Monday, March 17, 2014

Up High! Down Low! It's Another Cabinet, Yo!

Yes, folks, after months of waiting...and waiting...and putting on hold...and waiting some more...the first set of upper cabinets is in place!

Remember how my mother-in-law Kathy requested a space filler?  You know, something to go next to the oven and provide some counter space and storage?  Here's the hole:
And here's the filler, installed over the summer:
And I figured while I was at it, I'd redesign the whole kitchen.  Literally.  Because why not, right?
(This is actually a redesign of the can see I've already bumped my original "space filler" and replaced it with something else.  I've also "bought" a new sink and faucet, replaced the window, replaced the countertops, and moved the stove to the right about a foot.  Cause I dream big, y'all.)

So I started building the carcasses for the upper right-hand bank of cabinets immediately upon installing that base cabinet, like, 8 months ago.
The design goals were:

  1. Increase storage and use all available lateral and vertical space
  2. Get the microwave off the new counter
  3. Provide wineglass storage

And for me personally, I wanted to learn to install euro-style hinges (completely concealed), build more grown-up doors (still not quite "Fine Woodworking", but more complex than anything I've done so far), and get that bank of extra tall upper cabinets on the wall as solid as a rock.  And work with something other than oak, pine, and poplar.  For this, I used maple special ordered from our local lumber yard.  For which I'm still proud of myself.
Now, the bulk of the cabinet is still plywood, and the panel in the doors is plywood...but the face frames are maple.  They're painted, but they're maple.  I also bought and began learning to use a router, a table saw, and a few other new tools.  I am totally spoiled.

Wanna see it??
Ok, first you have to see what was getting replaced:
 The upper cabinets are metal construction with pretty short shelves and shallow of depth.  Also they didn't fill the space effectively.  Here they are again with the new cabinet installed below (this was June, btw).
This is where I was back in October (with the new router in the foreground).
 See, I lost the entire month of August to training for my job.  My company transferred me to the emergency medical service in Cleveland flying a different aircraft, and the training took no-joke-7-weeks.
 And then I was adjusting to the new aircraft, new environment, new flight suits (not as comfortable as you'd think), and new sleeping/working/traveling schedule, and so progress really slowed down for me on this project.  (In the meantime, I had all of Kathy's wineglasses here in Ohio so they'd be on hand for planning and fitting the wineglass holder...Kathy had the patience of a saint.  And no wine glasses.)
But the doors did get built and finished, the wineglass holder got rigged up and added, and the doors got their hinges (finally - and I totally recommend Blumotion hinges, if you don't have them).  Dave transferred each piece to Pittsburgh as he made various trips over the next few months...because transporting a stack of finished doors is much easier when you're not worrying about the huge cabinet carcasses and piles of tools you're also transporting.

For hanging, I ripped a piece of plywood to 8 inches and cut it to the length of both cabinets side by side.  Then I made a 45 degree rip down the middle of that board to create a french cleat.  With the two cabinets lined up and sitting level on the floor, I attached the top half of the cleat to the upper portion of both cabinets.
(This is how you want this portion to look)
I made sure this board was nice and level all the way across.
Then I cut that board at the joining of the two cabs so that, you know, we wouldn't have to carry them both at the same time since they're attached at the cleat.
Now once we get to Pittsburgh, we can hang the bottom half of the cleat nice and level on the wall, screw it to death into every stud, and all we have to do with the big heavy cabinets is hang them on the cleat.  Boom.  No holding a giant cabinet while balancing across a stove, trying to get it level, and praying you don't drop it on your partner's toes.  I had debated about doing two cleats, an upper one and a lower one, but then decided that would be overkill.  Instead, there is a spacer board that gets screwed into all the studs about two feet below the cleat...and that way we can screw the cabinets into that board without worrying about hitting studs since the board itself is already screwed solidly into studs.  Make sense?  I hope?

So now let's move to the scene of the hanging, shall we?  This is after we pulled the old cabinets off the wall.
 And then we hung that cleat (and also the lower board) and lifted the first big cabinet onto it.  (This was on my dad's birthday, by the way.  Happy Birthday, Dad!!)
  The other beautiful thing about using a cleat like this is that we could hang this cabinet about 6 inches left of where it needed to finally end up.  This enabled Dave to perfectly mark and notch the existing wall trim to allow the cabinet to nestle in tight to the wall.
Once the trim was notched, we just slid the big beast 6 inches to the right and screwed it through the back into both the cleat and the spacer board at the bottom.  Easy peasy, no sweat needed.
 Then we hung the second one and screwed it into place.
And then we added doors! And the microwave!  And dishes!  And you're probably wondering why the trim sticks up into the air like that...but really, it's not a mistake; those verticals are going to support the crown molding that will eventually top these cabinets.  And then they will be finished!  (Which, at this pace, may take around 8 years.)

Do you want to know about installing euro hinges?  Cause I can tell you about it...but not if nobody's interested.  It was so much easier than I had thought it would be, and it turned out I didn't even need the router for it, which was the main reason I purchased that tool for this project.  But come on...who doesn't need a router??


  1. Totally with you on the router! I would love to see how you did the hinges too. I was thinking about trying those for a project a while back, but I was intimidated and didn't do it.

  2. The cabinets look wonderful. Good work.


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