AuthorKimo Tee


Kitchen Cabinet Construction Sitrep – Assembly, Fitting, and Sanding

This week’s work was about building the face frame for the upper cabinet; getting material; cutting out all the parts; and, assembling all of the raised panel doors, drawers, and finish panels for both base and upper cabinets.

Learned that Baltic birch 1/4″ ply is just a little thicker than your big box birch ply, so easing or tapering the edges was needed to fit into the slot made by the Whiteside Shaker Raised Panel Bit set.

Tapering Panel Edge

With panel edges prepped, glue-up began with the rail assemblies.  Next was fitting the stiles and clamping it all together. This is a 36″ tall door, so midline clamps were needed for maintaining consistent door width, checked with a metal straight edge.

Glued and clamped

Panel Fitting

Now, the “fun” begins – sanding and finishing. Nice and easy, huh?  Oh, remember the paint takes 8-10 hours to dry before recoating. That is three days!  Just to get color on these pieces – and oh, they are two sided… ahead.
Oh, I do catch a break – the end panels for the upper cabinet only need paint one side.
Yes, the stiles are deliberately made just a little long to give just a little fudging room to fit the panels. Because of the flex of plywood, fitting the long stiles can be a bit of a challenge. The extra length leaves room for error, and can easily be cut or sanded off when finishing.

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

Stair Construction: Determining Run and Baluster Construction

This week I went back to work to finish the stairs.  I found out I’m really not good at basic math anymore….  Well, at least in determining the as-built run for a set of stairs.  Getting the run was the hardest part, what with a double top newel, crooked walls, molding interfering with measurement on the newels, base and quarter round molding at the bottom of the wall, eventually after three tries I finally came to the conclusion that making a full size template would get me close.  So, after guestimating the actual run to be approximately eight feet, I ran my Excel spreadsheet for baluster calcs, and grabbed a piece of plywood and did this layout.

baluster template

baluster template

With the layout now figured out, I did a preliminary assembly of the top and bottom plates of the balustrade with a few pieces of baluster, dragged it into the house, and found that I was about 3/16″ out of level with the marks on the topic and bottom plate. Oh, just for reference, each of these plates is fully bullnose both sides, so transferring a mark with a square and level is just a best guess at being close. So, it was back out to the assembly table, pull it apart and refit the balusters. That got us to this point (below) today.  I nailed the balusters in place with the finish nailer to hold the assembly together and bring it into the actual location position for final adjustment. The balustrade is temporarily clamped in position on top of the stair skirt so that I can get screws thru the top plate for a permanent connection to the balusters. Once that’s done, the assembly will be removed, the bottom plate screwed to the balusters, and the whole thing painted before being re-installed and the hand rail attached.

Here is what happens when there is a short landing at the top of a flight of stairs with an exposed outside stringer.  The sleeve on this newel is clamp up to allow the skirt installation. It will slide down over the skirt, and matches the elevation of the loft wall end newel. The two newels are 6″ apart. Humbug to fit in one baluster and a chunk of rail!

We stained the treads some time ago, but the color was way too light to match up with our flooring. I made a stain mix of traditional cherry and red mahogany to get us into the range.  I sanded the treads down with 220 grit, and used a staining pad to get the stain well distributed.  I did 3-4 treads at a time and wiped down with Viva paper towels to get off the excess.  After an hour or so, I went over all of the treads again with a nice white rag to clean off all of the excess so that I can poly.

Trim: Craftsman Update to Interior Door Openings

In our master bedroom closets, the existing bifold doors were installed into drywall-wrapped jambs with no trims.  This is a pretty common installation in our area (and many others), however, as part of the house remodel, the objective was to improve the vernacular of the interior design by using Craftsman-style trim detailing.  One area of focus has been to install matching trims at all window and door openings, and using the same Craftsman vernacular in trim detailing elsewhere.  My approach, outlined below, involved a custom refit of the door jambs and straightforward biscuit joinery to bring out a Craftsman update to an older home.

New Trims – Old (and Variable) Openings

The original 1/2″ drywall was installed with a very heavy plaster and orange peel spray finish coating, adding anywhere from 1/8″ to 3/8″ to the thickness of the drywall, making for a very odd width door jamb for the master bedroom closets. The problem of installing new doors in the old openings was complicated by the fact that the original framing rough opening was slightly undersized, meaning you had to slightly bind the doors to close them in the opening. Once I ripped off the drywall, it became clear that I had to choose one of several options to make the rough opening the correct size for new doors – 1) reframe the opening (too much mess involving demo and wiring), 2) cut down the new doors to fit (okay, but it meant refinishing the doors), or, 3) making custom door jambs to a thickness that would bring the finished opening to spec.

New Custom Door Jambs

After installing the new linen closet door in a newly framed doorway, we found that the pre-finished door was a close match to the existing trim color, and would not look any better with a brushed on topcoat. I made the decision to go with option 3. But, there is no trim stock available in the appropriate thickness.  I found 1/2″ X 3 1/4″ finger joint base trim at HD. If I edge glued two pieces it would give me the appropriate sized stock I needed to cut the custom 5 3/8″ wide, 1/2″ jambs to size.

