About twenty years ago, I got some rough cherry boards from Grandpa’s garage attic. He had cut down a cherry tree in his yard back in the 1930s, sawed it into boards, and put it up in the attic to dry. It sat in my barn for more than 10 years before I could figure out what to do with it.
A few years ago, I decided that it was time to renovate the Collins Tool Company shop kitchen—make a nice place where we could fix lunches, and also demonstrate our tools. I didn’t have enough of the cherry to build boxes, and I didn’t want to buy a bunch of expensive plywood, so I decided to use it for the kitchen project.
The challenge was to make something that looked nice with a minimal amount of material. As with all large projects, I started with a plan. To the left is the drawing I worked from. There was no SketchUp at the time.
In this article, I’ll show you how I went about building the cabinets. Although it took longer than simply screwing boxes to the wall, it went faster than a regular on-site cabinet install of similar appearance and quality.
I started by laying out a 2×4 base frame on the floor. The plywood bottom was scribed to the walls, and two plywood dividers and an end cap were pocket-screwed to the bottom. One of the dividers covered a joint in the base. Cleats were screwed to the back wall, and a full length stretcher was let into the front of the dividers.
Valves and loops were already attached to the water supply, so the pipe positions were plotted on the base. The jig saw was used to connect the dots. Cauls were screwed to the underside of the base and the cut-out was reinserted.
I determined the drawer height, and screwed a back wall cleat parallel under the top cleat, keeping the space even with plywood hangers.
Drawer support rails were pocketed to the dividers and the end cap. Cauls were used to prevent crabbing from the pocket screws.
|I started the trim work by mitering and gluing the outside corners to join end panels to face frames.|
I cut slots into the rails and stiles with a 1/4-in. dado blade on the table saw. The panels are 1/4 in. thick, and the rails and stiles are joined with 1/4-in. splines, inserted perpendicular to the stiles. The panels are free-floating.
To make the face frame tight to the bottom shelf and sub panel, the panels were scribed to the walls. The wall stiles of the panels were made a little wider to allow for this. The scribes were spread to match the existing gap between the face frame and the bottom shelf. After scribing and cutting, the face frame fit tight to the shelf, and the panel is tight against the wall.
|Cherry always cuts well, but when it’s been sitting around for 70 years it cuts like butter. Here is a joint being scraped flat at a sheering angle where the grain changes direction.|
I pocketed the face frames together with the side panels, and, after trimming to scribes, clamped them to the sub-frames. Upper rails were held down from the ceiling to accommodate a specific size of crown molding (see photo, left).
The range cabinet face frame was pocketed together with wing cabinet frame using an improvised support system. It was then installed as a unit.
|The entire corner face frame unit held in place before fastening. Bare sub-panel will be covered with a range hood.|
|Face frame for the base unit is pocketed together and fastened to the base unit.|
The counter top began with a double layer of particle board with overlapping joints. A length of 1×2 cherry was glued to the edge, planed, and scraped flush. Plastic laminate was glued on with old formula contact cement, making sure the cherry was thoroughly coated. The edge was then beveled with a router. The backsplash was made of particle board, with a strip of cherry glued to the top, then beveled with the router.
I cut the sink out with a Coping Foot on the jig saw, which showed that the saw can cut much closer to the backsplash with this base. This old building is made of block. I covered the walls with 2-in. foam board before framing the inside with 2×4 on the flat. I also removed the old steel framed windows from the block, and replaced them with custom-fit vinyl.
I ran crown molding all around the room. Some of that action can be seen on a video at collinstool.com (check out the “Miter Clamps” video). Birch plywood was used to make four jamb extension boxes for the entire office area. Finish strips were glued to the plywood after all the edges were first hollowed with a Ply Prep router bit. The boxes were siliconed to the vinyl window frames.
|A stool nosing was glued flush to the bottom board of the box, with returns glued on the horns. Poplar casings and birch jamb extensions were stained in an attempt to match the cherry.|
Below is a view of the kitchen from the office. The wood was finished with a wiping-polyurethane.
And now I have a confession to make…
This project stalled in October 2006. It is the same today as it was then (except for the clutter; we really cleaned up for these pictures.) We’ve certainly put the area to good use, but its completion is long overdue.
One reason for the delay is that I ran short of material. I do have all the rails and stiles for the doors, but nothing for drawer faces and door panels. However, I have a generous friend with some old cherry, and I will be talking to him soon—now that I’ve put myself in a spot by writing this article!
If you are especially interested in this project, I would not be especially upset if you prodded me on a little bit.