Kitchen cabinets

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After a dozen layout revisions, sticker shock, and being unable to get wife to pick all details to go with a new kitchen I have elected to try my hand at making my own kitchen cabinets. I have already gotten 3 books and have pooled the best ideas from all three and seem to have come up with a plan.
For those who have already done a project like this, are there any obvious pitfalls that I am likely to encounter? I was going to build flat panel shaker doors, but the other half, who has agreeded not to participate in any design aspects, had expressed a discontent for them. As far as a raised panel door, I have been toying with the thought that I might purchase them pre-made for a door/draw speciality company. Working with cherry, I am looking at 45+/- a door. Should I attempt making a raised panel door, or is it less work and aggravation to buy?
These will be face frame cabinets, again using cherry, that I will be buying either rough and milling to size myself. Boxes will be 3/4 birch veneer using adjustable leg levelors. I have a large area at work that I am allowed to use for my 'hobby' and outside of a stationary planer I should have everything that I need. Comments? Suggestions?
SteveA
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My few cents: If this is your first kitchen cabinet project, I would agree with your plan to buy the doors. Try a supplier like Cabinetmart (I have no affiliation with them) who can supply a huge variety of design, colour and size. Once you have your layout done, draw up your cutting list and stick to it. Mark every piece as you cut it and keep things together. It is amazing how things can get confused if you don't do this. Also, when you are doing your layout, try to stick with uniform sizes rather than a huge variety of boxes. For the bottoms, use slide outs instead of fixed or adjustable shelfs - your wife will love you for it. Make up jigs for mounting hardware - you will love yourself for doing so! Also use story sticks for convenience and double checking.
Good luck.
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The wife usually!
Always changing her mind and wanting something different.
--
Stuart Winsor

For Barn dances and folk evenings in the Coventry and Warwickshire area
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It will take at least 5 times as long and cost at least twice as much as you estimate.
That's not all bad since what you end up building will probably not resemble your original plan.
Just need to stay motivated to get the job done.
Set short term goals along the way so that you get to enjoy a sense of accomplishment when you meet them.
BTW, the NYW videos would probably make a great reference for a project like this.
SFWIW, I have used several NYW plans.
Always found them to be complete and useful.
YMMV.
Lew
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buying
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Depends. By your saying that you've got three books suggests to me that you haven't done face frame cabinets with rail and stile doors before. With practice comes experience and that takes time. The first kitchen cabinets I made for my mother some twenty years ago are still in use, but when I look at them these days, I can see glaring errors that I just wouldn't make if I were building them now. I'm still proud of them as a first effort, but the quality of work I do now is considerably improved.
Have you got a set of door panel router bits? Have you used them before? How are you planning on attaching the face frames to the cabinets? Have you used that method before? Have you priced the wood you're going to use on this project? There's a few dozen questions you need to ask yourself. Please understand, I'm not trying to talk you out of doing this, I'm just trying to make you aware of the obstacles (known and unknown) that you're going to face. The biggest benefit you'll get is the pride of having taken on and building this project. Just make sure your better half understands that it's not going to happen overnight and will take far longer than you or she ever expected. And, when it's finally finished, you'll look at it all and think about what you could have improved. That's the nature of building stuff for yourself, at least it almost always is for me. And finally, not once have I ever built something that was completed faster or cheaper than if I'd just gone and earned money at my regular job and paid someone else to do it only difference being that there would be no pride for me.
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Hell, I thought I was the only one that spent more on projects than I would have if I just bought it. You are also 100% correct about how long it will take. Make a REALISTIC time estimate and then double it.
Pride can only be achieved when you do it yourself. You can't put a price on that.
G.S.
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I am terrible at estimating how long it will take to build something. I triple any estimates I routinely make. That about zeros it in for me. Sad, but true.
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With no real time frame, I don't think I can reeally go wrong. As far as budget, I was quoted 12,000 (contractors price..I have a lot of friends in the biz), with that number for a finishing point, I can't see any way I would be even close to that, even buying all the machinery that I have been looking at for the past couple of months....

