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Outdoor Kitchen Cabinet Design

There are probably many different variations in design and construction that could be taken for the base cabinets for our outdoor kitchen (a kitchenette installed to the porch, or ‘lanai’).  Both cabinets need to be designed to support the fixture that will eventually be installed in the cutout – one will accommodate a cooktop, the other a sink.  Despite similarities in terms of fully supporting a permanently installed appliance, such as framing the cabinet top to accommodate a cutout, along with proper layout for doors and drawers, there are some big differences.  One of the cabinets has to support a sink and the other has to support a cooktop.  For our installation, which will be traditional, face frame cabinets homebuilt with a Kreg jig, here is the design/build approach

  • Sinks can be top mounted, or bottom mounted, but there is also a hybrid option when using a solid surface top and a stainless steel sink.  Typically our granite installer simply prefers to drop the sink into the cutout and have the framing support the sink rim, essentially sandwiching the sink rim between the sub-top and the bottom of the finished granite top. Since that is the installation we’ll be using for the lanai kitchen, the sink base has been framed to allow the sub-top to be cut out, and at the same time provide max support to the sink rim while allowing firm attachment of the sub-top at the perimeter of the sink.
  • For the sink base cabinet, there will be a face frame and drawer blank on the front. In this case, the a small stretcher is installed horizontally across the top, and larger one below the drawer space. There is a tilt-out kit that can be installed in front of a sink base, so this base cabinet has been designed and built with that option in mind. The rear stretcher pieces are wider, with the vertical stretcher also designed to accept cabinet mounting screws. All pieces are screwed and glued with water proof glue.

    Sink Base Cabinet

  • Cooktops take a lot more of the cabinet top area than a sink, and are supported typically by being top-mounted on the finished counter top. In this case, The Bosch cooktop will be supported at the finished top, and the granite will be protected by an insulated, cushioned tape. There are also required safety set backs to each side of the base cabinet due to the heat produced by the burners, and those have been considered in design of this cabinet.
  • Because the opening is so much larger, and the set back from the front to the counter top is only 2 1/2 inches, the front stretcher here is installed vertically, with a cross-brace stretcher below it, with the two pieces glued and screwed together. A face frame and false drawer front will cover this stretcher hiding the pocket screws.

    Cooktop Sink Base

Lanai Kitchen: Base Cabinet Box

I had to back off this week, and sit down and work thru the various details before I started box assembly for cabinets that will be installed in an outside kitchen on our lanai (what some people call a porch).  I needed to know exactly how the face frame was going to work; exactly what drawer box hardware was to be used and how it installed (Blum 563H slides with side adjusting catches); exactly how the hinges will be installed; what sink/faucet will be installed, so I knew how to frame the top of the sink cabinet (deck matters – faucet max deck thickness is 1.5 inches, so that drives stretcher placement); and, how the end panels, top panel/trim, backsplash, etc will be installed.  I did another four pages of drawings in addition to the rough sketches and computer printout I did for the original cutting diagram.  So, finally yesterday and today, after running out of screws and scrambling to find more, I finally got the first base cabinet box built, 47 pocket screws later.  I’m using the Kreg Blue Kote exterior screws, which are oddly enough for our marine environment, difficult to find.

 This base cabinet has a part of the plumbing vent stack running behind it on the wall,  so the back top is notched to accommodate the area needed. This cabinet will have a small top drawer and shelf. Opening is for a single door. Cabinet is 18″ wide. All cabinets will be installed on a common base that will incorporate the toe kick. Face frame cabinet construction is hybrid, meaning that the face frame will not extend into the cabinet interior on the sides, allowing regular installation of hidden self-closing hinges, and soft close drawer slides without needing to block out or purchase special face frame hardware.  But, it does not embrace the complete 32mm system with its consistent rows of shelf pin holes that also become the connection points for the hardware. This will give a more traditional Craftsman look to the cabinet area, with 1/2″ door overlays and reveals, while still allowing use of Euro-style hardware.
Base Cabinet

Base Cabinet Carcass – Complete

Face frame construction will be as one complete unit, fastening on the top and end cabinets by pocket screws, and glue and biscuits in other areas to help align and hold it in place.

Clamps – Never Enough!

Thought I’d pass along a some lessons learned and what clamps I choose to use.  This isn’t an end-all, be-all list, but what rather my experience with household carpentry work, cabinetry, edge banding, and other projects on this site.  Your requirements/results may vary.

