Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sigh of Relief

While hardly Norm caliber, these do qualify as good Greg quality. The pair on the left, which I just hung tonight, still need to be taken down, sanded, oiled, and have hardware put on. The worst is over, though. They are up and they fit.



The first pair on the right did not come out as good. The doors themselves look good and identical to the pair on the left, but they are a little crooked. They are not crooked vertically, but rather front to back. It is odd because I’m not really sure why. I think it is the cabinet that is a little off because the doors themselves are square and lay flat.

Once they are closed and latched shut it is not really noticeable. As with everything I do, this cabinet has a little folk-art quality to it. I’m happy, though. This could be going much, much worse. This is a very ambitious project for a novice cabinet maker like myself. I think Norm would like them, but he would cringe and some of the craftsmanship.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Gettin' Jiggy With It

This is a trick I learned from Norm. I had never tried it before, mainly because I lacked the proper equipment. The idea is to make a jig for the hinges and then use a router to route out the hinge mortises for the face-frame and cabinet door at the same time. This ensures that the hinge mortises are identical on both sides.

You can buy hinge jigs, but every one I saw was for large door hinges that start at 3.5 inches and go up. I’m using the cast bronze hinges from the 1890s. They are 2 & 1/4 inch hinges. I looked at Sears for an 1890s, 2 & 1/4 hinge jig, but the cashier said they had been out of stock since 1912, so I had to make my own.

Making the jig was time consuming, but it paid dividends when it came time to hang the doors. The hinges are 2 & 1/4 X 1 & 5/8th. The jig sort of works like the old Spirograph drawing tool, but instead of a sprocket that rides around inside a larger sprocket, you have a router that rides around inside a hole cut in a piece of plywood. Cutting the hole to the right size is the tricky part.

Calculating the height is easy enough. The hinge is 2 & ¼ and the collar on the router (the part that rides against the plywood) adds a quarter inch at each end. That means the hole must be 2 & ¾ inches high. The width is a little more tricky. The hinge is 1 & 5/8th inch wide, but some of that is going to stick out from the cabinet door.

The knuckle of the hinge, where the 2 halves of the hinge meet, must stick out from the cabinet door a bit. I figured a ¼ inch on both sides. So that left me with an inch and an eighth. Then add on the half inch for the collar on the router and you come back to an inch and 5/8th. It seems straight forward now that I write it, but when I was standing in the shop with a hinge in one hand and a piece of plywood in the other, it was far from clear.

So here’s how it works….


Before assembling the door I clamped the hinge stile of the door to the face-frame with a spring-clamp. It is clamped on in the position of the cabinet door being completely open.


Then the jig is clamped on for the first hinge.


The router has a half inch straight bit and a collar that will ride around the inside of the jig.


After the router is run in the jig you have a mortise on both pieces. Once the jig is removed I use a chisel to square up the corners.


Then, with the spring-clamp still in place I move the jig up to do the upper hinge. After the upper hinge is mortised, I remove all of the clamps and drill the holes and mount the hinge on both the face-frame and the stile of the cabinet door.


I then remove the hinges and assemble the doors. I should be able to get these hung by Wednesday. Then it is on to the lower cabinets. I will breath a sigh of relief when these upper doors are hung. I’m not out of the woods yet.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Two More Up

At this rate, literally, I may never finish these cabinets. I think when the weather gets better this spring the pace will pick up, but right now, there does not seem to be an end in site. After the issues I had with the doors on the butler’s pantry side I am being very cautious with the dinging room side. Even with that, there were still some minor issues with the first pair. Fortunately, they were minor and I was able to make due. There was definite improvement over the butler’s pantry, though, so that is something.

Now, I just need to keep from getting cocky with the relative success of the first two. These two sets of upper cabinets on the dining room side are really a focal point for the whole room. Even minor issues will be noticeable, but major ones will be glaring. I think once I get the other pair finished on the left side, the 4 small ones on the bottom will go faster. After that, I just need to do the little pass-through door.







I changed to a shallower and wider bevel on the front side of these doors, as opposed to the butler’s pantry side. This means I will be able to use the wooden stays to hold the glass in. I bought some stencils to do etching on the glass, but I haven’t decided if I’ll use them yet. You can see some of the designs here. My main concern is that they are too small. The doors are 4-feet tall and the rose stencils are only about 7-inches tall. Most of these are made for use on wine glasses and picture frames.

The other issue with these is the color. The burl and curly redwood is a much denser and darker wood than even the tightest old-growth vertical grain redwood. I haven't decided if I should celebrate the contrast of try to darken the doors.

At the blistering pace I’m moving these days, there is plenty of time to decide about both the glass etching and the tone of the wood.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Almost Done!

I am so close to finishing the butler’s pantry I can taste it. I got the glass installed and re-hung the upper doors Friday and Saturday, and then installed the last of the hardware today.



Putting the glass in was nerve-wracking and time consuming. Because there is the possibility that the glass could break someday, it must either be installed with wooden stays that can be removed or with the more traditional glazing putting. I had wanted to do wooden stays, because it would take less time. Because of the way I made the doors though, there wasn’t enough room. I made the bevel on the front too deep and it did not leave enough room for piece of quarter round for the stay.

So I had to do glazing putty on the eight panels of glass. It seemed to take forever and I was afraid I would break the glass. And that glass ain’t cheap. Once it dries I will paint the putty with burn sienna oil paint to match the wood.

As with a lot of my cabinet making projects, they look good in pictures, but when you get up close it is obvious I’m not a trained cabinet maker. The upper doors are especially wonky. Most of the wonkyness is because of the hinges. As I said in an earlier post, every time I’ve ever mortised hinges and hung doors I’ve worked with loose pin hinges that could be separated. It was really difficult for me to hang these doors without being able to separate the two hinge parts.

I’ve learned a valuable lesson though. The hinges for the dinging room side are antique cast bronze hinges that don’t come apart either. So for the that side I’ve made jig to router out the hinge mortises. I’ve already done on pair of doors – or at least one stile from each door.

On the butler’s pantry side I completed the doors and then went to hang them. This time, I’m taking one board from each door and the first thing I did was mortise the hinges and hung that board as if it was a complete door. I now know that the hinge stile board is the proper height and the matching hinge mortises on the stile and face-fame match perfectly. Now I can make the rest of the door and only need to worry about getting the width correct. I hope the dining room side doors will go much more smoothly.

On the butler’s pantry side, the only thing left to do is a little touch-up painting and make the small door for the middle section. That door will need to wait until I do some more work on the dining room side, though. So for now, I’m going to stick a fork in this baby and call it done.

Thank God!