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I agree with many of your points, firstly, no, I have not made any type of face frame cabinets to date. I do however, make a lot of mission style tables, the stands resemble a face frame, and construction seems to be identical. I plan on attaching the face frames to the carcass using biscuits, which I use extensively(as well as dowelling).
As far as the rail and stiles, no, I have not attempted to make any, as I am still looking at cutters for my shaper. Once I narrow down the field, I have a lot of oak material to practice on. Having done the research, this is one area I did not expect many surprises.
I am currently in contact with several mills and suppliers for the material, I have worked almost exclusively with red oak, buying both rough sawn and milling myself, and S2S material. This will be a first time with cherry as the material, so I am currently looking at milled material rather than rough. I have a Delta portable planer which does a fairly nice job, and if it makes sense I am also looking at stationary planers (the new delta looks nice, just waiting to see some feedback on its operation)
The wife understands that at best, with the time available, maybe I can get one or two units done per week, she seems fine with that, as I have already ripped out 90% of the old cabinetry and currently have a workable area yet. As a practice unit, using the materials on hand, I plan on building a temporary base sink unit so the sink can be moved from its current location and the remaining 10% be removed to complete insulation replacement, electrical rewiring, and sheetrock work.
While I know that my skill level is what I would consider a beginner, as I have only been actively building furniture for the past year and a half, but I can see a vastly improved final product from my first project to a couple of free-standing bookcases I recently made. Fit and finish is night and day from the first one...
Since I have a shaper (which has net even been run since I wired it up) and time to practice, I am again thinking about making the doors, as I have done a lot of table tops from the oak material and again, the more recent pieces are a vast improvement.
I think having no time frame (or real budget) requirements will give me all the time to make and correct errors as I go along. The thing that concerns me the most is finishing the pieces to maintain uniformity.
SteveA
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Holy Shiite! I can't believe you found a woman to tolerate that! I'd be out the door for a stunt like that! :-)
I inherited my dad's business when he retired. They make furniture, podiums, cabinets and lots of woodwork for churches, clubs and rich folks. I say they because I've had to hire a site manager. I'm pretty much hands off these days but I do check the books, the shop and so on every week or two. They have several different ways of making cabinets so they can cover multiple pricing tiers. The preferred method (cheapest/quickest/strongest) is a euro box with glue and pocket screws. The screws are driven from the outside so they're hidden. They assemble the entire box that way. Pocket screws are also used for face frames if that's on the order. Those are also driven from the outside. End cabinets are covered with a panel. We have a machine that cuts the pocket hole and sets a screw in place automatically. It can do 3 holes/screws at once. After that you just glue, butt the pieces and drive the screw.
I'd offer a couple of tips from when I used to work in the shop. First is that biscuits can be a PITA for attaching face frames. When we'd get out to a job site we always had to do more hand work to get good joints between the cabinets. Biscuits seem to introduce a bit of error. They aren't cut consistently and parts get warped as they're forced together. It's also harder to plan for overhang. Your face frame should overhang on both sides of the box so you get a tight fit in the middle. Second tip is to get a good set of clamping squares. We have home made ones in the shop. They're a basic steel square with toggle clamps welded on. One is clamped in each end of a corner, glue is applied, the other piece gets clamped and then the screws get driven. Connecting two sides at 90 degrees takes less than 1 minute and the clamps can come off immediately.
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Well, I'll probably be going against the grain on this one. I have completely remodeled 6 complete kitchens and baths. Replaced probably 6 kitchen or bath cabinet doors and drawers and helped build 3 kitchens for new home construction. I have a few hundred doors and drawers behind me.
I prefer to build the doors and drawers.
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You might make a rough drawing of the kitchen area in mind, and take your sketch to Home Depot. They have a kitchen cabinet designer section that can put your sketch in their computer & give you and the wife several 3D views and material breakdowns. This will get you off to a good start. Good luck, Smitty
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A good many pro shops have the doors and drawers made by others, while they focus on the boxes.
There is much to be said for ordering "finished" doors and drawers, while you build your boxes.
In fact, I'm going to do that exact same thing.
I found a shop that will build my face frames and doors and finish them the way I want.
Doing it that way, speeds things along, which is a BIG deal when you talk about destroying a kitchen.
When the kitchen is out of action, so is the entire house, which will cause construction "stress" based on the infamous statement of "Not much longer".
I have the room and the skills but time is the problem.
My finishing skills are not where I would like them, so I decided to hire that function out.
When I read stories about my "fabulous" kitchen that took "only" six months, I wonder what the marriage was like during that period.
Good Luck.