  1. Quick-Grip Clamps.  Quick-grip clamps come in a dazzling array of sizes and since they operate one-handed are really useful for lots of tasks.  They don’t have enough clamping pressure and are poorly built. When I first started buying clamps at Haiku, I made the mistake of picking up Irwin One-hand Quick-Grips with the yellow markings (SL300), thinking they looked pretty decent.  Turns out they only have a clamping pressure of about 250 lbs after allowing that you probably aren’t going to get full pressure all of the time.  Sounds like a lot, but it’s not.  I’ve since sold them on Craigslist, and standardized on the Irwin SL600 for general purpose clamping like clamping my jigs or work material to the bench. They are soft jawed, won’t mar, and reliably hold well and quickly.  I’ve seldom seen them available in any stores here, and ordered them online after discovering a couple lonely ones in HD, and have never seen them since.  I use 6″ regularly for all kinds of quick clamping tasks.
  2. Clamps for Case Work.  For glue-up case work, I now have a good set of Bessey K Body Revo Clamps.  They are the go-to for cabinet assembly. Again, I made the mistake previously of trying to save money and bought Brand X, but quickly learned that better precision in manufacturing results in a tool that is easier to use, and more reliable. They are widely available now, too.  At the time I needed them, Woodcraft was the only distributor here on island, and they were pricey. Now HD has added them to their line. Amazon has great pricing.  I understand that JET and Jorgensen may have similar, but they are not available locally, so I can’t comment.
  3. Edge Banding. My go-to for edge banding where you need a LOT of clamps are the Bessey H-style pipe clamps.  What I like about the Bessey H-Style pipe clamps is that they have wide “feet” and can be set in place to position the workpiece, and they tightened. The 1/2″ pipe clamps are all I think I’ve needed, but they are available to fit either 1/2″ or 3/4″ black pipe.   (I use galvanized pipe here to avoid rust, and they don’t move quite as smoothly as they would on black pipe). I use 30″ pipe to make up 24″ clamps that work well for the type of work I do. They supplement the K-Body clamps.
  4. For light duty, supplemental clamping I use several Jorgensen HD 3700 series bar clamps, mainly because I like the rubberized handles better than the Bessey handles, but I think they are out of business.  They used to have a really good cabinet assembly clamp, but I can’t find it any more, either. If you can find the HD 3700 series on close-out, they are handy for a lot of situations.  The old wood, parallel jaw clamps were in a class by their own, and what I first learned to use in 6th grade shop.
  5. Face-frames and Edge Clamping.  Sometimes you have to be able to clamp in two different directions, as when you install a face-frame. I only had that need once or twice and picked up a pair of the least inexpensive 3-way edge clamps, and they worked okay, but I had to put blocks under all clamping points to avoid marring the workpieces. A better solution is one of the other padded edge clamping solutions, either from Bessey or Rockler. Kreg distributes a wide range of special application clamps. I find, for my work, I’ve only needed the face clamp that came with my K3 master kit, and the right angle clamp, which is indispensable for case assembly. 
There are more clamps out there in the clamping universe. I still think good old Norm’s collection in New Yankee Workshop is the largest I’ve ever seen. I can’t come close!  But, I now sorta have what I need.

Wainscot – Pocket Hole Joinery

Gary Striegler’s 10 minute video, demonstrates the approach I think I’d like to use for the kitchen wainscot, which uses pocket hole joinery and offers and attractive set of options.  The technique is simple and straightforward. I also have most of the Kreg equipment needed for the pocket hole joinery setup. Note that the actual wainscot is held above the floor, so we do not have to demolish the tile flooring until we are ready to install baseboard. 

Stile and rails for the wainscot would be poplar, paint grade. The cap rail for the wainscot I’ll mill using a router to match the line of the handrail on the entry wall. It will be stained to complement the countertop and stair handrail.  For now, I can simply install the wainscot stile and rail and leave the cap until we have picked the wood and finish for the bar top, and integrate it at that time.

We have discussed three panel ideas-

1. board on board to match existing hallway

2. beadboard to match small bath and window seat

3. bamboo veneer finished with polyurethane and paint finish to incorporate a tropical element

My quick thoughts

1. Board on board can’t be used in the small bath because of its thickness.  It also is tough to scale for the planned window seat area.

2. Beadboard is available in several different modes – MDF, single board, plywood, and PVC.  

3. Bamboo veneer is the thinest and probably not durable enough for the bath or the window seat