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.