Building Kitchen Cabinets

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Wow! I want to thank you guys for a lot of great advice! I really enjoy woodworking and after seeing what was written here, I am pretty sure I want to go ahead and take the plunge. My plan is to build the cabinets and stockpile them in the garage until they are all ready for installation, then start the remodel. I can put a dehumidifier in there for humid times and the area is semi heated (never below 40 degrees).
I have a decent TS (Ridgid TS3650 which I really like) and everything else except the ballsy router and decent router table (which I want anyway).
I particularly liked the idea about starting on a smaller project to see how that goes. I have a vanity and cabinet project that fits the bill perfectly. After seeing how that goes, I will know better if this is really something I want to do 100% from scratch or farm some of it out.
Thanks again, Chuck
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Well, you got tons of advice, and there's only one thing I'd add, is that you'd better get the lady of the house involved. My wife is just plain unhappy with any project that makes a major mess for more than a week. I've had to clean up my act a lot to get things done around here.
I suggest that you estimate the time start to finish (and if you're like me, add 25% for over-optimism and unforeseen problems) then ask SWMBO if she can live with a torn up kitchen for that long. Might as well know which way the wind blows before you're committed to the project.
I've done two kitchens, and I did get tired of eating out of the microwave and the electric fry pan, and washing dishes in the bath tub. (I either bought or had cupboards custom made, and they were still long drawn out jobs.).
Good luck, and above all, enjoy the process.
Old Guy

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I'm going to go kiss my wife now...
We tore our main bath down to the studs on July 5th. Since then I've rewired, installed a fan, new tub, new stool, tiled, painted, and nearly have new oak wainscoting ready to install. What's missing? No sink since July 6th. (The old vanity, in fact, is out by the garage.) We found a nice vessel sink that will require a new vanity, which I just haven't had time to start yet. My wife hasn't complained once, though my 6 year old did ask why we decided not to have a sink any more.
Re the kitchen, we did most of a remodel five years ago but did not do doors/drawer fronts at that time. Reading this thread prompted me to get some quotes on doors, but the ballpark figures I got in the process lead me to believe I can do the 16 doors and four drawers for a tiny fraction of the cost I'd pay someone else. I have about 400bf of oak on hand, and since we'd do flat-panel shaker doors I could use plywood panels. The only tooling I'd likely buy is one of the new Amana mission sets, and that's really only for convenience. So the total project would cost me about four sheets of 1/2" oak, a sheet of baltic birch for drawers, and all the required hardware. Probably something in the range of $750 total, unless I decide to add some new cabinets.
Happily, my wife will be just fine with me doing one wall at a time over the course of the winter.
-kiwanda
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I live in western Wisconsin. There are sawmills about every 5 miles in every direction around here. Some are hobby mills, circle or band, and some are commercial. You must have them in your area, too. Try attending some local threshing (or "Steam") shows where they often have a sawmill. talk to the operator or some of the people standing around who are remarking about the finer points of the way the operator is going about his business. I guarantee that you will find out where to get wood.
For instance: I see a guy every month at our "retirement breakfast" who just loves to saw wood. At present, he's got a pretty good sized barn just about full. A LOT of red Oak. But he just stickers it up. And then goes out and saws more.
Another friend has a portable Jackson mill that he takes to threshing shows. One of the problems he has is finding enough wood to saw for 2 days in a row. I didnt' realize that until just recently, and have told him that if that problem ever comes up again, I will fix him up from my own woods if I have to drop a tree or two on the day of the event. For furniture, you'll need kiln dried wood, I guess, but if you do find a sawyer, he'll also know where to get that done unless you want to dry it yourself. We have a commercial hardwood sawmill 3 miles away that has its own kiln (for special wood that I might buy from them) and my sawyer friend knows where to go for "hobby lots" of drying.
All I'm saying is: If you really want to build the cabinets and if part of the "chase" is to see who inexpensively, from a cash outlay standpoint you can do it, then take some time to get to know your local sawyers. You said you live in Hudson Valley NY area, but not whether you are in a huge metro area or in a small town. Either way, it can't be too far to the "country". As far as having Cherry around, aren't you in the part of the country where good old "George" chopped down the Cherry Tree?
Check this link for shows in your area of the country (just page down to find "New York"). You don't even have to wait for next year's show to meet people. Make contact with the event managers and ask questions:
http://www.usgennet.org/usa/topic/steam/Today/Shows.html
Pete Stanaitis ------------------------
Chuck wrote:
I can get cherry at my local lumber yard but it costs