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Pat,
Fortunately, I have managed to keep a functional space while already ripping out 90% of the existing. It has currently been in this condition for 2 months, while 'she' was looking at cabineets at different places. The cost finally got to her, and she agreeded to let me try my hand at it. The only condition is that is remains usable while it is going on.
Right now, I don't see that as a problem

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Fortunately you can still the kitchen in full swing with out cabinet doors. Build those as you get to them. I typically do doors last.
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Just for fun:
Buy a AT-A-Glance full year calendar and keep notes on project. Track ALL costs very closely.
Post it here with a brief of "How I would change things" if done again.
It will be helpful to many others.
SteveA wrote:

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SteveA wrote:

FWIW...
Doors I happen to like flat, glued up doors. Making raised panel doors is more work but not *that* much; basically, you just have to make a frame and groove it for the panel which you have to make even if flat. If your wife just dislikes the stunning simplicity of flat panel doors you could just make a 1/4" "V" groove around all edges an inch or two from the edge...voila - raised panels.
If you want to simplify hanging the doors, make them 1/2" full overlay and use self closing hinges such as these...
http://wwhardware.com/catalog.cfm/GroupID/Cabinet%20Hinges/CatID/Cabinet%20Hinges%2C%20Amerock%20Demountable/showprod/1
You could also make integral pulls by using a cove bit on the inside of the door bottom or top at the center; doesn't have to be a long cut, just 2"-3" on each door. ___________________
Leg Levelers I find it much easier to built boxes sans toe kicks and install them on a previously leveled plinth (made of 2x4s) via screws thru the bottom into the plinth. Easier to build, easier to install. BTW, install the upper cabinets before the lower ones. ___________________
Face Frames When you have two cabinets adjacent to each other, leave their adjacent face frames a bit wider than the box; i.e., do not trim them flush to the box. That way you can easily get both face frames touching. If you also cut a small quirk along the adjoining edges they will look better than without it. IMO.
Also IMO, there is nothing wrong with screwing the face frames to the boxes and filling the countersunk screw hole with a face grain plug. Pre-drilling the holes with a spacer will assure symmetry one cabinet to another. ____________________
Boxes Someone suggested standardizing box sizes. Good advice. Also good advice to cut all box sides to length at the same time; ditto all box tops & bottoms (for each width box).
An easy way to join boxes is to make a 3/8 x 3/8 dado on each side 3/8" from top and bottom, make a 3/8 x 3/8 rabbet on each top & bottom at both ends then glue and screw together. Make sure they are dead square when gluing up.
Don't skimp on the construction of the backs for the boxes...they help get it square to start with and add lots of rigidity. In your case, I'd use 1/4 birch ply glued into rabbets on all four box pieces. Don't forget to leave room behind the back for a nailing board. And - especially on the uppers - use firmly attached nailing boards. ____________________
Other Planning undercounter lights? Don't forget to allow for them if you are.
If a run of cabinets doesn't have an "open end" make the combined width of the cabinets generously less than the opening width. It is much easier to cover the resultant gaps between cabinet ends and walls with a bit of trim than it is to wind up with cabinets that won't fit in the space.
--

dadiOH
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dadiOH wrote:

Not rabbets, grooves.
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dadiOH
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My preference is rabbets actually. There's an advantage to attaching the back to rabbets. If the cabinets are off square a bit, you can square them up as you nail them into rabbets. That can't really be done so easily if the backs are slid into grooves.
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Many valid points, and food for thought, especially doing the uppers first. Had not even considered that, and it makes perfect sense not that I have read it.

http://wwhardware.com/catalog.cfm/GroupID/Cabinet%20Hinges/CatID/Cabinet%20Hinges%2C%20Amerock%20Demountable/showprod/1
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