Biscuits to the Rescue

Attached are photos of the steps taken to make the finished board stock using biscuit joinery. Setup for the biscuit cuts was a little tricky since the biscuit joiner mouth is not capable of adjustment for thin stock.  I set the boards on top of thin plywood and clamped the entire setup with a strong back (clear 2 X 4 used to mount my outriggers for the miter saw).

Board Clamp Setup for trim

Board Clamp Setup

Board biscuits

Board biscuits

Biscuit cut

Biscuit cut

Biscuit Joiner

Biscuit Joiner

Board setup

Board setup

Simple Cutting Software X – Building a Cutlist

Now working on my third cabinet build project, I’ve come to appreciate using software to sort out the cultist for plywood.   I’m using a demo version of Simple Cutting Software X, and it works pretty well, with some exceptions.

Of the detractors for the software, it tends to “optimize” the cuts rather than make them all work in the grain direction you prefer.

I’m now getting the counter subtop, shelves, and plinth base cultist organized to break down two more sheets of plywood, and then on to laying out for cutting 1/4 Baltic birch for backs and door panels. You can tinker with it in the Fibre column so that it will shift pieces around, but it still will not give everything you want.  Depending on the stock size of your sheets, though, it is simple enough to shift a couple of cuts on the fly and get most of what you want done. English or Metric works.

The demo version of the software doesn’t seem to allow the cultist diagrams to be saved, but even so, it does print. So it is a nice, handy piece of software that you may want to use on your next shop cabinet project, shelving project, or whatever plywood or other sheet cutting job you have to do.

There is NOT much Mac friendly woodworking software out there, so it was nice to find this one.
Lanai Cabinet Cutlist

Lanai Cabinet Cutlist

A Mobile Chop-Saw Workstation

Scott King’s 1991 Fine Homebuilding article served as inspiration and the basic plan for my miter saw workstation.  For my purposes, with limited storage and often working in my driveway or garage, it was important to have a workstation that I could easily move and also tuck away.  I live in the tropics and near the ocean – critters (geckoes, cockroaches) and salt air add additional challenges to tool maintenance – an enclosed box is the way to go…

Chopsaw workstation.

Chop station set up.


Easy Storage for saw.

Outriggers extended.

Workstation with rollers and outriggers

ready to stow

ready to stow

Rolling, locking casters.




Surface Mount Control Box – Outdoor Fan

I’ve recently finished installing a fan for our lanai area.  One of the biggest hassles was finding a surface mount box compatible with the size of the fan switch control.  Regardless of type switch, they all have a similar design requiring about 18 cu in of junction box.  Most damp area, surface mount boxes are a about 14 cu in.  I would up using a Legrand Wiremold 2300 series plastic surface mount box  and paired that with a Hubbell Bell weather proof in-use cover to provide a damp-proof housing for the fan switch.

Installed Surface Mount Box (with window!)

Installed Surface Mount Box (with window!)


Fan Relocation Project

It’s long been the plan to relocate the deck lanai fan to be centered in the entertainment area.  This can be done several ways, but aesthetically we think the use of a box beam to fully contain the wiring and mounting system is the best approach. Of course, it is more complicated than a strut, but looks better in the end.

First step was to build a box. Of course, unless I used plywood, there was no treated board stock wide enough, so first step first was to edge glue (biscuits) treated trim boards to make up the wide stock needed. With that done, I made a U-shaped box with web members to reinforce the box

Building a box - glue up.

Building a box – glue up.

I didn’t take pictures of the internal blocking needed for the 4″ junction box, but it is installed fastened to a center mounted, glue-block reinforced web member installed with a mounting bracket lag bolted the reinforcement. I cut the 4″ J-box hole and designed the mounting system so that I could use a 1/4″ drive wrench thru the J-box hole for the short lag bolts used to install the bracket. I used the the side mount back j-box from Home Depot (Titan Industries CMB 150-SM). It is two part, so the side bracket could be mounted into pre-drilled holes after the box beam was installed to the ceiling, and then wire pulled and the J-box screwed to the bracket.

CMB 150-SM Ceiling Fan Fixture

CMB 150-SM Ceiling Fan Fixture

The actual installation points for the box beam was a center top-glued block, pre-drilled for short lag bolts that could be installed thru the J-box opening to hold the center of the box to the deck ceiling.

End plates fastened to the beams secure the box to the beams on either end.

With plates mounted to be beam, I used a belt sander to make the minor adjustments to scribe the end of the box to fit between the beams, and huffed, and puffed, and heaved, and got it into place with several ups and downs to tweak it to fit. In the picture below you can see where the old fan was mounted off center on the beam to the left. Box beam is now painted and ready for the fan in the master bedroom to be relocated to the lanai.


Paint Ready

Paint Ready

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.