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I am currently about 80% thru my kitchen remodel. I am doing everything (but the gas line) myself, with scattered help from friends when 2 hands simply aren't enough.
I have rewired the entire kitchen, adding several circuits (the house was built in 1961 and wasn't bad, but nothing up to today's needs). Added a ton of lighting. I tore down an exterior (plaster) wall (to the masonry structure, not daylight), insulated, and rebuilt it (made running the wiring much easier). Plumbing was pretty much left alone except for a new water line to fridge (and installing new sink and such). Tore down the soffits and closed in the holes. Built(ing) the cabinets and installed(ing) them. Gee, doesn't sound like as much work as it turned out to be. ;-)
It's an interesting experience, and I didn't learn enough the first time I did it.
I an currently in the "why the heck did I do this, again" mode (primarily because of the amount of time it's dragged on thru), as well as anxious for it to be finished - seeing the light-tunnel pair.
There were a number of memory lapses between the first job (~10 years ago) and now.
That said, I'd do it again (build my own cabinets) but with some of the variations suggested in this thread, depending on the circumstances (a big one being, 'forever' house or not).
My biggest hurdle the first time and second, has been the finishing. THE FINISHING IS A ROYAL PAIN!!
I made the mistake of trying something new, on this relatively large project (one day soon I hope to post a few pics). Lesson: consider whether you want to add in yet another element to the amount of time and effort it's gonna take.
Used poly the first time around - brushed on. Pain.
I switched from brushed poly to sprayed (HVLP) lacquer and it's been quite the experience.
I had A LOT of help from the folks here. It woulda been nicer if some of them had dropped by to stand at my side whilst I figured things out. ;-)
The time I saved spraying fast drying lacquer has been well offset with the trials and tribulations.
But, the issues with the finishing probably vary with the route you take to resolve them. I sometimes (no, make that, in hindsight, - often) took the long and windy road.
Personally, I got much better quality cabinets, that suit my needs, some new tools, a few more lessons, for a good bit less than I'd a spent buying cabinets (unless they were from Ikea or some such). This does not take into consideration time. I'll take the lessons and hopefully do it better next time...
Renata
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Renata wrote

Good post. To the singular question "Is it cost effective to build my own kitchen cabinets?", the answer, for even a minimally skilled woodworker with the time and tools, is almost always a resounding 'yes'. But, as you've pointed out, the devil is indeed in the details for even the skilled woodworker.
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[snipped excellent post for brevity]

When building your own is approached with some good planning. the results can be very rewarding both financially and emotionally. The fit and finish are indeed in the details, as Swing points out. Not only is the finish visually very important, but it also determines how well the job wears and how long it will be before you'll have to do it again. (Even though it looks 'good enough'...put on that extra coat.)
IKEA sells Staron solid surface countertops and as a result, I see quite a few IKEA modular cabinets. I don't know much about how they price out, but they are heads and shoulders above the Home Depot RTA cabinets in quality....and certainly more interesting to look at. But, like anything else, it all has to do with the care taken during the installation.
r
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I am thinking of finishing by brushing on Sam Maloof's poly/oil mixture. I have had excellent luck with tung oil in the past but think kitchen cabinets need more protection than just oil. I have found tung oil to be very user friendly and never have problems with dust pimples. Since I haven't used the poly/oil mixture before, I wouldn't mind hearing what exepeiences everyone here has had with it and if they would recommend this finish for kitchen cabinets.
Thanks, Chuck
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"Chuck" wrote

I've used Sam Maloof's finish extensively on "furniture" projects, but would not consider it for kitchen cabinets myself because, IMO, it would be too high maintenance for a kitchen environment.
And, the jury is still out as to whether you can add a film finish, say with shellac/lacquer, to the oil/poly with any degree of lasting success.
IOW, I'm of the opinion that any oil/poly/wax finish alone would not be practical for a kitchen.
... then again, that and a quarter may buy you a stick of gum.
YMMV
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If you think that's bad, try re-finishing!!!

