side, which is not uncommon, but I didn’t expect it to be charred on the inside.

The trees live for a couple of thousand years so its inevitable that its going to get scorched by fire at some point. I guess this one caught fire and the tree grew around the burned part. When I cut in to it there was a big vein of charcoal, along with a little dry-rot near the outside edge of the burned area.

On top of that, I really don’t have the tools to deal with this. What I needed was a chain saw. I kept telling myself I should call and borrow one, but I also kept telling myself that I’m almost through.

I ended up with about 30 1-inch thick pieces that range from 3 to 5 inches wide and 1 to 2 feet long. There is also still one small piece left to be cut up. The quality is not as good as what I got out of the two slabs, either. It’s not that it is bad – it is very nice, tight grained curly redwood. Its just not as good as the other stuff. It is not quite as dense and the color is a little lighter.

At first I wasn’t sure what I could do with it. The pieces as so short. I will need 5 short pieces in the face-frame in between the drawers, but that’s not much. What I’ve decided to do is to use this for the trim work on the middle section. You can see in the picture below there are little 5-inch long strips of wood that separate the squares. I’m going to need close to 50 of those to trim out all of the panels, so this stuff should work well for that.

In other news, the last part for the planer came on Friday, so that is back up and running. The last piece of the tool puzzle is the joiner. If one is on sale tomorrow, I’ll probably snag it. I’ve missed out on a few used ones on Craig’s List over the past month. You really gotta move fast. Who knew they were so popular.

Also, I got the 1X6 redwood yesterday from the guy in Willow Creek. Sure enough, he brought it to my work in the back of his pick-up. It is really nice wood. Not all of it is vertical grain, but it is all nice tight grained, clear-heart redwood. I also got an additional 4-feet of curly redwood from him. He told me he has more, so its nice to know I’ve got a source.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Chunk

If not for the Veep Debate starting in about 20 minutes I would be out the shop right now trying to cut this mother up. Its going to be a challenge

It is 85 pounds of tumorous growth sliced off the side of an ancient redwood. It looks kind of like a beached whale sitting on the work bench. Picture this growing off the side a tree with the big end at the bottom. They made a single cut with a chain saw running perpendicular to the earth to get it off.

It looks ugly now, but below is what the inside looks like….

Its wiggly.

I’m hoping it looks like that all the way through. Also, I broke down and bought some wood, or at least, I hope to tomorrow. I had pledged not to buy any new wood for the cabinets, but I think this will be worth it. Besides, its election season, so breaking pledges is par for the course, right?

I found a guy in Willow Creek that is selling newly milled, full dimensional old-growth redwood. The price per board-foot is about 20% lower the second growth sold at local lumberyards. It is un-planed and un-sanded. Right off the saw.

I’m buying about 100 lineal feet of 1X6. I told him my truck couldn’t make it to Willow Creek so he’s going to bring it to my work tomorrow. Pretty cool. I told him I need the finest old-growth vertical grain for the work I’m doing and he assured me I would not be disappointed. He even said he’d bring it by and if I wasn’t happy there would be no obligation to buy it.

You gotta love it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


PEtch Lumber COmpany

I bought these two beauties about a year and half ago. I was walking home from the post office and saw them in an alley about 2 blocks from my house. After a few minutes of negotiation they were mine for $65. They’ve been sitting on the dining room floor ever since.

Well, today it was finally the day to cut them up. I actually only got to one today. I’ll do the other one tomorrow and then hopefully start in on the 85 pound chunk I picked up about 3 months back. All of this will be used for the face-frames of the dining room side of the cabinet.

I've never done anything like this. I felt like one of those guys who cuts large diamonds for a living. I started by cutting a 3.5-inch piece off one side. I want to get one inch wide pieces that I will plane down to ¾ of an inch or so. My circular saw did not make it all the way through so I had to cut the bottom inch by hand. I wasn’t really sure what the inside would look like, but I wasn’t disappointed.

After I split the slab I started to run it through the band saw. It went quickly, but the narrow and flexible band saw blade wanted to follow the grain – which is anything but straight - so some pieces have some odd spots in them. I hope this won't cause problems. Maybe I should have gone for an inch and an eighth. I’ll make it work one way or the other.

Like I said, I was not disappointed with the grain. This was the first piece I cut out and it is wiggley! For those not familiar with curly redwood it is a lot like tiger maple in that the "curlyness" of the grain is largely an optical illusion. That board is mostly flat. Below is what it will look like sanded and oiled.

I ended up 8 good 5+ foot long pieces and then another 3 pieces that have varying lengths of usable wood. I’m very pleased. I think I’ll get the same yield out of the other slab. The big 85 pound chunk is unknown because it is a very odd shape.

If I can get 8 usable 5 footers out of the other slab that should give me more than I need for the long pieces of the face frame. The next step will be to join the edges and then plane them. I got the parts for the planer on Friday only to find out there was more wrong with it.

I replaced the sprocket and got the damn thing back together only to find out the roller that is attached to the sprocket had the post broken off on one end. It was very disappointing. I’m not sure which broke first, the sprocket or the roller, but it seems to have seized up the other and broke it. So now I’m waiting on a $30 part from Sears.