Thursday, January 13, 2011

Let's Build Some Cabinets!

Yep, that is right, we built our own cabinets.  We knew from the very beginning of planning this whole "let's remodel our kitchen" thing that we wanted to build our own cabinets.  It gave us the ability to design things exactly the way we wanted and to not have to rely on standard cabinet sizes or pay the cost for custom made cabinets by someone other than us.  We also had a HUGE resource available to us...Bob the Builder.  Bob has the know-how (he has been a carpenter his entire life), the equipment (he has a huge workshop at his home), and the patience.  In all actuality, Bob has ZERO patience, so we really went along for the ride.  He showed us what to do and we did it.  He is a whiz at measurements and pretty much cranked out all of the pieces required for assembly.  Nate and I took care of assembly, sanding (sanding pretty much became the bane of our existence for a couple of weeks), attaching drawer runners, hinges, etc.  Let's just say that Nate and I did all of the really hard stuff while Bob told us to stop complaining about how hard the hard stuff was.  So, voila, here are the shells of our cabinets.
These are made of birch plywood and were assembled with wood glue and a nail gun.  For the drawers we used soft close drawer runners which are typically expensive as sh*%t but thanks to Bob, we got for free!  If you know anything about Nate and I, FREE is pretty much our middle name.  Michele Free Ament and Nate Free Ament, nice right?
These things chilled in our garage for a while until we could convince Bob the Builder that he really wanted to come over to help us hang these things. NOTE: When using birch plywood, the end result is HEAVY!

So anyways, after convincing Bob that the best way to spend his Saturday was to help us hang our cabinets, we had this:
So once the cabinets were hung it was time to trim them out so they actually looked like real cabinets.  The trimming was fairly easy.  We decided to use white primed pine that we cut down to the correct width.
Aren't they pretty!?!?  You will notice that the cabinets and pantry now have shelves that were also made with birch plywood and received an ironing of birch veneer on the front to finish off the look.  I burned myself several times while ironing those stupid things, while Nate watched from the sidelines claiming that he had no idea how to do it.  Uh huh, sure Nate.  After the cabinets were trimmed out and my scarred fingertips had finally recovered, it was time to build some cabinet and drawer faces!  Woo Hoo, fun times in the Ament household.  Let me just say now that this renovation occurred during the summer.  The summer for 30-somethings with no children in the house typically requires a Happy Hour at least a couple of times a week.  It is mandatory here, especially with our group of friends.  Well, guess what?  The Ament's enjoyed about one Happy Hour a month during this renovation.  Yep, you heard us a right.  This renovation became our life.  Our second full time job.  Our date nights, and our Happy Hours.  BUT, we think it was worth it in the end, and thankfully our friends still talk to us.

Sorry for that sidebar.  On to the cabinet and drawer faces...
Sorry for the out of focus picture, but you get the idea.  This was one of the things that Nate and I actually agreed upon.  We both really liked the simplicity of the "shaker" style cabinet faces.  Our design intent for this home was/is to make it simple and elegant.  Think Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel, and Restoration Hardware.  Our style sense is clean and simple, and very clean lines.  We are pretty "no fuss" when it comes to design.
In order to build the style that we wanted we bought "shaker" router bits to join the four pieces of the "frame" together (top, right, left, and bottom).  Thankfully Bob (wow, we really owe him a lot of thanks!) had two router tables and we were able to insert one bit into each table.  This made for a fairly quick, albeit extremely messy, routering (is that a word?) effort.  Nate and Bob each manned one router table.  I labeled each of the four pieces with a number that corresponded to the drawer or cabinet.  Remember, the cabinets and drawers are different heights and widths so it is very important to keep the correct pieces together as a set.
Once properly numbered, each set was then run through the table saw with the blade set low in order to create a groove on the interior side that the drawer or cabinet middle (the picture in the frame) would "slide" into. (Man, this is really hard to explain in text and we didn't take any pictures of the process!).  Once the grooves were cut, three pieces (the frame bottom, right, and left side) were glued and nailed together.  The drawer or cabinet middle (the picture) was slid into the grooves (which had glue applied to them) and the top part of the frame was then put on.  And, there you have them...drawer and cabinet faces.
Then, they ALL (I think we ended up with around 40 of them) needed to be sanded, and the nail holes needed to be filled with wood putty.  Ugghh, this process took us the good part of one week with a full Saturday to complete.
The next step was to position the drawer faces onto the drawer shells while trying to get them fairly level before screwing them on.  Thanks again to Bob who has been doing this all of his life and can pretty much eyeball things.  This could have potentially taken us days to complete.  The cabinet faces needed to have 1" diameter shallow holes drilled into the backsides of them (this was done at Bob's workshop) to accommodate the hidden hinges.  The cabinet faces were then connected to the shells by drilling the other end of the hinges into the shell.  The hinges were then adjusted (I swear that you need to have a degree in Physics to understand how these hinges actually adjust) and we have ourselves some cabinets!
We also decided to do glass doors in two areas.  We wanted the cabinet leading into the dining room to feel as unobtrusive as possible so we decided to do a glass face here to make it feel lighter.  This cabinet holds our plates, bowls, glasses, etc. and since we have a nice crisp white set of plates and bowls we were able to do glass doors without exposing clutter.  We also did some pops of color in there with some of our lime green mugs and bowls.  Also, if you know Nate, you know that the word "clutter" does not exist in his vocabulary so having glass doors wasn't really an issue for us.
The other spot that we optioned for glass is seen below on the upper corner cabinet.  We wanted to reflect some of the light in the room and also not make things feel so heavy.  The glass really opens things up a bit and we are able to display some great wedding gifts as well as all of our wine glasses.  We found that we had enough other cabinets to hide all of those kitchen items that you really don't want to show off to all of your guests, so we were able to turn a few of the cabinet faces into glass.  Note:  The bottom corner is not glass, it is just missing the cabinet face in this photo while we were out searching for lazy susan hinges.
We ordered the satin nickel drawer pulls, which I always knew that I wanted and some matching knobs off of the internet and installed those once they arrived.  We did double pulls on the long drawers and single pulls on the rest of the drawers.  The knobs were used for the cabinets.  Our design decisions were confirmed when a very similar looking kitchen was spotted on Top Chef Season 7 in the house that they were all living in.  And if a kitchen is good enough for Top Chef, it is good enough for the Aments!


  1. I just found your blog and I love it. Your house is beautiful! Amazing kitchen. Did you paint your cabinets? Do you have a tutorial for how you painted them? What kind of paint did you use? How is the finish holding up? Thanks! :)

    1. We did paint the cabinets. We used oil based paint rather than latex because it has a tendency to hold up better and it is a little easier to wipe down. We used a combination of brushes and small 2" rollers. They were painted after they had been installed but before the floor and countertops were done so we could be a little messier than normal.
      So far, the finish is holding up really really well. The one drawback to using oil based paint though is that it has a tendency to yellow a bit. It wouldn't be a big deal but we used latex paint in the same color for a lot of our other trim work. Seeing them side by side makes the yellowing a bit more obvious. But, live and learn!!