Why?
I have recently refinished a ton of cabinets and a front door. Also finished 8 custom shelves (completed a few minutes ago, yeah!).
All of the above were done with brushed on poly. It was quick, easy and satisfying. Key factors:
* Good prep, as always.
* Buy good quality full gloss oil based poly and be prepared to thin it.
* Use a Woosters foam brush (available at Lowes). They are just wonderful, IMO.
* Sand lightly (400 grit) between coats.
* Apply lots of thin coats -- I used 5 or 6.
* Personally, I don't like the plastic/wet look of poly so I knock that down with some 0000 steel wool and wax.
If careful, I've found that I can apply two coats per day provided the weather is decent and not too cold.
Sprayers can be a pain too. Lots of setup and clean up plus it's easy to screw up big time!
--
|~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~|
| Malcolm Hoar "The more I practice, the luckier I get". |
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On Tue, 06 Nov 2007 19:31:41 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@malch.com (Malcolm Hoar) wrote:

Because brushing, brushing, brushing, ad infinitum is Bo-ring. Came out looking fine, held up real well, it seemed like the brushing never ended.
Yes, spraying is not altogether simple, what with clean up and such, but once you figure things out, it beats brushing by a LONG shot on bigger projects.
I may end up brushing the last few drawer fronts (7 of 'em) and a couple of doors since it's getting too cold to spray outside. I'm not really set up to spray non water based stuff inside and it'd be more trouble to do a set up than just brush the few remaining pieces.
Renata
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Blue&White wrote:

In a slightly different direction...
The finish can always be outsourced. Although it does cut into the overall dollar savings, I know several local pros who don't do finishing. They do all the building and then send it on to a finisher. The cabinets then come back to them for installation.
Talking to the finisher to arrange what grit to sand to, etc... so the work is as ready to finish as possible, can keep the job in the "reasonable" range.
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ANIP

Good advice. Prep is always a killer. I would also discuss finish types, amount of coats of finish (including final thickness), finish warranties, etc. I would also look strongly at the application process as well as the brand of finish material.
Your finisher may also want all the doors off the cabinets, or even give you a discount for delivering them to him that way. Some like to finish off site, others when installed and trimmed out. All aspects will affect the price.
Robert
Robert
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And I thought I was the only one who always got butterflies in my stomach when it came to finishing time??
Building my kitchen from scratch 2 years ago was the best overall woodworking experience I have had in the 20 years I have been woodworking. As most have mentioned, besides the experience, I got a solid well built product that would have cost 3 times the "big box" store brands and saved $30,000.
As for finishing, I was very happy with the application of a good quality commercial water based poly applied with inexpensive HVLP gun run from a medium sized air compressor. I brushed the face frames with one of Jeff Jewitt's $30 synthetic brushes; worked great. If you have not checked out my kitchen in the past 2 years, visit my site.
Good Luck,
Dennis Slabaugh, Hobbyist Woodworker www.woodworkinghobby.com

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Blue&White wrote:

I haven't seen anyone post what I did a few years ago.
My SWMBO moved into my partially finished house in the country. We live in a pretty cold part of Canada, and the place was only partially insulated. The first winter near did her in. The second winter she moved out to an apartment in the city. I stayed in the apartment with her during the week and came back to the house on weekends to finish the renovation.
It included everything: bathroom renovation, laundry room build, rewiring of most of the house, drywall to about 70% of the house, flooring, painting, establishment of new rooms and partitions.
As well, the kitchen was gutted completely, including new cabinets, stove, fridge, plumbing, etc.
In addition to being female and having that strange requisite low tolerance that women have for mess, she's got a medium-level disability. That combination would have killed our relationship had she stayed in the house during all that work.
She's an architect and has a decent inner vision that allows her to design things from a distance, so we used the Internet for a lot of problem solving.
I'm not recommending this for everyone. There aren't a lot of people that could live that way. It's a much more expensive solution. However, it worked for us. When I was finished to a point where she could be comfortable, she moved back in and stayed.
This isn't a YMMV situation. This is likely a one-of-a-very-few type of situation. But - it did work out.
Now she's talking about an addition to the side of the house. Sigh.
--
Tanus

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