February 22, 2015

Building Custom Cabinets: Assembling the Frame - Part 2

First carcass all assembled, woot! There's an
extra shelf sitting on the top waiting for me
to figure out what to do with it.

Woot! Celebratory dance because the first carcass for my cabinet is assembled and actually looks pretty good! I know it's just pieces of wood stuck together, but I was afraid it wouldn't square up or look right. Again, it's all slapped together with glue and pocket holes.

Alright, first off, I've chosen not to put on a face frame for these cabinets, I just want it all simple and flush for the doors...also, I didn't want to spend extra time on a face frame for these cabinets. Since I've chosen plywood, you'll be able to see the plys on the edges so I picked up some wood edge banding, adhered it on the showing edges with an iron, and then sanded down the edges to fit. Then I sanded everything down for a nice smooth finish, starting with I think 120 and ended with a 220 grit. 

For those of you interested in the components of my base cabinet, check out the mock up to the left. Sides, 3 shelves, toe kick, 2 top braces to help square up the cabinet and these are also where you will attach the table top to the unit, backing, and what you don't see in the picture is another 'toe kick' but on the backside to help support that first shelf.

I also don't show where the pocket holes go, but they are all on the bottom of the braces and shelves. Once you get to know pocket holes (I just watched some YouTube videos) it'll be pretty easy to figure out where the pocket holes should go to hold everything together.

Anyways, after sanding all of my flat panels for my cabinet (you could totally sand it all after assembled, but I figure it's easier to do the bulk of the work when everything is flat), I sucked up all the dust with my shop vac, and then removed the fine dust off the wood with a tack cloth. 

Like the work space I have set up below? Thank goodness for my table saw, such a handy work surface! After sanding I used one coat of Zinsser Cover Stain primer (did I mention how much I hate oil based stuff?), and then two coats of a latex-based Behr indoor paint.

Just an fyi, if you're new to oil-based primers, they suck. I would highly suggest buying a roller that you're ok with throwing away after using it, it's painful and time staking to try to clean off your roller, messy too. If you're just using a brush it's not too bad, but roller? Eff that!

Also, if you happen to get oil-based whatever all over your hands, don't use mineral spirits! You can totally just remove it from your skin with any cooking oil in your house, like olive oil, pour some on, massage into the parts with paint, then use some dish soap and massage and rinse, you may have to do that once or twice depending on how much paint you have on you. Saves your skin from all the harsh chemicals.

So the pieces above, everything is primed and one coat of paint. Did you ever wonder why people assemble the cabinets first and THEN paint everything? I wondered as it seems it would be more difficult with all the tight corners, why not paint it all first when it's all flat and then assemble? I found out why after trying!

When you're assembling, if you're not on a soft surface, your already painted sides will get marred or marked up and you'll have to roll on a fresh coat of paint to cover the marks if you decide to paint BEFORE assembling, yeah, I get it now. However for my other cabinets, I plan on priming the boards first while flat, assembling, and then painting, the white primer at least will get into crevices that may be difficult to after you've assembled. 

After a second coat of paint to hide the marks from assembling, I slapped on 2 coats of Minwax Polycrylic to the front "frame" and then to the shelves. I figure the sides of my cabinet are not going to be shown, or clamped together so they don't need that extra bit of protection, whereas my shelves are going to be holding things and taking things in and out so they need more protection. Should I protect it all? Probably, but the lazy side of me is taking over! Judge away.

Now on to assembling the pieces, I don't have a level surface in my garage so I took everything inside and lay down a towel to help protect my floor/my painted wood. Always make sure to check that everything is level every so often, especially when laying down towels and whatnot.

I lay down a side piece, squared and clamped the two top braces, the back 'toe kick' (yeah...I'm pretty sure there's an actual technical word for that...) and the bottom shelf, squared everything all over again when I added on the other side piece. I picked up these assembly braces from Lee Valley to help me square my cabinets, there are cheaper versions, but I could not find them! 

I squared everything again once assembled just to really make sure I was doing a good job, squared, yay! You'll notice in the picture just above there aren't any other shelves attached yet, I decided to do that afterwards as I was doubting if I needed three shelves in total...I'm still debating!

So that was a fun process, albeit a little frustrating because I decided to slap things together in my own way. So let's recap the process that I will follow for my other cabinets (not the steps that I actually followed for this one ;))
  • Cut the wood
  • Sand the wood
  • Prime the wood
  • Assemble the wood (including all shelves, you risk the chance of marring up paint if you assemble the frame first and then shove in the shelves)
    • Remember to always check the squareness of your pieces as well as make sure everything is level every so often
  • Paint the wood
  • Protect the wood (Polycrylic)
  • Take pictures of your finished frame!
That's it so far, I"m happy it actually came together, on to building the door. I've decided to work on the first cabinet first just to make sure I can actually pull this all together :)