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
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
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
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
Good luck, and above all, enjoy the process.
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
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
Happily, my wife will be just fine with me doing one wall at a time
over the course of the winter.
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
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
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:
I can get cherry at my local lumber yard but it costs
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
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...
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
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
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.
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.
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". |
On Tue, 06 Nov 2007 19:31:41 GMT, email@example.com (Malcolm Hoar)
Because brushing, brushing, brushing, ad infinitum is Bo-ring. Came
out looking fine, held up real well, it seemed like the brushing never
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Dennis Slabaugh, Hobbyist Woodworker
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.
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