Saturday, November 12, 2016

Kitchen cabinetry

We have officially started on the kitchen cabinetry. This is a huge deal for us - we've been in the house 3 years and I've been using the time to figure out exactly what I want for kitchen layout, cabinetry, and maximum functionality. We've obviously been working on lots of other projects during this time and the kitchen finally worked its way to the top of the list.

The wood that we cut into boards is now dry and ready to be worked. Chris opted to send it to a local mill rather than planing it himself. Well worth it! Cost only $100 to get a truck load of wood planed smooth. And given that about half of it was ash (a super hard wood), we probably saved nearly that much in blades. Okay, not that bad, but it was still worth it.

Next we finalized the design of the sink cabinet and Chris got to work building.

Cherry facia on a plywood carcass 
We once again used the carport for assembling the cabinet carcass. It's been great having that available for extra work space.
Good weather for building
I kept busy nearby so that I'd be on hand if he needed, well, a hand. I'm spray-painting a set of old sewing table legs. They were heavily rusted so I had to do a bit of scrubbing with the wire brush and steel wool first, but they cleaned up great. Not positive how I'm going to use them yet, but they look cool in the meantime.
For a future project - kitchen shelves maybe?
I wanted a wood plank countertop and we spent some effort figuring to how to stain it. Ended up using vinegar and steel wool to create a stain then using mineral oil to finish it. We created the stain (1 steel wool pad left in 4 cups of white vinegar) and then used it on a story board to see how many days we wanted to let it cure before using it.
This is an ash board (same wood as I'm going to use for the countertops). Far right is just oil, no stain. Then, moving left, 3-day aged stain with 1 coat then 2; 5-day aged stain, 1 coat then 2; and 7-day aged stain. The stain got more red the longer it sat in solution. I really liked the more black stain so a 3-day solution it would be.
Testing stain
Once the carcass was built and the countertop was ready, Chris disconnected the sink that I'd been using for 3 years and moved it out to the garage where it belongs. Of course this meant I'd be doing dishes in the garage until we could get the new sink moved and connected.
Out with the old...
Moving the new cabinet into place was no big deal. Love the French front doors! That wide opening makes it really easy to move things in and out.
New cabinet
 Then we moved in the new countertop.
Unfinished ash counter
That was heavy. Chris built it in two pieces so he could more easily adjust for the new sink. He'd be able to custom cut the basin hole and the support holes if everything was in place.
Before joining
Aged stain - 10 days on left, 3 days on right
He built a caliper out of scrap lumber to make sure he had the sink basin dimensions correct and then got to work cutting into the newly created countertop.
Not nervous at all
We had two guys help us move the extremely heavy antique porcelain cast-iron sink into the kitchen and we put it up on blocks so it hovered over the counter. Then Chris wedged himself into the cabinet to cut out the holes for the extra sink supports. Not sure if you've ever looked underneath an antique sink like this, but there are knobs and fins and protrusions that allow many different mounting options. Made it tricky to put on a flat counter.
Cooper helpful as always
 Since the sink was still hovering, it was easy to stain the countertop in place.
There is an initial coat of stain on this. Honest.
When you put the vinegar/steel wool stain on initially, it looks like nothing. Just kind of wet. But 15 minutes later, it's darkened to this.
Getting darker 
And the second coat
Here's the thing with natural, non-commercial stain. You're never sure just what it's going to do.
Remember how I liked the black stain best? And how we therefore very carefully timed the solution to match? Yeah. This isn't black.
Apparently this particular batch of boards has more tannin in it than the story board did. A few areas are blackish, but mostly it's red. Which raises the question what's going to happen to the rest of the counters as we build them? And before you say we should have done them all at one so that we had a consistent batch of stain, know that it wasn't the stain - we did yet another test board before doing the countertop and it came out black too. So we merrily went on to stain the counter and BOOM! Red. 
Applying oil to seal
It actually looks a bit like walnut once it's oiled, so not really a bad thing. Just surprising given all the testing we did.

Am I worried? No. There are black areas and we've decided to let the next batch of stain age 5 days to purposely get a more red result just to try for some level of consistency. But really, it's hard to argue with what the wood wants to do. We'll just accept that nature sometimes throws you a curveball and move along.

I'll have another post soon on the finished sink area and plans for turning the corner to the stove.


  1. Wow, it's beautiful! What a wonderful difference cabinetry makes. We ended up painting ours because we used a hodge-podge of old, new, and handmade, but I really prefer the natural wood look like yours.

  2. It's wonderful to start with a clean slate. This is the first time I've had the opportunity to actually design what I really want in a kitchen and it's been great fun. The holiday are playing havoc with getting the next section done (I keep kicking Chris out of the kitchen so I can cook/bake/make presents) but we'll be done soon enough.